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.

What To Tell Yourself During A Tough Time.

Image Credit: Dan Evans

We all go through tough times.

A few examples of mine are:

  • Multiple consecutive breakups
  • Walking away from a business that could have made me a lot of money
  • Having my career come to a grinding halt
  • Dealing with mental illness

The list is very long and I’m sure yours is similar. It’s not about the tough times we go through though because they are guaranteed and you already knew that before you clicked this article.

What matters during tough times is what you tell yourself.

This is what I say to myself during tough times — well there’s actually four things I say to myself depending on the tough time I’m facing:


“This will pass”

No event in your life lasts forever. Today may be a really tough day, but that won’t last forever. We delude ourselves at times by saying in our head “I’m always going to be like this.”

“Why does this always happen to me?”

“Here we go again.”

These negative phrases tell our brain that things are never going to get better. When we say these phrases to ourselves enough, we start to believe them. During a difficult period in your life, in that moment, things will suck.

Image Credit: OIVIND HOVLAND/IKON IMAGES/CORBIS

The way to get out of your head is to see the truth: this will pass. In one day, one month, or one year this tough situation will have passed and you’ll be onto the next part of your life.

Nothing lasts forever unless you allow your mind to trap you in the moment and believe a lie which is that this moment won’t pass. It will. You will come out the other side.


“I’ll be stronger having dealt with this situation”

Woman Lying on Blanket Under Man on Her Legs Holding Hands during Golden Hour

When you reframe your tough times into strength building exercises, they take a whole new meaning.

All of a sudden, your current situation that may be wearing you down becomes like reps at the gym. The reps are a struggle and it hurts, but if you keep moving forward, you end up with mental toughness and strength.

“Exchange your tough times for mental toughness”

See this challenging situation for what it is. It’s the chance to come out the other end stronger.

Stack your tough times up like gold medals.

Free stock photo of city, sky, art, landmark

Have you dealt with cancer? Good, then you won’t take your health for granted ever again.

Have you lost a loved one? Then you’ll never take the rest of your family for granted and care for them more than you did before.

Did you lose your job? Amazing! Now you can work somewhere else and discover more of your hidden talents!

Without tough times, you won’t have the strategies you need to deal with the impossible. Your heroes are your heroes because they’ve used their tough times to become stronger.

Failure and rejection are the building blocks to whatever your definition of success is. Tough times make you hungry and that’s a good thing.


“Keep taking baby steps forward”

Tough times can feel like quicksand sometimes.

If you don’t keep moving forward though, you’ll eventually sink into the quicksand. The best thing you can do during the toughest of challenges is take baby steps.

Image Credit: François Coutu

When I battled severe anxiety, I took baby steps such as these:

  • Walked 15 minutes a day
  • Drank an extra glass of water each day to hydrate my body
  • Read one book a month on anxiety
  • Exposed myself to one small fear each day. It started with going two levels in a lift (something I couldn’t do before). Then I’d go three levels the next day and so on.

That last dot point is critical. Overcoming tough times requires you to take baby steps in the form of being uncomfortable. When you’re growing each day, you don’t have time to be too concerned about a particular tough time.

My battle with anxiety eventually led me to flying long distances (another thing I couldn’t do before) and then speaking on stages in front of a lot of people.

As you can see, the first few steps — like going two floors in a lift — are quite small. Then the steps get bigger and bigger until what used to seem impossible becomes a piece of cake.

Take baby steps.


“It only takes one person”

Two Woman Sitting on Bench Near the Table

Tough times often require someone to believe in you. From my experience, you only need one person.

One person to believe in your idea.
One person to love you.
One person who has gone through the same tough times as you.

This one person exists. You have to go out there and find them. That one person for me was a team leader when I was working in a call center. He believed in me enough to take me aside and coach me one on one.

He believed I was going to go on and change the world through personal development. He was right and I did!

Don’t give up. Your one person exists as well.

<<<>>>

These four things are what I tell myself during a tough time. One of these phrases will always be the right one depending on the circumstance.

Believe that there is a way out and you’ll find one. It’s during the tough times that you’ll develop the skills and experience to help others.

Image Credit: The Atlantic

What I’ve learned is that to get through the tough times, one of the best hacks is to focus on helping others. When you’re focusing on how you can serve, your own selfish problems become insignificant.

Seek out people who have even bigger problems than you do and listen to them. See if you can help them.

That’s how you deal with the tough times.

Tell yourself the truth. You deserve to hear it.

Typical Life Problems And How To Solve Them

15 Typical Life Problems And How To Solve Them.

Photo © Angelika Platen (Walter De Maria)

All of our problems are the same. This is the 156th time I’ve written this fact (for those of you counting).

Problems are forever and we can’t avoid them. You’ll wake up tomorrow and have problems for breakfast. You’ll jump on the train and read a problem in your email inbox.

You’ll get to the office and get a problem smack bang in your pretty face!

The typical problems we face can be solved.

Here are 15 typical life problems and how to solve them:


You didn’t reach your goal.

Just because you set a goal, doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. Many of life’s toughest goals take lots of attempts. Some of the goals I missed are:

• Dream careers

• Girls I wanted to date

• Saving enough money to build a school in Laos

• Reaching 100k followers on LinkedIn

People who talk about success and personal development (and even write for a site called Addicted2Success like me) also don’t reach their goals.

The best feeling about reaching a goal is the journey it took to get there. If all your goals were easy, then you’d feel nothing at the end of the process.

Image Credit: Manly Caves

Solution:

Take the goal you didn’t achieve and try a different approach. Doing the same thing over and over to achieve your goal is the definition of insanity.

Your heroes miss their goals too. What makes them stand out is that they don’t give up. The fun of goal-setting is knowing that you’ll fail.


Someone criticized you.

If you want to make a dent in this world, then the critics will come out of the closet. The bigger your aspirations are, the more you’ll be criticized.

The number of critics you have is in direct proportion to your success.

“I had an entire blog post written about me saying how stupid I was. It felt like crap on day one. By day seven I’d made peace with the criticism and kept writing”

Solution:

You can’t please everybody that you meet in life.

When you speak on a stage, for example, 25% of people will like you, 25% won’t know who you are and 50% of people will think you’re an asshole even though you’ve probably done nothing wrong.

Critics are not all bad. You can learn things about yourself from them too. The solution is to learn from criticism, not be afraid of it.


Your career got messed up.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a happy-go-lucky office worker, your career is going to get messed up at some point.

The definition of business is this: Moving from one problem to another and making money in the meantime to fuel your mission. Business is really just problem-solving.

  • Redundancy could right hook you in the face.
  • The business you founded could go backwards and even bankrupt.
  • Your career skills could become outdated.
  • You could get fired for making a mistake.

Your career is going to get messed up. Things you can never predict in your career are going to happen.

Solution:

See career challenges for what they are: an opportunity to try something different. If your career never got messed up, then you’d probably stay in your comfort-zone for your entire life and never try something different.

The solution is to see your career getting messed up as a chance to grow. Getting made redundant could be the one reality that makes you want to create your own startup.

Having a customer leave could decrease your workload and create space for clients who won’t drain your time and make you no money.


You have financial troubles.

That crazy little thing called money will let you down at some point.

“I’ve personally been rich and poor multiple times”

Upon reflection, the time I’ve been the happiest has been when I’ve had the least amount of money.

Countless studies have shown that money isn’t what your life’s about. As humans, we seek meaning, love and our own version of happiness.

Money won’t give you any of those human needs.

That doesn’t mean money doesn’t matter; it just means that it shouldn’t be your main focus or something you obsess over.

Image Credit: Andy Warhol

Solution:

Lack of money is a gift. When you don’t have money, you become resourceful and creative at the same time.

Lack of money helps you decide on what matters and what doesn’t.

If things get really bad, then you’ll likely prioritize feeding your family over buying another useless car that will never make you happy. You’ll take joy in the simple things in life.

The solution to financial problems is to see them as a gift and choose a meaning for your life instead.


You’re unhealthy.

Our health has become a real problem. We wonder why we feel tired, sick and get headaches. We’ll all experience health challenges at some point in our life.

How many health challenges we experience in our younger years will come down to food and exercise. The strategies for being healthy haven’t changed.

There’s no mystery around being healthy it’s just that we’ve become lazy.

Convenience powered by apps has overtaken our ability to do basic tasks and not binge watch Netflix every night.

Solution:

Take ownership. Quit feeling sick and do something about it. Have some blood tests. Change your diet to be more plant-based.

Image Credit: Idelle Weber

Drink more water. Get your lazy ass to the gym 3 times a week for 30 minutes. Stand up from your desk every now and then so you’re not sitting for the whole day and messing your spine/neck up.

Whatever you do, take ownership of your health and quit being ignorant.


A relationship ended.

There’s less than 1% of people who met ‘The One,’ lived happily ever after, and never experience a breakup.

Even that 1% will have that relationship end at some point when either side passes away.

For the majority of us who don’t strike gold the first time around, we’re going to have to deal with breakups and the trials and tribulations of romance.

We’ll probably find ourselves in a toxic relationship for too long.

We’ll probably get cheated on at least once.

We’ll probably have our hearts smashed into a million pieces when we discover that someone ‘No longer loves us anymore.’

These are the realities of the human condition and our need to reproduce and keep our species alive.

Solution:

Finding love is about understanding what love is not. You need relationships to end to find out what love really is. All breakups suck in the beginning until you grow and move on. Then, the solution to this problem is to find yourself.

Once you find yourself, the heart will be ready for love again. How you move forward from there is up to you.

You can try the good old fashion nightclub scene. You could go to Meetups. Or, you could start swiping left and right on a few dating apps.

“Have your heart broken just don’t let it stay that way”


You made a dick of yourself.

Geez, this one is an ugly truth for me.

I’ve made an ass of myself more times than I’ve had protein and veggies for dinner. Here’s a few just for laughs (and your entertainment).

• There was the time I tried to pretend I could be the Wolf of Wall Street and got laughed out of the interview due to not being able to explain derivatives

• There was the time I thought this girl liked me and tried to hug her while we were walking only to have her hate my guts

• There was the time I went out with friends and threw up on my friend’s couch after having a single shot of Tequila

• There was the time I did my first public speaking gig and messed up a speech about my own life which I’d rehearsed over 100 times

We could talk for days about how I’ve embarrassed myself over the years. We could even compare epic fails to see who’s are worse. This is not a game though.

We’re all going to go into situations with the best of intentions or all the experience in the world and still screw up.

Solution:

Making a dick of yourself is a sign of courage. Courage is what is found in leaders and those who are doers.

Making a dick of yourself is an acceptance that you might fail in the short-term.

Those who fail in the short-term will eventually win in the long-term with practice.

“The opposite of making a dick of yourself is perfection.That’s a life where you think your shit doesn’t stink and you spend your entire day trying to impress everybody to eventually impress nobody”

Making an idiot of yourself is perfectly fine. What’s not fine is being perfect.

Image Credit: Romero Britto

Someone messed your *shit* up.

Car, home or insert other material possession that doesn’t matter. None of these material things that got messed up are joining you in the afterlife.

You can’t bury the Bentley with you (although someone tried) so you can drive around with your great, great, great grandpa and do burnouts in the afterlife.

The stuff that is going to get messed up doesn’t matter.

Solution:

What matters is that you don’t get messed up. What matters is that you take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Maybe when your junk gets messed up, you’ll realize that you didn’t need it in the first place.


You feel like your life has no meaning.

These moments where nothing makes sense is where you get to explore. We’re not born with a meaning for our life. Meaning comes from learning who we are and growing as a person.

The meaning for your life when you’re 19 will probably change from when you’re 51 and got three grown-up kids.

The quickest way to destroy your life is to believe that life has no meaning. A lack of meaning leads to depression, carelessness, drug taking and even crime at an extreme level.

Solution:

If you feel like your life has no meaning, then it’s time to experiment. Standing still is not how you find the answer.

“Being intensely focused on one’s self only leads to more suffering”

A short-term solution to this problem is to experiment with helping those who have nothing. Spend time with people who’d kill to be in your position and get some perspective.

I’ve found in my life that the greatest meaning for your life is normally tied to finding something you’d be happy to do for free that helps others.


You feel like you can’t go on.

We’ve all had those days. Those deep and sometimes dark thoughts can lead to a place you’ve never visited.

Some failures in life hurt more than others. Some failures can’t be solved through a listicle post such as this one with a dose of inspiration.

If you truly feel like you can’t go on, then there’s another way.

Solution:

Seek real help. These dark thoughts must be treated and sometimes the best medicine is to seek professional help through counseling, or for an extreme case, by calling Lifeline.

While I’ve never had suicidal thoughts personally, I have dealt with mental illness.

“There is a way to come out the other side, but you have to put aside your pride and seek help”

Please don’t become another victim of suicide by doing nothing.


Every day feels the same.

You wake up. You eat. You go to work. You eat. You come home. You eat. You go to bed.

Life can feel the same if you do nothing. It’s up to you to create variety and shape your habits into something more than a fixed schedule which makes you feel bored.

Days feel the same when there’s no purpose behind anything you’re doing.

Image Credit: Meg Duffy, aka Hand Habits

Solution:

You must find joy in the repetition. You do that by taking those reps and making them mean something. Add some variety in by breaking your comfort zone. Set a goal to do something wild during your day every so often.

• Travel to another country

• Talk to someone new

• Try learning a new skill

Even after trying something new, you have to get used to some level of repetition. Let that repetition become habits that serve something which can help others.


Your friends are screwing your life up.

Dump them. Divorce them. Delete their number.

Every relationship you have in your life is a choice. The people around us often hold us back. They fill our minds with limiting beliefs, stories and goals that give us no sense of meaning.

Friends can kill our dreams or make us believe something we never thought was possible.

Solution:

Everyone deserves a second chance. Start by telling your toxic friends how you feel. Give them a chance to change with the new you.

If they refuse, take a break from them for a while. Ask yourself whether you want them in your life long-term.

‘Fitting in’ is what we’re taught to do. What I’d advise you to do is be you instead and that will attract the right people into your life.


You feel stressed.

77% of people in the US alone experience regular stress.

This young, previously blonde blogger has also recently learned about the effects of stress. I had a cortisol test and the doctor found the levels to be twice the normal range.

This stress led to brain fog, tiredness and a lack of mental clarity. Stress is also caused by what you let into your life. Having options can be a bad thing.

Solution:

“We don’t need more; we need less to destress”

• Declutter your home and office

• Say no to more meetings

• Say yes to invites from people that make you feel like saying “Hell Yes!”

• Buy less material things

• Have fewer people in your life

• Listen to one podcast instead of many

• Read fewer books instead of every one that’s recommended on a podcast

• Have less recurring subscriptions

• Invest and save more money so you can stress less about unexpected bills

• Take regular breaks (quarterly has worked for me)


A fear is standing in your way.

There are so many common fears — fear of spiders, flying, public speaking, dying, career change, heights and maybe even a fear of expressing yourself.

Fear is a concept of the mind. Nothing is scary or not scary. Our mind makes that choice for us and provides meaning to everything.

Image Credit: Pop Art Portraits

Fear can be overcome and that’s why we love stories of battling with fear. I’ve famously spoken about creating fear lists and then knocking them off one at a time.

Solution:

Smash the fear into tiny little pieces. Don’t avoid it. Don’t let it stand in your way any longer. Make a decision to overcome each fear you have and you’ll be unstoppable by the end.

Don’t let nerves trick you into thinking you’re fearful. We all get nerves, but we can still keep moving forward with nerves — I’ve even learned to use nerves to my advantage by using them as an extra energy source.

Nerves tell me I’m on the right track.

I’ve overcome my fear of public speaking and my fear of flying — my fear of spiders remains, but I’m working on that one 🙂

Real fear can be overcome through deliberate practice.


Dealing with the concept of death.

Last but not least, the old chestnut of death. Death is the one life problem we all have in common and can’t solve. Sorry for the bad news.

Death is going to take us eventually and it will take people you love through your life too.

“The solution to dealing with death is not to overcome it but to accept it”

Death can be our greatest motivator if we let it. Once you understand what death means in all of its darkness, you’ll understand life.

You’ll see death, not as a problem but a fact. That fact will change the way you see everything going forward. For me, it took several near-death experiences (almost being murdered and a cancer scare) to see death for what it is.

Death is not an easy pill to swallow. No short blog post like this is going to give you all the answers you’re probably wanting to know.

The only way I see of dealing with the reality of death is to go out there and live the best damn life you can, while you can!

Use your life to do something that gives you meaning and then you’ll no longer see death as a problem when it comes upon you.

Peace, love and respect — thanks for reading.

Habits You Should Adopt Immediately

Habits You Should Adopt Immediately to Make Big Changes In Your Life

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

For better or worse, our habits shape us.

Our daily lives are a series of habits played out through the day.

Better life habits have the potential to increase your well-being and ability to perform effectively.

Confucius once said,“Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them,”

Don’t let bad habits hold you back in life.

Start building these habits for a happier, productive, and fulfilling life.

Enthusiasm is common. Commitment is rare

Butterfly Perched on the Yellow Petaled Flower during Daytime

In research by the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 54% of people who resolve to change their ways fail to make the transformation last beyond six months, and the average person makes the same life resolution 10 times over without success.

Knowing what to do is not an issue, COMMITTING to it is the problem!

Many of us lack the proper structures to support the behavioural changes our life goals require.

Commitment, consistency and patience.

Those are hardest skills I have had to learn to use to be better and improve daily. In his brief 1890 work, Habit, William James- a writer, philosopher and physician considered to be one of the fathers of modern psychology laid out observations on forming new and lasting behaviors:

“Put yourself assiduously in conditions that encourage the new way;” He wrote. “Make engagements incompatible with the old; take a public pledge, if the case allows; in short, envelop your resolution with every aid you know. This will give your new beginning such a momentum that the temptation to break down will not occur as soon as it otherwise might; and every day during which a breakdown is postponed adds to the chances of its not occurring at all.”

Making meaningful and long-lasting changes in life depends on your ability to form and execute new goal achieving activities consistently enough that they become habitual.

Spend the first hour of your work day on high-value tasks

Free stock photo of man, hands, people, woman

Don’t begin the activities of your day until you know exactly what you plan to accomplish.

Don’t start your day until you have it planned. — Jim Rohn

Every morning, get one most important thing done immediately.

There is nothing more satisfying than feeling like you’re already in the flow.

And the easiest way to trigger this feeling is to work on your most important task in the first hour.

Use your mornings for high-value work.

Lean to avoid the busy work that adds no real value to your work, vision or long-term goal.

Low value activities, including responding to notifications, or reacting to emails keep you busy and stop you from getting real work done. Make time for work that matters.

In his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

Research shows that it takes, on average, more than 23 minutes to fully recover your concentration after a trivial interruption.

Single task with purpose

Free stock photo of dangerous, police, group, helicopter

In an age of constant digital interruptions, it is no wonder you’re having trouble ignoring distractions.

If you really have to focus on that task, limit the time you have to spend on any given task. Add dates, and due time to your to-do lists.

Push yourself to deliver within the specified time and move on.

Single-tasking is one task at a time, with zero tolerance for distractions.

Try the Pomodoro Technique to improve your chances of success when you embrace single -tasking habit.

Focus on one task for about 30 minutes, then take a 5 minute break, and then move on to another task or continue the task.

Commit to lifelong learning

Girl in Red Short Sleeve Dress and Flower Headband Holding Pen and Writing on Paper on Table

One of the best ways to gain knowledge is self-education. Period.

It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.

As long as you are genuinely interested in what you are studying, don’t stop. Make the most of your time and get the best education you can can offer yourself.

People who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.

Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.

Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.

Lifelong learning will get most of your questions answered.

You don’t even have to commit long hours everyday to learning. Whatever time you decide to put in your own education, stick to it.

What are the most interesting topics you wish to know more about.

The goal here is to find as many sources of ideas and knowledge as possible.

Brain Pickings is a good place to start. It’s one of my favorites. And it’s free. Go subscribe and you won’t be disappointed.

Find other blogs blogs, websites or online courses that can broaden your horizon. Read expert opinions about topics of interest on Quora.

It’s a game-changer in the world of question and answer websites. Look for answers to some of your most important questions at places people normally ignore.

Use lateral thinking to solve problems

Woman Wearing Blue Jacket

Lateral thinking means deliberately setting out to look at a challenge from completely different angles to find great solutions that would otherwise remain hidden.

As Einstein said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”.

A new approach is probably all you need to get unstuck.

Break away from vertical thinking.

Vertical: Step by step, analyzing, based on facts and convention, one expected result.

Lateral: Provokes, jumps from one to another, breaks the rules, looks at possibilities, many results

Shane Snow, author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success explains:

Lateral Thinking is the process of solving problems via different angles than you might expect. It doesn’t happen when you do more of the same thing. So justsimply working harder may not accomplish a goal like rethinking the approach you’re taking. Lateral thinking is about getting in the mindset of breaking the rules that aren’t really rules; they’re just the way things have been conventionallydone in the past.

Spending just 5 minutes a day being mindful changes how you react to everything

Person's Playing Chess

At any moment, or situation, if you’re aware that your mind is wandering, you’re halfway to a successful mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness is paying attention to everything happening around you.

According to research, it has some quite extraordinary effects on the brains of those who do it regularly.

Through repeated mindfulness practice, brain activity is redirected from ancient, reactionary parts of the brain, including the limbic system, to the newest, rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.

Sometimes, achieving calm has everything to do with starting things off right each day.

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be practiced in the form of a 30-minute meditation sequence.

Mark Williams, co-author of Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic Worldencourages us to live in the moment everyday. “Start living right here, in each present moment.

When we stop dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, we’re open to rich sources of information we’ve been missing out on — information that can keep us out of the downward spiral and poised for a richer life”, he says.

When practiced and applied, mindfulness fundamentally alters the operating system of the mind.

In less than five minutes a day, you can become less reactive and more in tune with the moment.

In that five minutes lies the opportunity to improve the way you decide and direct, the way you engage with everyone around you.

Most people find mornings the best time to practice mindfulness, but you can do it any time of day.

It can help you select your responses and make calculated choices instead of succumbing to reactionary decisions everyday.

Your brain needs you to read everyday

Free stock photo of light, landscape, person, woman

Reading puts your brain to work.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to your body.

It gives us freedom to roam the expanse of space, time, history, and offer a deeper view of ideas, concepts, emotions, and body of knowledge.

Roberto Bolañosays“Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.”

Your brain on books is active — growing, changing and making new connections and different patterns, depending on the type of material you’re reading.

Reading heightens brain connectivity

Our brains change and develop in some fascinating ways when we read.

As you read these words, your brain is decoding a series of abstract symbols and synthesizing the results into complex ideas.

It’s an amazing process.

The reading brain can be likened to the real-time collaborative effort of a symphony orchestra, with various parts of the brain working together, like sections of instruments, to maximize our ability to decode the written text in front of us.

Reading rewires parts of your brain. Maryanne Wolf explains in her book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain:

Human beings invented reading only a few thousand years ago. And with this invention, we rearranged the very organization of our brain, which in turn expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species. . . . Our ancestors’ invention could come about only because of thehuman brain’s extraordinary ability to make new connections among its existing structures, a process made possible by the brain’s ability to be reshaped by experience.

Reading involves several brain functions, including visual and auditory processes, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and more.

The same neurological regions of the brain are stimulated by reading about something as by experiencing it.

According to the ongoing research at Haskins Laboratories for the Science of the Spoken and Written Word, reading, unlike watching or listening to media, gives the brain more time to stop, think, process, and imagine the narrative in from of us.

Reading every day can slow down late-life cognitive decline and keeps the brains healthier.

In a world where information is the new currency, reading is the best source of continuous learning, knowledge and acquiring more of that currency.

Reading requires patience, diligence, and determination.

Reading is like any skill. You have to practice it, regularly and constantly.

Where you prefer the alluring glow and convenience of a smartphone or the sense of control of a paper book, by all means make time to read.

Next time you choose a book from the shelf, or download a new title on your Kindle, stop and think about what you’re reading — it could impact you more than you realise!

Expose yourself to different world views

Free stock photo of landscape, nature, people, water

 

Be genuinely curious about other cultures, languages or how things are done differently by others.

Different cultures could have a big positive effect on your own ideas. Read about other industries.

Find out how work is done in different markets. Get out of your own perception for once. Be open to discussions that does not share your world view.

Read books on topics you usually ignore.

Unconsciously, you are are more likely to search, find and read about everything you know something about.

It’s a way to protect and reinforce your beliefs, perceptions and opinions.

The only way to get out of your own world view is to step outside your perception and embrace new knowledge.

Get fascinated by a lot things.

If you can’t get fascinated, you won’t care enough to really learn something. You’ll just go through the motions.

How do you get fascinated?

Often doing something with or for other people helps to motivate me to look more deeply into something, and reading about other people who have been successful/legendary at it also fascinates me.

Allow yourself to wander.

Take a break to restore flow

Man and Women Hand Shake

Sometimes all you need to restore flow, is to take a step back and ask where the current patterns are leading and whether you are making progress or not.If you feel stuck in a different area of your life, break the norm.

When was the last time you deliberately broke your flow. Taking a break every now and then is important for your work. Do yourself a favor and take sometime off to recuperate.

Don’t stay put in one spot for too long. Move. Get up. Take a 15 min walk. The faster your blood moves, the faster oxygen gets to your brain. Hence, better ideas, better results.

Practice solitude.

If you are distracted by too many things, it pays to disconnect. Remove distractions. Turn off notifications.

Or better still, turn off your phone, mobile devices and leverage silence to think or relax. In other words, block out the external world and retreat inwards to find new energy.

Sometimes all you need is a change of environment, style, routine or pattern. Break away from the usual.

Sura, aMeditation Coach, recommmends you move and play. She writes:

Being immersed in movement and play really gets the flow of energy moving in your body and your life. Try a new way of moving: dancing, tai chi, racquetball. Go see a comedy. Paint. Play Twister or Monopoly. Whatever it is, let yourself be free without restriction. What are the silly, playful things that you don’t usually make time for? Giving yourself time to play and unwind can make an immense difference in bringing new energy into your life.

If you could just pick one or two habits to create in the next few months — habits that will have the most impact on your life — what would they be?

Ready to start a life-changing habit?

People Doing Marathon

Life Lessons That We Can Learn From Hollywood Movies

7 Life Lessons That We Can Learn From Hollywood Movies

I was recently reading a book titled ‘Writing Screenplays that Sell’ by Michael Hauge and was fascinated to see how psychologically informed screenwriters need to be to create engaging stories with meaningful plots and entertaining characters.

Although Hollywood sometimes gets bad press for promoting materialistic and unrealistic goals for the audience, I do believe that some valuable life lessons can be learnt from dissecting the common elements of screenplays that result in successful movies.

Here are eight insights that I believe are important:

#1 – Be the hero of your story

Every movie has a hero that we identify with and develop empathy for. Screenwriters do this deliberately because we are likely to care more about the story and become involved in the movie if it focuses on one character and their perspective and challenges more than the other characters.

In real life, the person whose perspective we are able to most tune into is ourselves, and we feel the emotional impact of our experiences whether we like it or not (even though a lot of people try to tune these out). It, therefore, makes a lot of sense to ensure that we are the hero of our own life.

Unless you believe in reincarnation, it is generally accepted that we only have one life. Once we become adults, no one else is entirely responsible for the direction that our life goes in except for us. We are the screenwriters, directors and the main character in our story – unless we give that power up to somebody else. This is a scary thought, but also a potentially liberating one.

Although there are limitations to our abilities and dreams and it is essential to have realistic expectations, there are too many people that I see that put up roadblocks and barriers where they don’t need to be.

So if we are free to do what we want with our lives, and responsible for how they turn out, what do we want to do? Live the life that someone else wants or expects of us, or follow our dreams and hopefully achieve our goals.

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#2 – Challenge yourself if you would like to grow

Screenwriters are taught that a movie should start slowly, and build pace as the film progresses through increasing the magnitude and difficulty of challenges that the hero faces until the climax of the film. A resolution is then typically achieved, and all of the loose ends are tied up before the movie concludes with the hero being a much better person than they were at the beginning of the film. It is from overcoming bigger and bigger adversity throughout the film that the hero develops and grows. Without challenges or difficulties to master, this growth and character development would not be possible, and people would find the movie dull or boring.

In real life, I see a lot of clients who want a life free of challenge. They strive for a life of inner peace without stress or anxiety and believe that this can be achieved by consistently remaining in their comfort zone. In their comfort zone, they do the same thing each day, don’t take any risks and generally feel okay. A lot of them will tell you that something is missing, however.

We need to push beyond what feels comfortable to grow, and with this comes a certain amount of stress and anxiety. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can be a good indication that you are sufficiently challenging yourself so long as you are not feeling completely overwhelmed. Just remember to start small with tasks that feel a little scary but are also achievable, and as you build up confidence move onto more significant challenges. As long as the challenges are consistent with changes that you would like to bring about in your life, you will feel more energetic and alive than you ever could by remaining in your comfort zone. Even if you don’t succeed.

The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

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#3 – Conflict leads to more intense emotional experiences

Screenwriters are taught to create conflict in every scene where possible, usually by having two characters in the scene who have different views and objectives. This is because conflict creates emotional involvement far more than general exposition ever could, leading to a more engaged audience.

In real life, especially in relationships, this isn’t always a good thing. We might feel a more significant attraction or more intense emotional experience with someone who is actually opposed to us in what they want. I see it all the time when individuals who are anxiously attached (like being close to their partner and worry when they are apart) end up in relationships with individuals who are avoidantly attached (like their independence and autonomy and then feel trapped and smothered if they are too close). Each time it leads to an emotional rollercoaster ride, with lots of conflicts, big ups and downs, and greater emotional involvement. It keeps both parties occupied and interested, but will do more harm than good in the end.

Finding someone who wants the same things that we do may be less exciting initially, but can also lead to greater satisfaction and well-being in the long run. Be aware of the emotional trap, and use your head as well as your heart when determining if a relationship is suitable for you.

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#4 – Have clearly defined goals

All heroes will have the primary goal or external motivation that they will pursue throughout the film. Screenwriters are encouraged to make this evident to the audience so that they will cheer on the hero as they make their journey through their challenges in pursuit of their goal. In a horror movie, it may be to escape from or kill the bad guy. In a heist movie, it may be to steal the money and get away with it. In a romantic comedy, it is to win the affection of the love interest. In a coming of age story it is to learn something, and in a sports movie, it is to win.

In real life, it is essential to think of the big picture at times, and ask yourself where you would like to be in 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 years from now? How would you want to be spending your days? Whether it is owning a business, buying a house, getting married, having children or running a marathon, these external, observable goals help keep us motivated and focused on our destination, or where we would like to see ourselves in the future. Once these goals have been achieved, they can be ticked off the list. It then becomes vital to elicit and develop further goals to pursue.

Believe big. The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief. Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success. Remember this too! Big ideas and big plans and often easier – certainly no more difficult – than small ideas and small plans.” — David Schwartz

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#5 – Understand why you want to achieve these goals – clarify your values

It may not always be explicitly stated, but a hero in a movie will still have an internal motivation or reason why they are pursuing a goal, otherwise, it wouldn’t be worth them overcoming all of the obstacles that they face to achieve the goal at the end of the movie.

Two people may want to buy a house or run a marathon, but their reasons for doing so could be completely different. One home-buyer may want security and a place to call home, whereas the other person is wanting to make their parents and family proud of them (to gain love, approval or acceptance). One marathon runner may decide to enter the race to become healthier and lose weight, whereas another may do it to spend more time with their friend or partner that loves running (for greater connection or intimacy).

Values, unlike goals, can never be ticked off the list, but are guiding principles that can either be followed or not from moment to moment or day to day. If honesty is an essential value to you, you can be honest whenever you tell the truth, and dishonest whenever you lie. By living honestly, you will be feeling more fulfilled, and by being dishonest, you will likely feel dissatisfied or guilty. Firstly clarify which values are most important to you, and then set short, medium and long-term goals that are consistent with the guiding principles that you choose. 

To be truly rich, regardless of his fortune or lack of it, a man must live by his own values. If those values are not personally meaningful, then no amount of money gained can hide the emptiness of life without them.” — John Paul Getty

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#6 – Have mentors that can help you to achieve your goals

Screenwriters call these characters reflections, and they are there to help the hero to learn and grow along with their journey towards their ultimate goal. This is Robin Williams to Matt Damon in ‘Good Will Hunting’, Mr Miyagi to Daniel-son in ‘The Karate Kid’, and Morgan Freeman in most movies (‘The Shawshank Redemption’, ‘Bruce Almighty’, ‘The Dark Knight’). They usually don’t have a big character arc themselves, because they are already evolved in the areas that the hero is trying to improve. This is how they can know what the right thing to do is and help guide the hero on their path.

In real life, it is important to have mentors or people that have done what you would like to do, that you can turn to for help when you get stuck, have questions, or need advice. By seeking support through individuals who are more knowledgeable and experienced in the areas that you are hoping to build skills, it is possible to learn from their insights and mistakes without having to repeat them yourself, leading to a more effective learning and growth process. If they are able to be honest and direct in their feedback of your strengths and weaknesses, they can also help you to see the real you and guide you towards what is right, authentic and true, even if you don’t exactly want to hear it. Mentors can be friends or relatives, or can even be paid for or hired too. It is why people have psychologists, personal trainers and life coaches. It is also why I obtain regular external supervision so that I can keep improving towards becoming the best psychologist that I can be.

The way for you to be happy and successful, to get more of the things you really want in life, is to study and emulate those who have already done what you want to do and achieved the results you want to achieve.” — Brian Tracy. 

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#7 – It is our actions that define who we become

In his book ‘Story’, Robert McKee, a famous screenwriter, says that the hero’s character is truly revealed not in the scenes when everything is relaxed and calm, but in the choices that they make when the going gets tough and they are under pressure. The greater the pressure, the more revealing the scene is of the hero’s essential nature. Notice it is not their intentions, or things that they may speak about doing earlier in the film, but what they actually do when it really counts.

How will you react in the most significant moments in your life? With courage and persistence in spite of fear or challenge, or with avoidance, excuses or procrastination? With compassion, generosity and respect, or criticalness, selfishness and contempt? Will you talk about all of the great things you want to do or the things that you could have been, or focus on what you can still do and get out there and do it? It doesn’t just have to be big moments either.

Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great” –Orison Swett Marden

 

Dr Damon Ashworth

Clinical Psychologist

The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It’s Usefulness

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The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It’s Usefulness

For the longest time, I believed that there’s only purpose of life: And that is to be happy.

Right? Why else go through all the pain and hardship? It’s to achieve happiness in some way.

And I’m not the only person who believed that. In fact, if you look around you, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives.

That’s why we collectively buy shit we don’t need, go to bed with people we don’t love, and try to work hard to get approval of people we don’t like.

Why do we do these things? To be honest, I don’t care what the exact reason is. I’m not a scientist. All I know is that it has something to do with history, culture, media, economy, psychology, politics, the information era, and you name it. The list is endless.

We are who we are.

Let’s just accept that. Most people love to analyze why people are not happy or don’t live fulfilling lives. I don’t necessarily care about the why.

I care more about how we can change.

Just a few short years ago, I did everything to chase happiness.

  • You buy something, and you think that makes you happy.
  • You hook up with people, and think that makes you happy.
  • You get a well-paying job you don’t like, and think that makes you happy.
  • You go on holiday, and you think that makes you happy.

But at the end of the day, you’re lying in your bed (alone or next to your spouse), and you think: “What’s next in this endless pursuit of happiness?”

Well, I can tell you what’s next: You, chasing something random that you believe makes you happy.

It’s all a façade. A hoax. A story that’s been made up.

Did Aristotle lie to us when he said:

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

I think we have to look at that quote from a different angle. Because when you read it, you think that happiness is the main goal. And that’s kind of what the quote says as well.

But here’s the thing: How do you achieve happiness?

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Happiness can’t be a goal in itself. Therefore, it’s not something that’s achievable.

I believe that happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness.

When I talk about this concept with friends, family, and colleagues, I always find it difficult to put this into words. But I’ll give it a try here.

Most things we do in life are just activities and experiences.

  • You go on holiday.
  • You go to work.
  • You go shopping.
  • You have drinks.
  • You have dinner.
  • You buy a car.

Those things should make you happy, right? But they are not useful. You’re not creating anything. You’re just consuming or doing something. And that’s great.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to go on holiday, or go shopping sometimes. But to be honest, it’s not what gives meaning to life.

What really makes me happy is when I’m useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use.

For the longest time I found it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots finally connected.

Emerson says:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

And I didn’t get that before I became more conscious of what I’m doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it’s actually really simple.

It comes down to this: What are you DOING that’s making a difference?

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Did you do useful things in your lifetime? You don’t have to change the world or anything. Just make it a little bit better than before you were born.

If you don’t know how, here are some ideas.

  • Help your boss with something that’s not your responsibility.
  • Take your mother to a spa.
  • Create a collage with pictures (not a digital one) for your spouse.
  • Write an article about the stuff you learned in life.
  • Help the pregnant lady who also has a 2-year old with her stroller.
  • Call your friend and ask if you can help with something.
  • Build a standing desk.
  • Start a business and hire an employee and treat them well.

That’s just some stuff I like to do. You can make up your own useful activities.

You see? It’s not anything big. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. A life that mattered.

The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there’s zero evidence that I ever existed.

Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It’s about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer.

It’s a very powerful book and it will definitely bring tears to your eyes. In the book, he writes about how he lived his life and how he found his calling. He also went to business school, and this is what he thought of his fellow MBA candidates:

“Bottom line: they were extremely bright people who would never really do anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad.”

You can say that about all of us. And after he realized that in his thirties, he founded a company that turned him into a multi-millionaire.

Another person who always makes himself useful is Casey Neistat. I’ve been following him for a year and a half now, and every time I watch his YouTube show, he’s doing something.

He also talks about how he always wants to do and create something. He even has a tattoo on his forearm that says “Do More.”

Most people would say, “why would you work more?” And then they turn on Netflix and watch back to back episodes of Daredevil.

A different mindset.

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Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing.

And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing.

Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t overthink it. Just DO something that’s useful. Anything.

Ideas That Could Change Your Life

25 Ideas That Could Change Your Life

1. KAIZEN

jesus-in-taiwan-372790-unsplash.jpgA Japanese term meaning “improvement”.

I think of Kaizen as ‘continuous improvement’ or ‘continual change for the better, one small step at a time’, as this is how I first heard of the term.

A lot of the successful Japanese manufacturing companies in automobiles and technology have used this exact approach to obtain massive success over time.

What could you achieve if you just focused on taking one small step in the right direction today, and then another one every day after that?

2. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE…

luca-iaconelli-242679-unsplash.jpgGandhi did not say “Be the change you want to see in the world” even though it is often attributed to him. What he actually said was this: 

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

3. BE HERE NOW

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If we are fully present in the moment and aware of what is going on both internally and externally, we have a choice in what we decide to do.

If you do not feel present, meditate, ground yourself, get outside, move and connect with your five senses in the moment and the world around you.

“Awareness is all about restoring your freedom to choose what you want instead of what your past imposes on you.” – Deepak Chopra

4. CHOICES DEFINE YOUR LEGACY

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This happens through a lengthy process of choices becoming actions, actions becoming habits, and all of your habits informing your character and ultimate legacy. A quote along these lines has been attributed to a Mr Wiseman in 1856, and it tells us that whatever we sow, we must later reap.

It is therefore essential to engage in as many helpful actions as possible when we still have a choice and before they become habitual. The more engrained something is, the easier it is to do automatically, and the harder it can be to stop.

“Neurons that fire together, wire together.” – Donald Hebb

5. LIFE WASN’T MEANT TO BE EASY

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We often don’t appreciate things that just fall into our lap, and we tend to value things much more when we put in some hard work to get it. Even people that build their own IKEA furniture rate the furniture as being more valuable than people who see that same furniture complete but haven’t made it themselves.

I know I’d be more proud of the $3million I built up through hard work than the equivalent amount of money won through a lottery. How about you?

Anything in life worth having is worth working for.” – Andrew Carnegie

6. THE MAGIC HAPPENS OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE

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Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” – Brian Tracy

So many people want a comfortable life and therefore stick to what feels safe. Unfortunately, if you are not willing to feel uncomfortable, your life will only get smaller over time.

When you first step out of your comfort zone, it will be scary, you will feel awkward, and it may even feel unsafe. But is it really, or does it just feel threatening because it is new? If at this moment, you run back to what you are used to, you won’t grow. However, if you can persist through the initial pain, it will only get more comfortable in time, and your comfort zone will continue to expand and grow.

7. RETHINK WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FREE

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What is real freedom to you?

Doing whatever your parents, school, bosses or government wants you to do? UMM NO. This is called compliance.

Being a rebel and doing the exact opposite of what your parents, school, bosses and government told you to do? STILL NO. This is called counterpliance and is always defined by what you have been shown to do, which means that you are still part of the system. Plus you may end up grounded, expelled, fired or in prison, which doesn’t sound too free to me.

Just living for the moment and indulging in all of your passions and pleasures whenever you want, becauseYOLO, right? NOPE. This is called hedonism, and may feel great for a night, but not for a lifetime. It can have some pretty nasty side-effects too if you aren’t careful, including weight gain, disease, debt, dissatisfaction and even death.

True freedom must come from making the choice that is likely to be the best for you in the long-term, even if it denies you that last alcoholic drink or dessert, or the fun that happens after 2am, or that extra TV episode, or the added snooze time in the mornings. If we can’t get ourselves to do things that are difficult or painful in the short-term but beneficial in the long run, we can never honestly be free in the long-term. As a former NAVY SEAL famously said:

Discipline equals freedom.” – Jocko Willink

8. GETTING STARTED IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST PART

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The secret of getting ahead is getting started” – Mark Twain.

In a book that I once read (the Willpower Instinct I think), I came across a 10-minute rule that I found surprisingly useful. Basically, if you are not sure if you are up for doing something, give it a go for 10 minutes, and if after 10 minutes you still don’t feel up to it, stop. I tried it a few times with going to the gym, and usually, once I get there and get into it, I’m fine, but my brain often tries to tell me that I am too tired before I go.

The reason the 10-minute strategy seems to work is that it is much easier to get our brain to do something for 10 minutes than it is for a considerable chunk of time. This is because it requires much less energy when we are forecasting our capacity to do the task. Human brains are cognitive misers, which means they are always trying to “help” by conserving energy. If you want to get started or you feel tired, think small. Also…

9. THE FIRST DRAFT OF ANYTHING IS RUBBISH

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Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote the first part of A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself.” – Ernest Hemingway

This quote is fantastic because too often people think that the need to produce a masterpiece the first time they try or do something. If one of the most famous authors of all time produced crap on their first draft, why should we expect more on ours? The solution is to focus on the process, not the outcome, and just produce work before trying to edit, review or criticise what you have done.

10. DON’T PUT THINGS OFF TIL LATER

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If something takes less than 2 minutes to do, don’t write it down or add it to your to do list – do it now.” – David Allen, Getting Things Done

Most people have so much stuff to do at any one time that it is very difficult to ever get their to-do-list down to zero. This can cause anxiety and stress for some people, but the key is to have an excellent system to manage everything that comes in so that you don’t have to keep worrying and thinking about all of the things you need to do. Getting things done, or GTD is one such system. And the two-minute-rule from GTD says that small tasks should never go on your to-do-list if you can just get them done now. This rule alone means that my email inbox rarely has any unopened or unreplied emails.

11. BE YOURSELF; EVERYONE ELSE IS TAKEN

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Some believe that Oscar Wilde first said this, but the fascinating quote investigator website said that they could not find it in any of his writings. Keith craft said something similar that I like better, in announcing that we all have a unique fingerprint and that we can, therefore “leave a unique imprint that no one else can leave.”

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

12. WE REGRET THE THINGS WE DON’T DO MORE THAN THE THINGS WE DO

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When making a decision about the future, we tend to think about what we may lose if we take a risk. However, when reflecting on the past, we feel more regret about what we missed by not taking a chance. The question then becomes, do we:

  1. Play it safe, and not put ourselves out there because people may judge us or criticise us for giving something a go and not succeeding? Or
  2. Criticise others for being brave enough to try something that they believe in? Or
  3. Throw caution to the wind and give it our best shot, knowing that we will learn and grow more from mistakes and setbacks than we ever would have by sitting back and criticising others?

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

13. FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY!

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Susan Jeffers was my hero back when I read her top-selling self-help book. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t have to get rid of the fear before I acted fearlessly.

The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris then further highlighted to me that the action of confidence tends to come before the feeling of confidence, not the other way around.

Fear was designed to keep us safe as a hunter-gatherer but holds us back more in modern day life than it helps us sometimes. We need to instead assess the real level of risk whenever we feel fear, and go for it if the situation feels scary but is actually pretty safe. This could be horror movies, roller coaster rides, plane flights, or public speaking.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – FDR inaugural address, 1932

14. WYSIATI

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What you see is all there is.” – Daniel Kahneman

How you are thinking and feeling in the moment is very much influenced by how you are thinking and feeling at the moment. If you feel on top of the world, you are likely to be feeling happy, thinking positively about yourself, others, the world and the future. Anything may feel possible. Then the next week you have a setback or get sick, and you start to feel depressed and hopeless and think negatively about yourself, others, the world and the future. Both can’t be true, if they are only a week apart, so it’s important to understand the power of WYSIATI.

Don’t think too big picture if you are feeling flat and down, and try not to shop if you’re too hungry. The choices you’ll make once you’ve picked up a bit and have eaten something are likely to be very different.

15. MEMENTO MORI

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Latin: “Remember that you have to die.

In many cultures around the world and through history, the acknowledging of our own mortality through prayer, meditation, reflection, ceremony, or celebration is much more common than it is in atheistic modern-day Western life.

The phrase memento mori helped people to consider the transient nature of earthly life, our goods and our pursuits and enabled them to become humble and clarify what was really important to them.

16. THINGS FADE; ALTERNATIVES EXCLUDE

Two things that are inevitable in life are:

1. no matter what we do, time passes and things erode over time (also known as the second law of thermodynamics), and

2. if we go down one path, we cannot go down another track at the same time.

– “Decisions are difficult for many reasons, some reaching down into the very socket of our being. John Gardner, in his novel Grendel, tells of a wise man who sums up his meditations on life’s mysteries in two simple but terrible postulates: “Things fade: alternatives exclude.” […] Decision invariably involves renunciation: for every yes there must be a no, each decision eliminating or killing other options (the root of the word decide means “slay,” as in homicide or suicide).” – Irvin Yalom (1991). Love’s executioner. p. 10. Penguin Books.

17. PARKINSON’S LAW

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Ever wondered how on some days, when you are super busy, you manage to get way more work done. Then on quiet days, you don’t have much work to do, but struggle to get it all done. The reason for this is Parkinson’s law:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

The Stock–Sanford corollary to Parkinson’s rule is better in my opinion, and it is something I used a lot when studying at uni:

If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.

If productivity is what you are going for, give yourself a closer deadline and someone to hold you accountable if you don’t meet it, and voila, productivity and efficiency improve!

18. THE IMPORTANCE OF MEANING AND PURPOSE

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He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche was a nihilist, which meant that he didn’t think the world had any meaning in it. Irvin Yalom said that even if the world is meaningless overall, it is still essential for each of us to find things that are personally meaningful to us, either as an individual or as a group. Viktor Frankl showed that in the concentration camps in WWII, those with some higher purpose beyond the camps were the ones who could manage to survive the horrible atrocities they faced every day.

What’s personally meaningful to you? Where could you find purpose?

19. DON’T LISTEN TO THE DOUBTERS

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Impossibility is not a fact – it’s an opinion.” – Muhammed Ali

Think of anyone who has done something groundbreaking or is still trying to do something pioneering today – Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Bill Gates. I wonder how many of them were told to give up, grow up, stop being deluded or to think realistically? I’d say most of them.

Just because something hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had the massive amount of progression that we have had over the past 200 years.

20. CLARIFY YOUR VALUES AND MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON THESE

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(Some people spend) their lives doing work they detest to make money they don’t want to buy things they don’t need in order to impress people they dislike.” – Emile Gauvreau

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your life has to be a certain way just because everyone else is doing something a certain way and telling you that you should too.

By clarifying your own values first and building your own hierarchy, you can then see if what you are currently doing is consistent with what is really important for you. If not, what changes could you make, that you’d be willing to make, that would help you to start heading in the right direction? The earlier that you make these changes, or at least concrete plans to make them, the higher chance there is that you will be happy with the path that you are on.

21. RELATIONSHIP WARMTH IS THE NUMBER ONE PREDICTOR OF LONG-TERM HEALTH AND HAPPINESS

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“Love people, use things. The opposite never works.” – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus – The Minimalists

The minimalist movement has really picked up in the last 20 years in response to most of us in the Western world having way too much stuff and realising that it doesn’t make us any happier. If anything, it causes us more stress. Clothing used to be a scarce and valuable thing. Now wardrobes and houses are overflowing, and storage facilities are popping up everywhere to help clear some space.

What if we just bought fewer things, and focused more on what really matters: our connections with the important people in our lives. Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard study of Adult Development, found that in the end, close relationships are more critical to our health and happiness than anything else.

22. OCCAM’S RAZOR

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Given several possible explanations about something, the simplest one is probably right.

Is the dog above trying to read, or is it merely sniffing the book?

Occam’s razor is why conspiracy theories are never likely to be true. Think about the moon landing, or 9/11, or the Illuminati, flat earth theories, or any other conspiracy out there. For the plot to be real, there are so many added levels that would have all had to run flawlessly for them to work out, and so many people would have had to keep this a secret for such an extended period of time without turning themselves in or trying to make money out of it in a tell-all. It’s much more likely that there is no conspiracy.

Occam’s razor can also be applied to losing weight, sleeping well, getting stronger, or improving any skill. Some people have complicated theories, but usually, the answer lies in relatively simple explanations. Doing too much, or complicating things beyond what is necessary often backfires.

Reduce things back to the bare essentials, and see what happens.

23. LAW OF DIMINISHING RETURNS

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The law of diminishing returns says that each time we do something to receive a benefit, the benefit will be less and less.

Let’s say you order this massive stack of pancakes in the picture above. The first pancake may taste amazing, and the pleasure received is a 9 out of 10. Each bite is likely to be slightly less enjoyable than the one before, especially after you become full. If you somehow managed to get through the whole stack, the last bite could be a 1 out of 10 on the pleasure scale. Come back for pancakes again next month, however, and pleasure bounces back up to a 9 out of 10 again.

The solution is to wait for long enough between doing the same thing twice so that you enjoy it just as much the next time.

Variety is the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.” – William Cowper

24. BE KINDphotography of a man and woman laughing

 

If you’re kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.” – Mother Teresa

If you know why you are doing something, try not to worry about what others think. People who do not understand why you are doing what you are doing will choose to see it from their point of view. If they could not do what you are without getting something in return, they will assume the same intention is within you. But being kind is a reward within itself. If you can give just for the sake of it, do it. You can thank me later.

25. DESIGN YOUR OWN LIFE

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When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and (you should) just live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again“. – Steve Jobs

As far as I see the world, we only have one life to live. We can spend it doing what others expect of us, or we can spend it doing what is right for us. We can blame everyone else for how things turn out, or we can go our own way.

Regardless of what you decide, time passes, and eventually, you will either feel that you made the most of what you had, or you will accumulate regrets. I try to live my life with no regrets, and I wish the same for you too.

Choose your own destiny, live life to the fullest, and try to experience and enjoy whatever comes your way.

 

Dr Damon Ashworth

Clinical Psychologist

LIFE – Struggling With Depression

You Might Not Actually Be Struggling With Depression

But you may be dealing with depression’s lesser known evil twin

Photo by Fernando @cferdo on Unsplash

“My depression is worse than ever.”

Sipping my Americano, I nod in response to my friend and then open and close my palm in a gesture to say “Tell me more.”

A few years earlier he went through a dark time when a drunk driver hit his motorcycle and he lost a leg. Not long after, his wife of two months filed for an annulment. We’ve often talked through his depression and lifelong struggle with it, but this time the situation was different. He’d recovered from the loss of his leg and was in a healthy spot with his new girlfriend.

“Well, my day begins early enough and I’m ready to tackle the things I need to. I have a break between clients most days, so I tell myself I’ll use the time to accomplish what I need to get done for work, my relationships, and life in general. Chores, bills, you know.” Trailing off he bites down on his breakfast taco, then wipes the edge of his mouth.

“Anyway, I do none of it. I’ll sleep, or I’ll put on Netflix and zone out. Then I run late for appointments and I’m pissed at myself for not doing what I need to. At night it’s the same story — more Netflix and apathy. Then I begin to feel indifferent and hate myself that I feel so numb to my circumstances. From there, I spiral. It gets harder to get out of bed every day. I don’t go to the gym. I don’t practice my spiritual disciplines. I hate myself for it, but I also have little zest for life and I grow increasingly depressed, isolating myself from others and believing this is how it will be forever. I have no idea how to break out of it, and my pills don’t seem to help.”

Whistling low through my teeth, I slurp my drink once more then smile. “Well the good news is it’s not quite depression.”

The disbelief on my friend’s face is clear. He’s spent most of his life battling depression. But I hold up my hand before he can object: “You’re dealing with depression’s twin cousin. It’s called acedia.”

“Ah-seed-e-what?”

The Noonday Demon

Acedia (pronounced ah-SEED-e-uh) is an old term coined by monks who lived in the desert during the fourth century. Before the Seven Deadly Sins became known to the world, the early Desert Fathers had a list of “Eight Bad Thoughts.” One of the most severe thoughts was that of acedia, which the church eventually rolled up under the sin of “sloth” when the seven sins became commonplace.

One would think “lust” would be the one they hammered on given the religious leanings of the modern church, but it was considered one of the most minor “bad thoughts.” The monks viewed lust as a lower form of greed in that you desired something you didn’t have. Acedia was one of the most severe and deadly thoughts because of the despair and absolute disdain for life it produced in a human being. It’s a shame the word has been lost to ancient textbooks and is no longer used, because acedia’s connotations carry far more weight in today’s cultural environment.

I first learned the term when I read author Kathleen Norris’s book, Acedia & me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life. In the book she quotes a monk who states:

“The demon of acedia — also called the noonday demon — is the one that causes the most serious trouble of all…He makes it seem that the sun barely moves, if at all, and…he instills in the heart of the monk a hatred for the place, a hatred for his very life itself.”

Many of the desert monks found themselves in the same place as my friend. Work in the morning, but by noon, they despised the repetitive nature of chores or work. After some time in this condition, they felt little zeal for life. Prayer stopped, sleeping increased, and they felt numb. Eventually, they despised life itself as they spiraled into a dark hole.

Photo by Fernando @cferdo on Unsplash

This condition can even begin due to traumatic events in one’s life. Norris — no stranger to suffering and pain — tragically lost her husband, but instead of spiraling into depression, she found herself battling acedia. In an interviewregarding her struggle after her husbands death she explained:

“There were so many days when I woke up indifferent to everything, especially when my husband died…When he was alive, the care-giving had to be done so I couldn’t be indifferent. But I think one of the worst phases — and I don’t want to malign the show because it was kind of entertaining — was when I watched an entire season of America’s Next Top Model. In one sitting.”

Reading through the book, I nodded along and remembered times when I thought I’d been depressed only to discover I’d been battling its twin cousin. That old feeling of indifference and apathy leading to a numbness, only to spiral further out of control and despise being alive.

When I started researching depression for a book I was writing, our organization surveyed five hundred men and women. When we compiled their answers, many of them explained the exact symptoms of acedia. Because depression is complex and we use one word to lump several aspects together, the healing process can become confusing. It’s like the word “love” in effect. While I love my wife, I also love breakfast tacos. But I certainly don’t “love” the two the same way. That morning over coffee, I explained to my friend that due to the way depression and acedia intertwine, he could be dealing with both at the same time.

“The good news and bad news, however,” I told him, “is acedia is a condition you can fight, but fighting it can also be mundane and feel as if you’re getting nowhere.”

Combatting Acedia

I’m willing to bet if I asked each person reading this, “What things are you constantly putting off and why don’t you want to do them?” everyone would have an answer. In our day-to-day lives vain repetition sounds terrible and we hate doing it. For instance, if I told you I needed you to stuff 2,000 envelopes with letters, then handwrite the names and different addresses on them, you’d say it was torture, right? We put off things like prayer though we’re certain it will enrich our spiritual life. We put off doing the dishes or laundry even though we know we need clean dishes to eat on and clothes to wear.

After I gave my friend a copy of the book Acedia & Me for him to read, he called me one evening to say, “MY GOD! IT’S LIKE I’M READING MY LIFE ON PAPER!” He found that even in his romantic relationships acedia had covertly snuck in. While finding romance and a significant other is often on the forefront of many young singles’ minds, here’s something most people forget about staying together “for better or for worse”: it can — at times — feel like going through the motions. That romantic infatuation or ooey gooey feeling you once had, with time, will morph into a love of the will. Funny enough, every marriage that has stood the test of time will confirm “love is a choice and action, not just a feeling.”

So here’s the good news. Combating acedia has simple steps that can help you act and combat the feelings of indifference, self-hate, apathy, and keep you from spiraling further. The bad news is that it begins by choosing to take part in little things that may seem repetitive, but make a big difference.

When HeartSupport surveyed our 500 respondents battling through depression, we asked a simple question: “What things have helped you cope and battle your depression?” Here’s what their answers revealed — most of the activities that helped were repetitive tasks that could be done daily or weekly. Things like serving within their community, writing, journaling, yoga, exercise, cleaning, or several other mundane or repetitive activities.

Simple activities made the most profound impact we discovered | Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

What the desert monks found in their battle with acedia was the same. They found joy after they had completed tasks at work even though sometimes the drudgery seemed insurmountable. By pushing through and praying — even in short bouts — they were glad they did. For everyone in this life, discipline often becomes the defining fire by which things like talent or goals become an actual ability. It is indifference and believing it will always be this way that keeps us stuck. You may be tempted to think, “this is just another way to call depression something else” but consider that there’s always been a power in naming things or knowing your enemy to fight them.

For instance, in his epic, The Name of the Wind, author Patrick Rothfuss has his main character learn the name of the wind to command the element which in turn transforms him into a legendary wizard. In Harry Potter, knowing Voldemort’s name — and that he was Harry’s true enemy — gave Harry the power to defeat the evil magician. Perhaps the most quoted example comes from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in which he states:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

If you don’t know what you’re fighting, then you can’t expect there to be progress. But if you do? There’s a good chance that some forward momentum, no matter how small, might be the crest of the tide that begins to break the chains.

So if your enemy’s name is acedia, then you know what to do.

Break the chains.