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My name is Shawn Hartwell.
I'm a freelance writer and webmaster, aspiring web developer and I want to help people.
I love to travel, read, write, program, learn and spend time with my friends and family.
Breaking The Strangehold Your Emotions Have Over You.

Breaking The Strangehold Your Emotions Have Over You.

Since next month will mark the 6th month 2014(half way already, eh?) I’ll be contemplating over all the changes I’ve made in these last 6 months, detailing how I’ve developed and compile a list of the best advice I can give for you to be able to begin your self-development journey. Oh! You should be looking out for new posts in the coming months that don’t mention this year of personal development that I’ve been challenging myself to. I’ve been writing some drafts in the personal development, productivity, sustainability and related niches. I just can’t stop writing about what I love!




It’s crazy to think that May has nearly come and gone. It could be in part due to my French courses ending mid-June, which makes me super-focused on passing my final French course, and getting a greater grasp on the language. I already know so much more than I had known before such as being able to use “tenses(Past, Present, Future)” to speak more fluently with my son!


The French language isn’t the only thing I’ve been getting a better grasp on. This month out of my 2014 year of personal development has been focused on handling my emotions better, getting to know my triggers and troublesome areas, and developing myself as a person. The nature of this month’s resolution makes it sort of difficult for me to really elaborate on what I’ve learned, and choosing what to share with you, though I do have one impressive story to share with you that reveals how well maintained I’ve kept my emotions this month.

Changes that involve our emotions are obviously quite personal and take place from within, which means the external world won’t notice them as much. I’m sure my wife and son notice the differences because they’re with me for most of waking hours and I’m very open about the changes I’m making every day, week, and month.




Your emotions can be both constructive and destructive forces. Your anger and jealousy would be considered destructive while your happiness is constructive. Sure, sure that’s how it’s supposed to be and surely you’re not meant to break the rules.



Bullshit. Baloney.

You have energy inside of you that can be used ether destructively or constructively, and it’s in your hands to decide which path you’ll choose to travel.

I’ve spent this month converting my anger, hopelessness and depression with my circumstances into something constructive, researching self-development, psychology and other areas that are of personal interest. This is what I mean by the energy being inside of you and placing itself in your hands to be molded.


For far too long I’ve allowed myself to walk the path of pessimism and destruction using the resources I have on-hand in a ineffective and inefficient manner. This is what I’ve spent this entire month developing within myself to become a better person, husband, father and son.

While some might say that I’ve gone off the band-wagon with all of this so-called, “self-help nonsense,” I’ve been choosing to take the path less travelled, and separating myself from the common assembly line existence.

I’ve been taking control of my life and developing the resources I have always had. Just as my parents spent their whole lives pushing me towards.


You can too and I want to help you do that. I’m developing myself so that I can find out what works, what doesn’t, and what is such a waste of time.

So put down the television remote and open up your mind because I’m your personal guinea pig who’s going to channel all of his resources into his blog, ebooks and other projects from this moment on.






May 28, 20149 commentsRead More
Learning Through Film: Reflections On A Month Of Documentaries.

Learning Through Film: Reflections On A Month Of Documentaries.

Clapper Board and Reel


Woah. April is down too!?


What is this madness!

I’m glad that spring has finally rolled around here after the recent snow & flooding .

It wasn’t a fun time that’s for sure. I didn’t even want to leave the house to go to my parent’s place. Hell, I wasn’t sure I would even be able to get there.

April was the fourth(4th) month in my year of resolutions and one of my favorites so far. I found the concept of watching documentaries so amusing that I changed it’s positioning in the year.

I’ve also got huge plans for this personal blog of mine as I’ve felt rather down about the growth of my co-parenting blog. I’m considering some hard decisions in taking a break from my co-parenting blog and focusing on building this blog into something more. I love writing about personal challenges, health, self-improvement and other similar topics after all….

Might be some fitting changes in the long-term. That’s where I’m looking with all projects I under-take: The long-term(and you should look into the long-term with your goal-setting, too!)


Now I want to share my thoughts on a wonderful month of learning, variable weather, and a debatable “arrival” of spring.




I’ve found it hard to commit to only watching documentaries throughout the month. I’ve got my 3-year-old who’s not interested in documentaries(though curiously likes How It’s Made) and my Wife who shares a television with me in the bedroom. These two factors caused me to reverse my decision of watching documentaries exclusively. Early into the month I decided to create a rule of watching a minimum of 2 documentaries before watching anything for entertainment purposes each day of the month.

It hasn’t been easy keeping my revised rule either. There are days where I’m not in the mood or mind-set to keep new information and really benefit from the time spent. Since time is more precious, by my definition, than money I dislike wasting it on unproductive activities. That is when I’m not using technology for entertainment.


Having begun a new show the night before the month changed and this resolution began had also made sticking with it difficult.

What I’ve Learned.



Just because a show is marketed for entertainment doesn’t make it so. I begun watching the show, “Raising Hope,” on Netflix the night before beginning this resolution. I just couldn’t stop myself because I fell in love with it soon after discovering it’s written same person who created My Name Is Earl, one of my favorite shows.

I discovered something very powerful through watching this show despite my resolution. Raising Hope had messages about life implanted within it that we could all learn from. These topics included relationships, right and wrong and other lessons I couldn’t have possibly believed would be implanted into an entertainment television show, but they were.

This is why I don’t consider watching certain “entertainment” show is inherently forcing viewers not to learn anything, at least if they’re not “brain-dead watching.” That means if you’re paying attention to what’s going on and really thinking about the life situations taking place in the show you’re still learning. It’s just not as direct or educational as documentaries are.



It’s hard to find documentaries worth your time. I scrolled through Netflix the month before starting this resolution adding seemingly interesting documentaries to “My List” so that I’d have content ready to go. Once I actually begun going through this list I found that I was dropping most and those that I didn’t I wasn’t enjoying, which meant in the end I dropped them as well.

It takes time and research to uncover the best-of-the-best documentaries. unfortunately those are the only ones that are worth the time invested into them & you won’t find all you need on Netflix, the service my family relies on for our television entertainment. That’s why I turned to the power of internet research, peer reviews and torrents for discovering only the-best-of-the-best.



The nature of documentaries will cause you to undertake new projects, most notably in the realm of self-improvement, because of the sometimes life-changing shifts in how you view different topics.

After watching a few of the great health food documentaries offered by Netflix I begun to switch my diet from meat to plant-based. This had been a change I’d considered in the past and never took the plunge. These documentaries changed that, forced me into action and changed how I felt about the meat industry. I’m sure other documentaries will do the same with different topics of interest.


4) Choosing time efficiently has once again reared it’s ugly little head and proven it’s worth. I think it deserves an entry into the guidebook to life(there is one, right?)  Wherever you happen to find yourself taking information from, in other words your sources, will depend on your ability to intake, learn from and store in the long-term the lessons you’ve learned. Don’t forget this! It may well be the most important point in this list.


 What’s my overall impression?


Go for it!


Documentaries are a great resource for learning about the subjects that interest you. I know how hard it is to start a habit of watching less of the mind numbing tele but the rewards are worth it. I feel as if my brain gained a couple of pounds! Talk about gaining. At least the gain is where it really matters ;)


If you’re looking for some recommendations than turn to Netflix and watch the following documentaries about health, vegetarianism, and veganism. I had a wonderful time learning about different things that affect my health!



Food Matters.

Fat, sick, and nearly dead.

Super Size Me.

Food Inc(more of a focus on the economical, sociological and environmental effects of the massive meat market but worth a watch!).








May 1, 20143 commentsRead More
A New Level Of Hell: Sugar & It’s Effects On You.

A New Level Of Hell: Sugar & It’s Effects On You.

It seems that another month has passed by rather quickly. I don’t know where the time went, perhaps it was a combination of my birthday this month and the craziness of switching to homestudy for my schooling. Whatever the case this month is passed by just as quick and if not quicker than the rest.
This was the month that I was I was supposed to go without sugar or at least reduce the amount I wasn’t taking. Do I honestly need to explain how it went? Have any of you ever to quit sugar?

We are talking about a whole new layer of hell that  I’m not sure I want to visit again. I suppose I may be over exaggerating because it wasn’t that bad, the thing that I found the hardest was actually sticking to it– I know hard to believe, right?



This Beautiful son-of-a-bitch isn't anything to fool around with, eh.

Sugar is not much different from drugs like cocaine.

For the sake of transparency & honesty,  I ‘m not going to lie that I’ve a history with drug abuse, so I am in a pretty good position to make that statement.


The biggest observation that I made while trying to reduce the sugar in my diet, which was all I was able to do, was the same one I made when quitting cigarettes. That is to say both cigarettes, sugar and other addictive substances will crawl their way back in your head, and it starts as innocently as a thought you think is your own.


I noticed that the times I was weakest were moments when I was hungry or, I know that you’re not expecting this one, stressed. These are the situations you should avoid with any substance that is physically or psychologically addictive.

Choosing the right time to change your habits or form new ones is crucial.

This is the mistake that I’ve made in the past and I’m sure you have to. I overestimated my ability to change this deeply rooted habit during my birthday month, where of course there would be lots of sweets and other treats.

Though I’m actually glad that I made this mistake during this month for two reasons:

  1. Failing this month has showed me where I need improvement so when I tackle this habit again I’ll be in a better place. I’m sure you and I’ve heard the saying that goes something like, “failure is not something to be feared because it allows you to improve and learn what works and what doesn’t.” It’s often the case that we don’t realize the meaning of these quotes or the truth and impact they can have, until we see the results for ourselves.
  2.  I’ve became a lot more reflective on myself, my habits and many other aspects of my life because I was judging myself on my inability to change my habit this month. Now I think that we can both agree that judging yourself is normally not a very good option, though I believe that in some cases like the one I just explained it can actually be a good thing, because there is a difference between judging yourself in a harsh light and looking into yourself and seeing where you could improve.

Obviously I didn’t choose the right time in my life to change these habits, though my failure to do so is that she produced positive results, so I’m actually very confident that I will be able to apply these lessons to future endeavors.
If you came to me a couple years ago and told me that I’d be learning these lessons, blogging both about myself personally , starting a business blog, and falling in love with a beautiful woman as well as helping to raise her amazing child… Then I would not have believed you. I might’ve even called you crazy.These are such drastic changes in my life, which are positive and helping me move on from my past mistakes.

Planning ahead of time and adjusting on-the-fly will lead to long-term success.

I maybe repeat myself a little because choosing the right time to do something, planning it all in an effective matter, adjusting on-the-fly as life throws curveballs at you are all a part of success when creating new habits.

I would say that taking the time last month to switch to drinking mostly tea and water was a great way to plan ahead of time for this month’s habit, because it helps reduce stress levels and it’s a great way to build your confidence to say, “I’m capable changing my habits. I’m in control of my life. As long as I know this I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.”

Throughout the rest of the year I will most likely be adjusting the habits that I have written down, because I’m adjusting on-the-fly how my life, goals and circumstances have changed. For example, I made it a long-term goal(3-5 years) to drop about 40 pounds, bringing me to around 170-180 pounds. I’m also starting to really get into an entrepreneurial mindset, which means learning about investing, startups, accounting and habits that would be beneficial such as getting up very early in the morning, organizing my home and removing the mindset of spending money as a consumer.

In short this is what I learned this month:

  1. Changing habits that involve a physical or psychological aspect makes the challenge that much harder.
  2. Choosing the right time to make changes in your life will determine your success or failure.
  3. Success truly does have a tendency to hide itself in your life as failure and trick you, which means that you need to reflect on your failures and our successes.
  4. Executing changes with a strategic mindset and combined with choosing the right time will also determine your success or failure.
  5. Shit happens. Develop your own coping strategies for when life throws curveballs that you, because you and I both know that it’s going to happen, it is only a case of when not in.

I’m really excited for the month of April and the challenge of developing time management strategies, because this will help me in a lot of the areas I talked about before such as being entrepreneur.

PS: if you noticed anything different in my style of writing this update then just know that I haven’t completely lost my mind, I thought you should know that. For my birthday this year I  asked my parents to get me Dragon Naturally Speaking, because I’d heard so many good reviews about it and it is so important for a blogger to write in their own voice. I thought that this would help me write in my own voice and help to build my confidence.

Let’s see how this goes.


March 27, 20147 commentsRead More
Reflections On A Month Filled With Tea

Reflections On A Month Filled With Tea

Thank you, Leo Babauta. You planted the seed of change in my life & I will always be grateful.

Am I the only one who feels as though this month has passed by far-too quickly? Even January seems to have flown by. 2014 seems eager to start and finish.


If you’ve been keeping up with this personal blog of mine you would know about my 12 resolutions for 2014.

Go ahead and take a peak, you’ll learn what this month has been all about.

I’ll wait.



Done? Great!


February in review

This has been a big month bringing about extraordinary changes in my lifestyle, unlike last month’s reading habit could have. As much as I’ve had a taste for tea in the last few years, reading came  much more naturally to me. It’s been a blast rediscovering my love for tea, and it didn’t stop there.

  • Alchol(All Forms)
  • Soda Pop
  • Juices
  • Coffee

Those have (mostly) become a thing of the past in my lifestyle shift. I’ve had a few weak moments and during my human imperfection broke this month’s habit.

  • Drank beer with my best friend early in the month(he didn’t know I’d quit.)
  • Recently bought myself an ice cappuccino from Tim Hortons(as a reward for completing my grade 10 French!)
  • Fixed my sweet-tooth with Apple & Orange juices on a few occasions(the latter  had greatly reduced amounts of sugar.)

I’ll be frank: I could have done better. The beauty is that there is always success in failure(this was going to be a link to a related article but alas I can-not find the article!)

You know what the other part of the beauty of my success-failure? I’m human. Your human. We aren’t perfect and we make mistakes.

And that’s okay.


What’s been positive since the lifestyle change?

Funny you should ask because dropping those drinks isn’t the only thing I’ve done.

I’ve begun jogging at 5:00am(waking up earlier too!)


Have you ever had that feeling of a chain-effect? You know where one change, event or force in the world puts you into another situation and it goes on and on, like a chain. I think that switching those unhealthy drinks out, coupled with some other events, forced me into thinking in terms of health.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me personally that I’ve tried to become healthy before. In fact my parents supported me through a whole 3-months of dieting. I actually stuck to it.

As for the whole tea & water thing: You might find that certain things in life can become the catalyst for change.

Of course switching to those healthy drinks has physical & psychological effects on our bodies, but you should consider that it may run deeper than just their benefits.

If you take anything away from this update of mine, it should be that:

  • A small change can amount to a shift in the way you think and process the world around you.
  • Healthy habits you begin have a habit of their own: Starting a chain of events.
  • Those drinks we think we “need,” like beer, honestly are only addictions speaking. They’re tricky devils.
  • The power to change is inside of you. All you have to do is begin(a little nudge doesn’t hurt!)


February 22, 20140 commentsRead More
3 points reading has taught me this January.

3 points reading has taught me this January.

Can you believe it? We’re nearly through January. The first month of the new year has nearly come and gone.

I’ve had a great time both compiling my list of resolutions and carrying out this month’s resolution: Reading.

I’ve always had a thing, an affair of sorts, with reading as I have mentioned in my resolution list. It’s a beautiful form of art that tends to trascend the fabric of space and time.

Creating a habit of reading has helped me learn new things about myself, the world and how I have been looking at things:

  • Success with habits(reading in particular) relies on the enviornment more than we think.


Photo Source

I have struggled to, failing more recent than not, to wake-up and immerse myself into a book. This can largely be attributed to the environment and situation I find myself waking to. When I first get up in the morning, which I’ve been slowly decreasing the time between bed and waking, I find that I’m pressured for time. I have a 3-year-old stepson to prepare for the trek to his daycare, breakfast to make, lunch to prepare, a girlfriend to wake up and a bus to catch for school.

When I first started building my habit of reading it was easy. Problems arise when we fall out of another habit, in my case: waking early. Combine the failing of another core habit with the environment one wakes to(pressured for time & inside a home with so many distractions) and you’ve got a mess. I’ve also had ADHD since I was a child, I doubt that has been helping(I don’t always remember my pills.)

I haven’t completely failed in forming a reading habit, though. I read during my daily commute to school(both ways) and each class after lunch we’re forced to read for 20 minutes. Little pushes like this help and tend to support my theory of environment playing its role in forming our habits. I have trouble at home because of so many distractions, but when those distractions are removed(or instructions are given to read) things go much smoother.

In short: Reading has taught me that many factors contribute to the success or failure of building habits. Finding where you can focus the most is important and sometimes you’ll need a little push(how my school enforces a 20-minute period of reading.)

  • Reading is a great cure(at least a treatment) for “The Winter Blues” and depression in general.


Photo Source

Reading is an effective way to cure “the winter blues.”

It takes us away from our present situation. We’re no longer a part of our troubles lives or earth. We’re Frodo trekking across the lands of Middle Earth to destroy the ring or Harry Potter creeping throughout Hogwarts in an effort to stop Voldemort’s plans.

Throughout the winter months many people find themselves in a bit of a slum, some more than others. I happen to be one of those people who gets severely affected by the winter months, and depression in general. It’s a fault of mine that I have struggled with for countless years.

This far into the winter and 2014 I’ve found myself battling depression more than other years. Namely because I have more responsibility, activities and I’m writing this blog. These factors combined have resulted in a more blue than most period of January for me, but this is where books come in. I’ve been reading quite a few books as of late, some better than others, but they all have one thing in common: They take me away from whatever I’m feeling. I’m no longer stressed. I’m free to wander whatever mystical land I’ve enter into by opening up a new, or previously read, book.





  • Reading makes us more social and understanding.


Photo Source

I had always scoffed when I’d read “facts” on the internet claiming that reading alone could help us empathize and socialize with others. Boy was I wrong!

In the past I’ve had a lot of trouble socializing with other people, and making friends. Since beginning the formation of my reading habit, I’ve noticed I’m more willing to socialize, and understand other’s emotions. I find myself seeking out people to talk to, decreased anxiety when conversing and all “sense of well-being” when I’m with others. Things have even improved at home — Increased euphoria when spending time with my family.

Attributing these changes to a sense of better self-confidence isn’t too-far-off. I’ve a tendency to over think certain subject matter and I’ve noticed that my self-confidence is, for the most part, at an all-time high. I’m not able to perform a case-study to determine the true cause, but I can spectulate until the cows come home.

Quick summary of the impact of reading this month:

  • Determination and desire are often not enough to bring about habit-forming change.
  • Reading seems to be a great treatment for generalized depression.
  • Reading helps connect us to other people through better understanding of social situations and emotion(empathy.)

What were my greatest challenges towards this resolution?

  • Time restraints
  • Psychological blocks




January 25, 20149 commentsRead More
How I’m going to make my 2014 resolutions stick.

How I’m going to make my 2014 resolutions stick.


Photo By Flickr User: A Better Tripp

Update 3/30/2014(March 30th 2014): I’ve been following this list without hesitation since January & have recently mentioned how some changes may be made. That time has come. I’ve changed April into what November had previously been set for, which was watching more documentaries, because I’ve become rather excited. I’ve been busting with energy to expand my mind, skill set  & learn from informative sources. April had previously been time management but I’ve since removed it from this list entirely, because I’m working on it constantly & passively throughout my day.

November has now become my, “Bon Voyage!,” to purchasing new items as a consumer. The only things I will be buying are necessities & anything bought from Kijiji or my friends. Thanks for keeping up with my progress and we’ll see how these changes go. :)

You can too. Notice how I said resolutions? That wasn’t a mistake I indeed intended the plural form of resolution. This year I’m going to have more than one thing to change. I’m going to have many.

I found this method only days before new years over at Zenhabits. Leo really does have some inspiring and interesting content if you want to check him out. He’s currently in the middle of his year of living without. I hope that one day I can attempt something like that but I know myself well enough to know now is not the time.

You can find Leo’s take on resolutions for 2014, here. First off I’d suggest that you stop that negative thinking and prepare yourself for 12 months and 12 different periods of change in your life. Without further adieu here’s the 12 resolutions I’ll be making in 2014.

  1. January: Reading in the mornings and at night. Since I met my girlfriend, became a stepfather and begun work on my stepparenting community I’ve fallen back in love with literature, and I’ve been reading as much as I can get my hands on. This is great but I’m not yet satisfied, because I’d read a post, I believe it was on Zenhabits, about having too much ‘screen on time’ and not taking enough time away from televisions,computers, smartphones, tablets and other screens. In order to cut out some of my screen time as well as getting more reading done(yay books!) in the month of January I will be reading 30 minutes to an hour both in the morning and before bed at night.
  2. February: Becoming a tea lover. Let’s face facts for a moment because who honestly doesn’t drink too much coffee, soda or other “drinks?” I know I do and that’s why February will be the month I begin the next resolution on my list. I wouldn’t say that I’m heavily addicted to any of the aforementioned drinks but I can’t deny that I indulge a little more than I should. The goal of this resolution will be to replace my current habits with drinking with water and tea which are two beautiful sources of hydration, and ironically taste for the latter(I feel water has a taste…)
  3. March: Reducing or removing sugar. I’ve tried it before and failed. Though I was inspired by my sister when shortly after the discovery of her pregnancy, she begun to cut out substances like sugar. She told me how throughout her pregnancy she noticed how sugar and other substances held an addiction the likes of which you wouldn’t really notice(subconscious.) If she was able to do this during a time when hormones where rushing through her body in preparation of the birth of my niece(She was born in September by the way and as cute as a button!) than why can’t I? No sugar for me in my birthday month!
  4. April: Managing my time better.  April: Watch more documentaries. This resolution is kind of funny because I actually love documentaries on certain subjects, but it’s hard to break old habits. Watching movies is certainly a habit when you constantly choose them over something else you enjoy. You can learn many things from documentaries so I should actually come out of this resolution with more knowledge.
  5. May:Getting more in touch with my emotions. I’m one of those people who can be a little(or as my girlfriend would say: A little!?) emotional at times. Sometimes it’s something small and insignificant and other times it’s a bit bigger of a problem. Whatever the situation in the month of May I want to get a better handle on my emotions so that when I encounter stressful moments I don’t turn to negative influences in my life. All the other resolutions I’ve mentioned so far should help with this, tea drinking specifically.
  6. June:Focus in on a hobby. I’m actually beginning to take on the hobby of photography now(thanks hun for letting me borrow your point-and-shoot camera :)) I certainly hope that photography will have stuck with me and will be my focus for June’s resolution, but if it’s not I’ll be picking up a new hobby and focusing on it.
  7. July: Less Internet. This might be one of the biggest challenges of the Y generation onwards. I’m full-blown addicted to the internet and I’m not going to lie about that. I know it would do me and my family some good if I didn’t use the internet as much. Like Leo of Zenhabits I will have to make exceptions for my writing and other business related affairs, but other than those things I won’t be using it. That includes my cellphone.
  8. August:Stop eating for enjoyment. I don’t think there is anything wrong with eating for a tiny bit of enjoyment but it can’t be the basis of why we eat. I’m really(and I mean really) bad at eating more than I should or even need to. It’s a bad habit I’ve had since I was a kid and I want to be rid of it. I should be eating until I feel full and not going back for more or eating more just because “my plate isn’t finished.”
  9. September:Learn and practice new life skills. I’m going to be honest about something: I don’t fold clothes. I don’t really know what I’m doing. My girlfriend has pointed out that I’m missing quite a few essential life skills and I want to change that. I’ve had enough of feeling afraid to try new things out of a fear for failure. No more! I will win the battle against my fear of failure, and then I’ll slay it in the war!
  10. October: Practice more mindfulness. That means I’ll be reading much more from Zenhabits and other related websites. I actually have my girlfriend to thank for introducing me to the world of zen by sitting down with me, and encouraging me not to worry about the future, getting a job and all those things at all times.
  11. November:Watch more documentaries November: Bye, Bye Consumerism! Defeating the consumer in me has been something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. I’m always talking about how consumerism & other “modern pleasures” are the bane of our existence with my friends, constantly. It’s about time I turn my thoughts into actions & really started giving something back to the earth.
  12. December: Loving to give. This year was the first Christmas I had any money to give presents to the important people in my life. It felt great to see my parents, sister and her family as well as my family(girlfriend and stepson) get the gifts I bought for them. I don’t ever want this feeling to go away and it seems like a perfect way to draw my year of changing to a close.


Photo By Flickr User: Sean MacEntee

Happy New Year and I hope your  2014 is a wonderful year! Here’s a few sites I recommend if you’re looking to improve yourself this year:

December 28, 20131 commentRead More