Saturday, January 18, 2014

[Review] Cake for Breakfast: The 20-Something's Guide to Living On Your Own Terms

In December I received the opportunity (via 20SB) to review a complimentary copy of Cake for Breakfast, a self-guided course created by Ashley Wilhite of Your Super Awesome Life.

Cake for Breakfast: The 20-something's guide

The course: Cake for Breakfast

Cake for Breakfast is a "20-something's guide to living life on your own terms".  The course aims to help you figure out what you want in life, get you excited about getting there, and to feel fearless while doing so.  It includes:
  • A 50-page workbook (pdf)
  • Three 60-minute audio sessions where Ashley walks you through the workbook
  • 52 journal prompts - one emailed to you once a week for a year

Why was I interested in the course?

Graduating from college in 2011 wasn't that scary because I quickly lined up a 9-month gig: going back to Spain for a second year - this time teaching English.  The scary moment came at the end of those nine months, when I had every possibility staring me in the face.  Do I stay in Spain for another year?  Travel Europe?  Move to France?  Return home?  Au pair?  Go to grad school?  I had many sleepless nights that summer in Madrid, thinking about which open door I should walk through next. 

Ultimately, I returned home that fall (2012) to pay back my student loans at a faster pace while working at a 9-5.  By spring I had quickly lined up another yearlong gig: teaching English in South Korea.  I still have over half a year to go on my contract here, but my school loans will no longer be a limiting factor when I decide what to do next.  So it truly is an open slate.

Which is why I was particularly interested in Cake for Breakfast at this moment in my life.  I knew what my values were, and I wasn't afraid to go against the grain on my next pursuit, but I had no idea what that next pursuit would be.  

My course experience

I didn't print out the workbook in order to save paper, though I don't even own a printer here in Korea had I wanted to.  Instead, I used the free notebook I got from our trip to the Korean National Museum in September.  I was happy to finally put it to good use, and to keep all of my Cake for Breakfast stuff in one place (there's even room for the weekly journal entries I'll be making for the next year).

I made my way through the workbook in about 10 different sessions over the course of a month.  Each session was anywhere from a half an hour to an hour (+) long. 

The first two sections of the workbook helped to affirm what's important to me: education (learning and teaching), travel, helping others, and self-improvement.  It also provided a place where I could concentrate on recent influences that told me to focus on my health.  I connected the dots and realized that before I could think about my next step, I had to first look out for myself and finally tackle my longtime digestive problem head on.  The timing of the course was key, as I used findings from the first two workbook sections to create my 2014 resolutions.

I was less engaged during the third and final section of the workbook, but I have a few ideas as to why.  Using everything I'd done in the first two sections, we were to first list our top five "priorities", things that were important to us.  So I listed five things that were important to me.  They were big categories, basically the five I just listed above.  The next exercise asked us to list a step we could take towards each of the five priorities.  And that is where I really got tripped up.  

My priorities were vague: educating/teaching others, learning/self-improvement, and health, for example.  How could I list a step that would make education more of a priority?  Shouldn't I get a few concrete goals first, and then figure out small steps to reach those goals?  I know the best way to make changes is if the goals are as specific as possible: "Finish the Coursera Nutritional MOOC in three months" or "Reach level 10 in Duolingo's French by such and such a date", for example.  

But if the aim is to make "learning" become a bigger priority in my life?  It was too vast for me.  I really got stuck on the wording, and my non-abstract brain could not get past it.  I wanted to lay out a plan from a to z.  Where exactly did I want to be, and how would I get there.  However, the task was to make values gain importance in my life, which wasn't clear/concrete enough for me.

The other reason I had trouble finishing the third section was because at this point I had already put together my 2014 resolutions, so I wanted to focus on breaking down those three areas into small, attainable tasks rather than messing around with these five priorities.  
So my reasons were clearly personal - unique to my life and brain.  I wasn't disappointed though, since I was already satisfied with the first two sections alone.  And not all was lost in the third section; I took away a new idea I'll share below.

Thumbs Up

(+) Product appearance is important, and Cake for Breakfast passes with flying colors; the design and layout of the workbook are great.  It's clean, appealing, professional yet fun, and boy does that cake look delicious.  The color coding of the three main sections was much appreciated, as I'm a visual learner.

(+) Of the exercises, I really liked the 100 questions activity.  I'd never seen it before, and although it took about an hour to complete, the exercise was fun and helped me analyze and pursue my thoughts that don't always get observed.

(+) I mentioned above that I took away a new idea from the final section of the workbook.  Normally with resolutions or projects, I like to map them out from start to finish.  How am I going to get from a to b in this time period?  Where do I need to be each week in order to finish by the due date?  I must see how it will fit in the given time period.  But Ashley suggested a method I had never considered.  First you write a task that can be easily completed, and give yourself a deadline (no more than a few days out, because the task should be easy, no?).  After it's completed you figure out the next step, and give yourself a new deadline.  So you're working step by step without having the big picture first.  It really goes against how I normally function, but I'm giving it a try with my resolutions this year, since I cannot possibly map them out from start to finish due to their nature.  What I learn along the way through research will shape their paths.  I wouldn't have considered going this route had I not read it in Ashley's course, so again, it was great timing with the new year.

Suggestions for improvement

( ) One of the audio files (I believe it was the second) didn't have uniform volume throughout.  So all of a sudden it was really quiet and I had to crank the volume, then later on it was back to normal, so I had to turn it back down.  The music in one section was scratchy, too -- but nothing that can't be fixed!

( ) Since I did the course in many sessions and on different computers (sometimes at home, sometimes at school), I'd have to find my spot in the audio again each time.  It only took a minute, and yes, I could have jotted down the timestamp in my notebook at the end of my previous session, but I didn't always remember to do so.  My suggestion would be to add timestamps to the workbook.  Not so many that it becomes obnoxious, but maybe at either the top or bottom of each page or at the start of each exercise.

Final thoughts and recommendation

As a self-help junkie and introvert who is all for following your passions, I spend decent amounts of time with my thoughts through journaling, blogging, reading certain books/blogs, and hanging out by myself.  And I benefited from this course.  So for someone who has never really taken the time to reflect on these questions about what you want in your life, or someone who has unknowingly gotten stuck in a busy life that keeps flying by, I can only imagine the impact the course could have.  It provides you with a place to consider and ask yourself important questions about your values and the life you want to live, plus the structure & encouragement to make those plans a reality.

And although it's called the 20-something's guide, I don't think you necessarily need to be a 20-something in order to benefit from Cake for Breakfast.  Note that the course does seem to be geared towards ladies.

Ok, so how can you get your hands on this self-discovery course?  Cake for Breakfast can be purchased here at Your Super Awesome Life for $97.  Keep in mind it can also be given as a gift.

[A huge thank you to Ashley @ Your Super Awesome Life and 20 Something Bloggers for the opportunity to take Cake for Breakfast!]
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