The Not So Big Life

Remember Tom Hank’s character in the movie Big, who wished that he was bigger?

When we are young, we naturally want to grow bigger and stronger. We see the world as an exciting place that we want to explore. We enjoy going on adventures and learning new things. Somewhere along the path of time, these natural tendencies can get left behind and replaced with a preference for staying in our comfort zone. Yes, there are dangers and setbacks if you choose to go on this adventure called life. But the alternative, choosing to just stay home, can lead to a less than big life.

The ideas in Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset are powerful, and the article “Is it time for a personal growth mindset?” in Scientific American suggests applying these ideas to adopting a personal growth mindset. Here are a few beliefs for a personal growth mindset.

Personal Growth Mindset

  • I am the architect of my life. It is up to me to build it.
  • The more I learn, the stronger I am and the better I will be able to succeed and thrive in life.
  • Continuous personal growth is very desirable.
  • I love to explore ideas and learn new things.
  • Change can be hard, but I can do it if I choose to. I use strategies to overcome procrastination and work toward my goals.
  • Work is not a four letter word. Meaningful work is awesome.
  • I am worthy of love and belonging. My worthiness is not attached to things or accomplishments, no matter how awesome (or not) they are.
  • Mistakes are opportunities to learn. I am not my mistakes or my accomplishments. I am me, and I am loved.
  • Learning and growing is a fun adventure. I continue to grow and learn always.
  • I am resilient: I bounce back when faced with adversity.
  • I have grit: I work hard for the things I believe in, and I persist in pursuing them no matter what happens.
  • I build the skills I need to overcome hardships.
  • I invest my time to do what is meaningful to me.
  • I am creative and use my imagination to solve problems.
  • I read books and articles that spark ideas.
  • I follow the practices that studies show will increase well-being.

Free Printable PersonalGrowthMindset (pdf)

Do you want a bigger life? Maybe it is time to go BIG or go home.

What to do after being slimed

Have you been slimed lately? Recently, watching the news often leaves me feeling that way. Whether it has to do with politics, terrorist attacks in other countries, or shootings in ours, it seems like there has been nothing but bad news. Watching what is going on in the world makes me feel like I am covered with a thick green slime of depression and helplessness. What can be done to fight back against the slime?

The song “Move” by Mercy Me reminded me of what to do: take action!

Whatever happens, keep moving.

Here are the things I need to remember: Keep doing what you can, where you are, with what you have.Work out to train your physical body for the fight, and do what strengthens you spiritually. This may include more time in nature, listening to uplifting music, reading inspirational works-seeking comfort and strength wherever you may have found it. Remember what you can change, and what you can’t, and even though we cannot make others think or do what we might want, you can speak up, persuade, and maybe even sway or influence outcomes. You can vote and sign a petition for term limits. You can be kind to others, volunteer to teach others to read, financial literacy, or simply read to a child. Even small actions can spread ripples. Choose love over fear, and remember the good, like the person who leaves $100 bills in boxes of diapers. (By the way, I haven’t seen the new Ghostbusters, but do believe being equipped to fight slime is important for everyone.) How do you fight the slime?

Insight Out by Tina Seelig (Book Review)

The book “Insight Out” by Tina Seelig describes a framework for getting ideas out of your head and into the world called the Invention Cycle.

Imagination: Engage & Envision to identify passions

  • Be curious: explore and engage in experiences that may lead to passions.
  • Generate ideas and use your imagination to visualize how you will solve the problem that has captured your passion.

Creativity: Motivate & Experiment to explore challenges

Innovation: Focus & Reframe to generate unique solutions

  • Make time to focus, keep workspace uncluttered.
  • Look at ideas from different perspectives.

Entrepreneurship: Persist & Inspire to bring your ideas into reality

  • Push through the point where others stop by developing grit.Understand that challenges and mistakes are to be expected. Take steps that are the right size: neither too small nor too large.
  • Manifest your ideas by sharing your dream. Inspire others to join or support your cause by telling stories. Tell stories that inspire emotion and provide a clear path for action. See Kurt Vonnegut’s story shapes, the story spine and more about storytelling on Pinterest.

Tina Seelig’s TED Talk: A Crash Course in Creativity

By dailyplanit Posted in Books

How to Increase Flow

You’re running at a good pace, listening to music with a good beat, taking deep breaths, feeling the strength and energy in your body, and it feels good. Sure, it hasn’t been easy getting to this point, but you’re here now, and you feel pride in what you have accomplished by challenging yourself. You’re in flow. Whether you reach the experience of flow through recreational activities or work, it involves become so absorbed in what you are doing that you lose all track of time.

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, one of the co-founders of Positive Psychology, wrote the book “Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience.” He also gave a TED Talk, “Flow, the Secret to Happiness.” He describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for it’s own sake.” The time we spend in flow is an important component of happiness.

10 ways to increase the time spent in flow:

1. Have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. Set goals that are challenging, yet still attainable. Learn How to Set Goals with a free tutorial, and more with my “Get Goaling” ebook.

2. Find and use your strengths. Strengths include natural talents, skills you’ve developed, and character strengths that are important to you. The free ebook, How to Start a Fire (pdf) includes ways to identify strengths, and you can explore in more detail with the “On Purpose” course at Udemy.

3. Try new activities you might like and expand your comfort zone. While you might try different recreational activities, flow often comes while we are working on something. Savor the activity itself while engaged in it.


4. Look for the sweet spot where skill and challenge are in perfect balance.  The article “Flow Makes Life Better” at talks about the sweet spot and points out that it’s a moving target as skills increase.


5. Be ready to concentrate and focus your attention.

6. Design an environment that provides what you need. Listening to classical music or nature sounds can help focus.

7. Eliminate distractions and turn off alerts and notifications that might interrupt you. If thoughts about other things intrude, write them down on a notepad.

8. Become completely absorbed in the activity. When you lose all track of time you are on the right track.

9. Pay attention to the results to get immediate feedback.

10. Feel the intrinsic rewards of the activity.

Learn more about flow:


Make Today Count!


Time = Life. Therefore, waste your time and waste your life. Or master your time and master your life.” -Alan Laekin

You may have heard the saying “time is money,” and we all know it is valuable. Yet it is often wasted. It is all too easy to put something off until tomorrow, when we will have more time… and maybe we will. Each day 24 hours is credited to our account, and we all receive the same amount. But it can so easily slip through our fingers, a treasure stolen away by procrastination, interruptions, and indecision. We attempt to measure it with clocks and watches, but cannot save it up for another day.

We all have fixed time expenses such as working, eating and sleeping. Usually there is some discretionary time each day that we can spend as we choose. If we cut spending time on non-essentials and time wasters, it can be invested where it counts the most: on the things that are most important. A well-balanced time budget includes time for priorities in different areas of life. A good starting point is to do a time audit. Learn more about using time well at Time Management 101.

We only have the gift of so much time, so make today count!

A Keep It Super Simple Book Discussion

MoviesBooksI love movies, I love books, and I really love discussing an outstanding movie based on a terrific book. I couldn’t find a discussion group, so I started the Screen and Page at Goodreads and Facebook. If you love discussing movies based on books too, you are invited to join.

Keep It Super Simple book discussion group guide

I’m trying to Keep It Super Simple! If you want a simple way to start a book discussion group, the following ideas and resources might help.

Getting Organized

  1. Choose a topic: Fiction (new & popular? award winners? classic? mystery?) or Nonfiction (business? self-help? history?).
  2. Select a name that reflects the topic.
  3. For an in-person group, choose a time and place to meet, and decide on how many members (a good number is generally 8-12).
  4. Whether in-person or online, send invitations.
  5. At an organizational meeting, decide on guidelines, book selection, and whether to have snacks or not.

Moderator or not?

Also decide whether to have a moderator lead discussions, and if so, how they will be selected and what the duties will include. A moderator can help keep the discussion on track, and could also look for specific discussion questions or resources related to the book online. It can also work to simply take turns and use generic discussion questions like the ones below. Or everyone can write a comment or question on an index card and just select from them at random to discuss. Or you can roll dice to choose a discussion topic. (here’s an online dicer roller)

dieRoll a Fiction Book Discussion 

Pair this with the printable Fiction discussion questions below.

  1. Miscellaneous
  2. Author
  3. Characters
  4. Dialogue
  5. Originality
  6. Pace
  7. Plot
  8. Setting
  9. Structure
  10. Style
  11. Theme
  12. Ideas & Thoughts

Generic Discussion Questions

Online Tools for a Reading Group

  • It was easy to set up a group at Goodreads. MakeUseOf has a helpful Unofficial Guide to Goodreads. Here is Screen and Page on Goodreads.
  • You can also set up a Facebook page for your group, and add the Goodreads app. Goodreads provides prompts when you set up your group. Here is Screen and Page on Facebook.


Example Guidelines for a Book Discussion Group in person – These are the Screen and Page guidelines.

  • It’s best if you read the book and watch the movie! But if you can’t manage it, come anyway.
  • Consider taking notes as you read the book and after watching the movie. BooksMoviesNotes (pdf)
  • Try to stay (mostly) on topic.
  • Everyone is invited to participate…One at a time please!
  • Opinions may vary, and all are respected.

Example Guidelines for an Online Book Discussion Group – These are the Screen and Page Rules:

  1. We expect respect. DO be respectful & kind. NO spam, profanity, or obscene language is allowed & NO personal attacks or abuse. Any inappropriate content will be deleted and the poster blocked.
  2. We expect opinions will vary. Consider explaining how the work made you feel and supporting your views by mentioning a scene from the movie or a passage from the book. Please mark *spoilers* with astericks.

Meeting Agendas

  • Greetings – a few minutes for welcomes, introductions, icebreakers if desired. Update the contact list if one is maintained.
  • Idea List for Future Reads – review, add suggestions, and vote for next month’s read.
  • Moderator – choose for next month if you use one. (draw straws?)
  • Discussion – reminder of guidelines
  • Conclusion – Thanks for joining!

Book Selection

Add suggestions to a list of ideas for future books to read. Promising titles for interesting discussions have…

  • Characters that are amazing.
  • Original or unique approach.
  • Themes that are complex.
  • Emotions or thoughts inspired.

List Options: Listopia at Goodreads, (although I quickly hit limits with the free version), maybe Litsy if you are an ios person. For Screen and Page I’m creating a shareable spreadsheet in Google Drive. A feature of Goodreads is a way to take a poll of Goodreads group members to vote on future reads. Consider having the next two books selected, so people have plenty of time to read the selections.

More Resources

Printable Reading List from Money Saving Mom

Guides for Starting a Book Club

By dailyplanit Posted in Books

Fun Online Phonics Games to Practice Reading Skills

Smart Skills You Need to Take You Far

“Perseverance!” That’s the rally call chosen by the class of adult learners I work with as a literacy tutor. Learning to read isn’t an easy skill to master, and it takes time and practice. But sometimes practicing the skills needed for reading can be fun! Many websites provide free online games that make learning more fun.

When I began volunteering with the organization to help adults learn to read, I discovered something astonishing. I may have learned to read a long time ago, but I didn’t realize how little I knew about the process of mastering this skill! I wanted to be a super good tutor, so I began to look for information on the Internet to learn more about how to learn to read.


There are many tools and sources of information for learning to read that are available online, but it takes a lot of time to find the best resources. If you are looking for great resources organized logically in one place, just check out the eBooks I put together. The free eBook “Learn to Read With Fun Online Games to Practice Reading Skills” has many links to free online games. This provides easy access for students to practice their skills anytime they have access to a computer and an Internet connection. Please note that many of the games require Flash and may not work well on some tablets and smartphones. Download the free pdf eBook by clicking on the link at the end of this post. If you want to learn more, consider the “Learn to Read: Smart Skills You Need to Take You Far” eBook, which provides more information and resources at a low cost. Now available at Amazon, see the link at the end of this post.


In becoming a literacy tutor, I learned about the importance of phonics: understanding the relationship between letters and sounds. There are 44 sounds in the English language. With a few exceptions, the consonants make one sound. Vowels can make different sounds, and there are some clues to tell if the vowel is long or short. Finally, there are some other sounds made by different combinations and conditions. The games in this post are targeted to practice the skills needed to understand the sounds of the English language.


Short and Long Vowel Sound Clues

(If you are thinking, “what in the world is a diphthong?” see the glossary of literacy terms at the end of this post!)

Vowel Clues

3 Clues of a SHORT vowel:

  1. CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) Words, which have closed syllables.
  2. Closed syllables.
  3. A vowel that comes before double consonants, like apple, letter, dinner, off, summer.

3 Clues of a LONG vowel:

  1. Silent e.
  2. Open syllables.
  3. Diphthongs-some vowel teams make a sound like a long vowel.

To learn more about these clues and the other sounds, check out the eBook “Learn How to Read: Smart Skills You Need to Take You Far” at the end of this post.

Please note that many of the games require Flash and may not work well on some tablets and smartphones. 

PHONICS  Online Games
ABCs/Letters-uppercase & lowercase Alphabet antics at learnenglishkids
Letter Sounds The quiet machine at, initial sounds at funfonix
Short & Long vowel sounds

Vowel Sort & Short Vowel Sort games at 

Coconut Vowels at abcya (free on pc only), short or not at, color short & long vowels at

Syllables: Open & Closed word jumbler game at

syllable games at

syllable factory game at skillswise

Double consonants

double consonants game at

CVC words (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant)

Jungle Jumble from & CVC words at, CVC words at & put it on the shelf at

Silent e

Silent E game at and from

Diphthongs (vowel teams) that make a vowel sound

Diphthongs at and the Coconut Vowels game at arcademics. BBC games (in Explorer) and Forest Phonics from ictgames.

Consonants w/more than 1 sound: hard & soft c & g, s

Hard C and Soft C sort from (here’s a no flash version)

Consonant Digraphs Beginning & ending digraphs sadlier-oxford. Forest Phonics also has some digraphs.
Consonant Blends

blends at and some final consonant blends at kizphonics

Diphthongs that make new sounds special vowels and dipthongs at kizphonics.
Bossy r

R controlled words at Starfall, R control race at Mr Nussbaum, and a Game from PBS


Treasure Behind the Mask at Sadlier-Oxford

The games at Symbaloo

All the websites in this post in alphabetical order: – a teacher-created website that provides fun and educational games for kids. Pre-K through 5th grade, and includes games for learning letters (also numbers and more) It is free for use on pcs (ads) and can be obtained for mobile or tablet use with a subscription. – arcademic skill builders are free online educational video games that offer a powerful approach to learning basic math, language arts, vocabulary and thinking skills. These are highly engaging and some are multi-player. Apps are available for both Android and iOS. – has many resources on a variety of topics. To access worksheets and more resources there is a subscription fee, but there are many games available for free for learning reading skills. – free online games (and worksheets) for phonics. – free online games for phonics

Kizphonics – an online phonics program which provides a few games on each level free, access beyond that requires a membership.

Learn English Kids -from the British Council – free online learning games

Mr Nussbaum – has lots of literacy games and interactive resources – a website from the Public Broadcasting System which is aimed at preschool kids. – an educational publisher of books and materials for grades PreK to 12+. 

Skillswise – provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation, this website includes a section of English Games. There is lots more about reading, writing, and math for higher levels. Some archived games are at as well. – provides many resources for free. A premium subscription is available that removes ads and lets teachers set up student account to track progress. – provides some free content on phonics aimed at early grade levels, with expanded content available for a subscription. – provides many resources for free. Premium subscription removes ads. – some free online games for reading.

Glossary of Literacy Terms

  • Digraph-a pair of letters representing a single speech sound
  • diphthong-two vowels combine to make one sound
  • graphemethe written representation of a phoneme
  • phoneme-the sounds that make up a word
  • phonicsthe relationship between letters and sounds
  • schwaa lightly pronounced “uh” vowel sound that can be represented by any vowel
  • syllablea unit of speech generally containing only one vowel sound

Too many people struggle with learning to read. Low literacy levels often mean limited options for employment, according to “A First Look at the Literacy of America’s Adults in the 21st Century ” at the National Center for Education Statistics. Help to make a difference by sharing these resources with anyone who wants to learn how to read.

Which games do you like the best? I’d love to hear your vote for a favorite game, or if you know of some others that would be great to add. Also I appreciate knowing if any of the links change. Just leave a comment at the Daily PlanIt Facebook page.

Get the Free eBook “Learn How To Read With Fun Online Games” (pdf) with links to these free online games, plus even more games to practice more advanced skills for reading. Download it to your computer, smartphone, and/or tablet for easy access to the games wherever you are. The eBook includes a tip for a way to play Flash games on mobile devices.

Now at Amazon: Learn more with the eBookLearn How to Read: Smart Skills You Need to Take You Far.” This book also includes explanations, charts with examples, and links to videos and other resources for learning the needed skills. Save tons of time with everything you need to learn how to read organized and easily accessible in one place.

Printable Games for sale at my Super Tutor Tools store at Teachers Pay Teachers.

  • Final Consonant Blends-set of cards, each card has six words that end with a final consonant blend. Roll a die to build words and practice them.
  • Roll a Silly Sight Word Sentence-is a fun, free way to practice sight words.

Find still more resources at my:

PinterestLogo Pinterest Board on Reading

YoutubeLogo Youtube Playlist on Reading

Cultivating Relationships

The social aspect of our lives is undeniably important for our well-being and happiness. People who have strong connections with others report higher levels of happiness. Relationships can also be challenging at times, and can be a source of unhappiness if we don’t know much about them.


Levels of Relationships

Relationships move through several stages or levels, ranging from casual acquaintances to close intimate relationships. When we first meet someone, we exchange information and learn more about each other. Some relationships don’t progress any further. We might not ever see the person again, or they may be a casual acquaintance. Others move through the levels as a relationship grows. Sharing information about yourself is called self-disclosure, and knowing what to share and when is an important relationship skill to develop.

Level One includes casual acquaintances: classmates, group members, neighbors. At this level, we share our public self: observable general knowledge. We may make small talk about the weather, our jobs, sports, etc.

Level Two -Friends & Family: co-workers, cousins, aunts & uncles, nephews & nieces. We share the personal self: opinions, beliefs, and might discuss events and news.

Level Three -Close Friends, Immediate Family. We share the private self: ideas and problems, and might ask for advice or share what’s going on in your life.

Level Four -Intimate Relationships: a spouse or partner, best friends. We share the intimate self: reactions, thoughts & feelings, needs & wants. Explore deeper questions about goals, challenges, emotions.

Cultivating Relationships – Plant a garden

For a relationship to grow, it must be cultivated and tended to carefully. To cultivate a relationship, plant seeds of conversation with kindness, and attention. Sprinkle them with shared experiences and time. Fertilize them with caring and thoughtfulness, and add plenty of the sunshine of laughter. Pull out weeds of conflict that can strangle healthy flowers with lots of good communication. The closer the relationship, the more time and attention is needed to maintain the closeness.


How to Make a Friend

Be the kind of person you would like to have as a friend

Join a group to meet others with similar interests

Be friendly-greet people, smile, use their name, make conversation

Be interesting-share ideas & thoughts

Invite people to join you for activities you enjoy

Spend time together

Be kind and thoughtful. Call, email, send cards and gifts on special occasions

Learn more with Smart Skills Trading Cards on Relationships, and The Science of Making Friends from the Wall Street Journal. See more links about Friends at Delicious.

Smart Skills Trading Cards: Relationships


GREAT Skills are smart! This Trading Card Set features information on Relationships, and includes:

The GREAT Skills Trading Card sets cover skills you probably didn’t learn in high school (and wish you had). Download them at to collect the cards as you learn about each skill.

Tip the Scales to Master Motivation: Visual Strategies to Overcome Procrastination

Anyone who has attempted to follow through on a resolution knows just how hard it is to stay focused and maintain motivation. Whether we want to create a habit or work toward another type of goal, we need all the help we can get. Enter Alex Vermeer‘s strategies for overcoming procrastination, plus a few extra tips.


For any type of goal, decide when and where you will do it. Choose the best time to work on it, and organize all the resources you will need. Do you need to buy a workout dvd, workout clothes, a set of weights, a gym membership?

To change a habit, first identify the cue, the routine, and the reward, then change the routine. (from Charles Duhrigg, author of “The Power of Habits”) If you reach for potato chips while watching television, keep gum by the couch and/or put an exercise bike nearby.

Know that willpower is 1) a limited resource, and 2) can be strengthened. (from Roy Baumeister, author of “Willpower.”) See if you can resist an impulse a little longer each time, or try meditation to strengthen willpower. Plan what you will you do when willpower is low. Distract yourself, and reduce or eliminate temptations if possible. Don’t watch commercials. Can you put potato chips out of sight and high out of reach? Or don’t buy them at all?

Make change as easy as possible. Shawn Achor’s 20 second rule says that if you can make a positive habit 3 to 20 seconds easier to start, your likelihood of doing it increases dramatically. Take small steps. B J Fogg advocates Tiny Habits in his TED Talk, “Forget big change, Start with a Tiny Habit, and has created a helpful tool called the Behavior Wizard.Can you make a positive habit easier to do, or a negative habit harder to do? What is one small step in the right direction that you can take?

PricevsValue Tip the scales by stacking the deck. On one side of the scale are all the reasons you don’t want to do something: excuses, the time cost, etc. On the other side are all the reasons you do want to do something: the benefits, rewards, etc. You aren’t going to invest your resources in something that doesn’t provide enough value to offset the price. We’ve got to stack the deck in favor of motivation with plenty of benefits to outweigh the costs and tip the scales.

DetourHave a plan B, a back-up plan in case you encounter obstacles. Music is essential to my workout, so I keep extra earbuds in the glove compartment in case I forget to bring them. If you are trying to quit smoking, can you substitute something else like gum instead of cigarettes?

FoodDiary Track it. We tend to under-estimate how many high calorie snacks we eat, and how much time we waste on social media or other things. Tracking it can provide an eye-opening surprise.

exercisechart Create competition. Aim to increase how much weight you can lift, or plan to compete in a marathon.

SMART-GoalsSet a goal and make it SMART: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

 It’s hard to maintain motivation when the results you seek are far in the future. Break large goals into smaller steps, with small rewards for reaching each target.


Use incentives and rewards.

DollarMake failure painful…put money on the line and lose it if you fail.

FacebookLogoAdd accountability…report progress (or lack of it) to others. Social pressure can be effective.

SONY DSCAdd sweet to the bitter. Add a positive experience to sweeten one that is unappetizing. Choose something that won’t undermine the results you want. Instead of eating cupcakes while exercising, try watching a show that you enjoy and look forward to seeing.

Use negative pairing. Reduce temptations by imagining something negative connected with them.

chainMake progress visual. Choose a habit tracker app, use a Seinfeld chart, or simply mark a calendar. Expect that habits take an average of 66 days to achieve.

runner Visualize success. Imagine your future self, and how good you will look and feel when you exercise, quit smoking, or whatever. You might want to make a vision board.

Choose a growth mindset, a belief that abilities can be developed. (from Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset”)

Get inspired. Read books or articles, watch movies or videos, listen to music that you find inspirational. Just don’t do it all day.



Why Find meaning. Remind yourself why you want to accomplish it. (from Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why”)

candleflameConnect with passion. If you can connect a task with something you are passionate about, you gain intrinsic motivation. When it comes to creating habits this may be challenging.


remember Use Reminders. Set a timer, put your gym bag in front of the door, and keep your goals visual and visible.

 Take action…begin, even if you don’t really want to.

watchRun a “Dash”…commit to only five minutes and you might just keep going.

Flow Find flow, the sweet spot where challenge and skill are perfectly in balance and you lose all track of time.


lightswitchReduce distractions. If focus is needed, turn off notifications and use headphones.

pencil Clear thoughts. Write down thoughts that are distracting you from what you need to do.

batteryTake a break and recharge. Notice when your energy is low, and recharge with activities that will truly revive you.

Create a habit and use the power of a routine. Simplify life and engage auto-pilot for routine tasks to reserve your energy for tasks that require willpower and brain-power!

 Celebrate progress!!! Check in regularly to look over results and congratulate yourself.

If all else fails

sinkProcrastinate productively. If you’re not going to do what you planned, at least accomplish something else that needs to be done!

Get your own copy of 25 Quotes and Affirmations to Finally Defeat Procrastination now!

See also Make Good Habits Easy, and Bad Habits Hard | The Science of Goals Infographic