I had to overcome several obstacles while in the FBI Academy as I trained to become an FBI agent. I needed to learn how to stay calm in the face of daily stress because I found it difficult to pass the physical fitness requirements.
Among the many lessons I learned along the way about how to stay calm is this: it’s important that we understand the obstacles that we face and not run from them. I found a natural ally in the Stoic philosophy.
The dictionary describes a stoic like this: Being Stoic is being calm and almost without any emotion. When you’re Stoic, you don’t show what you’re feeling and you also accept whatever is happening. The noun Stoic is a person who’s not very emotional. The adjective stoic describes any person, action, or thing that seems emotionless and almost blank.
This is misleading because Stoics are very aware of their emotions and go to great lengths to understand them. There’s none of that stiff upper lip nonsense with them; Mr. Spock was not a Stoic.
They feel every emotion as acutely as anyone else. They acknowledge, experience, and then domesticate them in order to achieve inner calm. In other words, they keep control of their emotions so they can stay calm in the face of daily stress. They developed mental toughness to get through hard times.
Stoic philosophy asks us to differentiate between what we can change and what we can’t. We can’t control the weather, stock market, our genetic makeup, or the rudeness of a stranger. We can yell and shout but it won’t make a difference. We can wish and hope but no matter how hard we try, there are many things we can’t change or control.
Since we can’t control external events, we need to focus on the things we can control—ourselves and our response to external events. It’s a philosophy that reminds us that the world can be unpredictable; we need to strive to be steadfast and develop a strong mind so we can be in control of ourselves.
In other words, we need to grow up, stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and take responsibility for our own actions.
The Stoics believed that fulfillment should be based on behavior rather than words, on the things we can control and not those we can’t. They were not idle philosophers who sat on a porch and pontificated; they were people of action who solved their problems on a battlefield, not in a classroom.
Leaders like Marcus Aurelius found a stoic attitude prepared them for failure and guarded them against the arrogance of success.
I know how hard it can be to maintain a positive attitude when you feel you’re in over your head but here is what I learned from the Stoics about how to stay calm in the face of daily stress:
1. Be mindful of your day
When at work, we fantasize about a vacation; on vacation, we worry about the work that’s piled up on our desk. We dwell on intrusive memories from the past and imagine the glory that lies ahead of us. Anywhere but here, our minds pop in and out of the present moment. As a result, our thoughts and emotions control us, something the Stoics warn against.
Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote, “Ordinary thoughts course through our mind like a deafening waterfall. We need to rest in stillness—to stop doing and focus on just being.” Living in the moment is also called mindfulness, and Kabat-Zinn is the biomedical scientist who introduced meditation into mainstream medicine.
When we become mindful, we observe our thoughts from moment to moment but we don’t judge them. Mindfulness requires us to be with our thoughts just as they are, neither good nor bad, and not grasp the positive thoughts or shove away the negative ones.
Acceptance of a negative emotion doesn’t mean you have to like what produced the negativity. It simply means you accept that certain things are beyond your control. The anger, jealousy, or pain is there whether you like it or not. Just embrace the emotion—sadness, stress, pain, or anger is there whether you like it or not.
According to Kabat-Zinn, acceptance of the present moment has nothing to do with resignation. Acceptance doesn’t tell you what to do; what happens next and what you choose to do comes out of your understanding of this moment.
“True fulfillment is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”—Seneca
How To Make It Work For You: Read “Full Castrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He writes about his medically-proven stress reduction program based on mindfulness. It gave rise to a whole new field in medicine and psychology. He illustrates how mind-body approaches derived from meditation and yoga can help us stay calm in the face of daily stress so we can establish greater balance of body and mind.
2. Select with care
A recent study of 5,000 top performers in business yielded a surprise. The study found that the highest-ranked performers were not those who did the most.
Nor was a better ability to organize or delegate. Instead, top performers accepted fewer tasks and then obsessed over them. Whenever they could, they carefully selected which priorities, tasks, meetings, customers, ideas or steps to undertake and which to let go.
They then applied intense, targeted effort on those few priorities in order to excel. Talent, effort and luck mattered, but not so much.
“You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last.”—Seneca
How To Make It Work For You: Focus is the key when you want to pursue goals with value rather than stick with the status-quo. You do not need to work longer hours to outperform; you need to set your priorities and then pour your blood, sweat, and tears into those areas. It’s easier to stay calm in the face of daily stress once you select the important goals in your life that produce value for you.
3. Quiet the inner nag
Distractions often occur when our inner nag starts to fret about all the things that need to get done. As a result, intrusive thoughts constantly interrupt our productivity, and we end up second-guessing our choices.
Research behind the Zeigarnik Effect proves that the unconscious mind needs the conscious mind to plan how to finish tasks or accomplish goals. That’s why the inner nag keeps fretting about all that needs to be done. When this happens, it’s impossible to stay calm in the face of daily stress.
“Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.”—Marcus Aurelius
How To Make It Work For You:
Sit down in a quiet place with a pen and paper and let your thoughts ramble.
Whether it’s small or large, important or not, write down every single thing that either needs a decision or has your attention.
Don’t take the time to prioritize the items on your To-Do list at this point. Just listen to the voice of that inner nag and write down whatever pops up.
4. Identify the steps
FBI firearms training showed me to how to narrow my focus to the one thing that needs attention immediately (front-sight) while at the same time registering awareness of the bigger picture of other things around me (the target).
In the same way, your conscious mind may now be focused on a new goal, but the unconscious mind still sees everything else that needs to get done. It needs closure and it will continue to create intrusive thoughts that won’t go away until you’ve turned your attention back to those other tasks that also need to be addressed.
In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about the importance of identifying Action Steps after you’ve created your To-Do List. The list by itself doesn’t narrow your focus enough when you have lots of priorities clamoring for your attention. You continue to create anxiety for the unconscious mind because it needs more than a goal—it needs a plan! It needs an action step.
Prioritize the to-do list you created in Step 3. You’ve addressed all the tasks that your unconscious brain is anxious about, but now you need to prioritize each item according to importance.
Beside each item on the prioritized To-Do list, identify the specific next action step to be taken regarding that item. For example, if you need to buy a birthday present, write down “Drive to Nordstrom tomorrow.”
The unconscious mind needs specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious stops nagging with constant reminders.
If you have a presentation to make at 8:00 am, your unconscious mind wants to know exactly what needs to be done. You may have 100 other items that also need attention, but you can relax and not worry about the inner nag bothering you again about it if you make a plan to review your notes at 7:00 am that morning.
It is human nature to finish what we start, and front-sight focus is how we pay full attention to one goal at a time so we can be successful.
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By Lindsay Tigar
Being motivated to succeed and pursue the road ahead of you doesn’t have to be a skill you’re naturally born with though. Instead, you can derive those fundamentals of ambition by stealing a page out of the playbook of those who identify as highly-ambitious.
Here, they divulge their secrets.
Don’t settle for anything other than happiness
And while it would make sense for me to recommend you find a job that will fulfill all of your senses and drive you to the top — that isn’t what brings joy to everyone. I credit much of my drive to the fact that I love what I do. I’m lucky that writing, content strategy and editing are tasks I would do for free — in fact, I did until someone finally paid me. Creating pieces of work that inspire others, that shed light on an important topic or provide accurate, helpful information makes me happy.
Seeing my byline never gets old. But other people may source this same feeling by having a gig that allows for a healthy work/life balance. Or one that is so lucrative it allows them to pursue hobbies that excite them.
Whatever the source of your glee, you will find the most organic ambition by making it a priority. This means never settling for second-best or okay-enough—but going after what will eventually, get you to where you hope to be.
Don’t be afraid to take risks
The road to major accomplishments is rarely open-ended and free. More often than not, it’s congested with bumper-to-bumper traffic, in the rain, on a Tuesday, when you have a meeting in ten minutes. But taking that exit when you were terrified it would lead you the wrong way? It’s worth the risk.
Career and branding expert Wendi Weiner took a major leap of faith when she left an 11-year tenure in law to focus on the career she now has: “The biggest risk I took in my life was leaving law after an 11-year career in it to focus on my dreams of being a professional writer and career branding expert.”
“I told myself I was willing to risk making less money in exchange for greater personal and professional happiness. In the end, taking that risk was the best decision I ever made — I am more successful today and more financially secure than I ever was as a lawyer,” she shares.
Choose your company wisely
A work bestie is a blessing. So is a co-founder who basically shares a brainwave with you. But toxic, negative people who bring your spirit down? They gotta go on your path to an ambitious mindset. As the CEO and founder of Coddle, Sean Pathiratne explains, keeping company with people who are at least as passionate as he is, keeps him invigorated.
“I want people who inject oxygen into the room — not people who suck it out,” he calls it. This doesn’t mean people who only agree with you, but rather, those who make you a better version of yourself.
“I don’t want people to ‘yes’ me to death — I want to be challenged,” he continues. “What I’ve found is that these are also people I can learn from, and who inspire self-development.”
Set goals at different time parameters
It’s one thing to say you’re going to develop a blog for your industry that reaches thousands of people. It’s another to say you’ll do that within the next year. To keep her ambitious self on course, Weiner shares she doesn’t just think long-term or big picture, but weekly, monthly and yearly.
She explains these small, targeted goals help her focus and gives her a way to reflect on areas she’s excelled at and ones she’s falling short. Whether you write these micro benchmarkers down by hand or set a reminder on your calendar, tracking progress will ensure continuous progress.
Know where you want to go
Though every step of the way is important, sure, having a clear vision to the end-all-be-all spot in your career can help navigate your choices too, founder and CEO of the RFP Success Company, Lisa Rehurek shares. She explains when you can picture that place you’re going, it makes everything along the way hassle-free.
“I revisit it on a regular basis and adjust as necessary, and all roads lead back to that vision. Knowing what I ultimately want allows me to make quick decisions and keep moving forward,” she continues. “Because of my strong conviction in that vision, I have way more faith than fear, so that fear doesn’t trip me up very often.”
Understand what keeps you motivated
Financial gains? A killer title? The ability to move mountains — or numbers. Praise from your manager? Time with your kids? Rehurek says to remain ambitious, you must know what motivates you to keep going when the going gets tough.
“I know that I am motivated by recognition. If I’m not getting recognized, then I need to shift something to get more recognition in order to stay motivated,” she shares as an example. “In 2018, I did a lot of things that gave me that recognition – developed an online learning institute, started a new podcast, wrote another book, participated in an online business reality show.”
As she goes into 2019, she doesn’t have as many “big” nuggets on the horizon, so she puts her nose to the grind to create opportunities to fulfill her.
Develop a do, ditch and delegate process
Especially as you rise through the ranks and become a manager, it’s more important than ever to use your time not only wisely but strategically. Even those who are inherently motivated can get bogged down in the details, making it difficult to see the path at the end of the weeds. Rehurek has developed a ‘do, ditch and delegate’ process to get the most out of her working hours. This keeps her pushing forward and allows for peak productivity.
How does it work? Simply: do the things you’re great at, ditch the ones you don’t need to contribute to or waste your genius and delegate tasks that are better suited for someone else, making room for you to work harder on your vision.
1. Stop depending on caffeine
“Addictions embody repetition without progress. They produce incapacity as a payoff.” — Steven Pressfield
Although people think they perform better on caffeine, the truth is, they really don’t. Actually, we’ve become so dependent on caffeine that we use it to simply get back to our status-quo. When we’re off it, we underperform and become incapable.
Isn’t this absurd?
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The problem isn’t the caffeine. It’s the compulsion and dependence. The need to rely on it to do everyday tasks which shouldn’t require it. Use it if it’s strategic, don’t abuse it to the point of ineffectiveness.
In his book, The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer argues that your energy should come from within — from your why — not from external stimulants. The scientific backing is substantial and unsurprising: intrinsic motivation destroys extrinsic motivation every day of the week.
Motivation aside — healthy eating, sleeping, and intensive exercise produce higher quantities and quality of energy than caffeine ever could. A holistic approach to life is essential. Garbage in, garbage out.
2. Pray or meditate morning, mid-day, and night
In a recent interview at the Genius Network mastermind event, Joe Polish asked Tony Robbins what he does to get focused. “Do you meditate? What do you do?” Joe asked.
“I don’t know that I meditate. I don’t know that I want to meditate and think about nothing,” Tony responded, “My goal is clarity.”
Instead of full-on meditation, Tony has a morning routine that includes several breathing exercises and visualization techniques that get him to a state of clarity and focus. For me, I use prayer and pondering (my version of meditation) as the same vehicle.
Whatever your approach, the goal should be clarity and focus. What do you want to be about today?
What few things matter most during the next 24 hours?
I’ve gotten the best results as:
- My morning prayer and meditation are motivational
- My afternoon prayer and meditation are evaluative and strategic
- My evening prayer and meditation are evaluative and reflective
3. Read 1 book per week
People living ordinary lives seek entertainment. People living extraordinary lives seek education and learning. It is common for the world’s most successful people to read at least one book per week. They are constantly learning.
I can easily get through one audiobook per week by just listening during my commute to school and while walking on campus. Taking even 15–30 minutes every morning to read uplifting and instructive information changes you. It puts you in the zone to perform at your highest.
Over a long enough period of time, you will have read hundreds of books. You’ll be knowledgeable on several topics. You’ll think and see the world differently. You’ll be able to make more connections between different topics.
Reference #19 on this list if you feel you’re “too busy” to read one book per week. There are methods to make this task extremely easy.
4. Write in your journal 5 minutes per day
This habit will change your life. Your journal will:
- Clear your emotions serving as your personal therapist
- Detail your personal history
- Enhance your creativity
- Ingrain and enhance your learning
- Help you get clarity on the future you want to create
- Accelerate your ability to manifest your goals
- Increase your gratitude
- Improve your writing skills
- Lots more …
Five minutes per day is more than enough. Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, recommends writing far less than you want to — only a few sentences or paragraphs at most. This will help you avoid burnout.
5. Marry the person you love, and then fight to make that marriage amazing (don’t give up like most people do when it becomes work)
“For all the productivity and success advice I’ve read, shaped and marketed for dozens of authors in the last decade, I’ve never really seen someone come out and say: Find yourself a spouse who complements and supports you and makes you better.” — Ryan Holiday
Research done by economists have found — even after controlling for age, education, and other demographics — that married people make 10 to 50 percent more than single people.
Why would this be?
Being married gives you a higher purpose for being productive. You are no longer a lone ranger, but have another person who relies on you.
Marriage also smacks you in the face with what’s really important in life. Sure, hanging out and partying is fun. But too many people get stuck in this phase and miss the meaning that comes from building a life with someone.
You will never find a better personal development seminar or book than marriage. It will highlight all of your flaws and weaknesses, challenging you to become a better person than you ever thought possible.
Said Thomas Monson, “Choose your love; love your choice.” After you’ve chosen the person you love, love them. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. Said Franklin, Man’s Search for Meaning, “For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”
6. Make a bucket list and actively knock items off
Most people have it backward — they design their ambitions around their life, rather than designing their life around their ambitions.
What are the things you absolutely must do before you die?
Then design your life around those things. Or as Stephen Covey explained in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end clearly in mind.”
I must confess that until recently, I had put my work before my kids. Sure, I made time for my kids regularly — but in my head and heart, I put work before them. I won’t make that mistake again.
Here’s the truth — when you put the top priorities first, you find the time for the rest. I’ve become more successful and productive while working less because I’m putting first things first. This gives you a sense of confidence and integrity and also fulfills you much deeper.
When you’re fulfilled, you work better.
Working more shouldn’t be the goal. It’s doing brilliant work that supports the lifestyle you’ve chosen based on your values and priorities.
A simple mental exercise that may be helpful is imagining you only have 30 days to live. What would you do in those 30 days?
Now imagine you have 5 years to live. What would you do during those 5 years?
Get to work. The death-bed mentality is the only way to live. Stop pretending you’ll live forever. As Professor Harold Hill has said — “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.”
7. Stop over-consuming refined sugar
If you stop consuming sugar, your brain will radically change. Actually, study after study is showing that refined sugar is worse for our brains than it is for our waistlines. According to Dr. William Coda Martin, refined sugar is nothing more than poison because it has been depleted of its life forces, vitamins, and minerals.
Again, like caffeine, if you stop impulsively consuming refined sugar, you will experience some negative withdrawals. But, like any good habit, the effects of this will be seen in the long-run. What would your health be like a year from now (or five) if you were completely refined sugar-free?
Said Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.”
8. Fast from all food and caloric beverages 24 hours once per week
One-day (24-hour) food fasts are a popular way to maintain health and vigor. Fasting leverages the self-healing properties of the human body. Radical health improvements occur when the digestive system is given rest and the organs get ample time to repair and heal themselves.
A regular practice of fasting can:
- Improve digestive efficiency
- Increase mental clarity
- Increase physical and mental vigor
- Remove toxins
- Improve vision
- Give a general feeling of well being
Like all the other habits, fasting gets easier with practice. I’ve been fasting for years and it’s one of the best things I have done for my health.
Fasting is also one of the most recognized techniques in religious and spiritual practices. I also use fasting to get spiritual clarity and refinement.
Honestly, I could go on for hours about this one. Give it a try. You’ll never be the same.
9. Fast from the internet 24 hours once per week
Your body gets an intervention when you fast. Your mind and relationships could use one too. Unplug yourself from the matrix.
If you haven’t caught on already, human beings are highly addictive creatures. We love our coffee, sugar, and the internet. And these things are all great. But our lives can be far more enhanced by using these tools in wisdom.
The purpose of the internet fast is to reconnect to yourself and your loved ones. So, you probably shouldn’t do it the same day you do your food fast. Because eating is one of the strongest ways to form bonds.
You’ll be blown away by how much more connected you feel to your loved ones when you can give them your undivided attention. It may even feel awkward for a while having a real-life conversation without looking at your phone every three minutes.
10. Stop consuming the news or reading the newspaper
Although the amount of warfare and deaths by human hands are reducing globally, you will not get that message watching televised news or reading the newspaper.
On the contrary, these media outlets have an agenda. Their goal is to appeal to your fears by inflating extreme cases — making them seem normal and commonplace. If they didn’t do so, their viewership would plummet. Which is why Peter Diamandis, one of the world’s experts on entrepreneurship and the future of innovation has said, “I’ve stopped watching TV news. They couldn’t pay me enough money.”
You can get high-quality news curated from Google news. When you detox from the toxic filth that is public news, you’ll be startled as your worldview becomes radically more optimistic. There is no objective reality. Instead, we live in perceived realities and are thus responsible for the worldview we adopt.
11. Do something every day that terrifies you
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” — Tim Ferriss
But you don’t have to constantly be battling your fears. Actually, Darren Hardyhas said that you can be a coward 99.9305556% of the time (to be exact). You only need to be courageous for 20 seconds at a time.
Twenty seconds of fear is all you need. If you courageously confront fear for 20 seconds every single day, before you know it, you’ll be in a different socio-economic and social situation.
Make that call.
Ask that question.
Pitch that idea.
Post that video.
Whatever it is you feel you want to do–do it. The anticipation of the event is far more painful than the event itself. So just do it and end the inner-conflict.
In most cases, your fears are unfounded. As Seth Godin has explained, our comfort zone and our safety zone are not the same things. It is completely safe to make an uncomfortable phone call. You are not going to die. Don’t equate the two. Recognize that most things outside your comfort zone are completely safe.
12. Do something kind for someone else daily
“Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed. Has anyone’s burden been lighter today, because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there?” — Will L. Thompson (music and text)
If we’re too busy to help other people, we’ve missed the mark. Taking the time to spontaneously — as well as planned — helping other people is one of the greatest joys in life. Helping others opens you up to new sides of yourself. It helps you connect deeper with those you help and humanity in general. It clarifies what really matters in life.
As Thomas Monson has said, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” That would truly be a failure.
13. Go to bed early and rise early
According to countless research studies, people who go to bed and rise early are better students. Harvard biologist Christoph Randler found that early sleep/risers are more proactive and are more likely to anticipate problems and minimize them efficiently, which leads to being more successful in the business.
Other benefits of going to bed and rising early — backed by research — include:
- Being a better planner
- Being holistically healthier as individuals
- Getting better sleep
- More optimistic, satisfied, and conscientious
Waking up early allows you to proactively and consciously design your day. You can start with a morning routine that sets the tone for your whole day. You show self-respect by putting yourself first. In your morning routine, you can pray/meditate, exercise, listen to or read inspiring content, and write in your journal. This routine will give you a much stronger buzz than a cup of coffee.
14. Get 7+ hours of sleep each night
Let’s face it: sleep is just as important as eating and drinking water. Despite this, millions of people do not sleep enough and experience insane problems as a result.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) conducted surveys revealing that at least 40 million Americans suffer from more than 70 different sleep disorders; furthermore, 60 percent of adults, and 69 percent of children, experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week.
In addition, more than 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month — with 20 percent reporting problem sleepiness a few days a week or more.
On the flip side, getting a healthy amount of sleep is linked to:
- Increased memory
- Longer life
- Decreased inflammation
- Increased creativity
- Increased attention and focus
- Decreased fat and increased muscle mass with exercise
- Lower stress
- Decreased dependence on stimulants like caffeine
- Decreased risk of getting into accidents
- Decreased risk of depression
And tons more… Google it.
15. Replace warm showers with cold ones
Why would he do such a thing?
Cold water immersion radically facilitates physical and mental wellness. When practiced regularly, it provides long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems that improve the quality of your life. It can also increase weight-loss because it boosts your metabolism.
A 2007 research study found that taking cold showers routinely can help treat depression symptoms often more effective than prescription medications. That’s because cold water triggers a wave of mood-boosting neurochemicals which make you feel happy.
To me, it increases my willpower and boosts my creativity and inspiration. While standing with the cold water hitting my back, I practice slowing my breathing and calming down. After I’ve chilled out, I feel super happy and inspired. Lots of ideas start flowing and I become way motivated to achieve my goals.
Here’s a tip if you’re just starting out: start your shower warm, as usual. Let the warm water on your muscles allow you to stretch them out. After you’re stretched and washed, completely turn-off the warm and completely turn-on the cold. It really isn’t too bad at all. It feels incredible. Just do it for 60–90 seconds, then get out. You’ll be very pleased.
16. Say “No” to people, obligations, requests, and opportunities you’re not interested in from now on
“No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no.” — Derek Sivers
Your 20 seconds of daily courage will most consistently involve saying “no” to stuff that doesn’t really matter. But how could you possibly say “no” to certain opportunities if you don’t know what you want? You can’t. Like most people, you’ll be seduced by the best thing that comes around. Or, you’ll crumble under other people’s agendas.
But if you know what you want, you’ll have the courage and foresight to pass up even brilliant opportunities — because ultimately they are distractors from your vision. As Jim Collins said in Good to Great, “A ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ is irrelevant if it is the wrong opportunity.”
17. Say “Thank you” every time you’re served by someone
It’s amazing when you meet someone who is expressively and genuinely grateful. It’s amazing because, frankly, it’s rare.
I remember one day while working as a busser of a restaurant as a teenager. Every time I went by a certain table, whether I was refilling waters, bringing food, anything… the kid at the table (no more than 20 years old) graciously said “thank you.” I even heard him from close proximity saying it to all the other employees when they stopped by his table.
This experience had a dramatic impact on me. It was so simple what he was doing. Yet, so beautiful. I instantly loved this person and wanted to serve him even more.
I could tell by how he looked in my eyes when saying “thank you” that he meant it. It came from a place of gratitude and humility.
Interestingly, one study has found that saying “thank you,” facilitated a 66 percent increase in help offered by those serving. Although altruism is the goal, don’t be surprised as your habit of graciously saying “thank you” turns into even more to be thankful for.
18. Say “I love you” 3+ times a day to the most important people in your life
According to neuroscience research, the more you express love (like gratitude), the more other people feel love for you. Sadly, people are taught absurd mindsets about being vulnerable and loving in relationships. Just this morning, my wife and I had to coax and prod our three foster kids to say one nice thing about each other, and to say they loved each other.
It took several minutes for our 8-year-old foster boy to muster the strength to say he loved his sister. Yet, all of our kids constantly berate and belittle each other.
You know the feeling: when you want to say “I love you” but hold back. What a horrible feeling.
Why do we hesitate to express our love?
Why do we hesitate to connect deeply with others?
This may be strange, but if you tell your friends and family you love them, they’ll be blown away. I once knew a Polynesian missionary who told everyone he loved them. It was clear he was sincere.
I asked him why he did it. What he told me changed my life. “When I tell people I love them, it not only changes them, but it changes me. Simply by saying the words, I feel more love for that person. I’ve been telling people all around me I love them. They feel treasured by me. Those who know me have come to expect it. When I forget to say it, they miss it.”
“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” –Harriet Beecher Stowe
Here’s a pro-tip: In the morning when you first wake up, write in your journal (see #4 above). But during your morning journal writing — include your family.
Write about your spouse and kids. Answer the following prompt in your journal: How could I show love and appreciation for them today?
As you write in your journal, two things will happen: 1) self-awareness and 2) creativity.
Self-awareness will show you where you’re taking your loved ones for granted. You’ll quickly see that you haven’t been as engaged and devoted and thoughtful as you could be.
Creativity is all about taking the relationship to the next level. In your journal, write the ideas for how you can positively impact that relationship today. Then, thoughtfully and courageously act to bring about a deeper connection.
You can transform your relationships and develop deep emotional bonds quickly with some awareness and thoughtfulness. Your relationships do not have to be a pattern of the past. You can design them for the future.
19. Consume 30 grams of protein within the first 30 minutes of waking up
Donald Layman, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois, recommends consuming at least 30 grams of protein for breakfast. Similarly, Tim Ferriss, in his book, The 4-Hour Body, also recommends 30 grams of protein 30 minutes after waking up.
According to Tim, his father did this and lost 19 pounds in one month.
Protein-rich foods keep you full longer than other foods because they take longer to leave the stomach. Also, protein keeps blood-sugar levels steady, which prevents spikes in hunger.
Eating protein first decreases your white carbohydrate cravings. These are the types of carbs that get you fat. Think bagels, toast, and donuts.
Tim makes four recommendations for getting adequate protein in the morning:
- Eat at least 40% of your breakfast calories as protein
- Do it with two or three whole eggs (each egg has about 6g protein)
- If you don’t like eggs, use something like turkey bacon, organic pork bacon or sausage, or cottage cheese
- Or, you could always do a protein shake with water
For people who avoid dairy, meat, and eggs, there are several plant-based proteins. Legumes, greens, nuts, and seeds all are rich in protein.
20. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts on 1.5 or 2x speed, your brain will change faster
Listening to audiobooks at normal speed is so three years ago. There is a going trend — particularly in Silicon Valley — to listen to audiobooks at 150 or 200 percent called “speed listening.”
In 2010, the tech blog GigaOm suggested “speed-listening to podcasts” as an overall time-saving technique. Software called FasterAudio promises to “cut your audio learning time in half.”
If you want to get hardcore, a particularly useful tool is Overcast — a podcast-playback app with a feature called Smart Speed. Smart Speed isn’t about simply playing audio content at 150 or 200 percent of the standard rate; but actually attempts algorithmically to remove fluff (e.g., dead air, pauses between sentences, intros and outros) that bulks up the play time of audio content.
Use this technique and you’ll be consuming as much information as you once consumed caffeine.
21. Decide where you’ll be in five years and get there in two
“How can you achieve your 10 year plan in the next 6 months?” — Peter Thiel
There is always a faster way than you originally conceived. Actually, goal-setting can slow your progress and diminish your potential if you rely too heavily upon it.
In an interview with Success Magazine, Tim Ferriss said that he doesn’t have five or ten-year goals. Instead, he works on “experiments” or projects for a 6–12 week period of time. If they do extremely well, the possible doors that could open are endless. Tim would rather play to the best possibilities than get stuck on one track. He says this approach allows him to go drastically farther than he could ever plan for.
22. Remove all non-essentials from your life (start with your closet)
“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” — Greg McKeown
Most of the possessions you own, you don’t use. Most of the clothes in your closet, you don’t wear. Get rid of them. They are sucking energy from your life. Also, they are dormant value waiting to be exchanged for dollars.
Getting rid of underutilized resources is like injecting motivation and clarity into your bloodstream. While all of that untapped energy gets removed, a new wave of positive energy comes into your life. You can use that energy in more useful and productive ways.
23. Consume a tablespoon of coconut oil once per day
Coconut oil is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
Here are 7 reasons you should eat coconut oil every single day:
- It boosts HDL (good) cholesterol and simultaneously blocks LDL (bad) cholesterol buildup
- It has special fats that help you burn more fat, have more energy, and maintain a healthy weight
- It fights aging and keeps you looking and feeling young
- It reduces fever and acts as an anti-inflammatory
- It is antibacterial and thus wards off possible illnesses
- It improves memory and cognitive functioning (even for people with Alzheimer’s)
- It can boost testosterone for men and balance healthy hormones level for both men and women
Coconut oil is a healthy alternative to caffeine. Eating a small amount will give you a shot of energy without the side-effects.
24. Go for 3–5 walks per week
“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” — Thomas Jefferson
In the book, Daily Rituals, Mason Currey highlights the routines and rituals of some of the most successful artists, scientists, writers, musicians, etc.
A very common feature in these people’s lives is WALKING.
It’s the most healthy form of exercise on the planet. It’s also incredibly good for self-awareness and creative thinking. You give yourself space and allow the scenery around you to trigger creative mind-wandering, which leads to powerful insights and emotional commitments.
If you make walking a habit in your life, you’ll become far more healthy, creative, and successful.
25. Choose to have faith in something bigger than yourself, skepticism is easy
In the timeless book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill explains that a fundamental principle of wealth creation is having faith — which he defines as visualization and belief in the attainment of desire.
As Hill famously said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”
If you don’t believe in your dreams, the chances of them happening are slim to none. But if you can come to fully know the things you seek will occur, the universe will conspire to make it happen.
According to Hill (see page 49 of Think and Grow Rich), here’s how that works:
- “Faith is the starting point of all accumulation of riches!”
- “Faith is the basis of all ‘miracles’ and mysteries that cannot be analyzed by the rules of science!”
- “Faith is the element that transforms the ordinary vibration of thought, created by the finite mind of man, into the spiritual equivalent.”
- “Faith is the only agency through which the cosmic force of Infinite Intelligence can be harnessed and used.”
- “Faith is the element, the ‘chemical’ which, when mixed with prayer, gives one direct communication with Infinite Intelligence.”
Like expressing love, in our culture, many have become uncomfortable with ideas like faith. Yet, to all of the best business minds in recent history, faith was fundamental to their success.
26. Stop obsessing about the outcome
Research has found that expectations in one’s own ability serve as a better predictor of high performance than expectations about a specific outcome. In his book, The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman explains that when setting goals, your locus of control should target what you can control (i.e., your efforts) instead of results you can’t control (e.g., whether you get the part).
Expect optimal performance from yourself and let the chips fall where they may. The organic output will be your highest quality work. Put most simply: Do what is right, let the consequence follow.
27. Give at least one guilt-free hour to relaxation per day
In our quest for success, many of us have become workaholics. However, relaxation is crucial for success. It is akin to resting between sets at the gym. Without resting, your workout will be far less than it could have been.
Foolishly, people approach their lives like a workout without rest breaks. Instead, they take stimulants to keep themselves going longer and longer. But this isn’t sustainable or healthy. It’s also bad for productivity and creativity in the short and long run.
28. Genuinely apologize to people you’ve mistreated
People make mistakes several times every single day. Sadly — and hilariously — much of the time we act like kids and blame our mistakes on external factors. Research has found that people who don’t openly and often apologize experience higher levels of stress and anxiety.
You don’t need that pent-up energy in your life. Make amends and let it go. It’s not your choice if people choose to forgive you.
29. Make friends with five people who inspire you
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn
Who you spend time with is incredibly important. Even more fundamental is: what types of people are you comfortable around?
Your comfort level is one of the clearest indicators of your character. Are the people you enjoy being around inspiring or degrading, hard-working or lazy?
What kinds of beliefs do your friends have?
What kinds of goals are they pursuing?
How much money do they make?
What does their health look like?
All of these things dramatically impact you. And it is one of the most painful experiences in the world to become uncomfortable around people who have long been your friends. When you grow and evolve and long for more, you’ll begin seeking a different crowd to surround yourself with.
Misery loves company. Don’t let them hold you back. Move on but never detach from the love you have for those people.
30. Save 10 percent or more of your income
“I would have saved 10 percent automatically from my paycheck by direct deposit into a savings account earning the best possible interest compounded daily. I would have also disciplined myself to deposit 10 percent of any additional money from gifts, refunds or other earned income. I would have bought a small house outright with the money I had saved (instead of renting an apartment for over 30 years). I would have found a job that I loved and devoted my life to it. At least you could be happy even if you were not where you wanted to be financially. Hope this helps someone out there.” — D. Lorinser
Tithing yourself is a core principle of wealth creation. Most people pay other people first. Most people live above their means.
In total, American consumers owe:
- $11.85 trillion in debt
- An increase of 1.4% from last year
- $918.5 billion in credit card debt
- $8.09 trillion in mortgages
- $1.19 trillion in student loans
- An increase of 5.9% from last year
The U.S. Census in 2010 reported that there were 234.56 million people over the age of 18 years old, suggesting the average adult owes $3,761 in revolving credit to lenders. Across the average household, American adults also owe $11,244 in student loans, $8,163 on their autos, and $70,322 on their mortgage.
Simply switching to home-brewed coffee will save you an average of $64.48 per month (or $2 per day) or $773.80 per year. By putting the savings into a mutual fund with average earnings of 6.5% interest and reinvesting the dividends into more mutual funds over a decade, the $64.48 saved every month would grow into $10,981.93.
My wife once took an accounting class from a world-renowned accountant. His words on the first day of class, “The most important thing you’ll learn in this class, which most people will never learn: spend less than you earn. If you do this, you’ll be financially free.”
31. Tithe or give 10 percent of your income away
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer.” — Proverbs 11:24
Many of the wealthiest people in the world attribute their healthy financial life and abundance to giving some of it away.
Most people are trying to accumulate as much as they can. However, a natural principle of wealth creation is generosity. As Joe Polish has said, “The world gives to the givers and takes from the takers.”
From a spiritual perspective, everything we have is God’s (or the Earth’s). We are merely stewards over our possessions. When we die, we don’t take our money with us. So why hoard it?
As you give generously and wisely, you’ll be stunned by the increases in your earning potential. You’ll develop traits needed for radical wealth creation.
Although a religious example, this next story is incredibly instructive and fascinating.
George Q. Cannon was a leader of the Latter-Day Saint Church some time ago. As a young and impoverished man, he approached his tithing practice in a unique way. Tithing, in that faith, is Biblical and encourages members to pay 10% of their income.
But George was highly imaginative in how he paid his tithing. Rather than paying retroactively, wherein he paid 10% of what he earned, he decided to pay 10% of what he intended to earn in his future.
In a talk, Dr. Wendy Watson further expounded on this story:
When his bishop commented on the large amount of tithing poor young George was paying, George said something like: “Oh bishop, I’m not paying tithing on what I make. I’m paying tithing on what I want to make.” And the very next year George earned exactly the amount of money he had paid tithing on the year before!
George Q. Cannon was not transactional in his religious approach to tithing. He was transformational. He didn’t see tithing as a cost, but an investment in himself and his relationship with his faith.
Whether you are spiritually-minded or not, the implications of this story are psychologically instructive.
How was he able to turn his financial investments into upgraded skills and mindsets?
Rather than acting from your present circumstances, you act from your future circumstances.
Rather than living from the present or past, you can “assume the feeling of your wish fulfilled.”
This is one of the reasons to write down your goals daily — it allows you to live as though your desired future is already a concrete fact.
But this is also another reason to invest money in yourself, your relationships, your priorities, and your future. When you invest in something, you upgrade your subconscious mindset around that thing. Essentially, you’re saying to yourself — I can be, do, and have more than I currently am. This is why imagination is so key.
In George Cannon’s case, he invested in his relationship with his God, which led to a 10X transformation. Investment is always a more powerful mindset than seeing things as a cost.
32. Drink 64–100 ounces of water per day
Human beings are mostly water. As we drink healthy amounts of water, we have smaller waistlines, healthier skin, and better functioning brains. Actually, as we drink enough water, it’s safe to say we’re better in every way.
It’s a no-brainer. If you’re not drinking the healthy amount of water each day, you should critically assess your priorities in life.
33. Buy a small place rather than rent
Unless you live in a big city (which many of you do), I’m baffled how many people pay outlandish amounts on rent each month.
When my wife and I moved to Clemson to begin graduate school, we did a lot of front end work to ensure we’d be able to buy a home. What’s shocking is that our mortgage payment is far less than most of our friend’s rent payments. By the end of our four years here in Clemson, we’ll have earned several thousand dollars in equity and even more in appreciation. Conversely, many of our friends are simply dumping hundreds of dollars into someone else’s pockets every month.
Paying rent is like working hourly. You get money while you’re on the clock. When you’re not on the clock, you get no money. Earning equity is like having residual income. Every month you pay down your mortgage, you actually keep that money. So you’re not “spending to live”as most people do. You’re living for free while saving — often earning in appreciation.
34. Check your email and social media at least 60–90 minutes after you wake up
Most people check their email and social media immediately upon waking up. This puts them in a reactive state for the remainder of the day. Instead of living life on their own terms, they’d rather respond to other people’s agendas.
Hence, the importance of having a solid morning routine. When you wake up and put yourself, not other people first, you position yourself to win before you ever begin playing. As Stephen Covey has taught in his book, Spiritual Roots of Human Relations, “Private victory always precedes public victory.”
Make the first few hours of your morning about you, so that you can be the best you can for other people. My morning routine consists of prayer, journal writing, listening to audiobooks and podcasts while I workout, and taking a cold shower.
After I’ve had an epic morning, and I’m clear on the direction of my day, I can utilize email and social media for my benefit rather than a detriment.
35. Make a few radical changes to your life each year
“Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.”— Alain de Botton
Reinvent yourself every year. Novelty is an antidote to monotony. Jump into new pursuits and relationships.
Try things you’ve never done before.
Have more fun.
Pursue big things you’ve been procrastinating for years.
In 2018, my wife and I went from having no kids to having 5 kids. We adopted three siblings from the foster system and had twins. We also moved from South Carolina to Orlando, Florida. Many other insane things happened and we’re honestly still recovering.
Creating huge changes in your life also produces huge amounts of stress. But when you have your priorities clear, and when you’re engaging in healthy habits — you can make it through the other side a much different and more mature human being.
As Jack Canfield said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Similarly, a different and more powerful version of you is on the other side of change. Don’t let the emotional pain and learning stop you from evolving.
36. Define what wealth and happiness mean to you
“Be everything to everybody and you’ll be nothing for yourself.” — John Rushton
No two human beings are the same. So why should we have one standard of success? Seeking society’s standard of success is an endless rat-race. There will always be someone better than you. You’ll never have the time to do everything.
Instead, you recognize that every decision has an opportunity cost. When you choose one thing, you simultaneously don’t choose several others. And that’s okay. Actually, it’s beautiful because we get to choose our ultimate ideal.
We must define success, wealth, and happiness in our own terms because if we don’t, society will for us — and we will always fall short. We’ll always be left wanting. We’ll always be stuck comparing ourselves and competing with other people. Our lives will be an endless race for the next best thing. We’ll never experience contentment.
37. “Change the way you feel, think, and act about money” — Steve Down
Most people have an unhealthy relationship with money. It’s not necessarily their fault; it’s what they were taught.
In order to change your financial world, you need to alter your paradigm and feelings about money.
Here are some key beliefs the most successful people in the world have:
- In a free-market economy, anyone can make as much money as they want.
- Your background, highest level of education, or IQ is irrelevant when it comes to earning money.
- The bigger the problem you solve, the more money you make.
- Expect to make lots of money. Think BIG: $100,000, $500,000, or why not $1 million?
- What you focus on expands. If you believe in scarcity, you’ll have little.
- If you believe there is unlimited abundance, you’ll attract abundance.
- When you create incredible value for others, you have the right to make as much money as you want.
- You’re not going to be discovered, saved, or made rich by someone else. If you want to be successful, you have to build it yourself.
When you develop a healthy relationship, you will have more. You won’t spend money on the crap most people waste their money on. You’ll focus more on value than price.
38. Invest only in industries you are informed about
Warren Buffett doesn’t invest in technology because he doesn’t understand it. Instead, he invests in banking and insurance. He’s not a tech guy. He invests in what he understands.
Yet, so many people invest in things they don’t understand. I’ve made that mistake. I once invested several thousand dollars in an overseas rice distribution. Although the investment sounded incredible on paper, it’s turned out to be a disaster.
I didn’t have the understanding to make an informed decision. I put my trust in someone else’s hands. And no one cares about your success more than you do.
From now on, I’m going to responsibly invest in things I can make informed decisions on.
39. Create an automated income source that takes care of the fundamentals
We live in unprecedented times. It has never been easier to create automated income streams. No matter your skill-set and interests, you can put a business in a place that runs 24/7 even while you’re sleeping, sitting on the beach, or playing with your kids.
An entrepreneur is someone who works for a few years like no one will so they can live the rest of their life like no one else can.
If you want to free up your time and energy for the things that matter most, either invest in stuff you’re informed on (e.g., real estate, businesses, mutual funds), or, create a business that doesn’t require you (e.g., create an online educational course about something you’re passionate about).
40. Have multiple income streams (the more the better)
Most people’s income comes from the same source. However, most wealthy people’s income comes from multiple sources. I know people with hundreds of income streams coming in each month.
What would happen if you set things up so you were getting income from 5 or 10 different places each month?
What if several of those were automated?
Again, with a few short years of intentional and focused work, you can have several income streams.
41. Track at least one habit/behavior you’re trying to improve
“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” — Thomas Monson
Tracking is difficult. If you’ve tried it before, chances are, you quit within a few days.
Research has repeatedly found that when behavior is tracked and evaluated, it improves drastically.
It’s best to track only a few things. Maybe just one at a time.
If you want to track your diet, a fun approach is taking a picture of everything you eat. Everything. This allows you the time to determine if you really want to put that in your body.
So, your tracking can be creative. Do what works for you. Use a method you will actually do. But start tracking.
As a consultant and executive coach, tracking and reporting behavior, daily, has been the number one factor in my client’s success. When you track something, you become aware of it. When you report something, you become accountable to it.
Most of my clients simply send me an email at the end of their workday with a few bullet points (e.g., I did 4 hours of work on my startup, I made 3 sales, I didn’t check social media before noon). Accountability to a spreadsheet or app is not the same as accounting to a person — particularly one you trust and respect.
42. Have no more than 3 items on your to-do list each day
When you shift your life from day-to-day reactivity to one of creation and purpose, your goals become a lot bigger. Consequently, your priority list becomes smaller. Instead of doing a million things poorly, the goal becomes to do a few things incredibly — or better yet, to do one thing better than anyone else in the world.
“If you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any.” — Jim Collins
So, instead of trying to do a million small things, what one or two things would make the biggest impact?
So, instead of trying to do a million small things, what one or two things would make the biggest impact?
Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, explains that there are two economies: The Economy of Hard Work and The Economy of Results.
Some people think hard work is the recipe. Although this is completely true, the effort is often misplaced. Most people focus on the process, or work first, and the result second. Conversely, those who determine the outcomes their seeking first can better discern which strategy will be most effective. Sure, that strategy may be out of your comfort zone, but as Tim Grover has said in Relentless, “When you crave the end result, the hard work becomes irrelevant.”
Tim Ferriss, in his book, The 4-Hour Body, explains what he calls Minimum Effective Dose (MED), which is simply the smallest dose that will yield a desired result and anything past the MED is wasteful. Water boils at 100°C at standard air pressure — it is not “more boiled” if you add more heat.
What is the fastest way to get your desired outcome?
43. Make your bed first thing in the morning
According to psychological research, people who make their bed in the morning are happier and more successful than those who don’t. If that’s not enough, here’s more:
- 71 percent of bed makers consider themselves happy
- While 62 percent of non-bed-makers are unhappy
- Bed makers are also more likely to like their jobs, own a home, exercise regularly, and feel well rested
- Whereas non-bed-makers hate their jobs, rent apartments, avoid the gym, and wake up tired.
Something so simple. Yet, when you make your bed first thing in the morning, you knock-off your first accomplishment of the day. This puts you in a mindset of “winning.”
Do it! It only takes 30 seconds.
44. Make one audacious request per week (what do you have to lose?)
“Rainmakers generate revenue by making asks. They ask for donations. They ask for contracts. They ask for deals. They ask for opportunities. They ask to meet with leaders or speak to them over the phone. They ask for publicity. They come up with ideas and ask for a few minutes of your time to pitch it. They ask for help. Don’t let rainmaking deter you from your dream. It’s one of the barriers to entry, and you can overcome it. Once you taste the sweet victory of a positive response, you’ll not only become comfortable with it, you might even enjoy it. But making asks is the only way to bring your dream to life.” — Ben Arment
I got into graduate school way after applications were due because I asked.
I’ve gotten free NBA tickets by asking a few players I saw at a hotel.
I’ve gotten my work published on high tier outlets because I ask.
I recently heard the story of someone who wrote “Fast Pass” on the back of their business card and presented it to a Disney employee. After some fun and light-hearted conversations, the employee let them through.
Very few things in life are just randomly given to you as an adult. In most cases, you need to earn it and/or ask for it.
Yet, there are many opportunities currently available to everyone if they would muster the courage and humility to ask.
The entire crowdfunding industry is based on making asks.
Start making bold and audacious asks. What’s the worst that could happen? They say “No”?
What’s the best that could happen?
When you don’t ask, you lose by default. And you’ll never know the opportunities you missed out on.
Don’t sell yourself short. Ask that beautiful girl on a date. Ask for that raise or big opportunity at work. Ask people to invest in your idea.
Put yourself out there. You’ll be blown away by what happens.
45. Be spontaneously generous with a stranger at least once per month
Life isn’t all about what you can achieve or acquire. It’s more about who you become and what you contribute.
Interestingly, research done at Yale has found that people are instinctively cooperative and generous. However, if you stall and think about being helpful or generous, you’re less likely to do it. And the longer you wait, the likelihood of you being helpful diminishes. This principle applies to other areas as well, like creativity. The longer you wait to do something, the less likely it is you’ll do it.
So, be spontaneous. When you get the wild thought of buying the person’s food in the car behind you, just do it. Don’t think about it.
If you’re driving down the road and see someone with car trouble off to the side, just do it. Don’t think about it.
When you want to say “I love you,” to a loved one, just do it. Don’t think about it.
Paralysis by analysis is dumb. And Malcolm Gladwell explains in Blinkthat snap-decisions are often far better than well-thought-out ones.
46. Write and place a short, thoughtful note for someone once per day
The messages of handwritten letters impact deeper and are remembered longer than electronic messages. There is no comparison to this traditional form of conversation. Handwritten messages are so powerful that people often keep these notes for a long time. Sometimes a lifetime.
Jack Canfield has taught that writing 3–5 handwritten notes per day will change your relationships. In our email world, it can seem inefficient to hand-write and mail a letter. But relationships aren’t about efficiency.
Not only will handwriting letters change your relationships, it will change you. Research has shown that writing by hand increases brain development and cognition more than typing can.
Consequently, the things you write will be seared into your own memory as well, allowing both you and the recipient to reflect back on cherished moments.
Writing handwritten notes spices up your relationships, adding an element of fun. It’s exciting placing kind and loving notes in random places for your loved ones to find. Put a note under the windshield wipers of your loved one’s car to find after a hard day’s’ work. Hidden, wait til they come out and watch them from across the street. You’ll see their eyes light up and smile spread.
Other fun places include:
- In the fridge
- In the closet
- On the computer keyboard
- In their shoe
- In their wallet
- The mailbox
Anywhere that makes the experience a surprise…
47. Become good friends with your parents
“The parent-child connection is the most powerful mental health intervention known to mankind.” — Bessel van der Kolk
Many people have horrible relationships with their parents. I once did myself. Growing up can be tough and sometimes our parents make horrible decisions that negatively impact us.
However, my parents have become my best friends. They are my confidants. I turn to them for wisdom and advice. They understand me like no one else. Biology is a powerful thing.
Although I don’t see things the same way my parents do, I love them and respect their viewpoints. I love working out with my dad and talking about big ideas with my mom.
I couldn’t imagine not being close to them.
If your parents are still around, rekindle those ties or increase the flame. You’ll find enormous joy in those relationships.
48. Floss your teeth
About 50 percent of Americans claim to floss daily. My guess is that’s a large over-estimate. Either way, the benefits of flossing are incredible.
Doing so daily prevents gum disease and tooth loss. Everyone gets plaque, and it can only be removed by flossing or a deep cleaning from your dentist. Plaque buildup can lead to cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can be a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and a high body mass index.
Yes, not flossing can make you fat.
Not only that, but it greatly reduces bad breath.
49. Eat at least one meal with your family per day
If possible, eat a sit-down meal with your loved ones daily. It doesn’t matter if it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
We’ve become so high-paced in the world that everything we do is on the go. We’ve forgotten what it means to just be with our loved ones.
Eating together creates a sense of community like nothing else.
Teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are 3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs and to have used illegal drugs other than marijuana, three times more likely to have used marijuana, more than 2.5 times more likely to have smoked cigarettes, and 1.5 times more likely to have tried alcohol, according to the CASA report.
50. Spend time reflecting on your blessings at least once per day
Gratitude is the cure-all for all the world’s problems. It has been called, “the mother of all virtues,” by the Roman philosopher Cicero.
When you practice gratitude, your world changes. There is no objective reality. All people perceive reality as they selectively attend to things that are meaningful to them. Hence, some people notice the good while others notice the bad.
Gratitude is having an abundance mindset. When you think abundantly, the world is your oyster. There is limitless opportunity and possibility for you.
People are magnets. When you’re grateful for what you have, you will attract more of the positive and good. Gratitude is contagious. It changes not only your world, but everyone else’s you come in contact with.
Throughout the year we make personal commitments of things we want to change for the better. Diets, exercise, family, work, travel etc. For many of us, we take on multiple resolutions with every intention of improving ourselves for the better. Too often, we fail to kick start and sustain the new “US.” Goals become overwhelming and we fall into the trap of never achieving what we set out to do.
The complex formula of success
So much information exists on what success is and how to achieve it. Articles with headings such as “30 Things Successful People Do Differently” capture our attention with the hope of inspiring us to take meaningful action.
The problem is that’s 30 things we are to remember and implement to supposedly achieve success. One article I recently read listed their number one step to success being “Internalizing your locus of control.”
Locus of control? What does that even mean?
These articles can provide meaningful insights but they often overpower us and end up being nothing more than an informative read.
Inspiring? Sometimes. Actionable. No.
Success is not a complex formula. It is far simpler.
Excuses over results
Success can come at any time. We get caught in the trap at looking at success as this grandiose plan that must start and be completed by self-defined timeframes and prescribed results. It becomes so daunting that we give up because we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. As we try to achieve our goals, they don’t come fast enough and we use this as an excuse to give up. We end up being our own worst enemy.
You can either have results or you can have an excuse, but you cannot have both.
Take someone’s plans to lose weight. They set a goal to lose 30 pounds which includes a diet plan and workout regime. They are initially dedicated to working out multiple times a week and stick to a strict meal plan. It’s tough at first but as several weeks go by they start to feel better about themselves. More energy, clothes feeling a little looser and an overall more positive attitude. Then they step on the scale at the end of the month to find they have only lost 2lbs!
The minimal weight loss is deflating after all that dedicated, hard work. They start to lose steam. Workouts get missed. Diets get blown. Before long the excuse “I can’t do this” enters the mind and the weight loss plan is in the scrap bin.
The amazing results achieved in a single month get buried and forgotten. More on those amazing resulting in a minute.
The secret of success: One step
One small step. That is all it is. A single step is all it takes to move towards success. It’s so fundamentally simple and yet so easily overlooked.
It’s the greatest secret never to be told by successful people. We read about other’s success and can’t imagine how we could ever achieve the same. They are so successful and have achieved so many amazing things that we see them in a different league. What we fail to realize is that these successful people all started with a single, first step. Then they took another step and another. Before long they had a mile of steps behind them and the second mile didn’t seem so bad. They kept going and went on to build massive momentum. Always looking forward. Never back.
Sure there are missteps. People outside of the successful stream of consciousness look at missteps as failures. Successful people don’t’ see failure. They see opportunities to learn, reflect and move forward. Always achieving greater success than when they started.
Celebrate each step
Each small step you take is a pause for celebration. Your decision to spend more time with the family. The first day at the gym. Booking that amazing trip abroad. Deciding to make a career change. Those are all small steps worthy of applause
Celebrate each and every step of success along the way.
Imagine how many of us would stick to our weight loss plans if we instead focused on the many positive steps we took in the first month and not the actual loss of weight.
Let’s break it down. Attended the gym. Ate healthy. More energy. Looser clothes. Multiple small steps all worthy of celebration. Each step building on the previous. It’s all about changing your perspective. It’s amazing when you change your frame of mind how you can view something that seemed so insignificant really isn’t. Two pounds is no longer weighing you down. That’s worth celebrating and continuing with your step journey.
You can start your new YOU whenever you chose. Start small and take one little step at a time. Push yourself forward because no one else is going to do it for you. All it takes is a single step.
Clark Glassford is the founder of My Practice Interview. The company’s purpose is to inspire others to achieve their dream career. My Practice Interview provides industry-leading services including tailored resume writing, curated LinkedIn profiles and expert interview coaching delivering results beyond expectations.
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By Markham Heid
In 1991, on a trail high in the Austrian-Italian Alps, two hikers stumbled onto a man’s 5,000-year-old corpse. Now known as “Ötzi” the Iceman, the corpse bore more than a dozen clusters of skin tattoos.
Experts first assumed the tattoos were ornamental. But researchers have since noted that many of Ötzi’s inkings are located in places along his back and spine that correspond with traditional Chinese acupuncture points—points targeted for the treatment of digestive disorders. An analysis of Ötzi’s gut turned up the remnants of parasitic worms, and Ötzi’s pack contained a fruit known to help treat GI problems.
Experts broadly agree that acupuncture has been around since at least 100 B.C. While controversial, the Ötzi tattoo researchers say their findings suggest that a “treatment modality similar to acupuncture” may have existed more than 5,000 years ago.
If nothing else, acupuncture qualifies as a “time-tested” form of therapy. And while many conventional doctors and scientists dismiss it as pseudo-medicine, it’s hard to believe acupuncture could have persisted for millennia if there weren’t something to it. The research to date, while incomplete, suggests acupuncture may provide real therapeutic benefits.
What is acupuncture?
Traditional Chinese medicine holds that a sort of vital energy or life force—known as a person’s qi (pronounced or also known as “chi”)—flows through the body along defined pathways or “meridians.” Diseases are believed to cause (or be caused by) disruptions or “disharmonies” in the flow of a person’s qi. The needle pokes we all associate with acupuncture are meant to correct or influence these disharmonies.
Some contemporary acupuncture practitioners play down the stuff about qi and meridians. Also, acupuncture comes in many shapes and sizes: for example, some acupuncturists incorporate electrical stimulation. But needle insertions in specific points are a universal trait of the therapy.
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From the perspective of conventional medicine, a therapy doesn’t “work” unless it both outperforms a placebo and does so via an identifiable “mechanism of action.” Like a high schooler taking a math exam, it’s not enough to for acupuncture to come up with the right answer—it also has to show its work.
A lot of researchers have gone looking for evidence that acupuncture “works,” but experts disagree in their interpretations of the study results. “There have been several recent meta-analyses [on specific conditions] that concluded acupuncture had a statistically significant benefit,” says Vitaly Napadow, an acupuncture researcher and director of the Center for Integrative Pain Neuroimaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “But depending on who you talk to, you’ll get different answers about whether they believe in specific acupuncture effects or if they think the role of placebo effect or expectancy made the difference.”
Napadow’s take: It’s not a panacea that will cure all ills, but there are some areas where acupuncture is promising and, given its safety profile, should be recommended. “I think its mechanisms depend on the disease it’s trying to treat,” he says.
For nausea- or pain-related conditions, acupuncture may activate nerve receptors in the skin that modulate levels of nervous system chemicals or signals involved in these ailments, he explains. Meanwhile, for conditions like arthritis or tendonitis, the micro-injuries caused by acupuncture pin pricks may draw blood and its healing elements to the affronted area—causing a temporary reduction in symptoms, he says.
But as of today, all these mechanisms are speculative and need to be confirmed by more research. There’s also debate over whether the stuff about qi or meridians is useful. Some studies that have compared sham acupuncture—basically, needles stuck in at random—to true acupuncture have failed to find a difference in patient outcomes, while others have concluded that legit acupuncture outperformed the sham procedure.
To sum all this up, everything to do with acupuncture is controversial. But for some conditions, the existing research suggests the practice may confer real and meaningful benefits.
Does acupuncture work for pain?
“This is the area where we have the most data,” Napadow says. And the results are encouraging.
A comprehensive 2018 review found that, for patients managing chronic pain, acupuncture outperformed a sham procedure and “standard” care, which usually meant pain pills. “If our study had been on a drug, we’d say the drug works—there’s a statistically significant effect there,” says Andrew Vickers, first author of that study and a biostatistician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Vickers’ study focused on patients suffering from pain associated with four common ailments: back and neck pain, arthritis, shoulder pain, and headaches. Acupuncture was similarly effective for each of these conditions, his study found. Also, acupuncture’s benefits were durable: After a year of treatment, the average patient reported only a minor drop it its efficacy.
“It could be that acupuncture is just a very effective placebo,” Vickers says. But when you consider the lack of good treatment options for long-term pain—and the risks associated with prescription pain pills or surgeries—acupuncture is “a reasonable referral option” for patients with chronic pain, he says.
Can acupuncture treat gut disorders?
The evidence on acupuncture for gut problems is mixed. A 2017 study inAnnals of Internal Medicine found that, for patients suffering from severe constipation, acupuncture significantly outperformed a sham procedure when it came to improving the frequency of bowel movements. But more research is needed to assess the long-term effects of acupuncture, that study’s authors write.
Meanwhile, a 2013 review from a group of Chinese researchers found evidence that acupuncture may beat out some common prescription drugs for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). But the authors of that review say the studies they turned up were generally of “low” quality. A 2007 review from a German team linked acupuncture with significant improvements in quality of life and “disease activity scores” (a measure that determines whether symptoms have reduced) among patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis—the two most common forms of IBD. But the authors of that review say the studies they turned up were generally of “low” quality—meaning the design or execution of the studies was poor, and so the results are shaky.
Long story short, the jury’s still out.
Does acupuncture work for fertility?
Proponents of acupuncture have long recommended it for female menstrual health and fertility. And a 2014 research review from Australia found “preliminary” evidence that acupuncture could help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle and “assist” healthy ovulation.
How (in the hell) could it do that? Some research has hypothesized that acupuncture may help stimulate and also regulate uterine and ovarian blood flow, which could help thicken the lining of a woman’s uterus, which in turn could facilitate embryo implantation and successful pregnancy. But all this is theoretical.
A 2018 study, also from Australia, tracked more than 800 women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). It found no significant uptick in successful births among those who underwent acupuncture versus those who didn’t.
Can acupuncture treat depression?
Again, the research is all over the map. A 2010 review found “insufficient” evidence backing acupuncture for the treatment of depression. But, more recently, a team of UK academics determined that there was “promising” clinical evidence showing acupuncture could help treat depression—enough to warrant further research.
It’s probably worth noting that, even when it comes to prescription antidepressants (namely, SSRIs), there’s considerable expert disagreement about whether these pills outperform placebos. While the data on acupuncture for the treatment of depression is inconsistent, some studies suggest it’s “at least” as effective as prescription drugs.
Does it work for anything else?
Pick a medical condition or mental health disorder, and there’s probably some evidence suggesting acupuncture may help treat it. But the reality is that, as of today, experts are still trying to wrap their heads around acupuncture and its role in medicine.
There are two things that can be said for acupuncture: It’s relatively inexpensive, and it comes with very few side effects, Napadow says. If the alternative is an expensive procedure or pills—especially opioids or other medications with serious side effects—you lose very little by giving acupuncture a try first, he adds.
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By Brian Bull
If you’re a beer aficionado who likes developing strength, flexibility, and a sense of well-being, you’ll want to roll out a mat at the annual KLCC Brewfest this weekend. KLCC’s Brian Bull reports on the trend of “beer yoga.”
The event is being coordinated by Stop, Drop, and Yoga, which already holds beer-yoga classes at the Public House in Springfield. Its lead instructor, Benjamin Wilkinson, says the concept is simple.
“It’s yoga plus beer,” he says, chuckling. “And traditionally we do the yoga first, then we drink the beer afterwards.
“However, the idea is to combine some of your favorite things. Adding yoga to a beer festival is just one more way to enjoy that festival.”
Wilkinson says there’s two beer-yoga sessions Saturday afternoon, and all are welcome regardless of experience.
“Come for the ‘ohm’, stay for the ale. But if you’re a lager fan, we don’t discriminate.”
As to what Wilkinson likes to drink after yoga?
“I’m a big fan of open fermented sours,” he tells KLCC.
“There’s nothing like a little mindfulness to put you in the place to drink and enjoy a complex and interesting beer.”
The sessions are free to all Brewfest participants.
Copyright 2019, KLCC.
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By Peter Bregman
A feeling of discomfort may mean that you’re on the right track.
It was the last race of the ski season. My son Daniel, 10 years old, was at the starting gate in his speed suit, helmet and goggles, waiting for the signal.
“3… 2… 1…” The gate keeper called out and he was gone in a flash, pushing off his ski poles to gain momentum. One by one, each gate smacked to the ground when he brushed by. As he neared the end, he crouched into an aerodynamic tuck to shave a few milliseconds from his time. He crossed the finish line —48.37 seconds after the start — breathing hard. We cheered and gave him hugs.
But he wasn’t smiling.
48.37 seconds put him solidly in the middle of the pack.
I had coaching ideas. Ways I could help him get faster. While I am an executive and leadership coach, I coach skiing on the weekends and I was a ski racer myself at his age. But I held back my feedback, hugged him again and told him I loved him. That’s what he needed in that moment.
Later though, I asked him how he felt about the race.
“I never get in the top 10.”
This is delicate terrain — coaching your own kids — and I chose my words carefully.
“I have two questions for you,” I said. “One: Do you want to do better?”
If the answer is “no,” then to attempt to coach would be a fool’s errand (a mistake I have made in the past).
“Yeah,” he said.
“Here’s my second question: Are you willing to feel the discomfort of putting in more effort and trying new things that will feel weird and different and won’t work right away?”
He was silent for a while and I let the silence just hang there. Silence is good. It’s the sound of thinking. And this was an important question for Daniel to think about.
I believe — and my experience coaching hundreds of leaders in hundreds of different circumstances proves — that anyone can get better at anything. But in order to get better — and in order to be coached productively — you need to honestly answer “yes” to both those questions.
Maybe you want to be a more inspiring leader. Or connect more with others. Maybe you want to be more productive or more influential. Maybe you want to be a better communicator, a more impactful presenter, or a better listener. Maybe you want to lead more effectively, take more risks, or become a stronger manager.
Whatever it is, you can become better at it. But here’s the thing I know just as clearly as I know you can get better at anything: you will not get better if 1) you don’t want to and 2) you aren’t willing to feel the discomfort of doing things differently.
One senior leader I worked with became defensive when people gave him feedback or criticized his decisions. He wanted to get better, he told me, and he was willing to feel the discomfort. So I gave him very specific instructions (learned from my friend Marshall Goldsmith): Meet with each member of your team and acknowledge that you have struggled with accepting feedback and tell them that you are committed to getting better. Then ask for feedback — especially ways you can be a better leader — and take notes. Don’t say anything other than “Thank you.”
“It took every restraint muscle in my body not to get into a conversation about their comments,” he told me afterwards. “Especially because I felt they misunderstood me at times. It was beyond uncomfortable. And I messed up a few times and had to apologize. But I did it — and they haven’t stopped talking about what a welcome change it’s been.”
Learning anything new is, by its nature, uncomfortable. You will need to act in ways that are unfamiliar. Take risks that are new. Try things that, in many cases, will be initially frustrating because they won’t work the first time. You are guaranteed to feel awkward. You will make mistakes. You may be embarrassed or even feel shame, especially if you are used to succeeding a lot — and all my clients are used to succeeding a lot.
If you remain committed through all of that, you’ll get better.
I now ask those two questions before committing to coach any CEO or senior leader. It’s a prerequisite to growth.
I sat silently with Daniel for long enough that I thought he might have forgotten my question. Sitting in the discomfort of that moment, I realized that this was a new behavior for me too. I’m used to jumping in and trying to help him. Now, I was sincerely asking him whether he wanted my help. I was honestly OK with whatever answer he gave me — and it felt a little weird. But the more I settled into the silence, the more comfortable I got with just sitting with him — which I found I loved doing.
Finally, he spoke up.
“I think so” he said, “but it’s the end of the season. Can we talk about it at the beginning of next season?”
“Sure,” I said, “I’ll ask you again then.”
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By Barry Boyce
In mindfulness practice, you’ll often hear the term “natural awareness.” By “natural awareness” we mean the awareness that just comes with being a human being. It’s free from judging and characterizing—it’s just noticing and sensing the world. It’s done when you open your eyes, you see something, or you hear something, or you touch something. So, the simplest awareness that just comes as part of the equipment of being alive, without a lot of filters around it or judgments. You can trust that it’s always there.
By “natural awareness” we mean the awareness that just comes with being a human being. It’s free from judging and characterizing—it’s just noticing and sensing the world.
An Awareness Practice You Can Do Anywhere
One Minute Guided Meditation with Barry Boyce
This is a short practice intended for doing in the middle of the day, wherever you are out in the world, for settling. It’s done with eyes open. So let’s begin.
- Settle into your seat. Begin by taking a seat, or if necessary, standing. The important thing is to feel where your body is touching the seat and touching the ground.
- Scan the body. Sense where your bottom is touching the seat. Sit up straight or stand straight but not stiff. Make sure your feet are completely touching the ground, connecting you to the earth. Your eyes are open, so take in the surroundings of where you are. Lower your gaze slightly.
- Connect with the breath. Pay light attention to your breath as it goes out.
- Follow the out-breath. At the end of the out-breath, let there be a gap while the in-breath is happening. And in that gap you have natural awareness: it’s there already, you don’t have to create it. So, follow the breath out, and out, and out. As thoughts arise, treat them as you would anything else you encounter: Notice it, and use that noticing to bring you back to the out-breath and ride it out. Out, and out, and out.