LIFE – How to Break a Bad Habit and Replace It With a Good One

How to Break a Bad Habit and Replace It With a Good One

Woman Drinking Using Mug

by James Clear
Read this on JamesClear.com
Bad habits interrupt your life and prevent you from accomplishing your goals. They jeopardize your health — both mentally and physically. And they waste your time and energy.

So why do we still do them? And most importantly, is there anything you can do about it?

I’ve previously written about the science of how habits start, so now let’s focus on the practice of making changes in the real world. How can you delete your bad behaviors and stick to good ones instead?

I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but keep reading and I’ll share what I’ve learned about how to break a bad habit.

What causes bad habits?

Most of your bad habits are caused by two things…

Stress and boredom.

Most of the time, bad habits are simply a way of dealing with stress and boredom. Everything from biting your nails to overspending on a shopping spree to drinking every weekend to wasting time on the internet can be a simple response to stress and boredom. [1]

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can teach yourself new and healthy ways to deal with stress and boredom, which you can then substitute in place of your bad habits.

Of course, sometimes the stress or boredom that is on the surface is actually caused by deeper issues. These issues can be tough to think about, but if you’re serious about making changes then you have to be honest with yourself.

Are there certain beliefs or reasons that are behind the bad habit? Is there something deeper — a fear, an event, or a limiting belief — that is causing you to hold on to something that is bad for you?

Recognizing the causes of your bad habits is crucial to overcoming them.

You don’t eliminate a bad habit, you replace it.

All of the habits that you have right now — good or bad — are in your life for a reason. In some way, these behaviors provide a benefit to you, even if they are bad for you in other ways.

Sometimes the benefit is biological like it is with smoking or drugs. Sometimes it’s emotional like it is when you stay in a relationship that is bad for you. And in many cases, your bad habit is a simple way to cope with stress. For example, biting your nails, pulling your hair, tapping your foot, or clenching your jaw.

These “benefits” or reasons extend to smaller bad habits as well.

For example, opening your email inbox as soon as you turn on your computer might make you feel connected. At the same time looking at all of those emails destroys your productivity, divides your attention, and overwhelms you with stress. But, it prevents you from feeling like you’re “missing out” … and so you do it again.

Because bad habits provide some type of benefit in your life, it’s very difficult to simply eliminate them. (This is why simplistic advice like “just stop doing it” rarely works.)

Instead, you need to replace a bad habit with a new habit that provides a similar benefit.

For example, if you smoke when you get stressed, then it’s a bad plan to “just stop smoking” when that happens. Instead, you should come up with a different way to deal with stress and insert that new behavior instead of having a cigarette.

In other words, bad habits address certain needs in your life. And for that reason, it’s better to replace your bad habits with a healthier behavior that addresses that same need. If you expect yourself to simply cut out bad habits without replacing them, then you’ll have certain needs that will be unmet and it’s going to be hard to stick to a routine of “just don’t do it” for very long.

How to break a bad habit

Here are some additional ideas for breaking your bad habits and thinking about the process in a new way.

Choose a substitute for your bad habit. You need to have a plan ahead of time for how you will respond when you face the stress or boredom that prompts your bad habit. What are you going to do when you get the urge to smoke? (Example: breathing exercises instead.) What are you going to do when Facebook is calling to you to procrastinate? (Example: write one sentence for work.) Whatever it is and whatever you’re dealing with, you need to have a plan for what you will do instead of your bad habit.

Cut out as many triggers as possible. If you smoke when you drink, then don’t go to the bar. If you eat cookies when they are in the house, then throw them all away. If the first thing you do when you sit on the couch is pick up the TV remote, then hide the remote in a closet in a different room. Make it easier on yourself to break bad habits by avoiding the things that cause them.

Right now, your environment makes your bad habit easier and good habits harder. Change your environment and you can change the outcome.

Join forces with somebody. How often do you try to diet in private? Or maybe you “quit smoking” … but you kept it to yourself? (That way no one will see you fail, right?)

Instead, pair up with someone and quit together. The two of you can hold each other accountable and celebrate your victories together. Knowing that someone else expects you to be better is a powerful motivator.

Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live.You don’t need to ditch your old friends, but don’t underestimate the power of finding some new ones.

Visualize yourself succeeding. See yourself throwing away the cigarettes or buying healthy food or waking up early. Whatever the bad habit is that you are looking to break, visualize yourself crushing it, smiling, and enjoying your success. See yourself building a new identity.

You don’t need to be someone else, you just need to return to the old you. So often we think that to break our bad habits, we need to become an entirely new person. The truth is that you already have it in you to be someone without your bad habits. In fact, it’s very unlikely that you had these bad habits all of your life. You don’t need to quit smoking, you just need to return to being a non–smoker. You don’t need to transform into a healthy person, you just need to return to being healthy. Even if it was years ago, you have already lived without this bad habit, which means you can most definitely do it again.

Use the word “but” to overcome negative self–talk. One thing about battling bad habits is that it’s easy to judge yourself for not acting better. Every time you slip up or make a mistake, it’s easy to tell yourself how much you suck. [2]

Whenever that happens, finish the sentence with “but”…

  • “I’m fat and out of shape, but I could be in shape a few months from now.”
  • “I’m stupid and nobody respects me, but I’m working to develop a valuable skill.”
  • “I’m a failure, but everybody fails sometimes.”

Plan for failure. We all slip up every now and then.

As my main man Steve Kamb says, “When you screw up, skip a workout, eat bad foods, or sleep in, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human. Welcome to the club.”

So rather than beating yourself up over a mistake, plan for it. We all get off track, what separates top performers from everyone else is that they get back on track very quickly. For a handful of strategies that can help you bounce back when you make a mistake, read this article.

Where to go from here

If you’re looking for the first step to breaking your bad habits, I’d suggest starting with awareness.

It’s easy to get caught up in how you feel about your bad habits. You can make yourself feel guilty or spend your time dreaming about how you wish things were … but these thoughts take you away from what’s actually happening.

Instead, it’s awareness that will show you how to actually make change.

  • When does your bad habit actually happen?
  • How many times do you do it each day?
  • Where are you?
  • Who are you with?
  • What triggers the behavior and causes it to start?

Simply tracking these issues will make you more aware of the behavior and give you dozens of ideas for stopping it.

Here’s a simple way to start: just track how many times per day your bad habit happens. Put a piece of paper in your pocket and a pen. Each time your bad habit happens, mark it down on your paper. At the end of the day, count up all of the tally marks and see what your total is.

In the beginning your goal isn’t to judge yourself or feel guilty about doing something unhealthy or unproductive. The only goal is to be aware of when it happens and how often it happens. Wrap your head around the problem by being aware of it. Then, you can start to implement the ideas in this article and break your bad habit.

Breaking bad habits takes time and effort, but mostly it takes perseverance. Most people who end up breaking their bad habits try and fail multiple times before they make it work. You might not have success right away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have it at all.

LIFE – This Is How to Stop Taking Yourself Too Seriously

This Is How to Stop Taking Yourself Too Seriously

Just follow rule number 6

“The mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it isn’t open.” — Frank Zappa

If you follow just one rule in life, choose rule Number Six.

Two prime ministers were having a casual conversation. One was intrigued about this rule that seemed so simple. The other man has just recommended it on two occasions with an immediate positive outcome.

First, a subordinate came to see him. He was upset, banging his fist on the desk. Then, a hysterical woman who was gesticulating wildly. After their boss reminded them of rule number 6, they both left the room in a positive mood.

The other prime minister was intrigued, “What is rule number 6?”

“Rule number 6 is don’t take yourself so damn seriously.”

The first prime minister laughed. He wanted to learn more, “So, what are the other rules?”

“There are no other rules,” was the answer.

The secret of life requires following one single rule. If you want to succeed and be happy, don’t take yourself too seriously.

The Center of the Universe

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” — Mark Twain

When we take ourselves too seriously, we believe everything revolves around us. That’s why we fear being ridiculed — we don’t want to face we are not so special.

The fear of shame kills our drive — we censor our desires to avoid being laughed at.

The paradox of shame is that, by looking for approval, we turn others into our judges. The fear of rejection makes us desperate for pleasing others. We become prisoners of other people’s judgment.

The fear of ridicule is anticipation — we worry about something that mighthappen.

As Brené Brown explains in his book Daring Greatly, seeking approval disconnect us from our desires. Women are expected to be naturally perfect. Men live under the pressure of not being perceived as weak. The author captures the need for worthiness in the sequence “pleasing, performing, and perfecting.”

External expectations are a moving target, as I wrote in this column. By trying to please everyone, we end pleasing no one — ourselves included.

Our self-worth is tied to how our audience receives our performance. If they love it, we are worth it. If they don’t, we feel worthless. Living our lives as an endless performance is exhausting — we are always playing a part.

Perfectionism is the enemy of change. The bar is so high that we never rest to have fun. We want to do everything the right way — one single mistake could ruin everything we’ve built.

When we take ourselves seriously, we take others seriously too — that’s why their opinions hurt us. You let their judgment define your identity — you accept the labels people give you.

The solution lies in finding balance: take life seriously, but not yourself.

As Alan Rickman said: “I do take my work seriously and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously.”

Goodbye Measurement World

“The notion that leaders need to be in charge and to know all the answers is both dated and distracted.” — Peter Sheahan

I consider myself a serious person — I take life seriously.

However, my peculiar sense of humor has allowed me to cope through turbulent times. A long time ago, I learned to stop looking for other people’s approval. If something goes well, I enjoy it. If it doesn’t, I move on.

I’m not immune to other’s people influence, but I’ve learned to own my actions. I do what feels right and take full ownership — there’s no room for blaming others or myself.

I feel comfortable being uncomfortable — vulnerability is recognizing my perfect imperfections. I learned to take life seriously, but not myself.

In the Art of PossibilityRosamund and Benjamin Zanders share 12 rules for bringing creativity into all human endeavors — rule Number Six is the best. The authors invite us to take a distance from our serious and heavy selves.

Our inner-self has been trained to ‘measure up’ in a competitive world — we look for external references to define our performance.

We live in a measurement world. Everything we do is measured against others. How much money we make. How beautiful our partners are. How happy we are. Our identity is relative to what other people have or do.

“The frames our mind create define and confine what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves in life, only appear unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view.” — Rosamund and Benjamin Zanders

Change your outlook. Move from measurement to possibilities.

When others laughed at you, they measure you against their expectations. But if you focus on achieving what you wish, regardless of what people think, you will reach your full potential.

Take leaders, for example. Those who feel superior try to suppress other to look even better. Those who feel inferior try to make others suffer too. When you stop measuring yourself against other’s expectations, you are not only free, but you don’t feel the need to change others.

We have two selves, according to the Zanders, our Calculating-Self and our Central-Self.

The Calculating-Self it’s us in survival mode — it sees everything as an attack on us. The Central-Self represents the generative, prolific, and creative nature of ourselves and the world. Instead of putting us at the center of everything, it appraises reality without an agenda.

The Central-Self is a softer, brighter, and lighter version of ourselves — it’s ego-less.

Rule Number 6 is a reminder to lighten up and not take ourselves so seriously! It releases us from selfish and self-limiting views — instead of trying to be appreciated we stop giving a damn.

The Power of Humor

“You can’t deny laughter. When it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.” — Stephen King

Do you consider yourself a serious person? Do you find it hard to let go?

There are two types of people. Those who find it easy to laugh at themselves. And those who take themselves too seriously. Laughing at yourself is more than a positive mindset — it improves our health also.

Research links laughing at oneself with having an upbeat personality and good mood. It’s at the foundation of having a sense of humor. However, laughing at oneself is not easy — it represents the most difficult (humor) level.

Those who laugh at themselves regularly are less prone to chronic stress too.

Adaptive humor — cheering people up or seeing the humor in adverse events, is connected to well-being and psychological health. It increases resilience, diminishes the risks of heart attacks, and helps us manage pain better.

Humor gives leaders an edge too. Employees mentioned “sense of humor” and “work ethic” twice as much as any other phrases to define what makes a good leader, according to a study by Bell Leadership Institute.

Taking ourselves with a grain of salt gives us perspective — we can learn from mistakes by observing from a distance.

Tips to Take Yourself Less Seriously

“Don’t push the river, it flows by itself.” — Chinese proverb

1. Confront the fear of being ridiculed:

End the vicious cycle — fear fuels more fear. Face it and get over it. As Seth Godin said, “Dance with fear. As you dance, you realize that fear is, in fact, a compass — it’s giving you a hint that you are onto something.” Use that fear as energy to leap forward.

2. Drop the ball on purpose:

I don’t mean metaphorically, just let something fall through the cracks. This will not only help you realize that one mistake won’t kill you — but it will also help you regain control. If someone complains, smile and tell them you did it on purpose. Erring on purpose prepares you for unexpected mistakes.

3. Change the tone, change the conversation:

The best way to overcome pressure from perfectionists is not taking them too seriously. Perfectionists tend to think in right-or-wrong terms — either you succeed or fail. Use humor to disarm their approach: show them life’s shades of grey.

4. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

This simple question can help you, and others, put things in perspective. I’m not telling you not to aim high, but to find balance. Write everything that comes to your mind. Are you worried about real things? Or are you taking small things too seriously? Reflect and separate worries from facts.

5. Become shame-resilient:

Learn to acknowledge the voice of shame when it’s calling your name. Face that emotion. Brené Brown suggests talking to your shame, “This is disappointing, maybe even devastating. But success and recognition and approval are not values that drive me. My value is courage. You can move on, shame.”

6. Add more humor to your life:

Surround yourself with funny people. Turn off the news and violent shows; watch a comedy instead. Use self-deprecation instead of nasty labels. Smile. Especially, when you feel nervous or upset. Find the humor in something serious. Getting used to laugh at yourself will make you immune to your audience’s laughter.

7. Let go of your reputation:

Your image is not you. It’s just what people perceive. Don’t let your self-worth depend on your audience’s applause. When your self-worth is not on the line, it’s easier to take more risks and be courageous. You stop thinking if you know how to dance or not. You just start swaying.


Life’s too short. Don’t take yourself so damn seriously. I know, it sounds easier said than done, but trying to impress others requires more energy. Learn to see the opportunity hidden within challenges.

Don’t take others too seriously either. Free yourself from the Measurement World. Be okay being vulnerable. Take life seriously, not yourself.

Regain the reins of your life

Life Is What Happens When You Are Not on Autopilot

Regain the reins of your life

Does life just happen to you?

A man is riding a horse that is galloping very quickly. He seems to be in a hurry — probably heading to an important place.

“Where are you going?” a man yells at him.

“I don’t know. Ask the horse,” the rider replies.

Sometimes, life feels like a horse we cannot control. We don’t know where we are heading or why. We are just running as this Zen parable captures. Most of us are living on autopilot — the horse holds the reins, not us.

We Are Sleep-Walking

“The inertia of the mind urges it to slide down the easy slope of imagination, rather than to climb the steep slope of introspection.” ― Marcel Proust

Who holds the reins of your life?

Adults make an average of 35,000 decisions a day. We’ve developed an unconscious decision-making system to manage routines. It prevents us from overloading our brains. However, modern life has hijacked our lives — the mechanism that should protect us is creating social disengagement.

When we live on autopilot, it feels like the horse is riding our lives, not us.

Our minds wander around most of the time. 96% of people admit making most decisions on autopilot, according to research — it has become an epidemic.

Autopilot is becoming our default operating mode — we are sleep-walking into our choices.

39% of respondents say they slip into autopilot while relaxing at home. And two-fifths say they’ve forgotten something while operating on that mode.

“People recognize that the choices they are making don’t add up to the life they want to live. We can all do better at living more purposefully. The opposite of autopilot is purposeful living,” explains Dr Mark Williamson.

Much of our lives are wasted by doing things mindlessly. Most people can’t remember what they watched on TV — research shows that binge-watching diminishes memory and perceived comprehension.

We are living on autopilot in the place where we need to pay the most attention: our home. People make decisions — such as what to eat, what to watch on TV, or what to wear — without putting any thinking, the study concludes.

As Professor Renata Salecl says, “We’re forgetting that, when we are at home, the important things are to interact with family and friends, without being constantly distracted.”

There’s another way to ride.

Autopilot Is Not Your Only Option

“The human spirit lives on creativity and dies in conformity and routine.” ― Vilayat Inayat Khan

Living on autopilot disengages us from both our present and future.

One exercise I love facilitating to help people reconnect with their life’s purpose is the future-self meditation.

Participants ‘travel’ to the future to visit themselves 1, 3, 5, and 10 years from now. The goal is to help people visualize their dreams and wishes. Each visit, in a different point in time, helps them visualize the progression but, most importantly, to understand how they overcame their fears and constraints.

To my surprise, most people find it hard to project their future — they are so disconnected from the present that they can’t dream.

Living on autopilot means leaning towards the most comfortable thinking mode. But we have two; we must learn to use both.

Though System 1 and System 2 have been around for quite some time, it was Nobel awardee Professor Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow, that turned them mainstream.

System 1 is an automatic, fast, and unconscious way of thinking — it’s our autopilot. This system is autonomous and efficient, though deceiving too. It’s more prone to bias and to make the same mistakes.

System 2 is slow, conscious, and effortful — it requires attention and energy. It’s more reliable and can filter the System 1’s misjudgments.

Our brain is lazy, as I wrote here — that’s why it leans towards System 1. Self-awareness helps us train our mind and avoid living on autopilot. It’s not that one is better than the other — we must learn to use those in a balanced way.

System 1 is ideal for quick decisions, based on little information. When you are driving your car or doing the laundry, you don’t need to overthink. However, you wouldn’t use it to make more significant life choices like choosing a career, which home to buy or whom to marry.

System 2 is ideal for handling more complex mental activities, such as logical reasoning, managing interpersonal relationships, learning new things or building habits. It can help you turn off the autopilot.

Take the Reins of Your Life

“If you feel like you don’t fit into the world you inherited it is because you were born to help create a new one.” ― Ross Caligiuri

Your brain has an autopilot mode — it’s called the ‘default mode network.’ This function is perfect for mundane activities such as driving or shopping.

To study this brain network, scientist taught participants how to play a new card game. Brain scans showed how memory regions were activated while participants learned to play the game. Once they familiarized with it, the brain ‘switch-off’ and the autopilot region lit up. Participants started to play better, performing more accurately and quickly.

Your brain autopilot boosts your performance when it comes to repetitive tasks. However, your life is not a card game — to think through a situation, problem or dilemma requires paying attention. Being more mindful is the answer.

But, first, regains the reins of your life.

1. Notice how you ride

Become more aware of your behavior. Are you living on autopilot because you want to or because it just happens? Are you making choices or merely letting your autopilot choose what shows you watch or the food you eat? Write a journal or take notes to increase awareness and challenge your behavior.

Be patient. It takes time to regain the reins of your life.

2. Ride with a purpose

What’s your end destination in life? How do you want to be remembered? As the saying goes, “Choose something worth dying for, and live for it.” Your life’s purpose should guide and inspire your actions. Having a clear destination will help you avoid useless shortcuts.

Keeping your purpose present will bring more intention to your everyday activities.

3. Bring meaning to your routines:

There’s nothing wrong with letting the horse ride freely — the problem is when autopilot becomes your driving system of choice. Habits drive focus and efficiency. However, they must be connected to your life’s purpose and goals.

Don’t let your routines dictate how you live, bring mindfulness to everyday chores.

4. Stop and reflect:

When you squeeze back on the reins, the horse comes to a halt. A pause is more than slowing down — it’s creating space to start paying attention. You can reflect on your life. What do you like? Are you enjoying what you are doing? What’s going on? Are you focused or distracted? Why?

We are prisoners of our busy minds; pausing sets yourself free.

5. Go beyond your comfort zone:

When we live on autopilot, we stop challenging ourselves — you end up bored and repeating yourself. Discomfort is a doorway to personal discovery and growth. Learning happens when you stretch beyond your comfort zone. Test your limits. Try new things.

Build a habit of continually experiencing new things — you don’t need to skydive to feel alive.

6. Make better decisions:

For simple things, follow your gut (System 1). However, if your gut is not certain, think it through. Avoid cognitive biases — challenge the first solution that comes to mind. Remember, your lazy brain will jump into the most comfortable conclusion, not the best one. Lastly, for important decisions, always think them through.

7. Move from FEAR to DARE

Sometimes, choosing to drive on autopilot could be an excuse to not paying attention. When you don’t know what’s wrong, you don’t feel the need to make any changes. FEAR is the acronym for Fighting, Excuses, Avoidance, and Repetition — it’s how resistance manifest. The antidote to FEAR is DARE — Discovery, Autonomy, Reframing, and Experimentation. Here’s how.

Be authentic. Be brave. Dare to change.


Letting life happen to you is easy. But, if your autopilot is always on, you are just existing, not living.

Being on autopilot prevents mundane activities from overloading your brain. However, behaving with intentionality and mindfully lets you enjoy life, not just live it.

Regain the reins of your life — you decide when to drive on autopilot and when not. Not the horse.

Start-ups – Techniques to help you make hard decisions

Six science-backed techniques to help you make hard decisions

Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

The typical adult makes 35,000 decisions each day.

If you do the math (and account for seven hours of sleep), that’s about 2,000 decisions every hour — or one choice every two seconds.

Most decisions are actually micro-choices, like clicking a link or taking a sip of coffee. But some choices feel momentous.

An internal tug-of-war indicates that something big is at stake. You sense that the choice could significantly affect your happiness, freedom, pride, or personal fulfillment.

If you’re running a business, there are even more decisions to make — and many are critical to the health of your company.

The good news? Science is continually discovering new and better ways to make tough decisions.

As Lea Heinrich writes in the New York Times, “over the past few decades, a growing multidisciplinary field of research — spanning areas as diverse as cognitive science, management theory and literary studies — have given us a set of tools that we can use to make better choices.”

Unfortunately, none of these tools can actually make the decision for you.

“They are prompts, hacks, nudges,” says Heinrich.

“They’re intended to help you see the current situation from new perspectives, to imagine new possibilities, to weigh your options with more sophistication.

There is no foolproof algorithm for life’s difficult choices. But the research shows that you can get better at making them.”

In the 12 years since I started JotForm, my team and I have faced a lot of tricky choices, and I’ve tried many different decision-making techniques.

Here are six methods that I rely on when I’m losing sleep over a challenging decision.

1. Make a “value-based” pros & cons list

Imagine that you’re considering a move. Will you relocate to another city? Pull out a piece of paper and write a classic pros and cons list for the move.

Now, here’s where science has added a helpful twist.

Assign every list entry a number from 0 to 1, based on your personal values. For example, if being closer to your family is a “pro” that’s extremely high on your list, you might score it at 0.9 or 0.95.

If you listed “near the mountains” as another pro, but you’re more of a culture hound than an alpine hiker, then it might only rate 0.2 or 0.3.

Do the same for the “con” side. Leaving a job you love could score 0.8, for example, if your career is an essential part of your life.

Add up each side, multiply by 100, and see whether the pro or con side wins out. You can also make a separate pro and con list for staying where you are. Compare the final values and see how you feel about the outcome.

Often, confronting a “logical” number (which was actually weighted with emotions) can illuminate subconscious feelings.

If you see the numbers but still feel pulled in the opposite direction, it’s worth doing some deeper exploration.

You can also use this technique for smaller, less personal decisions, like which project or feature to tackle next.

2. Explore future scenarios

Considering the best- and worst-case scenarios is a common way to make tough choices.

What’s the very best future you can imagine? The worst? And how would you feel if that disastrous scenario became reality?

To expand on this technique, psychologist Gary Klein has studied a twist he calls the “premortem.” In a classic Harvard Business Review story, Klein explains why a premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem.

“A postmortem in a medical setting allows health professionals and the family to learn what caused a patient’s death. Everyone benefits except, of course, the patient. A premortem in a business setting comes at the beginning of a project rather than the end, so that the project can be improved rather than autopsied.”

Imagine that your decision was terrible. The project you chose to tackle was a crash-and-burn disaster. Now, explore every possible reason for the failure.

Once you address this worst-case scenario, you can take steps to prevent it — and make a better decision in the first place.

In fact, research shows that premortems (which are also called prospective hindsight) can increase our ability to identify future outcome causes by 30%.

On the flip side, try to visualize that epic, best-case future scenario and gauge how you feel. If you’re not happy or excited, it’s worth considering why.

Amazon uses a variation of both these techniques. Company developers must draft a hypothetical press release and FAQ announcement before they even write any code.

By working backwards, the team tackles the most difficult decisions upfront and clarifies the product’s value proposition. As reporter Jillian D’Onfro explains, “if the team can’t come up with a compelling press release, the product probably isn’t worth making.”

3. Avoid binary choices

We often get stuck choosing between this or that. Should I go back to school or start a business? Should I move to San Francisco or stay in Houston?

It’s easy to see the world in black-and-white, but there’s typically a grey option in the middle — or several shades of grey.

Maybe you could spend summers in San Francisco (as long as you can embrace Karl the Fog) and winters in Houston. Or, you could live in Houston for another couple years and move to the Bay Area later.

Sometimes the right choice is not one of two opposites. It’s a more creative, nuanced, or flexible solution.

4. Consult with others

Sharing your dilemma with others can justify or reinforce a choice, but more importantly, it’s a valuable way to gather valuable information.

If you can’t decide whether to move, for example, don’t just survey your friends and family (who will also have skin in your game); talk to someone who made the same move. Ask how they feel now about their decision.

For professional or business decisions, try hiring a consultant. Find people who have deep, niche expertise and learn as much from them as you can.

The extra information you gather will almost inevitably help you make better choices in the future.

5. Give yourself enough time

I still remember the day I quit my job. As I climbed the two flights of stairs to my boss’s office, my heart was thumping in my chest. My legs were shaking and my mouth was parched.

I knew it was the right choice, but my mind raced: “Am I making a mistake? Should I turn around? Maybe I should stay another year.”

But, I made it to his office and had the conversation I was dreading.

I had been thinking about this leap for at least two years, and my side products were easily paying the bills. Taking time to choose empowered me to make one of the best decisions of my life.

6. Avoid hidden decisions

For nearly 6,000 years, North America’s First Nations hunted the plains buffalo by chasing them over cliffs and finishing the kill below.

This method enabled tribes to gather and store large quantities of meat, hide and fat for the long winter ahead.

I always wondered why so many bison would just run over the cliff. They were usually pursued by hunters on horseback, for one, but it’s also an example of herd behavior. All the animals are just following the group, letting the flow take them where it will.

Buffalo jumps are a good metaphor for hidden decisions or non-decisions, which we’ve all experienced at times. When you procrastinate or delay an important choice, you’re still making a decision — and it’s rarely a good one.

For example, maybe you need to part ways with an employee, but you put it off to avoid a potential confrontation.

If the employee is negative, unpleasant, or ill-suited to their role, the choice to wait and delay can poison the whole team. Non-decision is a choice with real consequences.

Those 35,000 daily choices can be daunting, but quick action is the enemy of decision fatigue. Choose fast and whenever possible, tackle your choices head-on.

Use as many methods as you need to pick the best solution. Just don’t follow the herd. Choose what’s best for you — and then stand firm in your decisions.

One final note: if you’ve started a business or launched a product and you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the decisions, please know that it does get easier. Once your business is stable, many of the big, foundational choices are done and you will reach equilibrium.

Then it’s time to focus on the constraints. Determine where you can make the most important, impactful decisions, and use them to grow or refine your business.

Remember: decision-making gets easier with practice, and a new choice is always just seconds away.

LIFE – How To Be Successful

How To Be Successful

Simple, though not always easy

Someone once emailed me to ask,

“What belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life? And what two things do you think makes people so successful?”

Bud, I don’t even have to give you two. I only need to give you one. (And actually, you know what? I’ll break that one into two just to humor you and really get down into it. See “how to get” it, below.)

It’s not planning. It’s not passion. It’s not introversion or extroversion. It’s not intelligence.

The number one thing is PERSEVERANCE / GRIT

Taking action, regardless of setbacks, rather than making excuses. Pushing through. Relentlessness. Work ethic — but even in the face of adversity. Hunger.

I read a shit-ton of biographies, autobiographies and memoirs, and one thing I’ve noticed across all of these amazing people? Their response to incredible challenges, situations where most people would fold — but they kept going.

The difference with successful people isn’t that they never experienced setbacks — it’s that they didn’t stop.

I know a lot of readers just skimmed this post for “the one thing” answer and a lot checked out after reading it, like: “yeah yeah yeah okay — I get it!” Which is adorably ironic, because they don’t. Many of us — myself included, often — don’t internalize what perseverance, grit and relentlessness means enough to harness it.

Perseverance is not surface-level.

If you think perseverance means making a show of productivity, or working half-heartedly, without alignment with a deep underlying goal, then you’re wrong.

Perseverance isn’t stand-alone. It’s always rooted in something stronger than itself.

In other words:

Grit and relentlessness may be the number one CAUSE of success, but they themselves are EFFECTS of something deeper.

How to get grit

The two things that make it up:

1.) Knowing with absolute specificity what you want.

2.) Wanting it more than you want anything else.

Get those two things, and the rest resolves itself. You won’t need plans, you won’t have to fall back on or recall your “passion.”

What “want” looks like

It means not having to be told what to do. It means ownership. Most of us slack on this — myself included.

As Tim Grover wrote in Relentless,

“Tell yourself what to do, and stop waiting for others to lay it all out.”

Desire is intrinsic and instinctive, not extrinsic or authority-based. It’s action and ownership over excuses.

It’s not thought. It’s not even emotion, really. It’s energy; certainty; flow.

How do you “know what you want?”

Fam, I don’t know what you want. I can’t tell you that, because I’m not you. You need to work out the details for yourself.

But: you just know. Engage and see where you lean. Whatever is authentic; whatever makes you energized; whatever gives you flow and certainty and power.

What “specificity” looks like

It either has metrics defined in the goal (lose 50 pounds) or parameters are defined by external systems (win a chess tournament.)

But “lose weight” is not a goal. “Start a business” is not a goal. “Be the best basketball player” is a goal, but “play a sport” is not. Be a top chef, yes, “learn to cook” no. “Find a hobby” is not a goal, and neither is “discover my passion.” If you think any of those are, your real goal is “figure out your shit.” And the solution isn’t to sit around daydreaming up a big plan, or “soul-searching,” because that quickly becomes navel-gazing. The solution is to chase what interests you.

What wanting it “more than anything else” looks like

Here’s what people don’t internalize:

Wanting it ‘more than anything else’ means: making sacrifices.

If you are truly “all-in” on one thing, you give up other things. So: what are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want?

This is why I have absolutely zero patience for people who claim to be “100% focused” on things like “finding a spouse by [x age]” — but then immediately cite a checklist of total bullshit.

Fam, no. It’s adorable to hold out for both when you have time. But as you get down to the wire, you have to decide: you either want someone within that timeframe — and you’ll relinquish your lame checklist, or you’re willing to hold out for perfection — and risk never finding them. You are always choosing one of these, whether you actively do so or not.

And it’s the same with any goal.

Perseverance is not inspiration or motivation or “feeling like it”

Serrriously fuck off with this shit.

I say this all the time, but:

‘Inspiration’ and ‘motivation’ are the greatest crocks of the universe.

Too many people think that successful people are more “motivated.” Dawg, I don’t even know what that means, but if you mean “relentless hunger,” then go get it — you have everything you need.

Anything who’s accomplished anything of value does it outside of the hours of feeling “motivated” to do so. Successful people do it regardless. I’m not saying you don’t get inspired — that’s wonderful, Susan — but inspiration is never what carries anyone to the goal line.

Elizabeth Gilbert called it “working like a mule.”

In his book Relentless, Tim Grover wrote, of the hard work required of excellence:

“I’m not telling you to love it. I’m telling you to crave the result so intensely that the work is irrelevant.”

He also wrote,

“You can read clever motivational slogans all day and still have no idea how to get where you want to be. Wanting something won’t get you anywhere. Trying to someone you’re not won’t get you anywhere. Waiting for someone or something to light your fire won’t get you anywhere.”

So what will, you ask? It’s like you didn’t even read, because the answer is:

  1. Knowing with absolute specificity what you want.
  2. Wanting it more than you want anything else.

And how do you know “what you want?” To reiterate:

It’s either screaming in your face, or others are. Sometimes it’s both, but you only need one.

Do the work — even when it’s hard

Be uncomfortable with the uncomfortable.

Keeping going when things get hard. Because they will.

And if you want it badly enough, you will.

LIFE – Habits are the Compound Interest of Self Improvement

“person wearing black-and-white Nike low-top sneaker” by SJ Baren on Unsplash

People struggle to develop and maintain new habits because they make their efforts unsustainable.

  • They work out like crazy for a few days (usually at the beginning of the year), and never go back to the gym.
  • They try to meditate for 30 mins one day and don’t give it another shot until 10 days later
  • They try to build an empire fueled by a burst of inspiration on a random Saturday afternoon.

When people attempt to make a change this way, they overlook the profound power of consistencyWhen it comes to developing and maintaining a new habit, frequency matters more than intensity. If you do something frequently, a compounding effect will start to take place.


Build the Identity of the Person You Want to Become

To build the identity of the person you want to become, ask yourself what the behavior of a person who has the habit you want to develop is?

  • What is the behavior a person who is in shape? They go to the gym consistently
  • What is the behavior of a prolific writer? He or she cracks open a notebook every day.

James Clear refers to this as identity-based habit formation. In An Audience of One, I shared a story James told me on the Unmistakable Creative podcast about one of his readers who lost over 100 lbs. Instead of setting a goal to work out, he set a goal to drive to the gym, and he would only allow himself to stay for 5 minutes. After a certain point, he realized that he might as well work out. If you take the first step towards a habit, the inertia is often enough to carry you to the next one.

Note: I was fortunate to get a sneak peek at James’ New book, Atomic Habits(available for pre-order on Amazon). An interview with him, which will air next wee inspired the idea for this post.


Take Minimum Viable Actions

Sometime last year we launched an online course called Finish What You Start. In the process of developing that course, our copywriter Kingshuk Mukherjee came up with the term minimum viable action. In the same way, a startup can launch a minimum viable product; you can take minimum viable actions to develop a new habit.

  • If you want to develop a writing habit, your minimum viable action could be sitting down at your desk or cracking your notebook open
  • If you want to read more, it could be sitting down in a specific chair with a book in your hands

When you take a minimum viable action, the inertia is often enough to carry you to the next step. You build momentum and the identity of a person who has your desired habit until you become the next best version of yourself.


Raise Your Level of Intensity Gradually

In a recent episode of the Unmistakable Creative, I asked Chris Bailey how people can get better at managing their attention. And he said the following:

If you’re not on a deadline, you’re going to work on something until you feel no resistance to it. Could I write for an hour today? No the thought of it puts me off. What about 45 minutes? Thirty-two? Twenty fifty? Yeah, I can do 15. Then refocus for 15 minutes. You find that resistance level to tame distractions and then over time as you ritualize this idea you block off periods in your calendar to get into this mode. Over time you lower that default level of stimulation the amount of dopamine coursing through your brain because of this novelty bias that’s embedded within us and you become better able to think more deeply about your work.

When something becomes effortless for you, raise the level of intensity. In the same way, you’d never go from lifting 25lbs to 100lbs in one day, you want to increase the level of intensity to the point where you can get there without too much resistance, but it’s still somewhat challenging. To put it more concisely, bend but don’t break.


What if You Miss a Day?

After 7 years and 2 books, I still miss the occasional writing day. Sometimes it’s because I’m in bed with someone (a good reason to miss a writing day). Other times it’s because I’m hungover, and occasionally I need a break. One way to handle this is to reduce the scope but stick to the schedule. Instead of writing a 1000 word, I write 500. Many people quit altogether after they miss one day. But if you make your goal progress instead of perfection, you won’t be so demoralized by missing one day.


Develop a Keystone Habit and Stack More

When you try to change too many habits at once, none of them stick. If you try to become a person who reads every day, writes every morning, goes to the gym 3 times a week, and meditates daily all in the span of a week, none of those habits will stick.

But if you start with one keystone habit, it will create a ripple effect into every other area of your life.

  • One of my first keystone habits was surfing. When I got into the habit of surfing almost every other day, I started drinking less when I went out. I valued being up in the morning because that’s when surf conditions are usually best.
  • After I developed the keystone habit of writing 1000 words a day, what followed was reading every day, and eventually a consistent meditation habit.

The best time to stack a second habit is after you’ve maintained the first one with consistency. If you go through this process of stacking, eventually you’ll find yourself making the impossible possible.


The Compounding Effect of Habits

Every now and then I have a friend who will tell me they want to learn how to surf. I share a story with them that I mentioned in my previous book, Unmistakable: Why Only is Better Than Best.

A few weeks after my first three attempts to surf, I went to happy hour at a bar in La Jolla. The guy sitting next to me had been a long time surfer who gave me a simple piece of advice that made the difference between me quitting and becoming a surfer. He told me to go 50 times because by that point I’d be too invested to quit.

While he didn’t state it explicitly, he understood that every surf session would have a compounding effect. It took more than 15 sessions before I stood up on a wave. Eventually, I worked my way down from the Costco Wavestorm to riding a 6-foot shortboard and found myself surfing at a skill level that seemed impossible when I started. I had a similar experience with snowboarding. After two seasons and close to 30 days on the mountain, I got to a point where I was able to get down a black diamond.

The progress we experience from the compounding effect of any habit isn’t immediately visible. As a result, people give up quickly. They don’t realize that every day the show up they’re building momentum. They are moving closer and closer to a breakthrough or inflection point.


Systems Vs Goals

I’ve said before that having a system is essential increasing your creative output. Having a system allows you to focus on progress instead of perfection and put your energy and effort into what you control. A system also will enable you to experience visible progress, which in turn increase your motivation. In the picture below you’ll see three jars of marbles. Each jar represents a system that’s tied to a specific goal.

  • Jar 1: I put one marble in for each hour I spend doing deep work like reading and writing, and another for each article I publish. It’s the system that is aligned with my goal of growing our email list to 50,000 subscribers.
  • Jar 2: I put one marble into the jar for each sales call I make or email I send to people who might be able to hire me as a speaker or advertise on the Unmistakable Creative. It’s the system that’s aligned with my revenue goal.
  • Jar 3: I put one marble into the jar for each day I go to CrossFit, surf or exercise. It’s the system aligned with my goal to lose the little bit of a gut that I have before my sister’s wedding in February.

It’s my personal adaptation of the paper clip method.


Purpose and Meaning

It’s worth considering why you want to develop some habit. People read articles like this one and think that’s the reason to develop a habit. They treat guidance like gospel and make decisions that aren’t aligned with their essential priorities. There’s nothing that everybody should do, even though there are plenty of people who will tell you there are. (Most of them they also sell products for how to do that thing they say everybody should do). The goal isn’t to live a life that’s just efficient, but rather a life that’s meaningful.

From writing 1000 words a day to learning how to surf, I’ve seen the compounding effect of habits over and over in my life. As I said in An Audience of One, habits are at the building blocks of all creative work and for that matter just about every goal you’d ever want to accomplish.

How to Be So Disciplined?

How to Be So Disciplined, It’ll Look Like You Have Superpowers

“World class performers don’t have superpowers. But they’ve crafted rules that make it look that way.” -Tim Ferriss

Most people aren’t disciplined. They can’t say they consistently sit down and do the thing they should be doing.

Of course, just about everyone wants to be disciplined. But for some reason, they just can’t seem to be consistent. Maybe they can start strong and do really good at the beginning…but in the end, their energy dies a slow but sure death.

We’ve all heard stories of great self-discipline and immense self-control. These stories usually involve famous people, tech founders, or professional athletes, who accomplished the impossible and somehow worked hard enough for long enough and eventually signed the $100 million dollar contract.

But most people think that, frankly, those kind people have superpowers. They think those people have something we don’t. They were born with something the rest of us just don’t have. No matter what you do, you just can’t get yourself to do what you need to do. So why bother?

I’m here to tell you: this mindset is garbage. It’s the main reason why most people will remain in mediocrity when they could have complete financial freedom to travel the world, spend time with their family, and be their own boss.

This was me. For 4.5 years, I tried to be a consistent, disciplined writer. I’d watch Gladiator or Braveheart and get real motivated, then crank out some of the most heartfelt articles I could possibly write. But upon seeing that no one read my stuff, I’d give up and quit for months at a time.

I finally decided to become consistent. I started posting every single day. I got more views. I got picked up by some small publications. I built momentum. Bought an online writing course. Built more momentum. Wrote my first “viral” article. Got more disciplined. A year later, I’ve gained:

  • 27,000+ email subscribers
  • 150,000+ views/month
  • A signed book deal
  • A full-time personal business from my writing

The only way these were possible were because of my discipline.

Here’s how to become so disciplined, it’ll look like you have superpowers.

Great Power Lies in Doing the Absurd

“When you’re the first person whose beliefs are different from what everyone else believes, you’re basically saying, ‘I’m right, and everyone else is wrong.’ That’s a very unpleasant position to be in. It’s at once exhilarating and at the same time, an invitation to be attacked.” -Larry Ellison

Here’s something that will happen once you start being consistently disciplined:

People will think you’re weird. They might even attack you for it.

You’ll get confused looks and raised eyebrows when you tell people what you do.

  • “Wait — you wake up at 5am every day? Even Saturdays? Why?”
  • “You don’t drink anymore? Why not?”
  • “You’re training for a triathlon? Why?”
  • You’re putting 40% of your paychecks into savings? How do you survive?!”

Consistency, being as rare and difficult as it is, scares people when they see it live. It’s awesome. But it also elicits jealousy and resentment. In a way, your ascent highlights their stagnation. Naysayers and their doubts say more about them than about you.

But great power lies in doing the absurd, especially if you think it’s crazy. Never forget, you have grown up in an environment that teaches mediocrity and falling in line. As best-selling author Grant Cardone once wrote:

“Take into account that you have been educated with restrictions. Be aware of this so that you don’t underestimate the possibilities.”

If you want what you’ve never had, you’ll have to do stuff you’ve never done.

The truth is, most people simply don’t believe they can ever get the “celebrity-style” success: hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, a brand new luxury car, a big home in a really nice neighborhood. They’ve been conditioned to believe this type of success in only reserved for star athletes, rappers, rockstars, and 20-something tech founders who get bought out by Google.

This limiting belief acts kind of like a sheepherding dog: once your thoughts start to expand and wonder, “What if that was possible? What if I could have that life?” the sheepdog comes barking and herding you back into formation with the rest of the sheep. “It’s not possible!” it barks. “Just stay the course! Don’t rock the boat! Someday you’ll finally win, but don’t do anything stupid in the meantime!”

You’ve been educated with enormous limitations. Maybe it was from your family, friends, a college professor, a boss, or just the movies. Frankly, most people focus on fighting for scraps with the other 99%, never truly believing they could get the rewards of the 1%. So they vilify these extraordinary individuals, and criticize anyone who seems to be breaking out of mediocrity and into huge success. They become the sheepdog.

Great power lies in doing the absurd.

When you start to get those confused looks and passive-aggressive “compliments,” you’ll know you’re going the right way.

“It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.”

-Tim Ferriss

How to Be Disciplined When You Don’t Want to Work Your Brain Anymore

Back when I used to work as a telemarketer, the only — only — thing I wanted to do when I got home was crack open a cold bottle of Saint Archer IPA, grab a bag of Tostitos nachos, and turn on Dexter.

And that’d what I did for nearly 2 years.

Every morning, I woke up with dread. I’d be finishing my 2nd cup of coffee as I’d pull into work. I’d drink a total of 6–8 cups of coffee every day (to stay energized) as I spent 8 hours phoning angry people all over the country and try to sell them an online Bachelors degree. Then I’d spend 50 minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way home, hungry for the beer, chips, and TV.

The last thing I wanted to do when I got home was to use my brain.

This is how many people live their lives. They have big dreams — to start a blog, a fitness coaching business, a life coaching business, a podcast, write a book — but how can they possibly be disciplined after a long day at work? How can you use your brain when you’re so tired from the day?

The answer is simple: take yourself out of the equation.

Make a commitment to perform, and you will.

One of my favorite books of all time is Mindset, by Dr. Carol Dweck. There’s a line she wrote that I always think about:

“Vowing, even intense vowing, is often useless. What works is making a vivid, concrete plan.”

Most people rely on some form of “vowing” to be disciplined. “I will write 3 blog posts this week. I will go to the gym on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I won’t spend more than $50 on restaurants this week.”

But in almost every case, this is just another way to try and make yourself “feel better,” nothing more. A common behavior of an addict who constantly relapses is intense, grand vows to change after relapsing. Of course, this rarely works — it just gives the addict something to cling to to avoid the shame and real work of making a plan.

Here’s the thing: “you” are tired. “You” will be exhausted, sleepy, and hangry (that’s hungry+angry) when you get home after a long day. The odds of consistently doing what you need to do in this state will be slim.

That’s why you need to take yourself out of the equation. You are fallible; rules are not. Set up good rules, and pretty soon they’ll begin assuring success.

Best-selling author David Kadavy discusses this very problem in his book, The Heart to Start. “When you build a habit, you don’t have to spend mental energy deciding what to do,” he writes. When you design an environment to produce success, you remove all the energy-wasting dilemmas of “Should I go to the gym, or stay home?” You just go to the gym, because that’s what you do.

This is how I finally got “sober” from a 15-year addiction to pornography. I went to counseling, therapy, and support groups. I started following a plan with specific rules: no internet after 9pm. No internet use alone in my room. Make a phone call every day and check in with a friend. No more useless vows — I took myself out of my failing promises and started following a plan.

Pretty soon, I caught on and just started following the rules. I removed myself — my tired, exhausted, cranky self — and lived by the rules.

It worked. I don’t look at porn anymore. I haven’t done that stuff for years. This is how you go from a weak “maybe I’ll do the work?” to a definitive “of course I’ll do the work.”

Make a set of rules, and stick to it.

“If you’re interested, you come up with stories, excuses, reasons, and circumstances about why you can’t or why you won’t. If you’re committed, those go out the window. You do whatever it takes.” -John Assaraf

If You Grew Up in the Low or Middle Class, You Need to Develop an Upper-Class Mindset

“The only way you become a leading man is by treating yourself like a leading man and working you ass off. If you don’t believe in yourself, then how will anyone else believe in you?” -Arnold Schwarzenegger

Statistically speaking, most of us grew up in the low and middle class. We learned the specific behaviors, mindsets, actions, and lifestyles of those around us in our same social class.

But if you want to develop incredible discipline and achieve an upper-class lifestyle, you need to shed the beliefs of the poor and middle class.

When I say “upper class,” I don’t mean those rich snobs who inherited money and spend their parents’ money wrecking cars that cost more than a small house. I don’t mean the greedy 1% who constantly try to distance themselves from the poor and their problems.

What I mean by “upper class” is the kind of people who manage enormous amounts of money, fame, influence, and popularity and consistently make the world a better place with their gift.

The world’s most successful, wealthy, and influential people are extremely disciplined. They aren’t distracted by the cheap entertainment you and I binge on. They hustle, they learn, they work their asses off developing a killer mindset that can handle a high amount of pressure.

In the words of world champion chess player Josh Waitzkin:

“Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer, and it should be nurtured continuously.

If left to my own devices, I am always looking for more ways to become more and more psychologically impregnable.

When uncomfortable, my instinct is not to avoid confrontations but to become at peace with it. My instinct is to seek out challenges as opposed to avoiding them.”

Is that your mindset? Do you seek out challenges and focus on building your resiliency?

One of my favorite quotes from best-selling author Darren Hardy is this:

“The key to becoming world-class in your endeavors is to build your performance around world-class routines.”

If you want to have consistent discipline to do what you should do, take a lesson from the world’s top performers. Act like they do. Treat yourself like they treat themselves.

Develop an upper-class mindset, and you’ll start acting like upper-class. Pretty soon, you’ll start seeing upper-class results.

In Conclusion

Extraordinary people don’t “manage time.” They make time. They don’t “manage money” or “save money,” they make money. They appear to have superpowers, making deals and accomplishing goals most people would tell you are impossible.

How are you going to do what you’ve never done before: be consistently self-disciplined?

By doing things you’ve never done.

You can have whatever you want if you do whatever it takes. Every level of success starts with discipline; as Navy SEAL Jocko Willink wrote, “Discipline Equals Freedom.”

Take yourself and your laziness out of the equation. Forgot the vows; make a plan, and commit to it.

Start developing an upper-class mindset. Do the things successful people do. Success isn’t complicated; the fundamentals are simple.

The road to developing discipline isn’t easy. Few will stay committed long enough to see the end of the road. But once you commit to discipline, you’ll look like you have superpowers; the people in your life will marvel at your results.

Speculation is a dangerous pastime

How to Avoid Wasting Your Time and Missing Life

Speculation is a dangerous pastime

Photo by Seth Macey

“Time destroys the speculation of men, but it confirms nature.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero

Certainty is a dangerous game.

A poisoned arrow hit a man. Though a doctor was there to assist him, the man didn’t want the arrow to be removed. He was looking for answers first.

“Before you take this arrow out, I want to know if the shooter was a prince, a merchant, or a priest? What’s his name and where does he live? What kind of bow he used? Was the arrowhead an ordinary one or an iron one?” — he kept on and on.

The wounded man would rather die than not having all the facts.

Life is short. It must not be spent in endless speculation.

Worrying about possible ‘what ifs’ not only keeps your mind busy; it makes you focus on the wrong problem as it happened to the man who was shot.

Speculation doesn’t just steal your time; it drains your mental energy too.

The Time Thief

“There are two times in a man’s life when he shouldn’t speculate: when he can afford to and when he can’t.” — Mark Twain

When predicting the future, everyone claims to have the perfect answer. However, when looking in retrospective, very few can acknowledge that things didn’t go as they anticipated.

Perspective destroys certainty — that’s the effect of time on our speculations.

Oxford Dictionary defines speculation as “the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence.”

Speculation is not just limited to predicting the future; this inefficient pastime also drives rumination about present or past events.

The hunger for certainty is one of the brain’s five functions. Uncertainty generates a strong alert response in our limbic system; that’s why we worry. Your brain doesn’t like not being in control — uncertainty is a pain that we try to avoid at all cost.

That’s why we love to speculate — we’d rather create a theory without evidence than not knowing what will happen.

The problem with certainty is that we adopt a scrutinizing mode — we are looking for evidence to prove our theory.

Dickson Watts, author of “Thoughts on Life” aphorisms, said: “Make your theories fit your facts, not your facts your theories.”

That’s the driver of financial speculation — people want to win big to be right big time. There are few things more unbalancing to the mind than the act of suddenly winning (or losing) large sums of money.

No one has explored the strange behavior of the American investor with more authority than Robert Shiller. In his book, ‘’Irrational Exuberance,’’ he departs from most economists’ assumptions that people are rational and fully informed.

The Yale University economist describes the group pressures and herd behavior that sustain investment — the amplification mechanism, as he calls it. People are prodded into the market, for example, by the ego-diminishing envy stirred by others having earned more in the market than on paychecks.

Speculation, in every aspect of life, is an irrational pastime. It’s much better to be vulnerable than to be right.

Jonah Lehrer coined the term ‘Information Craving’ to define our addiction to facts. We crave information for the sake of it. We don’t care if it will make us more effective or adaptive — it just reduces the sense of uncertainty.

A great example of speculation gone wild can be found on the talk shows. Rather than inform or report the news, they stray into guessing what might happen. The need to fill the void before real news unfold drives hosts to share their opinions and hypotheses as if they were factual.

The Danger of What Ifs

Speculation turns one fact into infinite facts.

Something happens (what) and we start asking ‘why?’ We fill the void with as many possibilities as we can create in the form of ‘what ifs?’ Finally, we end worrying about all the possible answers — one ‘what’ becomes infinite ‘whats.’

Counterfactual thinking is a concept in psychology that involves our tendency to create possible alternatives to life events that have already occurred. Most of the time, something that is contrary to what actually happened.

That’s the paradox of speculation — our desire to find certainty creates more uncertainty and worry.

What if speculations open up the past by demonstrating myriad of possibilities. However, we cannot change what happened. Speculation turns us into a prisoner of counterfactual — we get trapped by all the infinite chances that never happened.

The same happens when we get stuck trying to understand events in the present.

The dangerous side of speculating is that it keeps us busy while accomplishing nothing — rehashing every possibility prevents you from enjoying life.

John Lennon said it better: “Life is what happens when we are busy making others plans.”

Maybe you are waiting for feedback on a job interview. Or your best friend is not replying to a text you sent hours ago. Or your client unexpectedly cancels an important meeting without any explanation.

Your mind starts playing tricks — you get into an spiral of endless negative potential explanations.

When we don’t know, rather than wait for things to happen, our mind starts creating our version of what might have happened. Speculation turns into rumination — we can’t get past our thoughts.

Your mind gets stuck when you think about every possible ‘what if?’

Living in the ‘here and now’ is one of the most distinctive lessons from Buddhism. Western education, on the contrary, promotes speculation. We are told to analyze the past to learn lessons from it; we are encouraged to create hypotheses and use those learnings to predict future behavior.

What’s the point about worrying about the future if, when you get there, you will be worrying about some other future moment?

Buddhism invites us to recover the value of living in the present. Instead of being obsessed about what you don’t know (what if?), understand that life is in permanent transition. You cannot change the past; you can’t control what will happen in the future. Live the present.

When sharing his secret to happiness, the great philosopher Jiddhu Krishnamurti said, “Do you want to know what my secret is? I don’t mind what happens.”

Letting go of this addictive pastime is the first step towards recovering your time and stop wasting your life.

When in Doubt, Ask

“Confrontation is better than speculations.”
― Sunday Adelaja

Speculation is not knowledge — it’s just a waste of your time.

Knowledge doesn’t show up unannounced; you have to earn it — it requires dedication and sacrifice.

If you want to know what happened you have two options: ask or wait for things to unfold. Speculation creates imaginary problems; it’s the opposite of knowing.

We take an interview cancellation as bad news, but we don’t ask why — we fear a negative response. Ironically enough, we let our mind speculate about every possible negative explanation. We choose self-torturing ‘what ifs’ over confrontation.

Forming infinite hypotheses adds more complexity to a situation. Focus on what you know or what’s under your control.

Marcus Aurelius said, “Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?”

Rumors are another form of speculation. What makes one person’s gossip go viral is the desire to avoid uncertainty — that’s why everyone wants rumors to be true. The brain prefers an adverse, yet certain, outcome to not knowing what will occur.

It’s your call to fuel rumors or to wait until things really happen.

I’m not saying uncertainty is easy to deal with. However, trying to understand all possible routes will derail you from your destination. The way to solve complex problems is to get simpler perspectives.

Henry Thomas Buckle said: “To simplify complications is, in all branches of knowledge, the first essential of success.”

When we look at life in retrospective, nothing is as harsh as we speculated. Worrying makes things more complicated.


Embrace a maybe mindset

Nothing in life is permanent; even our worries change. Understanding that the future is out of your control is liberating. Focus on what you can manage. Experience events as they happen. To enjoy the present, you must empty your mind of what ifs.

maybe mindset will help you accept life as it comes and goes, as I explain here.

Most of all, we need peace and time to enjoy life. As Henry Thomas Buckle said, “In practical life, the wisest and soundest men avoid speculation.” Every time I found peace, is because I was focusing on the ‘here and now’ instead of speculating.

Please take a deep breath, put all your ‘what ifs?’ aside, and enjoy your life (not what might happen).

HOW TO CALM DOWN?

15 Ways to Calm Yourself Down

Person on a Bridge Near a Lake

We all worry and get upset from time to time. It’s a normal part of life, right? But what happens when that anxiety or anger takes over, and you can’t calm down? Being able to calm yourself in the moment is often easier said than done.

That’s why having a few strategies you’re familiar with can help you when you’re feeling anxious or angry. Here are some helpful, actionable tips you can try the next time you need to calm down.

1. Breathe

“Breathing is the number one and most effective technique for reducing anger and anxiety quickly,” says Scott Dehorty, LCSW-C, of Delphi Behavioral Health.

When you’re anxious or angry, you tend to take quick, shallow breaths. Dehorty says this sends a message to your brain, causing a positive feedback loop reinforcing your fight-or-flight response. That’s why taking long, deep calming breaths disrupts that loop and helps you calm down.

There are various breathing techniques to help you calm down. One is three-part breathing. Three-part breathing requires you to take one deep breath in and then exhale fully while paying attention to your body.

Once you get comfortable with deep breathing, you can change the ratio of inhalation and exhalation to 1:2 (you slow down your exhalation so that it’s twice as long as your inhalation).

Practice these techniques while calm so you know how to do them when you’re anxious.

2. Admit that you’re anxious or angry

Allow yourself to say that you’re anxious or angry. When you label how you’re feeling and allow yourself to express it, the anxiety and anger you’re experiencing may decrease.

3. Challenge your thoughts

Part of being anxious or angry is having irrational thoughts that don’t necessarily make sense. These thoughts are often the “worse-case scenario.” You might find yourself caught in the “what if” cycle, which can cause you to sabotage a lot of things in your life.

When you experience one of these thoughts, stop and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this likely to happen?
  • Is this a rational thought?
  • Has this ever happened to me before?
  • What’s the worst that can happen? Can I handle that?

After you go through the questions, it’s time to reframe your thinking. Instead of “I can’t walk across that bridge. What if there’s an earthquake, and it falls into the water?” tell yourself: “There are people that walk across that bridge every day, and it has never fallen into the water.”

4. Release the anxiety or anger

Dehorty recommends getting the emotional energy out with exercise. “Go for a walk or run. [Engaging] in some physical activity [releases] serotonin to help you calm down and feel better.”

However, you should avoid physical activity that includes the expression of anger, such as punching walls or screaming.

“This has been shown to increase feelings of anger, as it reinforces the emotions because you end up feeling good as the result of being angry,” Dehorty explains.

5. Visualize yourself calm

This tip requires you to practice the breathing techniques you’ve learned. After taking a few deep breaths, close your eyes and picture yourself calm. See your body relaxed, and imagine yourself working through a stressful or anxiety-causing situation by staying calm and focused.

By creating a mental picture of what it looks like to stay calm, you can refer back to that image when you’re anxious.

6. Think it through

Have a mantra to use in critical situations. Just make sure it’s one that you find helpful. Dehorty says it can be, “Will this matter to me this time next week?” or “How important is this?” or “Am I going to allow this person/situation to steal my peace?”

This allows the thinking to shift focus, and you can “reality test” the situation.

“When we’re anxious or angry, we become hyper-focused on the cause, and rational thoughts leave our mind. These mantras give us an opportunity to allow rational thought to come back and lead to a better outcome,” Dehorty explains.

7. Listen to music

The next time you feel your anxiety level cranking up, grab some headphones and tune in to your favorite music. Listening to music can have a very calming effect on your body and mind.

8. Change your focus

Leave the situation, look in another direction, walk out of the room, or go outside.

Dehorty recommends this exercise so you have time for better decision making. “We don’t do our best thinking when anxious or angry; we engage in survival thinking. This is fine if our life is really in danger, but if it isn’t life threatening, we want our best thinking, not survival instincts,” he adds.

9. Relax your body

When you’re anxious or angry, it can feel like every muscle in your body is tense (and they probably are). Practicing progressive muscle relaxation can help you calm down and center yourself.

To do this, lie down on the floor with your arms out by your side. Make sure your feet aren’t crossed and your hands aren’t in fists. Start at your toes and tell yourself to release them. Slowly move up your body, telling yourself to release each part of your body until you get to your head.

10. Write it down

If you’re too angry or anxious to talk about it, grab a journal and write out your thoughts. Don’t worry about complete sentences or punctuation — just write. Writing helps you get negative thoughts out of your head.

You can take it one step further and make an action plan to continue staying calm once you’re done writing.

11. Get some fresh air

The temperature and air circulation in a room can increase your anxiety or anger. If you’re feeling tense and the space you’re in is hot and stuffy, this could trigger a panic attack.

Remove yourself from that environment as soon as possible and go outside — even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Not only will the fresh air help calm you down, but also the change of scenery can sometimes interrupt your anxious or angry thought process.

12. Fuel your body

If you’re hungry or not properly hydrated, many of these techniques won’t work. That’s why it’s important to slow down and get something to eat — even if it’s just a small snack.

13. Drop your shoulders

If your body is tense, there’s a good chance your posture will suffer. Sit up tall, take a deep breath, and drop your shoulders. To do this, you can focus on bringing your shoulder blades together and then down. This pulls your shoulders down. Take a few deep breaths. You can do this several times a day.

14. Have a centering object

When you’re anxious or angry, so much of your energy is being spent on irrational thoughts. When you’re calm, find a “centering object” such as a small stuffed animal, a polished rock you keep in your pocket, or a locket you wear around your neck.

Tell yourself that you’re going to touch this object when you’re experiencing anxiety or frustration. This centers you and helps calm your thoughts. For example, if you’re at work and your boss is making you anxious, gently rub the locket around your neck.

15. Identify pressure points to calm anger and anxiety

Going for a massage or getting acupuncture is a wonderful way to manage anxiety and anger. But it’s not always easy to find time in your day to make it happen. The good news is, you can do acupressure on yourself for instant anxiety relief.

This method involves putting pressure with your fingers or your hand at certain points of the body. The pressure releases the tension and relaxes your body.

One area to start with is the point where the inside of your wrist forms a crease with your hand. Press your thumb on this area for two minutes. This can help relieve tension.

Start-ups – Real Entrepreneur

Man in Brown Long-sleeved Button-up Shirt Standing While Using Gray Laptop Computer on Brown Wooden Table Beside Woman in Gray Long-sleeved Shirt Sitting

12 Ways To Know If You Have What It Takes To Be A Real Entrepreneur

Successful entrepreneurship often involves certain personality traits. While some of these entrepreneurial traits can be learned, or at least improved upon, the most successful entrepreneurs tend to be those who are born with these traits.

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Go ahead, ask yourself if you have the following traits.

1. You Have A Never Ending Passion

Man In White Dress Shirt And Maroon Neck Tie Shaking Hands With Girl In White Dress

Successful entrepreneurs almost always have a visceral passion about what they are doing. In fact, it often consumes them to the point they are thinking about it all the time and working on it even when they sleep.

Moreover, it’s almost never just about making money.

 

2. You Serve As a Fountain Of Ideas

Free stock photo of man, holiday, vacation, hands

The best entrepreneurs are those that continuously spawn great ideas. This is because relatively few ideas, even great ones, actually pan out to be great money makers.

Does anyone remember the Lisa computer? This was a complete flop by none other than the great Steve Jobs! While this genius’s hardware and software failures are rarely mentioned, there were many of them. The point is, your creations aren’t always going to be perfect but if you are able to weave a lot of ideas, some are bound to be a success.

 

3. You Aren’t Afraid To Work Hard — Really Hard

Group Hand Fist Bump

Having great ideas is not enough. It takes an enormous amount of work to turn a great idea into a profitable endeavor. Appropriately, Thomas Edison, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time, is famous for saying,

“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

 

4. You Never Like To Give Up

Free stock photo of landscape, nature, people, water

Successful entrepreneurs tend to be people who easily recover from failure and just keep on persevering until they ultimately succeed! There are almost always significant snags and hurdles in any project. Most people get so discouraged by these, they end up discontinuing the project before they finish it.

Entrepreneurs are so motivated they find a way to solve these no matter how difficult.

 

5. You Have a Willingness and Ability To Learn From Everyone

Girls on Desk Looking at Notebook

Entrepreneurs tend to be people who are good active listeners. They are open to ideas from anyone regardless of their background or training. They don’t tend to be people who think you have to have a college degreeor special training to figure something out. Some of the best ideas for equipment used in water have come from fishermen, not engineers.

 

6. You Are Often a Calculated Risk Taker

Free stock photo of snow, man, people, mountain

Entrepreneurs understand that no idea is a “sure thing” and taking a calculated risk, whether that be an investment of money or time, or both, is almost always necessary to carry forward great ideas. When Jeff Bezos quit his cushy high paying job on Wall Street and made his famous 3000 mile car trip from New York to Seattle to found Amazon, he took a calculated risk… and we all know how well that one turned out!

 

7. You Are Able To See the Big Picture

Free stock photo of landscape, nature, person, woman

Henry Ford represents this trait well. While the car and the assembly line had already been invented, Henry Ford was able to see the big picture and knew that the real profit would come from using an assembly to mass produce cars so they would be affordable to a much wider demographic.

In other words, under his guidance, the car went from a tiny niche market to one of great mass appeal.

 

8. You Can Keep Up With The Times

Assorted Silver-colored Pocket Watch Lot Selective Focus Photo

Entrepreneurs are always on the look out for the next big trend so they can meet the needs of that growing market.

While Apple did not develop the first mp3 player, it was the first company to fully realize the marketability of it and understand the features users would most want.

 

9. You Are Intelligent

 

WhPerson's Playing Chessile you don’t need an IQ to match Albert Einsteinthe most successful entrepreneurs tend to be people with well above average intelligence. This doesn’t mean you can’t be “ordinary” in other ways and it doesn’t mean you need a college degree.

In fact, some of the most successful entrepreneurs are college dropouts, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to name just two.

 

10. You Are Not Afraid To Ask For Help

Free stock photo of hands, people, ground, group

Most entrepreneurs know when to ask for help. They can self-identify their strengths and weaknesses and know how to surround themselves with people who will complement their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.

This also often extends into their personal life since it often takes a very supportive significant other and/or family and friends to succeed.

 

11. You Have The Ability To Finish Things

People Doing Marathon

Many people have great ideas and start developing them but never seem to finish them.

Entrepreneurs have an exceptionally high will, drive, and ability to get things done.

 

12. You Have An Infectious Excitement

Man in Red Crew-neck Sweatshirt Photography

In order for an idea to turn in a profitable venture, other people must buy into it. This potentially includes investors, partners, and employees. It always includes buyers. Therefore, the best entrepreneurs seem to know how to let their infectious excitement for the project rub off on other people.

 

While having the 12 traits described above are not absolutely mandatory to successful entrepreneurship, they are traits shared by many of the most famous and most successful entrepreneurs of all time.

About the Author: 

Joel Brown is an Australian Born Speaker, Coach, Author and Founder of Addicted2Success.com, the #1 Motivation website with over 125 Million Views Worldwide. His Podcast “Addicted2Success” has received over 1.5 Million Downloads featuring 100’s of the worlds most successful thought leaders. Joel also features in the new hit movie “THINK: The Legacy of Think & Grow Rich” and the Documentary Film “RiseUP” alongside Tony Robbins, The Dalai Lama, Jack Canfield, Dwight Howard, Alanis Morissette and many more.