wheel of life ferries wheel

The Wheel Of Life Process – Be Your Own Life Coach Today

Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

– Robert Fulghum

Wouldn’t it be nice to get super clear on what the biggest goals and opportunities for improvement in your life are? I will show you how. You just need to dedicate a few minutes to reading and applying what you will learn in this post.

In this post you will learn a powerful process that you can start applying right away to become your own powerful life, career or business coach. The Wheel of Life life process is powerful in its simplicity. It will get you clear, balanced and focused on the right things. Apply it yourself and start seeing results today!

The Dangers Of An Unbalanced Life

Tyson Defeats Another Apponent

The sweat rolled off his chin as he pounded the speed bag like it was his archenemy. Here he was at the top of his career, reveling in a recent win over Frank Bruno and preparing for his next fight against Bruce Seldon (which he would win). For several years he continued to win, until Evander Holyfield stopped him in two different matches. Tyson still cleaned up financially, netting 10’s of millions for each fight despite losing them to Holyfield.

Fast forward a few years and he was flat broke.

Mike Tyson made $300M in his life (at least, some estimates go much higher), but ended up financially ruined. During his career he put all his focus on a few things – his career (boxing), his fitness (which supported his career) and leisure (which involved spending ridiculous sums of money on extravagant things). He ignored and also failed to take a critical look at many other parts of his life. Namely, his friendships, relationships, education, contribution or real financial health.

You can only run your life headstrong in a single direction for a limited amount of time before the proverbial “wheels” fall off the car of life.

Car with square wheels

You might say: “Why should I bother with a balanced view of my life, I’d rather just focus on what is working well for me!” Focusing on your strengths is a good approach, particularly when it comes to figuring out how to excel in your career or in a sport. However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore other areas of your life.

If you are an entrepreneur, this applies equally well to you. Create your wheel of life centered on the different aspects of your business. For example, if you are overly focused on building the next version of your product and ignore your existing customers, your business will inevitably fail. If you are too focused on growing your headcount, but fail to invest in innovation, your business will also fail. Businesses need to find a way to balance out their priorities.

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/why-focusing-on-your-strengths-is-the-best-philosophy.html

Getting objective about the balance (or lack thereof) in your life or business can be very difficult to do. Luckily there is a tool that can help. It’s called the Wheel of Life.

Be Your Own Life Coach or Business Coach

Be Your Own Life Coach

Life is going to keep pulling you in different directions. One day your family will demand all your energy. Another day your career will be all-encompassing. Still others days will be occupied by your focus on getting finances under control. As the days go by, life will continue to pull you here and there, unless you decide to live life differently and in a more balanced and planful way.

You have the power to be your own life coach or business coach, and the Wheel of Life is a powerful tool for doing just that. Through spending less than 30 minutes charting out the areas of your life and identifying the right set of goals, you can stand calmly in the center of the storm of life, knowing that you are focused on the right things.

This doesn’t mean that you will never get yanked around in different directions, it just means that you will be able to get centered and refocused more easily when the inevitable curveballs of life get thrown your way. A great teacher of mine, Tony Robbins, is fond of saying “Without a vision, people perish.” But how do we create a vision? How do we navigate ourselves out of a tricky situation life has thrown at us? The wheel of life is the starting point for getting clear on what matters most to you in your life, where there is anything out of balance and coming clean about what needs to be done to close the gap between your current situation and your ideal state of being.

The Step By Step Wheel Of Life Process

The Wheel of Life process is used by coaches and psychologists around the world. It is startlingly effective and takes just minutes to do. Follow the steps below to create your own Wheel of Life today. Set aside about 30 minutes for this exercise. If you can spare a full hour, that is even better. Take your time and put serious thought into each step.

Step 1. Create your Wheel of Life

Wheel of Life - A Powerful Life Coach Tool

Wheel of Life (Microsoft Word). Wheel of Life (PDF).

Pull out a blank sheet of paper. If you are a technophile and cringe at the thought of actually writing something by hand, you can use the handy little template I created for you at the links above. I recommend printing this out and writing on it with a pen or different colored markers.

For those creating your own template, just make a large circle on your blank sheet of paper. Divide this circle into 8 slices like a pizza. This circle represents your entire life (or if you are doing this for your business, all the different aspects of your business).

Step 2. Identify your areas of focus

Photo Areas of Focus

There are many interconnected parts to our lives. They each are critical to our success and happiness, but the way we each think about them is unique for each person. In this step, you will label each slice of your Wheel of Life to represent a part of life that is important to you. Use language that is comfortable to you.

To get you started, I’ve listed below a laundry list of different areas of life that I hear clients mention when I work with them on create life wheels. Use these areas as though starters for you.

There are 8 primary categories that most people start with when building a Wheel of Life:

  • Health
  • Career
  • Finances
  • Relationships
  • Giving/Contribution
  • Personal Growth
  • Fun
  • Spirituality

In addition to the categories above, some people prefer to be more specific with their categories. Here some other areas to consider:

  • Fitness
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Home
  • Hobbies
  • Learning
  • Travel
  • Food/Diet
  • Business

What areas of your life are worth you time and attention and focus?

Go ahead and label the outside of each slice of your Wheel of Life with those areas of your life.

If you run out of slices to label, just subdivide one of the areas into two. Keep doing that until you have as many areas as needed. If you Wheel of Life gets messy or cramped, just redraw it on a fresh sheet of paper.

A sample wheel of life that I just created.
A sample wheel of life that I just created.

Step 3. Get clear on your current situation

We can all grow and improve, and my guess is if you are reading this blog you are committed to this notion of personal growth. In order to grow , we first need to get clear on where we are right now in each part of our life, and where we want to be in the future.

Imagine that each slice on your Wheel of Life can be measured in terms of your satisfaction with that particular area of your life today compared with where you want to be in the future. How far in the future? You get to decide!

I like to set goals for the year. However, you may choose a difference measure of time that works for you. In this case, imagine the center of the Wheel of Life is a rating of “0 – completely unsatisfied” and the outer edge of each slice is a rating of “10 – completely satisfied.”

Rate each area on your wheel based on how satisfied you are right now (scale of 0–10). Draw a little line across the slice and shade it in (see my image below for an example).

My wheel of life, with current areas of focus and ratings shaded in.
My wheel of life, with current areas of focus and ratings shaded in.

If you are having trouble rating your satisfaction with the categories you have identified, try asking yourself the following questions:

Health
Do you have enough energy to fully pursue your goals every day?
Are you able to maintain a healthy weight?
Are their people who you admire as being full of health and vitality?

Career
Are you excited to go to work?
Are you learning and growing in your career?
Is your career rewarding (financially and otherwise)?

Finances
Do you feel financial secure?
Are you able to do what you want to do without constraints?
Are there things you would do if you have bigger financial resources?

Relationships
Do you have people you care about (and who care about you) in your life?
Do you have meaningful experiences with others?
Do you feel loved?

Giving/Contribution
Do you give (time, money, etc.) to others freely?
Do you feel like you are contributing to make the world a better place?
Is there a good cause you would like to support in a bigger way?

Personal Growth
Are you learning new skills?
Are you maturing?
Do you have clear and highly motivating goals for your life?

Fun
Do you laugh a lot?
Do you have fun experiences on a regular basis?
Do you make time to relax and rest?

Spirituality
Do you know what you stand for as a human being?
Do you have a deep meaning or motivation for your life?
Do you feel connected to the environment/planet/others in a real way?

Step 4. Identify your goals

Next, rate each area on your wheel based on how satisfied you want to be in the future (in 12 months or whatever time you decide on). Draw a little dashed line across the slice. If you can use a different color that works too.

wheel of life example
My wheel of life, with aspirations marked in red pencil, and “growth gaps” circled.

The difference between your shaded section and the dashed line is your growth gap! Write the difference between the two numbers outside each slice and circle it.

Congratulations, you have identified clear opportunities to improve in the most critical areas of your life!

Step 5. Create action plan for each area

Now that you have identified a clear growth gap for each area of your Wheel of Life, the next step is to come up with an action plan for each area. This is an area where a lot of people struggle. Good news is that the way to come up with an action plan is to just write a few things down without worrying about getting it perfect.

Ask yourself the following questions for each area in your life wheel:

  1. What is the smallest thing I could do to make progress in this area of life TODAY?
  2. If I was living like a “rating of 10 out of 10” for this area of my life, what would I have done to get to a 10 from where I am today?
  3. What is one big thing that I know I need to do in this area of my life to make progress, but am scared or hesitant to do it?

Write down the answers to these three questions. They are the starting point to your action plan!

No doubt there will be other actions that you could take, but these are the first few things to get the ball rolling. Over time, continue to review your Wheel of Life (or Wheel of Business) and actions. Continue to come up with other regular actions you can take to move towards your desired goals.

Example of action plan for “Career” area of focus:
1. Complete LinkedIn profile and recommendations (Today).
3. Meet with boss to discuss my desire to move up in my job (Next week).
3. Take presentation skills workshop (This month).

Step 6. Take immediate action.

Procrastination is the bane of existence for me. I know the clients I work with struggle with it too. Intelligence has nothing to do with it either. In fact, I find that people who are smarter tend to be especially adept at coming up with reasons for delaying things!

Statistics show an alarming prevalence of procrastination, reaching over 70% among college students and starting at 20% in the general adult population.(*) These statistics come from studies that focus on menial tasks (like studying or paying bills). I’m curious what procrastination rates are like for important stuff, like calling that tough customer or having a difficult conversation with your boss or family member. I’d imagine the rates would be even higher. It’s a big deal.

The final step in your Wheel of Life process is to take immediate action against the most important areas for you. Pick the top 3 (at least!) areas of you Wheel of Life that require immediate action and just do it!

By the time you hit this step in the process you have already written down some small actions you can take for each area. Now all you need to do is not delay and make it happen. Don’t leave the site of you Wheel of Life activity without taking action!

Call to Action

Being your own life coach is possible and the Wheel of Life technique is a way to zero in on the most important areas that are worthy of your attention. Set aside at least half and hour to go through this exercise.

What areas show up as needing more work? What ideas do you have for making progress today against those areas?

I would appreciate a note in the comments with your thoughts or further questions.

Ravi

p.s. If you would like to go a step further and work with me 1 on 1 to identify and conquer the biggest goals in your life, business and career – click here to apply for a free coaching Strategy Session.

Sources and Resources

The Real Paleo Human Body!

The Story Of The Human Body – Be Healthier By Living Like You Were Meant To Live

Health has been a passion of mine since the 4th grade. I started gaining a lot of weight back then, and struggled with obesity all the way through high school. Through self-discipline, reading every book on nutrition at my local library and massive amounts of exercise and dietary experimentation, I managed to lose the weight and get super fit.

That doesn’t mean it’s been easy-going since then, and in my last blog post I spilled the beans (along with an embarrassing photo) of how easily and quickly weight creeps back on me if I am not vigilant. No matter how difficult it is, I know that paying attention to my health is the single most important thing I can do.

In this post I hope you will take some time to learn about the history of your body, a body that you share in common with me and over 7 billion other humans on this planet. Learn about what makes it tick, and what it designed to do (and not do). With this learning, you can then identify some ways to adjust your modern environment to be one you were designed to thrive in, not just survive in. In doing so, you will find new levels of health (and happiness).

Why Health Matters To Me, And It Should Matter To You Too

Woman running healthy fitness
Female Jogger on Coleman Avunue in Morro Bay, CA 5-2-07 – Photo by Mike Baird http://bairdphotos.com.

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that is your own self. – Aldus Huxley”

The noble thing might be to put other people’s needs ahead of oneself. Take care of your family. Take care of those less fortunate. Take care of everyone else first and then sit back and do something good for yourself. It’s altruistic to think this way. It’s how a good Sumeritan would think and how we are tought to behave growing up, at least most of us. Take care of everyone else. That is what being a good person is all about.

Unfortunately, this is all wrong thinking. The most important person on this planet is yourself. Without taking care of yourself first, how on Earth will you have the energy, strength and capacity to help anyone else? It took me a long time to realize this simple truth. Take care of yourself and you will be in a much better place to help others, whether that entails shoveling a neighbors sidewalk or taking care of a sick family member. You must come first!

If we each are our own first priority, where does health fit in? Without the energy and vitality and health to live fully every day, we show up as a diminished version of ourselves. Imagine going on a long road trip with only 1/8 tank of gas. How far will you get? Stay up all night and try to show up well for that big presentation at work. How successful will you be? Ignore your health and gain 50 pounds (I’ve done it!) and see how much motivation and capacity you have to work hard and make a difference in the world.

You can’t help others when you don’t have the energy and health to help yourself. Help yourself first!

Scam Diets, Nutrition Fads And Health Gurus Out To Make A Buck

It is nearly impossible to find an objective assessment of nutrition and diet plans. The list here showcases just a small portion of popular diets that have floated around. Each had staunch supporters claiming that it was the key to losing weight, getting fit and feeling great. This particular site has over 600 nutritionist reviewed diets. Can they all be right?

Scam or no scam, the claims of these diet proponents – particularly when they vilify other diets in addition to pushing their own views – are disingenuous. Online media has made it even worse. Nobody is reading actual scientific research, and of those who are, few go beyond the abstracts (you have to pay to read scientific articles in full) and even fewer actually understand how to interpret what they read.

Dr Garth David Rich Roll
Dr. Garth Davis tries to decipher misleading research to point people in a positive and healthy direction. Photo from RichRoll.com.

I was recently listening to a podcast of Rich Roll interviewing Dr. Garth Davis. Dr. Davis is a weight loss surgeon who runs a successful clinic helping morbidly obese people get their lives under control through diet, exercise and if need be – surgery. During this podcast Dr. Davis points out that you can find or interpret any scientific article to prove whatever health oriented point you are looking to make. He also makes the sobering point that medical doctors go through virtually zero training in nutrition. When was the last time your doctor spent any time looking at your diet? Chances are they just prescribed you medication for whatever your ailment was. This has been my experience.

Want to prove that wheat makes people fat? No problem! Want to prove that low-carb and high protein diets are the secret to weight loss? Sure, go ahead! Want to prove that high-carb and low-fat diets are the secret to health? Ok, that’s possible too! Much of the research done in any field, especially nutrition and health, is backed by corporate interest groups with large financial stakes in reports favorably backing their points of view. Those that aren’t blatantly sponsored by corporate interests are skewed due to low sample size or selected analysis that end up skewing results or just not drawing strong conclusions. In other cases, people mislead with statistics. At the extreme, people blatantly lie with statistics to prove their point.

For example: The following statistics suggest that 16-year-olds are safer drivers than people in their twenties, and that octogenarians are very safe.  Is this true? Click here for the answer.

lie with statistics
An example of how statistics can be used to mislead (purposely or accidentally).

 

The vitamin and nutritional supplement industry alone is a $32 Billion USD industry (in 2012). Add to this the pharmaceutical industry that is worth over $300 Billion USD globally in sales per year and you have a large force tainting the research we hear about.

This all assumes that we bother to look at the research at all. There are people out there just making stuff up and hoping people will listen and buy their products. Wether it’s Daniel Vitalis slinging deer antler velvet and bovine colostrum or David Wolfe pushing “Ormus Gold” or the numerous folks out there pushing “brain optimizing neutropics” to hard-driving students and professionals looking to get an edge on the competition – they all claim big results for their products. Are they right or are they taking advantage of our desire to get healthier and find a way out of our current level of dis-ease?

These questionable supplements are not cheap. I recently tried Onnit “Alpha Brain”, a supposed brain/mental performance enhancer, and felt zero effect after 2 months and $80 worth of pills. Onnit claims they have done research proving the effectiveness of the product. Perhaps it just doesn’t work for me for some unique reason? Maybe I need to double my dosage? Maybe I’m already too smart for my own good 🙂 . Below is the little twitter exchange I had with Onnit a few weeks into my experience. I continued taking Alpha Brain for several more weeks, with zero impact to my cognitive ability. A cup of strong tea or coffee does far more to improve my mental performance (and costs far less!). Onnit has some great products, but this particular one doesn’t do it for me.

onnit alpha brain scam?

The way out of this madness of misinformation is to go back, way back, to where it all began with our species, and understand the real story of the human body.

The Story Of The Human Body

Lieberman Story Of Human Body

I recently finished reading Daniel Lieberman’s “The Story Of The Human Body – Evolution, Health and Disease.” I head of Dr. Lieberman through Christopher McDougall’s best-seller “Born To Run” where Lieberman’s research on barefoot running was used as the basis for McDougall’s argument that we can run farther, faster and healthier by running like we were meant to run – barefoot!

This book traces the history of our species from Ape to Modern Human and everything in between. It delves into the nitty-gritty of our evolving bones structure, DNA, dietary habits and brain capacity. The book is dense and reads more like a lightweight textbook than a storybook. For those fond of anatomy, nutrition and the basis for our current state of good health (we live longer than ever) and bad health (we suffer from more chronic illness than ever), you will love this book.

Darwin evolution
Don’t forget where you came from!

5 important points stood out to me. These points help me better understand what we are really meant to do to be healthy as a human. When the cacophony of talking heads, fancy supplements and diet gurus confuse me, it’s nice to go way back in time to understand what we were really built to do, and use that as a basis for building up some durable and lasting healthy habits.

1) We Are More Alike Than Different

People Jumping For Joy
Source: Mark J. Sebastian: www.markjsebastian.com.

All humans have virtually the same genetic code. Of the 3 billion base pairs in our human genome, you share over 99.9% in common with every other human on the planet. Not only that, we share 99% of the genetic makeup with Chimps and 98% with Gorillas! While we all have different cultural upbringings, likes and dislikes and medical conditions that need to be dealt with, the overall baseline prescription for health for human beings can be remarkably similar, since we are all so similar to begin with from a genetic perspective!

2) Humans Are Remarkably Adaptable

Taiga Happy People

Humans inhabit virtually every corner of the globe. I just watched a crazy documentary on NetFlix, “Happy People”, about the Taiga people who hunt and trap for a living in the middle of Siberian winter! They are not just surviving, but thriving in this inhospitable environment. There are humans on all 7 continents, in every possible type of environment. Physical adaptation has helped humans adjust and survive in radically different environments. For example, in hot climates humans grew longer legs with skinnier torso’s to support heat dissipation. In cold climates the opposite happened, as people were shorter and stockier to help conserve heat.

While physical adaptations take countless generations to be created – our bodies tend to keep various adaptations over time, as backup systems just in case we need them. What if we hit an Ice Age and the hot climate of the tropics suddenly gets cooler? What if heavier rains change the types of plants that grow in a region? Our bodies have backup methods for processing foods and surviving in a variety of changing situations.

Some are vestigial systems that no longer have any apparent use. Others are there in case of emergency. For example, while our brain runs on glucose, we can also burn ketones (or more appropriately, convert ketones to sugar for fuel) during times of starvation and keep our minds working OK (though if you have ever been carb-depleted, you know how bad this feels!). The point here is that we able to function and adapt in a wide-ranging set of environments and extreme situations. We can thank our genes for that next time we run into an Ice Age!

3) Modern Conveniences Are Killing Us

fast food nation killing us

Prior to the agricultural revolution, all of our ancestors were hunter-gathers. In this mode of life, we worked for several hours a day (though not as much as modern office workers work today!) gathering our sustenance. A typical modern hunter-gatherer walks around 6–9 miles to find what they need to eat for the day. Males tend to walk more (hunters) while females (gatherers and householders) tend to walk slightly less.

The energetic cost of walking that much amounts to tens of thousands of calories per year. Converted into fat, this equates to over 30 pounds of fat that would be burned just in the process of gathering food to survive over the course of a year. Layer on top of that the thermogenic response to dealing with temperature variations without central heating and air conditioning, and you have a much higher rate of caloric burn than all but the most avid sportsman would experience today in the modern world.

On top of this, we are in a unique position to enjoy virtually unlimited sources of calories available to us 24/7. The temptation for late-night snacks and junk food splurges is often too great. Our ancestors never had these concerns, aside from, for example, the occasional sugar-rich bee-hive that might be found by a Kalahari Bushman while out on the hunt for some wild game or tubers to eat.

I might add, that our ancestors slept a lot more than most of us do. Electricity and industry has been a great convenience to us but it keeps us working longer hours, and up late into the night watching TV. Lieberman points out in his book that the typical Hadza hunter-gatherer wakes up at dawn (around 6:30–7am), enjoys a two-hour nap during the heat of the afternoon and goes to bed around 9pm at the latest. This is the way humans lived for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s only in modern times that 7 hours of sleep has become the norm!

Our lack of activity, lack of sleep and plethora of convenient calories is slowly killing us, and killing the quality of our otherwise long lives.

4) What Is Comfortable Might Not Be Good For You

Sleeping on clouds
Source: Charisma Jonesford. pixeltinkerbell.blogspot.com/2013/03/sleeping-in-clouds.html.

Soft beds and cushy running shoes. If they feel good they must be good for you right? This is not the case. Our ancestors didn’t sleep in fancy beds, like I do. I sleep on a “Kluft” organic latex and wool bed. It retails for $12,000 and is so soft I feel like I am floating in outer space when I sleep each night. There is nothing natural about this. People in many other cultures today sleep on very hard surfaces. I know when I visit my family in India I am amazed at how hard their beds are. This is practical as hard beds are cheaper, and don’t harbor bugs, smells or humidity that tend to be especially problematic in tropical climates. It’s also better for you. Soft beds tend to cause back problems for many people. They feel good but are not so good for you!

Shoes are another issue. The modern shoe, with it’s tall and highly cushioned heel, arch support and tapered toe-box; severely limits the natural function of dozens of bones and ligaments in your foot. The result is a mis-placed strip, that is particularly apparent while running. Runners in cushioned shoes tend to “heel-strike” sending shock waves up their bodies and wreaking havoc on joints over time. Runners who are barefoot (or wearing minimal shoes) tend to land in their mid to fore-foot which is a much less impactful and jarring way to land. The book “Born To Run” popularized this idea of minimalist running, and for good reason.

Lieberman Study on Barefoot Running
Source: Lieberman Barefoot Running Study. Image from Birthdayshoes.com.

 

5) Vegans And Paleo Dieters Are Both Right

Paleo vs Vegan Debat Arm Wrestling

This book demonstrates to me that there is no single perfect diet. Humans survive all over the place, on all kinds of diets. They have done so or the past few million years. Ancestral humans in the far north have subsisted on seals and whale blubber (rich in Vitamin D). People near the tropics have lived on mostly fruits with nuts , herbs and seeds. People in living in the ancient african savanna subsisted on tubers, leaves, plant stems and the occasional cache of honey with wild game if they were brave enough to try catching it.

There is no ideal ancestral diet. Even more confusing, our bodies contain numerous methods and pathways for working in different times of stress depending what foods are/aren’t available depending on climate (are we in an ice age?) and location (are we in a grassland or a jungle?). We all contain multiple and redundant methods for keeping our bodies alive. This explains why multiple types of modern diets can be shown to “work”. Our bodies work in varied ways! We have a number of fallback biological systems that allow us to survive on various types of foods. In ancient times, early humans had to adapt from fruit-rich diets to lower quality diets of leaves and plant stems as the earth became cooler (we are talking 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago during the Pliocene era) and jungles shrank in size. Our ancestors still survived, and did well enough that they were able to reproduce and now we are here!

We can be vegan.
We can be paleo.
We can be raw (though the book makes it clear that cooking certain food enhances their bio-availability).
We can be anything in between.
We can live on mostly fruit.
We can live on tubers, nuts and seeds.
We can live on meat.

Our bodies can burn fat for fuel or carbs for fuel. Our bodies can also store excess calories as fat to help us get through a famine (or just survive a skipped meal at work!). The debate over our optimal human diet is a red herring. We can eat any number of diets. The question of optimal comes down to a few questions: What makes you be healthy over the long-term? What is best for the environment? What is best for all beings on the planet? What can you sustain?

You need to answer these questions for yourself.

One thing I can say is that our ancestry leaves clues around the general types of foods and behaviors that are good for us. I’ll comment on these things in the next section of this post.

Using A Million-Year-Old Body In Modern Times

Vegan vegetarian paleo healthy food diets
Source: http://vancityvegan.ca/types-of-vegan-diets/

I’ll break down my primary learning from the Lieberman’s book based on what we should “Eat” and what we should “Do.”

What Should We Eat?

Healthy Vegan Food To Eat
Source: Peggy Greb, USDA ARS – This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

There is no singular optimal diet. I choose to eat a plant-based diet (mostly vegan, though I do consume eggs and dairy on occasion). This is what works for me health-wise and also for ethical and environmental reasons. It is also a diet that I can sustain for the long-term. As far as what our bodies were meant to consume, there is no doubt that we were evolved to consume all kinds of plant and animal-based foods. It is also clear that we can adapt to eating different things at different times based on what is available in our environment. Therefore I choose to:

1) Eat a wide variety of foods, as hunter/gatherers did.

This includes exploring new fruits, herbs and vegetables that wouldn’t normally be a part of my diet. Even in small quantities, various herbs and plants contain important nutrition. I embrace foods that taste “unique” but not particularly good, like strongly pungent herbs (like fresh cilantro) and bitter vegetables (like “karela” or bitter gourd).

2) Seek heirloom and primitive varieties of foods where possible.

The fruits and veggies our ancestors ate were radically different from the ones we eat today. For example, the apples of a hundred thousand years ago were about as sweet as a carrot and slightly bitter (like a crab-apple). Grains were also much tougher and not as starchy. For example, ancient corn typically had only a few kernels on an entire stalk, and they easily wold fall away from the plant when pulled. Today, you can find ears of corn the size of your forearm! This doesn’t mean modern foods are bad, but instead that you should try to seek out heirloom varieties when you can. For example, try Spelt instead of wheat or eat and see if local farmers markets carry old-school varieties of apples and fruits. They may not be as sweet as your “honeycrisp” apples, but they will be better for you in the long run!

3) Eat more fiber rich plants in raw form.

Our jaws were designed to chew, chew, chew our food! Vegetables and fruits today are hybridized for sweetness and taste. Ancient veggies were packed with tough fiber, and this fiber plays a role in both slowing down digestion (so we can absorb more nutrition) and also speeding up elimination (to eliminate waste properly). Fiber also creates stronger jaws and healthier teeth. I’ve found myself eating mostly cooked food nowadays (aside for my regular big salad dinner meals). I’m going to make it a point to munch on more fresh raw veggies. Lastly, there has been substantial scientific research on the benefits of eating larger quantities of fiber as part of a diet. This is something that both paelo and vegan believers can both agree on! Hunter-gatherers ate closer to 100 grams of fiber a day, most people today are lucky to get 15 grams a day!

What Should We Do?

Hamza People Hunter Gatherer
Source: Andreas Lederer. Two Hadza men return from a hunt. The Hadza are one of the few contemporary African societies that live primarily by foraging.

While I wouldn’t exchange my life now for a hunter-gather lifestyle, there is something to appreciate in the supposed health and vitality of that our ancestors experienced during their shorter lifespans. There are a few behaviors we can glean from their lifestyles that apply well to the modern world:

1) Sleep more and take naps.

The average person in America sleeps 6.8 hours per night. In hunter-gatherer times, they would sleep 10 hours per night in addition to a multi-hour nap during the afternoon. I don’t plan on sleeping for 10 hours, but I do want to continue my existing habit of going to bed by 10pm and waking up at 6am or earlier, along with a 20 minute afternoon nap.

2) Move, move, move!

Hunter gathers walked 6–10 miles per day just going about their business to gather food and water to survive. Much of this walking was on varied terrain (they didn’t have flat sidewalks back then!). Most of us hardly have the time to squeeze in 30 minute exercise sometime during the day. My main lesson from the book is to move more, even walking where possible instead of driving. It is what our bodies are designed to do.

3) Wear natural footwear.

Running barefoot is not practical for modern humans and the reality is that humans have been wearing shoes for at least 10,000 years (the earliest sandals were made from twine and wrapped around the ankle and bottom of the foot). I spent time with Barefoot Ted when I lived in Seattle, and also ran with the Tarahumara during the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon. What I learned from them is that footwear should primarily be used for protection from sharp rocks and debris, not to provide cushion. While I love running in my Brooks Cascadia trail shoes, I also walk around barefoot a lot and will make it a point to wear my minimal shoes (I have several pairs of thin soled shoes with wide toe-boxes) as much as possible. I will continue to do so, and as I get in better shape, will transition to a more minimal pair of shoes for running as well. I’ve heard good things about Altra Footwear.

4) Sleep on a hard bed?

I’m not doing this one…I love my Kluft Mattress! Though, if you have back problems you might want to think about it. I will get my “firm bed” fix while backpacking and sleeping on a Therma-Rest.

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We can learn a lot from our ancestors. Given the massive amount of time it takes for physical change to show up based on environmental stress, we should all assume that our bodies were NOT designed to live in the modern world. That said, we do need to get along in the world as it exists today. This is the society we are a part of. The way to live and thrive in modern society is to understand the ways in which we were uniquely designed to operate as human beings, and do our best to operate in that way within our current modern context. By making some tweaks to what we eat and how we move about the world, we can find higher levels of health and happiness.

For me, this means eating lots of fiber and nutrient rich plants, running and walking a bunch every day, and getting plenty of sleep!

What does it mean for you?

Let me know in the comments!

Ravi

David And Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits And The Art Of Battling Giants

This post is inspired by my reading of Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book, “David and Goliath”. It was compelling as all of Gladwell’s books are, with story after story built to emphasize the point that things are not always as they seem. Weaknesses may be strengths. Disadvantages may be advantages. What we think is good and positive may be the opposite, and vice versa.

This line of thinking is both uplifting and hopeful. I have many aspects of my character and upbringing that I consider to be disadvantages. This book challenged me to examine those things, and see how the supposed weaknesses could have hardened and strengthened me in some mysterious way.

This post will summarize my main learnings from the book, and also discuss a few insights I have come away with about how Gladwell’s theories might apply to other areas of my life. In reading this post I hope that you too will consider your weaknesses to be potential sources of power in your life.

The Story Of David And Goliath

David-goliath28
Gustave Doré [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
I’ve heard the story many times, of a young Shepard boy felling a giant with nothing but a stone and a sling. However, I never heard it the way Gladwell tells it, in excruciating and captivating detail. Wasn’t this story fantasy? How could he possibly know all of these details about the battle? Turns out there is a fair bit of expert commentary on the battle of David and Goliath. Archeologists and historians have examined and pieced together exquisite details of the confrontation. Spend some time searching and you will find assertions of proof that the epic battle did indeed happen – some from scientists and others from those dubiously seeking to “prove” the events from the bible. There are also many hotly contested points. Regardless of the validity of the original story, the outcome is plausible if you believe Gladwell and assume that the brawl did indeed happen in the first place.

Gladwell interprets the result, of a young boy slaying a warrior, not as a story of triumph, but as an outcome that was all but certain by anyone who knew of the unfair advantage David possessed – the slingshot. The slingshot, in the hands of a seasoned assailant, is wickedly deadly. Goliath didn’t stand a chance, despite his imposing size. Most people would consider a boy facing a fully armed and well-trained soldier as a terrible mis-match. In this case, the underdog was able to use his apparent disadvantage as his unique advantage.

Using this story as an entre, Gladwell then applies the same principle – that of uncovering the hidden strengths behind apparent weaknesses – to other areas of society.

Conventional Notions Challenged

The Inverted U-Curve. Source: The Primative You. https://theprimitiveyou.com/everything-has-a-sweet-spot/
The Inverted U-Curve. Source: The Primitive You. https://theprimitiveyou.com/

There are many conventional notions that are challenged in the book, here are a few of them that stood out to me. They all follow what Gladwell calls “The Inverted U – Curve”. This is where something that is seen to be good, stops being good after a certain point. Not only that, but The Inverted U – Curve illustrates that too much of a good thing is actually far worse than having just enough.

Confused?

Let me explain it this way. If you cook a nice meal and forget to add salt, it probably won’t taste great. If you add a little extra salt it will probably taste a little better. Add the entire bottle of salt and it will be inedible.

Got it?

Here are a two areas where Gladwell says there is a certain benefit for not having too much of a good thing. In the book he goes over many more areas than this. These two stood out for me.

1) Schooling

Gladwell posits that it is better to be a big fish in a little pond, than a small fish in a large pond. This means that while high school students might think going to a school as prestigious as Harvard or CalTech is worth it, going to a State University might provide an even better results for the large number of high achievers who end up becoming “just normal” at an outrageously competitive school. The effect of being just normal when you are used to being outstanding, can be devastating.

Gladwell isn’t alone in his thinking. Will Deresiewicz, who has undergrad and P.h.D degrees from an Ivy League School, Columbia University, has been outspoken on the dangers of sending your kid to an Ivy League School. His answer to the pressure-cooker-like private instructions that end up taking smart children and turning them into zombies, is this: the evolution of all learning institutions, not just private ones, towards providing first-rate education:

“I used to think that we needed to create a world where every child had an equal chance to get to the Ivy League. I’ve come to see that what we really need is to create one where you don’t have to go to the Ivy League, or any private college, to get a first-rate education.”

“High-quality public education, financed with public money, for the benefit of all: the exact commitment that drove the growth of public higher education in the postwar years. Everybody gets an equal chance to go as far as their hard work and talent will take them—you know, the American dream. Everyone who wants it gets to have the kind of mind-expanding, soul-enriching experience that a liberal arts education provides. We recognize that free, quality K–12 education is a right of citizenship. We also need to recognize—as we once did and as many countries still do—that the same is true of higher education. We have tried aristocracy. We have tried meritocracy. Now it’s time to try democracy.”

Personally, I went to a State University (Penn State University) where I earned my way into the Honors College. After being denied entry to the prestigious Schreyer Honors College at Penn State, I petitioned the University after my first semester and they let me in. I ended up graduating with distinction and honors. While I wanted to attend an Ivy League University as a kid, I ended up getting wait-listed at my #1 college choice (University of Pennsylvania) and decided it would be best to pay 1/3 as much tuition and go to Penn State instead.

I had a blast at Penn State and ended up getting a good choice of internships as a result. I was able to stand out, despite the large student body, and I think this did a lot for my weak self-esteem going into college. I joined a variety of club teams that probably wouldn’t have existed (or I would not have had time to participate in them) that made a lasting impression on me – particularly the Cycling and Triathlon Clubs. Who knows what would have happened had I gone to a cut-throat Ivy League school where everyone else was also towards the top of their high school class.

2) Money

More money is better, right? Research has shot many of holes in this common way of thinking. While being poor and not being able to put food on the table is a terrible state to be in, having a Scrooge-McDuck vault full of gold won’t make you that much happier than someone who is holding down a solid job making about $75,000 USD per year.

The $75,000 happiness threshold stems from analysis done by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton from Princeton University. They analyzed the results of hundreds of thousands of survey responses to a Gallup Poll, which showed that while people “evaluated their lives” more favorably with higher incomes, emotional well-being did not progress for those more than $75,000 a year.

Not only does money apparently stop buying happiness after a certain point, according to Gladwell, having too much money is actually detrimental to your overall chances for success and fulfillment in life. It means that your children won’t have to hustle and think creatively to pay for stuff. It means that your own intrinsic motivation to find new ways to earn won’t be as pressing. Having just enough money maximizes your happiness and internal drive to make a living while not lulling you into complacency.

This concept explains why many young people who inherit large sums of money fail to make their mark on the world in the manner of their parents. It also explains why many tycoons are choosing not to leave large sums of money to their children, though of course their kids will have other untold opportunities by virtue of their family names. Theses tycoon who do not plan on leaving their fortune to their children include: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg and Ted Turner.

My Own Disadvantages – Have Become My Strengths

Reading this book got me thinking a lot about my own disadvantages and how they can actually be my biggest strengths. There are three that come to mind right away.

I Am Introverted

Since I was 10 years old, I was introverted. My family told me stories about how I used to always be talkative and the life of the party when I was very young (ages 4–10). However, as I grew older, this became less the case. Perhaps it was that I gained a ton of weight around age 9 (and kept it on through age 16). Perhaps it was since I started to develop nearsightedness (but didn’t get glasses until much later) making me more comfortable spending time lost in thoughts residing in my own head vs engaging with the outer world. Whatever the reason, I developed a tendency for introversion – that is to say, I preferred thinking instead of talking.

I was comfortable this way, and even today, I can’t stand it when people I hang out with talk all the time. It’s bothersome and in my mind, totally unnecessary. So much can be said without speaking. This introversion tendency has played out very well for me. It has helped me in doing great work during my corporate career, where toiling in silence while completing a big project was something I was very comfortable with. It also helped me get fit and really enjoy exercise – particularly long bike rides and multi-hour runs on my own. I never need to wear headphones. They aren’t necessary. My own mind provides all the entertainment I need.

Introversion has made me extremely comfortable spending time alone. Peace and quiet are comfort zones for me. I have no doubt that this has provided great solace, both emotionally and physically for me. It has also given me a greater capacity to communicate and glean information from others without saying much. It is said that only 7% of information is communicated verbally through words. The rest of communicated through vocal tones, sounds, posture, facial expression and other non-verbal methods. My introversion has given me the space to tap into the 93% of information that exists beyond the words being said in a conversation.

I Strongly Empathize With Others

I’ve always had an extreme sense of empathy for others. Even watching people getting picked-on while watching a movie is very bothersome to me. I have a great degree empathy toward others, particularly towards those with different views than my own. Perhaps it because I am a Libra and always balance both sides of a debate.

This trait is something I used to think was a disadvantage. In the business world, it was my perception that only “shrewd and cunning” people who didn’t care about people’s feelings could be a success. I also thought that empathizing with others was a sign of weakness and lack of confidence in my own opinions. I now realize that none of these notions were true.

This sensitivity has saved me friendships that otherwise would have fallen apart, helped me successfully finish projects at work that would have devolved into political messes, and has given me a unique ability to empathize and relate to people both during my years as a yoga teacher, and now as a Peak Performance Coach. If I always thought it was “my way or the highway,” things would have been very different and not in a good way.

I Easily Put On Weight

Hefty Ravi! This me on my honeymoon in August 2013. I was tipping the scales at over 190 pounds, by far my heaviest (I have a very small frame, 190 is a LOT of weight for me). I put on this weight just 2 years after completing several ultra-marathons and an Ironman triathlon.
Hefty Ravi! This me on my honeymoon almost 2 years ago, in August 2013. I was tipping the scales at over 190 pounds, by far my heaviest (I have a very small frame, 190 is a LOT of weight for me). I put on this weight just 2 years after completing several ultra-marathons and an Ironman triathlon.

As I mentioned earlier, I was overweight as a kid. And I mean really OVERWEIGHT. For many years I was one of the heaviest kids in my class. The stress this placed on me as a young kid of 10–16 was unbelievable. Luckily, through a massive amount of self-discipline and hard work, I was able to get fit. By the time I graduated high school, I was thin as a rail and super fit. That doesn’t mean the weight has stayed off. I need to be constantly vigilant, and have gained back 10–20 pounds a few times, and most recently, put on a whopping 50 pounds in the year preceding my wedding! It is a constant struggle.

The fact that I easily put on weight is a good thing in the long run, though most people would not understand why. I have spent countless hours learning about nutrition, trying out self-experiments and diving into the science and emotions behind nutrition, healthy eating, getting fit and staying fit.

When I was young, I used to be furious at how I could eat the exact same foods as my brother, yet he was thin as a rail and I was a big ball of blubber. On top of it, I was vegetarian! Even worse, for years, I was massively overweight despite swimming up to 5 miles a day on the swim team! Aren’t vegetarians supposed to be skinny? How could I spend hours swimming laps and still be so overweight? It made no sense! Now I understand that there were a variety of reasons why I gained the weight and kept it on, and my insights have helped me self-correct when I start to gain weight again, and have given me a lasting life skill to continually learn about and invest in my own health for the long-term. I never would have learned what I know now if I didn’t suffer from obesity as a kid.

This is me a month ago, after finishing the Bolder Boulder 10K. I lost almost all the weight I had previously gained, and feel great!
This is me a month ago, after finishing the Bolder Boulder 10K. I lost almost all the weight I had previously gained, and feel great!

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I hope you take the time to read Gladwell’s book, David And Goliath. It’s entertaining as he uses storytelling to make his key points, not just bland pages of research. Identify areas where you consider yourself an underdog, a misfit or are disadvantaged. How could those situations be long-term strengths that set you up to win at your own game of life?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Ravi

the life changing magic of tidying up

The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up

There are probably a million things you would rather do than tidy up your house or office. My personally, I’d much rather go out and run for an hour or play with my dog, Duke.

However, I just finished reading a book that provides a few incredibly valuable distinctions in the realms of productivity and minimalism. It was a book that I didn’t expect to get much value from, but was very impressed with the impact. It actually made me want to start tidying up!

I’m a few days into having put a bunch of my stuff in order and applying the “KonMarie Method” featured in the book was super simple and I do feel happier and more productive as a result.

A small and easy to read book that just might radically improve your overall level of happiness, and boost your productivity.
A small and easy to read book that just might radically improve your overall level of happiness, and boost your productivity.

The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up came highly recommended to my wife by a co-worker many months ago. Since that time, I’ve heard it mentioned on numerous occasions. This caused me to pay attention to a book that I would have previously discarded as something I already knew how to do. What really made me read and apply the techniques in the book, was my wife’s remarkable application of the methods to massively declutter and organize our basement and kitchen areas.

I consider myself fairly minimal, and after downsizing my life to travel the world for 18 months, didn’t think there would be a ton of value in “tidying up”. What I didn’t realize was that tidying up wasn’t just about organizing things. Tidying up is about getting clear on what brings joy, what items have finishing serving their purpose, and cultivating a higher level of discernment and respect for things and understanding where they belong.

The techniques featured in the book were created by a Japanese lady, Marie Kondo. In reading about her upbringing, she seems pretty high on the OCD scale when it comes to keeping things in order. What’s cool is that her method is designed for people who are not OCD. She claims that once you tidy up using her system, you will NEVER relapse into disorganization!

The other important thing to note is that her method applies equally well to organizing your home, as it does to organizing your work-space and the files and programs on you computer. If you are working in the technology industry, you will get a ton of value from applying the methods to how you work with digital content.

The Growing Problem Of Stuff

Did you know that the average size of a home in America has grown by over 1000 square feet since 1973? In 1973 the typical home was 1600 square feet, whereas in 2013 the average home was 2679 square feet! Home aren’t just larger today, there are more types of room – home theaters, dens, play-rooms, storage rooms….and much larger garages! Ironically, the house sizes have exploded despite families getting smaller.

growth in average home size

My own history bears this to be true, I went from living in a studio apartment for years and years (<800 square feet) to owning and furnishing a 5-bedroom 4-bathroom 3200 square foot home. Oh yeah – I was living in this massive house as a single guy 🙂 .

On top of that the self-storage industry is booming. It’s a multibillion dollar industry. A few years ago when I quit my job to travel the world, I sold off a ton of my stuff, including my car, but still needed to rent what I considered “the world’s largest storage unit” to house the remainder of my belongings.

Almost as big as this one from Raiders Of The Lost Ark
My storage unit was almost as big as this one from Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Good thing there were plenty of options for self-storage. Within a few miles of my home there were 6–7 different facilities, including several new ones. Across the country there are over 48,500 storage facilities at occupancy rates in excess of 88%. The self-storage industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the entire real-estate industry.

To get a better sense of the degree to which stuff takes over our lives, just look at your own garage. Can you fit a car in there or is that space just used to store your stuff? Take a look around the room you are in right now. How may items can you count that have been unused for 6 months or more?

Clutter Makes You Unhappy

Minimalism is a trend that has been growing steadily over the past decade due to backlash against the tyranny of excess stuff.

Stuff costs money. Stuff requires space to store it, which in turn costs you money. Stuff keeps you from finding things when you need them. Stuff weights on your mind, and like it or not, creates an undercurrent of dis-ease and anxiety that permeates your life. Put simply, having too much stuff creates greater unhappiness.

This last part is more than just conjecture. The way to test the theory that stuff (more specifically, too much stuff) creates unhappiness is to get rid of unwanted stuff, put the remainder in proper order, and see how you feel and operate throughout your work and daily life.

You can also observe the findings of social scientists (I’ve come across other articles citing studies from Princeton and UCLA researchers on this topic), who have found that clutter negatively impacts your ability to focus and process information.

As stated on the Unclutter.com blog:

The clutter competes for your attention in the same way a toddler might stand next to you annoyingly repeating, “candy, candy, candy, candy, I want candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy …” Even though you might be able to focus a little, you’re still aware that a screaming toddler is also vying for your attention. The annoyance also wears down your mental resources and you’re more likely to become frustrated.

The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up

The book is an incredibly easy read. I recommend the Kindle version, as it’s all text and not too long.

I found the insights in this book to fly in the face of commonly mentioned advice in other books and blogs on decluttering and minimalism.

The primary distinctions I picked up were as follows:

Thank your stuff

Decluttering Pro Tip: Thank Your Stuff!
Decluttering Pro Tip: Thank Your Stuff!

This sounds really hooky-pooky, and it is.

It also works wonders and makes the decision-making struggles of what to keep vs discard much easier. Before discarding or organizing, thank your stuff for what it has done for you. Those old trophies, the paper certificates, the books you don’t need to keep around; thank them all for serving their purpose BEFORE you start tidying up.

Saying “Thank You” to your stuff will make the entire process much easier and less stressful.

Tidying up is an exercise in decision-making, letting go and facing your fears

Tidying up is a powerful lesson in personal development.
Tidying up is a powerful lesson in personal development.

The level of decision-making required in tidying up is extreme. As a business-oriented guy, I used to consider organizing and decluttering as busy-work that I only did when I was procrastinating from getting real work done.

However, I now realize that it takes a very high level of discernment and decision-making to make clear and fast decisions thousands of times over. This is exactly what you do when tidying up.

The struggles in deciding which books to keep vs let go of are not that different from the struggles in deciding which customers or products to keep vs let go of. You go through through the same emotion turmoil for both types of decisions, just at different scales. By training yourself to tidy up swiftly and decisively, you will build a skill that will help you be more decisive at work and anywhere else in your life.

Beyond decision-making, there is a lot of fears that show up when you get hardcore about decluttering. You will see first-hand how attached you are to things – particularly old moments, keepsakes, journals and things you feel are particularly personal.

Tidying up is a powerful exercise in personal development.

Only keep things that bring you joy

 

Joy feels the way this looks!
Joy feels the way this looks!

A fundamental tenet of the book is to only keep things that bring you joy. The process is simple, hold every item you own and ask yourself “Does this item bring me joy?” If the answer isn’t a resounding “YES!”, then place in a trash bag to discard.

It’s not unlike the lesson Derek Sivers taught me about only doing things that are a “HELL YEAH!” and saying a firm “NO” to everything else. The more you say “NO” to, the more time and room you have to say “HELL YEAH” to things that really bring you joy.

Discard first

 

Pile of stuff in my office to be discarded.
Pile of stuff in my office to be discarded.

A common mistake people make is to organize their excess stuff neatly into boxes, and put them away and out of sight. This mistake is so common there are entire stores dedicated to enabling it (e.g. The Container Store)!

Organization doesn’t solve the problem of having too much stuff, it just hides the problem. The underlying tension and stress created will still remain and rear its ugly head at some point. Out of sign is NOT out of mind!

To get around this problem, focus on discarding items first. Then organize.

Don’t worry about selling used things

This is where I used to get really hung up when I tried to tidy up my place. I have a lot of stuff that seems to be useful. Old books. Old digital cameras. Clothes I’ve barely worn.

I’ve been moving boxes of stuff around with me for years just because it has value. “Some day I’ll have a garage sale or sell this stuff on eBay!” I used to say. Those days never came.

Instead of keeping things just because they have value. Thank those things for serving their purpose, and JUST DISCARD THEM. They are doing more damage to you taking up physical and mental space than they are worth.

Discarding means only two things:

  1. Take the stuff to Goodwill

  2. Throw it in the trash

Organize by category, not by room

This is my closet. My clothes have never been so organized. Look at all that empty space!
This is my closet. My clothes have never been so organized. Look at all that empty space!

Lastly, a common mistake people make when tidying up is to commit tidying up a specific room or area at a time. They say “I’m going to organize the kitchen today” or “I’m going to organize the bedroom closet”. The majority of blogs and articles about decluttering also give this wrong advice.

The mistake lies in the fact that if you only organize one area, you will have a greater tendency to relapse into disorganization over time.

For example, if you only organize clothing in your bedroom closet, you might feel great about things being nice and tidy in there. However, what about all the winter clothes in the boxes in the basement? What about the six jackets hanging in the entryway? What about the towels in the hallway closet? What about workout clothes sitting unfolded in the hamper in the laundry room?

Instead of tidying up just a zone or room (e.g. like a closet), tidy up a CATEGORY of stuff.

In this example, you would tidy up all your clothes, regardless of where they are. This way, everything will be put in a proper place and will be less likely to get disorganized again as clothes from elsewhere in your home find their way back into your bedroom closet.

Examples of other categories include: food, kitchen equipment, book, electronics, furniture, etc. Don’t worry about making a room tidy, focus on one category at a time, wherever those items show up at home or work (or your storage unit!).

Start tidying up today

I didn't just organize my office (electronics, furniture, books), I also organized all the files on my computer. Boom!
I didn’t just organize my office (electronics, furniture, books), I also organized all the files on my computer. Boom!

The life changing magic of tidying up is real but you will never experience this bliss unless you actually take action. And I really mean MASSIVE ACTION!

Set aside a specific day (or at least a few hours) to tackle a specific category of stuff. Thank your stuff for doing its job. Find all the places where that category exists. Discard everything that does not bring you joy. Put everything that remains in its rightful place. Enjoy the peace, pride and purposeful state of mind that results from being in tune with your home or workplace.

Also, don’t forget about your digital content. Apply the methods in this book to the documents on your laptop, including digital photos, music , movies and other stuff you haven’t used in years. You will find it easier to remain focused and get things done in the digital world.

The Butterfly Effect – How Small Changes Yield Big Results

I hope that this article inspires you to commit to a small positive action in your life. As hard as it might be to believe, it is these seemingly inconsequential steps that hold the key to unlocking a much brighter and bigger future for you, your community and the world.

If this seems far-fetched, hold your judgement until the end of this blog post and see if you are still skeptical.

I truly believe that small positive acts, like going for a walk, helping a friend in need, saving money instead of spending frivolously, eating something healthy every day, drinking plenty of water, meditating…these small behaviors, when done consistently, can completely transform your quality of life.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” - John Muir

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

My Little Running Habit

Lately I’ve witnessed this myself with my recently renewed habit of going for daily runs. I used to be a hardcore ultra-marathoner, but up until a month ago, I would mostly just hike around and lift weights for exercise.

I had a successful finish at the 2015 Boulder Boulder 10K in Boulder, CO.
I had a successful finish at the 2015 Boulder Boulder 10K in Boulder, CO.

Then I realized how much I missed running. I missed the wind in my hair and getting outside to sweat under the beating sun. So I started running again, eventually building up to a 3.5 mile loop around the town I live in, Golden, Colorado in the USA. I’ve been doing this for about a month.

Something miraculous has happened since I started running every day. I’ve lost a little weight, sure, but I’ve also noticed the following: I’ve slept better, I’ve had the desire to go to bed on time and wake up on time, my diet has been more clean, I’ve been drinking more water, I am more focused on my work and taking action on things I’ve put off for quite a while.

How can a little running habit create all this positive collateral benefit?

I believe that every little action, and the intent behind those actions, are in some way linked up. When you exhibit positive intent towards one area of your life, it will inevitably bleed over into others. I have no proof for this, but in my own life it holds true!

It’s akin to something called the Butterfly Effect.

The Butterfly Effect

Image by Andy Andrews.  http://www.andyandrews.com/ms/the-butterfly-effect/
Image by Andy Andrews. http://www.andyandrews.com/ms/the-butterfly-effect/

The Butterfly Effect was initially used to describe the potential for radically changing the weather forecasts based on seemingly inconsequential rounding of input variables. Subtle changes that shouldn’t cause a big shift, suddenly do when thrown into a complex forecasting model.

The Butterfly Effect, or the fact that small changes in an initial state can result in big impacts down the road, shows up in many places in life. We can acknowledge this crazy fact and use it as leverage to create any positive change.

Here is one surprising way in which the Butterfly Effect shows up: Did you know that wolves changes the course of rivers in Yellowstone?

Wolves Changing The Course Of Rivers

In nature, there is a term called “Trophic Cascades”. This refers to the connection between predators, prey and the ecosystems in which they live. Trophic Cascades are heavily impacted by the over or under-functioning of any individual item in the hierarchy of nature.

In Yellowstone, something fascinating happened with the reintroduction of Wolves into the environment, after years of government supported mass Wolf extermination in the 1940s. It is here we can see the Trophic Cascades at work.

Wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park in 1995. At that time, there was significant overpopulation of Elk and overgrazing of river banks. When the Wolves came back, there was a big shift in behavior of the Elk and deer. As these animals changed their grazing behaviors and patterns, the behavior of other animals also changed. Ravens, Eagles, Coyotes and Bears all adapted to the presence of wolves and the movement of the Elk.

Shrubs and trees grew taller by the river banks as the grazing animals moved into the higher mountains to avoid falling prey to the Wolves. Trees previously stunted or grazed to a low height, suddenly were free to grow free and tall. Bushes filled with berries sprang up everywhere under the shelter of the trees. With more berries, came more Bears!

What is most astonishing, is that the regenerated forests provided massive support to the river banks. Beavers returned and began to build more dams and in turn, the layout and flow of the rivers themselves changed! Would you ever imagine that in less than 20 years, the reintroduction of Wolves would change the course of rivers in Yellowstone?

Watch this video and prepare to be amazed:

What The Butterfly Effect Means For You

Next time you want to make a radical change in your life, focus on the small and seemingly inconsequential things that move you slowly in your desired positive direction. Commit to those small things until they become habits.

Then watch and see how your life begins to take a drastic turn for the better over time!

You never know where a small action will lead.

Mark Twain’s 9 Tips For Living A Good Life

WHO WAS MARK TWAIN?

All of us are quite familiar with the famous books Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Remember those elementary days when we read and discussed these depictions of mischievous boys growing up under an illusion that society with all its rules and expectations was to be avoided and being free of society’s rules was the greatest way to live?

Samuel Clemens under the pen name Mark Twain was the writer of these wonderful exploitations of youth. Mark Twain was especially interesting to me since he did a lot of his writing just a few miles from my home, in the town of Elmira, NY. When I was a kid, this made him stand out as an especially important author and figure. My teachers often spoke of him and I read many of his novels.

It wasn’t until I was in college, however, that I realized how Twain was far more than just a novelist. Are you familiar with Mark Twain, the satirist, humorist, lecturer and above all great philosopher of life?

It is that Mark Twain who is known for his numerous and often humorous quotes such as, “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure,” “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt,” and “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Mark Twain’s common sense strategies for living a good life can benefit each and every one of us.

Let’s consider the quotes that are his best tips or instructions on how to live a good life. So, to borrow one of Twain’s quotes, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Let’s get started.

1) “THE BEST WAY TO CHEER YOURSELF UP IS TO TRY TO CHEER SOMEBODY ELSE UP.”

Have you ever been down in the dumps and unable to escape feelings of the doldrums? Nothing you try appears to work. What does this quote “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up” suggest? I don’t think Mark Twain is only talking about cheering someone else up. He is alluding to something far more important by suggesting when you help someone you are also helping yourself to feel good. I, for one, have found that nothing beats that wonderful feeling you get when you help someone who really needs help.

Helping others is a wonderful way to feel better about yourself. The act of giving is both enlivening and refreshing. You may not receive an immediate return of you time, money, effort and self. I truly believe what you give will come back to you many times over. You can consider it Karma or blessings, but it does make you feel great. It’s always worth the effort!

2) “ANGER IS AN ACID THAT CAN DO MORE HARM TO THE VESSEL IN WHICH IT IS STORED THAN TO ANYTHING ON WHICH IT IS POURED.”

A negative emotion we all deal with in life at one time or another is anger. Anger that is suppressed can cause one of two possibilities. Remember lines from the poem “The Poison Tree” by William Blake that many of us read as children:

“I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.”

Well, the wrath growing is exactly what a result of suppressed anger can be. The anger will build up until it explodes. The second result of suppressed anger is to turn on your body and cause health problems such as disease or illness. This is what Mark Twain eluded to when he talked about anger harming the vessel in which it is stored meaning that the anger hurts only the angry person.

Resentment and anger causes health problems by discharging cortisol and adrenaline. These are hormones that cause problems such as eczema, irritable bowel, a cold, or back pain. Cortisol slows down a person’s metabolism, and the result can be weight gain, forgetfulness, difficulty with learning and bone density reduction. It is rather obvious that anger does “harm the vessel in which it is stored and not to “anything (or anyone) on which it is poured”.

3) “TWENTY YEARS FROM NOW YOU WILL BE MORE DISAPPOINTED BY THE THING YOU DIDN’T DO THAN THE ONES YOU DID DO.”

Just as Robert Frost talked about having to make choices in life in his poem “The Road Not Taken” so too was Mark Twain saying we often must make choices. Frost’s poem begins with:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”

In the poem, Frost points out that the two roads were both equal, but he must choose one since he couldn’t travel on both. So too, we are faced with choices and can’t choose both in life although we would like to.

Robert Frost ends the poem with the lines:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
Took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost is saying exactly what Mark Twain said when he stated: ”Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the thing you didn’t do than the ones you did do.” Simply put, Mark Twain is saying we always regret not making the choice we didn’t choose in life. Perhaps, what he believes is that we want to do everything and never miss any experience, but when we must make a choice that is not possible. The real lesson is “Don’t look back, and you’ll have no regrets.”

4) “IN ORDER TO MAKE A MAN OR A BOY COVET A THING, IT IS ONLY NECESSARY TO MAKE THE THING DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN”

Surely, this quote explains what Mark Twain based the episode of whitewashing the fence in the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Aunt Polly sent Tom out to whitewash the fence. While Tom was busy at work with the job, along came Ben. Ben tells Tom that he is on his way to go swimming, but, of course, Tom has to do his work.

Tom thought about Ben’s remark, and said: “What do you call work?”

“Why, ain’t that work?” Ben said.

Now, you must understand that Tom is looking to get Ben to do the work for him. How does he go about doing that? He shrewdly pretends it is fun to paint the fence, but he couldn’t allow Ben to whitewash it because he wouldn’t do a good enough job. Tom follows the quote “In order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.” By refusing to let Ben whitewash the fence, he gets Ben to actually beg for the chance to do the work.

As Tom sat under a tree and munched on an apple, there was no shortage of boys coming along and falling for Tom’s trickery. By the end of the afternoon Tom collected a kite, a dead rat, a string, twelve marbles, a piece of blue bottle-glass, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a glass stopper of a decanter, a spool cannon, a piece of chalk, six fire-crackers, a tin soldier, a kitten with one eye, a dog-collar, a brass door-knob and other useless stuff from boys for the chance to whitewash the fence.

This certainly proved the quote “In order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.”

5) “COURAGE IS RESISTANCE TO FEAR, MASTERY OF FEAR – NOT ABSENCE OF FEAR.”

What Mark Twain is saying with this quote is not that a brave person does not have fear. A brave person feels fear, but still goes ahead in spite of the fear. Fear does not stop a person from action. Therefore, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”

6) “A MAN CANNOT BE COMFORTABLE WITHOUT HIS OWN APPROVAL”

What is Mark Twain talking about when he refers to man’s own approval? Haven’t we often heard that we should believe in ourselves? Yes, that’s right. It’s all about self-confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re doomed to failure. People who lack self-confidence put up barriers caused by a belief that they are not capable of the difficult tasks in life that lead to success. The result is that they simply don’t have the freedom to do what they really want to do.

Therefore, you should always, “Be all that you can be.” You must follow Mark Twain’s advice and believe “A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” It won’t be easy, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it and surprise yourself with success.

7) “HUMOR IS MANKIND’S BLESSING.” “AGAINST THE ASSAULT OF LAUGHTER NOTHING CAN STAND.”

There is no better way to get through difficult times than with a sense of humor. When you goof, can you laugh about it? If so, you will avoid all those negative emotions that create a brim mood preventing you from trying new ventures.

It helps to believe that in life there are always new opportunities and chances. That belief will prevent you from feeling like a total failure just because you stumbled. The trick is to get up, dust yourself off and try all over again. For instance, if you fail a test, tests can always be taken again. If you miss one business opportunity, there will be others. It will not be the end of the world. Lighten up and it will be so much easier to accept your mistakes and improve your future performance. Laugh about it and develop a sense of humor because “Humor is Mankind’s Blessing.” Remember “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

8) “DON’T GO AROUND SAYING THE WORLD OWES YOU A LIVING. THE WORLD OWES YOU NOTHING. IT WAS HERE FIRST.”

Don’t expect to get the world handed to you on a platter. Everything in life must be earned. Work and ambition are the only things that will give you a better life. You should live by following Mark Twain’s advice: “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

In today’s society, too many people expect a living to be given to them for free. As soon as they realize that expectation only leads to a miserable life, they may then develop the strength to stand on their own two feet. Only then will you realize that only you can shape your life and work for what you want. Get in the driver’s seat and go to wherever you want.

9) “DRAG YOUR THOUGHT AWAY FROM YOUR TROUBLE . . . BY THE EARS, BY THE HEELS, OR ANY WAY YOU CAN MANAGE IT.”

When things go wrong in life, feeling sorry for yourself gets you nowhere. You can actually choose to suffer with a mentality of being a victim or you can learn from the situation. The later choice of learning will allow you to focus on your strength and avoid drowning in a sea of negativity. It’s up to you to build control of where you focus. It may be difficult depending on the trouble you face, but you will not regret following Mark Twain’s advice: “Drag your thought away from your trouble . . . by the ears, by the heels, or any way you can manage it.”

5 Life Lessons Your Parents Didn’t Teach You

There are many things people learn in life, but it seems that people don’t learn the most important life lessons until it’s too late. Better late than never, but if you can be aware of the following five things, everything else will be easier to master.

1) Learn What You’re Responsible For And What You’re Not

Everyone brings something to the mix, and everyone is responsible for their feelings. Some feelings are warranted, and some occur from our perception of what was said or done. Given that there are so many different personalities, experiences and other dynamics, it’s easy to see why there are many disagreements. However, at the end of the day, people are still responsible for how they feel. People have to be willing to ask themselves what they brought to the mix. This means that people need to think about what occurred and their reaction to it.

People can’t blame others for how they feel. Everyone decides how they feel. “You made me mad!” doesn’t hold up because people decide to be mad. An example of how people can’t “make” anyone feel anything can be understood in this way: Imagine a group of 20 people sitting in the center of a room. A ton of tennis balls is suddenly thrown at them. If it’s possible to “make” anyone feel anything, then all 20 people should feel the exact same thing. They don’t. This is because everyone’s perception of what happened is different. Some will feel scared, some will feel upset, and some will think that the situation was ridiculous.

It can seem difficult to understand that we can change how we feel, but feelings are tightly linked to thoughts. If a person is unhealthy, their view of what happened will most likely be negative. If a person is healthy, they can see things as they are, usually. Be willing to ask yourself what your part in the situation was and what you’re going to do about it.

2) Get Brutally Honest With Yourself

Understand who you are and all that means. In 12-step programs, it’s referred to as taking “personal inventory”. List out your strengths, weaknesses, fears, desires and what holds you back from achieving what you want. When people attempt this for the first time, they can get a little lost. Asking yourself “why?” will uncover many things. Ask yourself why you’re afraid of certain things or why you haven’t gone back to school even though you want to. There is an underlying reason for the things you do—whether you are aware of it or not. Be honest about what’s inside you.

Next, be honest about what you’re going to do about it. If you’re afraid of something, take steps to not be afraid of it. If you’re not achieving what you want, discover the ways you self-sabotage yourself. It’s okay to discover things you do not like about yourself; however, it’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do about it. Many bad decisions are based upon past hurts and fears. Heal from these, and watch your future unfold.

3) Letting Go of Negative People

People have been guilted into keeping certain people in their lives. Most often, it is negative family members that keep a hold on others. Do yourself a favor, and understand that you are not under any obligation to anyone. If someone can guilt you by saying, “If you really loved me, you’d put up with my negative behavior.” The reality is, though, that if they loved you, they’d let go of their negative behavior. The other possibilities is that they are not really aware of the hurt their behavior is causing.

Read and learn about negative people. There are several types. They tend to exhibit certain negative behaviors. They may blame you for everything or claim you’re doing the very behaviors they exhibit. This is why it’s important to understand who you are and what you are responsible for because the rest of it is all them. Understand that in much the same way that you can’t “make” people be mad, you can’t “make” them change either. The sooner you separate yourself from negative people, the sooner your life will be less complicated. Everyone will have some degree of negativity; however, relatively healthy people will be aware of it and honest with themselves to do something about it. It’s not advisable to cut everyone out of your life. You have to decide what you’re willing to tolerate. Ask yourself what a relationship with a negative person is costing you. If people cannot honor your boundaries, more restrictive boundaries need to be made, such as distancing yourself from them.

4) Knowing Your Worth And What You Deserve

This can be a confusing concept for people to grasp. They confuse being proud of their accomplishments with a lack of humility. People confuse being the best at something as being worthy of something. The truth is that people determine what their worth is. If you want to discover what you think your worth is, look at what you currently have. At some point, you prevented yourself from having more. It doesn’t matter how tall someone is, their education or anything else. If you believe you deserve happiness, you set out to have that or simply realize that all you need to do is let go of sadness.

Instead of asking yourself why you deserve something, ask yourself why you don’t. There is nothing superficial that can make you deserve something. Deserving something is not the same thing as earning something. You may have to work to achieve it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it. Ask yourself what you want, and decide to have it. Yes, you deserve it!

5) Learn to Truly Love Yourself

Loving yourself is not just an attitude you have about yourself. There’s more to it. You honor yourself, respect yourself, make healthy decisions, stop self-sabotaging behaviors and many other things. You set out to do what’s best for you. If you have self-destructive behaviors, it’s an indication that you don’t love yourself. The previous steps may reveal why you don’t love yourself; however, like everything else, this is a choice. You can choose to love yourself—step by step. Start today.

There are many things parents teach us. Sadly, many of life’s lessons aren’t taught to children. They are left to discover these things later in life. It could save a lot of time to know these things early on.

Take a moment to process your own internal assessment around these 5 life lessons. Which are you practicing in your life today? Which could you start practicing to improve the quality of your life?

7 Reasons Why It Rocks To Be Into Personal Development

Your focus on your own self development is one of the key characterisitcs that will determine success in your life. There are many people with goals, but are continually frustrated as to why they never accomplish them. Learning to study and develop yourself is a great way to not only reach those goals but to make you a better person overall. Here are seven reasons why it rocks to be into personal development:

1) You Have More Options

Anyone that takes the time to pour in to their personal development is going to have more options than those that do not. By continuing to learn or grow, you protect yourself against times when an entire industry may change. For example, those that worked in the automotive industry in the 80’s and 90′ probably thought that they had secure jobs. When outsourcing and technology took a lot of domestic jobs, many of those workers had nothing else that they could do. Continue to learn and grow and you will have more options when the unexpected happens.

2) You Will Make More Money

One of the great things about living in today’s information economy is that in general the economy rewards those who work hard and smart. For those that increase their abilities through personal development they will see their work skills and abilities increase as well. Many people simply come home and watch TV or play games when they get home from their day jobs. However, the person that understands personal development knows that staying motivated and learning more will lead to a higher pay day down the line.

3) Your Happiness Will Increase

People that take control of their personal development are generally happier than those that do not. This makes sense because if you are able to make all of the decisions and run your life the way you want, you are going to be more happy than those that do not have that ability. Many people falsely assume that when they spend more time developing themselves that they will be less happy because they have less time to do the things that they love. However, in the long run your happiness will increase along with your ability to make decisions that have positive effects on your life.

4) You Will Have More In Common With More People

In order to take charge of your personal development, you must be an avid reader and learner of many new subjects. With all of this new found knowledge, you will be able to relate more in depth to a wider variety of people. At the end of the day, a person’s success is usually determined by how good their network is at supporting their efforts and one of the best ways to grow an effective network is to engage the people you are around. Learning about new subjects and reading to enhance personal growth are a great way to do just that.

5) You Will Be More Financially Stable

One of the biggest reasons to take charge of your life through increasing your investment in your personal development is that you will be more financially stable. Most of finance is behavior related, and if people simply take the time to change the behavior around their financial actions they can quickly build long term wealth. Many people are intimidated by the thought of investing and paying off debt. However, those that continue to increase their personal development understand that money is a tool that we can live our lives through or can be controlled by. People that have financial stability and freedom are generally more happy and live with more purpose than those that do not. Gaining control over your behavior around money is a great first step to becoming more financially stable in your life.

6) You Will Live Longer

Perhaps the biggest benefit of taking control of your personal growth is that you will live longer. Studies show that people who live a life of purpose and do work that they love live many years longer than those that do not enjoy their work. In addition, those that take control of their lives understand the need to live a healthy life style in order to be the most effective that they can be. Instead of staying out late and eating whatever food they like, those that take personal growth seriously give their body time to rest and only fuel it with the best food possible. In this way, personal growth can lead to a healthier mind and body and an overall better life style for the person living it.

7) You Can Impact The World Around You

Finally, those that take control of their personal development understand that they can and will impact the world around them by living the most effective lives that they can. Many people now understand that in the world we live in with great technology we are no longer bound by the chains of the past. People that live all the way across the globe can impact people in other countries. Social media movements have started from a basement and resulted in policy changes for large government entities. There are many people that have changed the world after changing themselves, and you can be the next one. In order to reach your full potential and fulfill your dreams, you should start committing to your own personal development and starting treating your personal growth as the best possible investment you can make!

10 Habits That Hold You Back At Work

Whenever I work at something, I aspire to do a good job. However, there are several little bad behaviors that, when done for long enough, undermine my efforts to do great work. In this post I list 10 particularly stubborn habits that can undermine your efforts to be your best.

Do Any Of These 10 Habits Hold You Back At Work?

Most articles on workplace productivity have a tendency to focus on the positives. While implementing that is helpful, it is also important to cover attitudes and habits that may be holding you back. These negative habits are not often addressed, but they are equally important. Positive change can be outweighed by the persistence of poor actions. In terms of succeeding on the job, the following ten behaviors are definitely the most detrimental!

1. Poor Time Management

The leading cause of poor output is an inability to properly manage a schedule. Everyone who is serious about their work should use a calendar to track tasks and meetings. A lot of work can be crammed into a single day, but time can also quickly go to waste when it is not managed. Using a  planner can change everything for a lackluster worker, and with even a little structure to their day, they will witness a rapid transformation.

2. Succumbing to Procrastination

Today’s world is filled with more distractions than any workers have dealt with in history. Fast-paced media has cultivated a culture of shorter attention spans, so procrastination inevitably ensues. There are a lot of activities that can be considered time wasters, and all of them have lasting effects on your output. To eliminate interruptions, you need to be vigilant around your use of technology, to make sure you aren’t browsing Facebook or reading the news when you should be having that tough conversation with a customer or co-worker! Here are 17 more tips to overcome procrastination.

3. Confusing Busyness for Productivity

Many people wear themselves out with work that is wholly unnecessary. While they may feel productive, the truth is that they are just being busy. This is an entirely different thing, and it is actually bad for the organization overall. Ultimately, performing useless tasks simply amounts to wasting your own precious energy and keeping you from doing the things really matter. Only commit to tasks that have an objective and a timeline. If there is no timeline, create one! This will ensure steady progress towards the fulfillment of a desired outcome.

4. Acclimating to Disorganization

Even the best people get slowed down by clutter. Messy office spaces have always posed a threat to productivity, but today’s clutter extends to the virtual realm. A poorly managed computer can waste hours of  time, especially if files get misplaced or erased. Poor organization is a habit that must be stopped. When everything is neatly arranged, there are no longer delays or mistakes caused by searching for or misplacing things.

BTW, my wife just read this book, The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. She used the principles from the book to re-organize our home in a single day. It’s pretty remarkable how simple and effective the methods in the book are. They can be applied to your office or even your computer files as well.

5. Being Inflexible

Adaptability is vital for success in any office. People who cannot compromise and be flexible will have a hard time going far in their career. One individual’s inflexibility can often hold a whole company back. Meanwhile, a willingness to change enables the chance to meet new challenges and solve unexpected problems. An open mind is always important, especially for people who want to take on more expansive company roles.

6. Avoiding External Input

Once in a while, there will be a stubborn person that is always convinced of their rightness. By believing in the superiority of their own ways, they fail to include the thoughts and ideas of others. This single-minded thinking usually cannot account for all possible risks, and people who work in this way inevitable end up making poor decisions as a result. Listening is the only way to preemptively catch every potential problem. Productive and successful people are taught to emphasize everyone’s point of view in the workplace.

7. Losing Sight of Goals

The worst habit possible for people at work is a tendency to not make any goals. In a sense, it can be just as bad to have goals that you don’t fulfill. Both of these behaviors inhibit productivity before it has a chance to take root. People are only successful when they have an achievable aim in mind. Actualizing a big goal can be a tremendous reward. Without goals, there are no mechanisms of positive reinforcement to keep you moving forward.

8. Neglecting Cooperation

The best companies have teams that excel at working together. As such, behaving like a loner is an unwanted habit within professional fields. Productive people are sociable and collaborative. Remember, even one maladjusted outsider can cause a lot of issues for an entire organization at large. In high pressure situations, there cannot be a single weak link! All roles must be handled equally; otherwise, the entire operation can be hindered by a single non-contributor.

9. Abdicating Responsibility

When things go awry at work, the worst response is to blame someone else, especially if you had a hand in the problem. Those who never notice their shortcomings are not able to fix them. As a result, it is always best to admit fault if you make a mistake. This allows the difficulty to be avoided in the future. It also establishes credibility and integrity, which makes up for a slight malfeasance. Also, zero time will be wasted identifying a culprit if the wrongdoer just comes clean.

10. Failing to Keep a Clear Mind

A preoccupied mind will obstruct productivity worse than anything else. There are many psychological states that can be damaging to mental clarity. Without sharp thinking skills, being creative and doing your best work becomes almost impossible. To get rid of this bad habit, simply look into calming exercises like yoga and meditation. By finding an energetic outlet for emotions, it is easy to gain critical thought processes without the interference of unwanted feelings. In truth, nothing can stop someone who possesses extreme concentration and focus!

overthinking mental tension

11 Simple Ways To Stop Overthinking Everything

I’m a pro at overthinking things!

This has given me the requisite experience to come up some ways to cope and address the problem.

As human beings we are very good at solving problems with very few variables. Completing basic tasks like doing laundry, preparing a meal or driving to the store are examples of this. We are also very good at solving problems with countless variables. Complex music, intricate works of art, architecture or software are examples of this.

However, we are very poor at solving problems with anything in between. For example, most of us struggle to solve a problem with more than three variables without a pencil in our hand!

This is where much of the angst of an overactive mind arises. Our minds work extra hard to try to solve a problem with many different variables, that is sufficiently complex to be confusing and frustrating, but not so utterly complex as to allow our minds to tap into our full creative potential to cope with the complexity by breaking it down into parts or just trusting that the outcome will be OK as long as our focus remains on the work required and not the outcome.

In the business world, the term analysis paralysis is commonly used to describe this tendency to overthink things. In our everyday lives, it’s witnessed as mental tension, stress and laziness.

At it’s most basic level, overthinking everything is simply unpleasant and keeps you (and I!) from moving forward and making progress. At it’s most extreme level, overthinking can utterly and completely shut you down and cause severe anxiety and feelings of futility.

It is super important to understand that if you have a tendency to overthink things, you are simply being human. There is nothing wrong with it. We are hard-wired to constantly seek solutions to problems. We also must understand that we can use our own intellect and mental function to identify when we are “spinning our mental wheels” in vain and get out of this thought pattern.

There are tangible and simple ways to stop overthinking everything. Review the list below and the next time you find yourself caught up in your thoughts, apply just one of the techniques below to free yourself from the chains of overthinking. You are bound to find relief from stress and just might discover a creative solution to your problem in the process.

1) Let go of the results, focus only on what you can control

An underpinning of a spiritual text that has greatly impacted my life, The Bhagavad Gita, is that we can find happiness and live our duty (“dharma”) in life by focusing solely on our required labor, not on the fruits of our labor. Focusing on results can create stress based upon the uncertainty of the outcome. On the other hand, focusing on our work instantly puts us in the realm of something we can control. The result is less mental tension and improved ability to work through complex problems.

Krishna (the Lord) gives Arjuna (the King) precious advice to help him deal with the stress of going to war against his own family. Image source: unknown.
Krishna (the Lord) gives Arjuna (the King) precious advice to help him deal with the stress of going to war against his own family. Image source: unknown.

2) Cultivate positive emotions

In loving memory of Spike
In loving memory of Spike

Overthinking and the negative emotions that result from it can be hard to neutralize. A while ago I witnessed this first hand, as I struggled to cope with the loss of my beloved dog and best friend, Spike. After he passed, I was in pain for many days. I literally felt broken inside and my mind was spinning, thinking of all the things I could have done to have kept him healthy longer.

Speaking with my mom, she told me something that completely changed how I felt. She reminded me that as I am grieving, I need to not forget that there is someone else in my life that needs my care and attention.

You see, I have another dog, Duke, who was also surely missing his big brother, but couldn’t express his sadness the way humans do. I focused my attention on making sure Duke got plenty of love. Whenever I felt sad about Spike and witnessed my mind racing and overthinking his passing, I shifted my focus to Duke. I focused on giving him all the care in the world. With that shift in focus, my grief lifted and my mind stopped overthinking and feeling guilty about doing more to take care of his health earlier in his life. I was able to think clearly and find peace.

3) Mindfully complete simple tasks

When I am in the middle of complex tasks and find myself overthinking things, I often shift to small and simple tasks that require less mental horsepower. For example, I will do the laundry, mow the lawn, pay some bills, walk my dog (his name is Duke and he is always up for walks!).

Doing a bunch of simple tasks gives me a feeling of success. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. It also teaches my brain to solve and finish problems. When I return to the complex task (e.g. creating a presentation, preparing for a coaching client meeting or writing on this blog), I find that I am able to stay focused without any mental stress. My brain is primed and ready to finish the task, complex or not!

4) Meditate

pranayam

There are so many reasons why you should meditate. Below are just a few of the scientifically proven benefits:

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Decreased depression
  • Increased pain tolerance
  • Increased memory and learning capacity
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Better capacity to set goals
  • More pronounced empathy
  • Higher “alpha” waves – resulting in less tension, sadness, anger
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Increased oxygen and CO2 processing capacity
  • Better immune system function
  • Cellular and DNA protection
  • Potential anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, anti-heart disease benefits

Sitting to meditate for even 10 minutes will stop overthinking in its tracks. Meditation is like a mirror that lets you look deep down into who you are and how things are going. With even a short meditation session you can witness the overthinking mind. With this awareness, any negativity associated with it will drop away.

If you don’t know how to meditate, no worries, I have some super simple instructions right here.

5) Consciously overthink things

This is a technique that I learned from Tony Robbins. It is used to break up old mental patterns and replace them with new and empowering ones. In my application of the technique, I simplify things to just allow you to see the humor in overthinking everything. You see, it is when we are calm and at peace (on the inside, I’m talking about your mental state not physical state) that we are able to tap into our greatest inner genius.

Let’s say you are trying to prepare a presentation and getting caught up in how to lay out your slides and what stories to tell for maximum impact. Take a few minutes to consciously and proactively overthink the scenario. What are all the ways you could arrange your slides? What are all the different stories you could tell? What are all the different things you could be doing right now to keep yourself from focusing on building your presentation? What are all the different objections that people in your audience could have for you?

Really go overboard with this. Find the humor in it. Imagine yourself with 10 arms, all flailing around creating thousands of slides to cover all the bases. Imagine you are typing so fast the keyboard is smoking and about to light on fire! Really make the scene ridiculous in your mind’s eye.

Now, take a deep breath and take look at your presentation. Realize that overthinking doesn’t help you get your work done. It just stands in your way.

Now imagine yourself methodically and deliberately creating your presentation. Imagine yourself just doing your work and not worrying about the result, one step at a time.

Go back to your presentation, and start working with a renewed sense of focus and a calm mind.

6) Get some exercise

Exercise, like sleep, is like pushing the reboot button on your mind. You cannot go out for a run (or yoga or skateboard or whatever exercise you like) and not come back to your work in a different state of mind. I find that many times, my overthinking tendency is worst when I have tons of energy that I haven’t burned off.

194H

Get outside for some exercise and you will find that mental tension and overthinking is no longer an issue when you return home.

 

7) Breathe calmly (Pranayma)

The tone and tenor of your breathing is a direct representation of your mental state. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and take 5 deep breaths in and out through your nose. You will notice a difference in how you think and feel, guaranteed.

Yogis have known this secret for years, and it is why Pranayama has been a long-standing practice and pre-requisite for those wishing to explore higher states of consciousness. It is just as important as physical exercise and mental-meditation.

6a00d834539cc469e200e553b0f1b68833-320wi

A particularly powerful technique is called Nadi Shodhana. Practice it for a few minutes and your mind will laser-focused, like the Death Star, but in a good way 🙂

8) Practice fixing your gaze on one point

Just like the breath, the eyes say a lot about the state of your mind (and some believe, your soul itself!). Many yogis deep in their spiritual work will avoid eye contact for this very reason, it is a gateway to your inner being.

Whether you believe this or not, it is should be widely understood that just like the eyes and their erratic movement indicates overactivity in the mind, that fixing your gaze (without staring!) can in turn provide a calming and focusing effect on the mind!

To reduce overthinking and calm yourself down, practice gazing at one fixed point for a few minutes. I prefer to do this exercise in nature. I look at a tree, a patch of grass, a cloud, or even an animal (like my dog, Duke when he sleeping!).

Take notice that you are not straining your eyes. Blink normally and keep a calm and relaxed gaze. The more calm your eyes become, the more calm (and focused!) your mind will become!

9) Write out your thoughts

morning-pages2

Have you heard of “Morning Pages”. This is a practice of writing three pages, completely unfiltered, each and every morning. Popularized by Julia Cameron, she calls Morning Pages “the bedrock of creative recovery”.

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

I find that writing out thoughts, at any time of day, can unload the overthinking mind and help with focus and stress relief. What’s cool about building up a habit of writing in the morning is that is can pre-empt the overthinking mind from ever rearing its ugly head later in the day!

10) Take a nap

Naps are underrated! Just like exercise, a 20 minute nap works wonders. I like to take my naps in the afternoon, around 3pm, after going for a run and drinking a healthy smoothie. I don’t need to say much more about naps, just give it a try 🙂 .

Thanks to Spirit Science and Metaphysics for this graphic. http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/how-long-to-nap-for-the-biggest-brain-benefits/
Thanks to Spirit Science and Metaphysics for this graphic. http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/how-long-to-nap-for-the-biggest-brain-benefits/

11) Change your environment

It is said that Albert Einstein, in struggling to formulate his theory of relativity, achieved his biggest breakthrough while taking a break from working on his problem to relax by a fire and daydream.

Changes of environment work wonders to encourage new ways of thinking. Just like when you try to look at the night-time stars in the sky, they disappear when looked at directly, but emerge when seen from peripheral vision – you can find creative solutions when you allow yourself to examine problems indirectly.

If you find yourself overthinking, change your environment. Go to a coffee shop, park or library. Switch from using a computer to pencil and paper. Surround yourself with different people and talk about new things. Stop actively working on the problem and just daydream.

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These 11 simple ways to stop overthinking are powerful in their simplicity. Apply one of them (or several if you like) next time you find yourself caught up in your thoughts. You are bound to find relief from your mental strain and might even discover a creative solution to your problem in the process.

Have an idea for another way to stop overthinking everything? Let me know in the comments!

For The Love Of Running

I ran the 2015 Bolder Boulder 10K, and the imprint of 50,000+ souls trotting along is still echoing within me.

2015 Bolder Boulder 10K Finish...the stadium was packed!
2015 Bolder Boulder 10K Finish…the stadium was packed!

What a special thing. When else could you have so many people all moving together in one direction? Not even black friday doorbuster crowds at Walmart could compare. I am sure that each and every runner was experiencing at least a tiny bit of that joyous natural runners high for the rest of the day. I bet the dispensaries did little business that day.

I never regret having gone out for a run. Even when I return from a hilly jaunt all sweaty and occasionally bloodied – I often run the trails you know – I am glad I did so. I can’t say that about all things.

Running puts me into that state of mind that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “Flow”. I just feel good when I am out there and warmed up, cruising along and letting my mind wander. The slower paces suit me best.

Some people say that walking does the same for the them. It absolutely does not for me. I can walk all day long and while it might feel good, it is a totally different feel than the gliding sensation I get while jogging. It’s the difference between sorbet and high quality ice cream.

My joy of running went up remarkably after my experience with the Tarahumara during the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon (the one featured in the book “Born to Run”). For much of the race I was playing cat and mouse with a teenage Tarahumara girl trotting along in dollar-store jelly sandals, an ankle length skirt and a billowing blouse. Meanwhile, I was decked out full ultra-geek gear. She was crushing me, dancing along the rocks like a little mountain goat. I was lumbering through in survival mode. How she managed to finished the 50+ mile trail run was beyond me, but she did it.

What did she know that I didn’t?

That experience made me question why I was so uptight about tracking all my times and competing on Strava and with myself. I started to take a more lighthearted approach to running. The less I stressed about my runs and the fewer time and distance goals I placed around them, the more I enjoy them.

This doesn’t means I don’t set goals around running. I still have a sense of how far and quick I want to cover ground in a training run or race, I just don’t take it so seriously. I also do things that are sacrilegious to a dedicated runner, I stop and walk when I feel like it or when I pass by a dog in need of a good pet. I will pause to chit-chat if I run into someone I know. I’ll sit on a rock to admire a view.

I now run for the love of running. Not to lose weight or to set a new PR. I run because I enjoy it. It makes me happy.

Why do you run?

The Definitive Guide To Building Good Habits

I need to be honest with you.

I’ve often struggled with maintaining good habits.

Exercising. Eating healthy. Waking up early. Writing every day. Meditating.

Some weeks I have no trouble maintaining a healthy habit routine, other weeks I seem to fall of the wagon. On the upside, I always have the intention to do these things. The follow through (or lack thereof) is the problem!

This week has been no exception. My diet has been atrocious. Lots of fried food, deserts and far too little exercise. To get back on the healthy bandwagon, I’ve been focusing on starting out the day the right way – with a nutritious green smoothie. I drink this smoothie 5 days a week. It’s habitual and gives me a solid nutrient-dense start to the day, regardless of whatever else happens. Next up will be combining my smoothie habit with a consistent exercise routine.

My frustrations and quest to adopt better habits has led me to research what it takes to build and maintain them. What have I found? It all boils down to this:

Habit-formation advice is ultimately simple — repeat a positive action consistently in the same context. 

The application of this simple advice is the hard part. This post is a summary of what I’ve learned, with more details to help you and I do the right thing, consistently. If you apply even a fraction of the learning from this post, you are bound to see big results.

For those that don’t want to read….I created the below infographic to summarize the content in this post. Enjoy!

Infographic created by Motivated Life.
Infographic created by Motivated Life.

 

Our Habits Dominate Our Lives

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Unconscious patterns rule our lives. We think we have complete control over our desire to eat the salad vs the donut, but the ingrained patterns of thinking and behavior ultimately lead us to our final action. Munch away on that bowl of greens or down the donut in one fell swoop – which behavior will you embrace?

What is great about habits are that once set, they do not require continued motivation to maintain. While my personal blog might be called Motivated Life, I don’t believe that it is possible or desirable to rely on motivation all the time. That would be silly. We need to build habits that will last for the long-term without requiring effort.

Habits are like dividends on your investments. Once you’ve built up a nest egg of good behavior, you can benefit from the continued goodness without paying attention to it.

With a quiver full of great habits, you will find a lot more time, energy and desire to do other cool stuff with your life. This makes complete sense. Habits are automatic, so while those healthy patterns operate you can go about using that extra mental and physical energy doing whatever you want. Or perhaps you will use the extra energy to just relax a bit more. Either way, life is better when you build up healthy habits.

When was the last time you spent money on a book, program or conference designed to improve some aspect of your life? The market for self-improvement is almost $10 BILLION per year in the US alone. This shows that people are hungry for change. The rest of this article is designed to show you how to change for good, with minimal effort over the long-term.

It all starts with committing to build good habits, and a willingness to invest some time and effort (dare I say “willpower”?) today so that you can live better for the rest of your life.

That’s a good trade-off right? A little work now for a happier and more fulfilling future? I’d take that trade any day.

How We Form Habits

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The ideas and thoughts that pop into my head often surprise me, sometimes scare me and every now and then totally confuse me! Our brains are infinitely complex organs. One reason I’m fond of meditation is that is allows me to better understand the craziness going on inside of my own head.

I also take comfort in the fact that there are some very smart scientists who have studied the brain and human behavior in-depth, providing simplified ways to understand things.

One model that is illustrative is the competency learning model.

Competency Learning Model. http://www.creativeaffirmations.com/self-actualization.html
Competency Learning Model. http://www.creativeaffirmations.com/self-actualization.html

The model demonstrates a progression of skills from requiring lots of conscious effort at first, to eventual excellence and unconscious application at the end.

Can you think of a case where this has applied to your own life?

For me, recently I decided to switch from snowboarding (where I am unconsciously competent due to 15 years of experience) to skiing (where I was unaware of just how poor a skier I am!). I know that with time it will get easier. I just need to stick with it. I need to progress from being unconsciously incompetent (#1) to unconsciously competent (#4).

Even better, if you approach skill development properly and find your flow, the progression from #1 to #4 can be enjoyable.

Habits form as we adopt new behaviors that do not require a significant effort to maintain. They become second nature. Like an expert skier who won’t need to put in much effort to cruise down a powder run, an unconsciously competent person can receive more benefit with less effort. At that point, the activity can even be considered fun.

Habits Form By Doing Not Thinking

Habits get formed when we actually do things. Thinking about stuff doesn’t do much towards building good habits.

For example, you can read a ton of books about business and sales and think you know how to sell and market properly. You would be mistaken. You actually need to act in order to learn and grow.

A great and very specific example of this is the coffee challenge, as popularized by Chief Sumo Noah Kagan. For the coffee challenge, Noah challenges people to test their ability to “ask for something” by requesting their barista for a 10% discount on their coffee….for no particular reason. The goal of the exercise is to get people off their butt and into the real world acting out to exercise a new behavior (in this case the behavior is “asking people for a favor with nothing in return”). According to Noah, while many think it would be an easy task to carry out, actually doing it is remarkably hard.

This exemplifies a key part in habit building. You must commit to action in order to actually build a new habit. Simply pondering or thinking about something isn’t enough. Action – at regular and sustained intervals – is required.

Habits Take Time To Form

I used to think that it took a week to form a habit. I don’t know where I got that idea. A week always seemed like a conveniently long chunk of time. If I could get used to doing something each and every day for an entire week, that habit was sure to stick around. Right?

Then I realized that a week wasn’t nearly enough time. Through my own trial and error, I saw that 10 days was a better time frame for building habits that stick. I think Tony Robbins “10-Day Health Challenge” convinced me to think that. Then came the rise of the 30-day challenge meme. Want to lose weight, meditate, get stronger, change you diet or all of the above? There are countless blogs out there tracking and reporting out the success (and failure) for a XYZ day challenge on any topic under the sun. Then of course, there is the mythical 40 day rule. Jesus rose and performed miracles during a  40 day period. So this must be the perfect stretch of time to form a new habit?

Nope.

To make things more confusing, there has been a myth – backed by science – that is takes 21 days to form a new habit. This myth is from the world of medicine, where Maxwell Maltz, a surgeon, found that it took on average 21 days for amputee patients to stop noticing their phantom limbs, signaling a change in brain chemistry. He also found that patients who had facial surgery, would identify with their new look as their own – in about three weeks. This must be the final answer! It is based on science!

Wrong.

There truth is that there is no specific answer to how long it takes to form a habit. The range of time required varies greatly, depending on the individual circumstance and the habit that is being engrained. The most relevant research study examined habit building across a wide range of activities, and found 66 days to be the median time required to build a new habit. But, there is considerable variance.

The lesson here is that if you can stick with a new habit for 10 weeks (66 days to be exact) you are more likely than average to retain the new habit for the long-term. Unless, of course, you aren’t average to start with, in which case it might take a lot less. If you are reading this article, chances are that means you too! You can also follow James Clear’s advice and forget about the time period, and just focus on DOING THE WORK until the habit inevitably forms.

6 Strategies To Build Good Habits

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You can find countless examples of successful habit building. There really is no one size fits all recipe for doing so though I have found a number of common themes, from reading personal stories and reviewing the scientific literature.

Here are a few of the top strategies I’ve found to help you form habits quickly and easily. OK, I’m not so sure about the easy part, and quick is a relative term (give it 10 weeks!), but if you can apply several of these towards building a new habit you will massively improve your chances of success.

1) Be Consistent In Your Approach

Habits form when you continuously invest in a new behavior to the point where the behavior moves beyond requiring conscious action to be maintained. The way this happens is through repetition, in the same way that brushing your teeth is an automatic activity (at least I hope so!) born from years of repetition.

When done consistently, any new healthy habit will eventually become the norm and take little effort to continue. For example, if you are building a meditation habit, commit to meditating at the same time, for the same duration, in the same way. Over time the habit will become ingrained more quickly through your consistent effort. Keep as many factors consistent as possible (time, duration, location, method used, etc.) to hasten the process.

2) Reinforce Positive Actions

Forming habits for not doing something will not work. For example, let’s say you want to form a habit for eating better. Creating a habit for “not eating fried food” will not activate our hard-wired capacity to build habits. You can’t build a habit around NOT doing something. Instead, build a habit around DOING something. Back to the healthy eating example, a good habit building activity would be “drinking a green smoothie every morning” or “eating a salad with every meal” or “drink 16 ounces of water with lemon first thing every morning”.

3) Aim Small, To Get Big Results

Setting big, audacious goals works to initially motivate you. However, you can’t build habits around outcomes that are overly complex and require a huge change from where you currently are.

For example, if you want to retire early, in 10 years instead of 40 years, you should do the work to understand what that takes in terms of required savings to fund your retirement. Then, decide on the very specific and small continuous actions that will ultimately get you to that goal. An example of this could be saving an extra $100 per week and investing that in a low-cost index fund. Once this habit is mastered, you can expand on it to either increase the amount saved per week, or build other money-saving habits (e.g. like cooking more meals at home) or revenue building habits (e.g. like saving up for a rental property or working on a side hustle).

Start by building habits that are very small (but in line with your big goals) and then build on those small habits. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, those small habits will multiply to become massive in no time. Just stick with it!

4) Vigilantly Monitor Bad Habits

Warning: this technique requires some motivation and effort.

Research shows that then you are able to detect and intercept a bad habit you can radically change behavior for the better. Simply identify a bad habit (e.g. sitting on the couch watching too much TV) while you are doing the bad habit. Once you catch yourself, identify the cue that resulted in doing the bad habit (e.g. perhaps you tend to sit on the couch shortly after getting home from work) and replace it with something positive.

In this example, when you get home from work, instead of having a seat on the couch, go out for a short walk, vacuum the floor, clean the bathroom, call a friend to say hello….do anything but sit on the couch! Over time, this interception of the bad habit will unhinge the behavior and it will release its grip on you.

I love journaling because it allows you to apply this technique at regular intervals. Keep your journal (or Evernote or whatever you use) handy during the day. When you notice a bad habit coming on, stop and write the following:

  1. What is the bad habit?
  2. What was the cue that instigated it?
  3. What good thing could you do instead?
  4. Then do #3!

5) Use Social Affirmation As Leverage

We change behavior more quickly and easily when there is social pressure involved. Derek Sivers and I both do not like to share goals with others until they are well under way. However I do rely on social pressure to encourage me to get into better routines and build habits that relate to my big goals.

When I worked at Microsoft, I used to enjoy early morning meetings, as it motivated me to get up and into the office on time. I also enjoy joining groups for yoga practice, running or cycling. Knowing that a group is waiting for me gives me the added boost to not skip out.

Even if you don’t share your bigger goals with others, find small habits you are working on, and figure out a way to connect with others to create some positive peer pressure. Join a group or club if you have to. Meetup.com is also a good resource to find like-minded groups aligned with a habit you are looking to build.

6) Apply Willpower Wisely

Let us also not forget that while habits – once established – do not require much effort to maintain – we have a special weapon in ourselves to help get the proverbial habit ball rolling. This weapon is called WILLPOWER.

Willpower is immensely powerful, but we have a limited supply of it. Spend willpower wisely by focusing your efforts on one habit at a time, and make it a small one. As you gain momentum, expand the habit to be bigger and more impactful. Build other good habits over time on top of the ones you already built.

Do These Strategies Really Work?

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It is my belief that YES – they do. The tricky thing is that science will never provide us with a bulletproof method. You need to sort out the answer yourself through trial and error.

At best, research studies can point us in the right direction. In one study, a dozen people with very severe nervous habits (like nail-biting, nervous ticks, shoulder jerking) virtually eliminated these habits in a SINGLE SESSION by following a protocol of movements that were the reverse of the bad habit, developing awareness of the habit and unlinking it from the usual response chain, and receiving social approval for his efforts to inhibit the habit.

This doesn’t mean that building new healthy habits is easy. It does mean that the strategies can be super helpful.

Apply the strategies in this article to focus on a clear and positive habit, establish a routine around the habit, monitor progress and finally…use social affirmation to get leverage around your new behavior. You are bound to find success. Just give it time (10 weeks for good measure!).

Habit Building Resources

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If you have made it this far, you are no doubt serious about building up new habits. You may find the following resources helpful in your quest:

Ben Gardner’s Health Habit Building Worksheet

This simple form was developed by Ben Gardner, a Health Psychologist, and his co-authors to help patients build healthy habits. I find that it can apply to ANY HABIT, not just health related habits. You can read their report on building good health oriented habits here.

Make a new healthy habit

Copyright British Journal of General Practice 2012. 

  1. Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve for your health.
  2. Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal which you can do on a daily basis.
  3. Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week.
  4. Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action.
  5. It will get easier with time, and within 10 weeks you should find you are doing it automatically without thinking.
  6. Congratulations, you’ve made a healthy habit!

My goal (e.g. ‘to eat more fruit and vegetables’) _________________________________________________

My plan (e.g. ‘after I have lunch at home I will have a piece of fruit’)

(When and where) ___________________________ I will ___________________________

Some people find it helpful to keep a record while they are forming a new habit. This daily tick-sheet can be used until your new habit becomes automatic. You can rate how automatic it feels at the end of each week, to watch it getting easier.
 
+ TICK SHEET!
tick sheet

SJ Scott’s Develop Good Habits

An amazing resource with free articles and numerous low-cost Kindle books for habit building in many areas of life. He is a stand-up guy who has good things to say. Check out his books!

Leo Babauta’s ZenHabits

A very popular site (one of the most popular blogs on the internet) focused on building and maintaining good habits. He also has a membership site/forum for people looking to join a peer group of positive habit builders. I’ve met Leo personally and he is remarkably humble and caring.

Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

A New York Times Bestseller on habit building, chock full of stories, anecdotes and research-backed ideas.

 

Call For Comments

Do you have ideas for building good habits? Let me know in the comments!