LIVING YOUR BEST STRESS FREE LIFE

how-to-let-go

 

Hey there, my friends.  How are you, today? Lately, our household has been extremely busy.  In the past month alone, we’ve been to Ohio twice, it’s an 8-9 hour trip one way. This usually becomes at least a two to three day trip.  I love to travel, but needless to say, these were not really pleasure trips.  In an earlier post, I told you I would soon be an empty-nester.  Well, the truth is, before one can become an empty-nester, there is work to be done. As a homeschooler, there are exams that a child still must complete; there are documents that must be sent to the school district and to the college.  There are graduation ceremonies and parties that must be planned. The list goes on and on and that’s just for one child. When I sit for a moment, I feel guilty because there is still so much that needs my attention.  All the empty-nesters out there, how did you handle this busy period? Eccl 3 1A sweet friend and I were talking about God’s wonderful creation week. In Genesis 2:2, the Bible says that God ‘rested’ from all His work.  We know it was not a necessary or actual sleep rest because Psalm 121:4 tells us that our ‘God does not slumber or sleep’.   Praise the Lord! I do need His attention every minute of every day.  I must be His most exhausting child.  But that’s okay, because He loves me.  Of course, He ‘rested’ to set an example for us, because He knows we are prone to work this frail body too hard, sometimes even to a literal death.  I knew it was time to stop and take a deep breath, when I began to forget what day of the week it was.  Remember this verse, Matthew 6:34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  A day has only 24 hours for a good reason.  Can you imagine what we can conjure, if our day had 30 or more hours? I am convinced we would have much shorter life span!  Praise the Lord for a 24 hour day! I guess our God is pretty smart, huh!  Matthew 6 26 27My favorite down-time activities are;

  1. Read my Bible and talk (out loud) to God
  2. Listen to my favorite music while painting my nails (Mandisa, Hollyn, Natalie Grant and Blanca are a few of my favorites).  My husband says I’m partial to women singers, I wonder where he got that idea from?
  3. Go for a leisure walk. Thankfully my city is literally surrounded by lakes, there are some amazing views out there
  4. Go running/jogging while listening to my favorite music (probably louder than I should, because I don’t want to hear the sound of my feet hitting the pavement). My favorite singers are listed above.
  5. Read a book while sipping white chocolate Peppermint tea from Teavana. It’s actually a Christmas tea, but who cares? It is the perfect blend of chocolate and fruit!

I found myself asking the Lord to forgive me for not appreciating the winter months more.  I definitely should have taken the time to rest.  These are a few of my de-stressing activities.  What are yours? Please do share; I know we can learn from each other.closing1brenda

 

 

Advertisements

Life – Increase Your Satisfaction and Contentment

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

How to Increase Your Satisfaction and Contentment (upgrade from “worried” to peaceful)

“You can accomplish tremendous things in your remaining years if you will design them before you live them.” -Jim Rohn

I only have 17,374 days left to live.

After calculating the average life span of men from my country, with all available medical history of my genetics, my approximate “last day” is around 17,374 days from now.

Then I’ll die.

This “death clock” idea has become popularized in recent years; some individuals have even placed their countdown on their computer screens, to remind them that life is short. This reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest by the character Prospero: “Every third thought shall be my grave.”

That might be a bit much. But contemplating my eventual demise hasn’t felt like a disturbing, morbid cloak that suffocates me; it’s made me feel bright and spritzy. I feel lighter than ever.

Here’s the first thing I’ve realized:

Most of What We Do Doesn’t Matter

“I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.” -Tim Ferriss

Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby ($100 million dollars in sales), once described an important lesson he learned riding his bike in Los Angeles:

I lived right on the beach in Santa Monica, where there’s this great bike path that for 25 miles. I’d go onto the bike path and push it — just red-faced huffing, all the way, pushing it as hard as I could, and I’d set my timer. I noticed it was always 43 minutes.

“But then I thought, ‘Why don’t I just chill? For once, I’ll go at half my normal pace.’ I went on the same bike ride, and I noticed that I was standing up, looking around more. I looked into the ocean. I noticed a pelican flying above me. It was purely pleasant. There was no red face, there was no huffing. And when I got back to my usual stopping place, I looked at my watch, and it said 45 minutes. And I thought, ‘There’s no way.’”

“All that huffing and puffing and all that red face was only for an extra 2 minutes. It was basically for nothing.

Photo by Jonny Kennaugh on Unsplash

Most of your frantic commutes through traffic, yelling into your phone, and breathless rushes between appointments are for things that, frankly, don’t really matter.

The truth is, most of what we do in modern society doesn’t truly matter. Not that our lives are pointless; it’s that we rarely create truly beautiful things, or practice our art in its purest, cleanest form.

No — more likely we’re meeting marketing deadlines so we can sell more stuff. Most of us aren’t inventing the cure for Lupus, we’re editing our email to our boss. We’re not hyper-focused on our lover’s opal-colored eyes over dinner, we’re posting another picture of our food.

All this red-faced huffing is basically for nothing. Want to increase your contentment and joy? Be be kinder to yourself. It might sounds silly, but relax more. Giggle at your partner’s sexy nose crinkle when she smells something funky. Try to figure out if there’s any object in the world with precisely the same orange hue as tonight’s sunset.

Eminem had a lyric that always resonated with me: “I bully myself, cause I make me do what I put my mind to,” he snarled. Amen, I’d say with a clenched fist in the car. If I want results, I can’t afford to take breaks.

In the past year, I’ve changed my mind. There’s a season for work-hard-all-day, I get it. I’ve been there. But I can achieve almost my goals and still be kind to myself, and increase my joy and peace instead of running on 100% adrenaline as I imagine my darkest fears coming true.

Most of what we do doesn’t matter. Focus on what does, and stop taking yourself so seriously.

“Busyness” is a Disease That Needs to Be Cured

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness: Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” -Tim Krieder

Whenever I talk to an old friend or colleague and ask them how they’ve been, the answer is almost always some form of, “So busy.” “Really busy.” “Crazy-busy.”

As Tim Krieder wrote in his essay “The Busy Trap,” this answer is pretty obviously a boast disguised as a complaint. We like being busy. It makes us feel important, needed. We can’t have an empty life if we’re busy, right?

Actually, we can. Busyness consumes your remaining days and years, leaving you with nothing but the sinking feeling that it’s all going by too fast. It’s busyness that makes us think, “Wasn’t my daughter just learning to talk yesterday?” at her 10-year birthday party. It’s busyness that makes you dread your own 40th birthday party.

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Often times, we’re busy to avoid the very thing we most need to do. If I’m caught up in email replies, I have a small reprieve from the anxiety about an upcoming meeting with an intimidating person. Same goes for checking my bank account that I know needs looking at or having a hard conversation with my wife.

Busyness is not a badge of honor (though most people treat it like one). It’s not proof you’re important; it’s proof you’re lazy. Busyness is a type of laziness; it means you didn’t set boundaries for your time and couldn’t say “no” when you should’ve.

Busyness is a disease. It distracts you from what’s really important and gives you an excuse to avoid the real work.

The most successful performers in the world aren’t “busy,” they’re focused. The busy person performs many tasks with minimal results; the focused person performs few tasks with incredible results.

When I was teaching English in South Korea with my wife, I had made the commitment to focus solely on my writing. Once I did, I was assailed by a sudden influx of (lucrative) opportunities — private tutoring, basketball coaching, freelance gigs, drumming at a local church, etc. I could’ve become “very busy” very quickly.

But I said no to all of them. I committed to my writing. By the end of the year, I had started a viable personal business making thousands of dollars, seeing tens of thousands of subscribers and hundreds of thousands of views.

This is the result of being focused.

Busyness is simply a type of laziness. If you do not set boundaries for your time, the endless stream of requests and chores to do will own you.

Design Your Environment or Become a Victim of It

“If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us.” -Marshall Goldsmith

Even the most effective, elite performers in the world have a hard time doing what they need to do if they’re in a bad environment.

Our environment enables (or disables) you to do what you’re trying to do. It’s practically impossible to be disciplined and consistent in an environment that actively encourages you not to.

This was another huge lesson I learned after moving to South Korea. Back in California, I had gotten nowhere with my writing. I was fat, lazy, bored, and instead of staying home writing, my wife and I were growing our beer bellys and breweries and burger joints. There was always something to do (besides work).

In Korea, there were no craft beer bars. We weren’t invited out to dinner and drinks anymore. It was school during the day and chicken breast with bell peppers at night.

The environment enabled massive growth for my writing. I started posting every day, and in a 6 month period, I gained 20,000+ new email subscribers. My writing quality increased mightily. I started selling an online course that made me thousands of dollars. I launched another one making me thousands more.

In the words of national best-selling author and financial guru Dave Ramsey:

“I had to quit telling myself that I had innate discipline and fabulous natural self-control. That is a lie. I have to put systems and programs in place that make me do smart things.”

I’m not a paragon of grit and discipline; even if I was, it would help only minimally. Even the most talented and disciplined people in the world have a hard time following their own advice.

That’s why your environment is so important. It enables even the most inexperienced amateur to achieve consistency and enormous, never-before-seen results.

You don’t need to travel overseas to enter a better environment. But you do need to change your current one if you want more satisfaction and less worry.

In Conclusion

I suppose it’s possible that I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting I hadn’t written more, didn’t wake up early enough, or worked harder and made more money.

But I think what I’ll really wish is that I played just one more round of Halo Reach with Drew, played one more pick-up basketball game with Jeff and Grant, one last belly-laugh with Rebecca.

Life is too short to be busy.

“The largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose.” Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

How to Build a New Habit

How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide

According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day.  Understanding how to build new habits (and how your current ones work) is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general.

But there can be a lot of information out there and most of it isn’t very simple to digest. To solve this problem and break things down in a very simple manner, I have created this strategy guide for how to build new habits that actually stick.

Even more detailed information is available in my free guide, Transform Your Habits, but the basic principles mentioned in this article will be more than enough to get you going.

1. Start with an incredibly small habit.

Make it so easy you can’t say no.
—Leo Babauta

start small habits (build new habits)

When most people struggle to build new habits, they say something like, “I just need more motivation.” Or, “I wish I had as much willpower as you do.”

This is the wrong approach. Research shows that willpower is like a muscle. It gets fatigued as you use it throughout the day. Another way to think of this is that your motivation ebbs and flows. It rises and falls. Stanford professor BJ Fogg calls this the “motivation wave.”

Solve this problem by picking a new habit that is easy enough that you don’t need motivation to do it. Rather than starting with 50 pushups per day, start with 5 pushups per day. Rather than trying to meditate for 10 minutes per day, start by meditating for one minute per day. Make it easy enough that you can get it done without motivation.

Further reading: Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals

2. Increase your habit in very small ways.

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
—Jim Rohn

tiny gains with habits (build new habits)

One percent improvements add up surprisingly fast. So do one percent declines.

Rather than trying to do something amazing from the beginning, start small and gradually improve. Along the way, your willpower and motivation will increase, which will make it easier to stick to your habit for good.

Further reading: This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here’s What Happened

3. As you build up, break habits into chunks.

break down your habits (build new habits)

If you continue adding one percent each day, then you’ll find yourself increasing very quickly within two or three months. It is important to keep each habit reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum and make the behavior as easy as possible to accomplish.

Building up to 20 minutes of meditation? Split it into two segments of 10 minutes at first.

Trying to do 50 pushups per day? Five sets of 10 might be much easier as you make your way there.

Further reading: I’m Using These 3 Simple Steps to Actually Stick with Good Habits

4. When you slip, get back on track quickly.

The best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control.
—Kelly McGonigal

never miss habits twice (build new habits)

Top performers make mistakes, commit errors, and get off track just like everyone else. The difference is that they get back on track as quickly as possible.

Research has shown that missing your habit once, no matter when it occurs, has no measurable impact on your long-term progress. Rather than trying to be perfect, abandon your all-or-nothing mentality.

You shouldn’t expect to fail, but you should plan for failure. Take some time to consider what will prevent your habit from happening. What are some things that are likely to get in your way? What are some daily emergencies that are likely to pull you off course? How can you plan to work around these issues? Or, at least, how you can bounce back quickly from them and get back on track?

You just need to be consistent, not perfect. Focus on building the identity of someone who never misses a habit twice.

Further reading: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the “Seinfeld Strategy”

5. Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain.

sustain your habits (build new habits)

Learning to be patient is perhaps the most critical skill of all. You can make incredible progress if you are consistent and patient.

If you are adding weight in the gym, you should probably go slower than you think. If you are adding daily sales calls to your business strategy, you should probably start with fewer than you expect to handle. Patience is everything. Do things you can sustain.

New habits should feel easy, especially in the beginning. If you stay consistent and continue increasing your habit it will get hard enough, fast enough. It always does. 

If you want more practical ideas for how to build new habits (and break bad ones), check out my book Atomic Habits, which will show you how small changes in habits can lead to remarkable results.

FOOTNOTES
  1. Habits: A Repeat Performance by David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, and Jeffrey M. Quinn
  2. Special thanks to BJ Fogg, Leo Babauta, and Kelly McGonigal for their research and work on habit formation and willpower. I have learned a lot from each of you.

Life – Right Way to Restore a Relationship

The Right Way to Restore a Relationship (lessons from 15 years of burning bridges)

I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

I’ve done a lot of hurtful things, said hurtful stuff, and was a complete asshole to many people I loved, who loved me back and deserved better. I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

At times, I still marvel at how stupid I was. How conceited and profoundly self-absorbed I was. And how I didn’t even see it.

But in the process, I’ve learned how to restore those relationships (some of them, at least. Some people still won’t talk to me).

Years of a severe pornography addiction left me frozen as an immature, whiny brat who would never take responsibility for his actions. It took 5 years of gut-wrenching therapy and brutally honest sponsors in 12-step programs to learn how to truly apologize and restore relationships I broke.

That’s what this post is about: how to restore broken relationships that were broken by you.

Because whether I like it or not, I have major experience with that.

It’s Your Fault. Shut Up and Admit It.

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” -Harriet Beecher Stowe

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you want them to).

A lot of people have shallow, even ruined relationships. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize. This is a pride thing; it’s a weakness, and it destroys relationships.

If you want to restore a broken relationship into an incredible one…make the first move.

Photo by Joshua Sazon on Unsplash

I can’t forget a certain day in 3rd grade. It was during recess.

There was this girl Sandra in my class. She was nice. Both of us were trying to grab one of the few soccer balls from the ball barrel, and I remember accidentally tripping her as I grabbed one.

She fell on the floor. Angry tears welled up in her eyes. I can still remember the look of shock and humiliation on her face.

I should’ve said I was sorry.

I should’ve helped her up. I probably should’ve given her the ball, too.

But I didn’t. I just ran off, leaving her on the floor.

After recess, Mrs. Salinas pulled me and Sandra outside.

Anthony, did you push Sandra onto the floor at recess?” she demanded in disbelief.

I denied it. It wasn’t my fault, I reasoned. It was an “accident.” I didn’t meanto! I wasn’t willing to take responsibility.

Mrs. Salinas forced me to apologize.

Sandra never talked to me again.

Here’s a lesson that took several dozen times to finally stick:

If you did something wrong, shut up and admit it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame someone else. Even if it was an accident — even if you didn’t mean to — that doesn’t matter. If you want to restore a broken relationships, be the first to own what you did.

Otherwise, your relationships will always be strained and mediocre.

The Most Important Lesson About Relationships I Learned From a 12-Step Program

The day after I quit my corporate job before I left to teach English overseas, I published an article that would eventually destroy every relationship I had with all my old colleagues.

It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. Frankly, it still haunts me sometimes, because many people are still hurt by what I said. Some people still aren’t willing to speak to me.

Basically, I wrote an article condemning 9–5 jobs and essentially called all my old coworkers a bunch of cowards for wasting their life in corporate America. In efforts to be “gritty” and authentic, I was actually just an asshole.

I wouldn’t find out until months later that my entire department read it (what did I think would happen?). I naively emailed my old boss one day from overseas saying hello. I was shocked at her scathing response, informing me neither her nor anyone else wanted anything to do with me, and how much I had hurt them with my words.

There is only one response you can make in this situation. And this still doesn’t guarantee anything.

Make amends.

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

I’d never used that phrase until I got into recovery and counseling. Essentially, making amends is a way to take ownership for wrong you’ve done in hopes of reconciliation.

Making amends has a few parts:

1. Write down exactly what you did wrong, and to whom

2. Write down why it was wrong (be specific)

3. Take complete ownership for the hurt you caused

4. Tell the hurt person everything you wrote down in a sincere apology (if appropriate)

The only way I was ever going to hope to restore anything with my old coworkers was to make individual, direct amends with anyone still willing to listen (some still aren’t).

So that’s what I did. I told my boss how awful my article was, and why (it was demeaning, hurtful, and profoundly ungrateful). I didn’t make any excuses — I owned the entire screwup.

Miraculously, months later she ended up forgiving me.

Of course, things can never go back to the way they were. There’s still a divide of hurt that probably won’t ever go away.

When you hurt someone like this, you have to “take care of your side of the street.” Do everything you can to make things right.

Making Amends is the Single Best Way to Restore a Broken Relationship

I’ve gone through the process of making amends more times than I can remember:

  • To my childhood friends for gossiping about them
  • To my old writing hero for accidental plagiarizing their work
  • To my best friend for not giving him credit for his ideas
  • To my old girlfriend for liking another girl while I was still dating her
  • To my cousin for constantly ditching him for my friends

I could write dozens more. Goes to show all the hurt I’ve caused, even if it was unintentional.

But miraculously, I’ve restored many of these relationships, through making amends.

Making amends is the single best way to restore broken relationships. It’s one of the most mature, adult actions you can possibly take.

I know I’m going to hurt people down the road, however unintentional. I’m not perfect.

But I can always make proper amends: realize what I did, why it was wrong, and communicate how sorry I am.

In Conclusion

“We can never flee the misery that is within us.” -Arthur Golden

The simple truth is, most people won’t have great relationships.

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you don’t want to).

Many people have several strained, even broken relationships with family and friends. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize.

If you want to restore a relationship and experience a deep, meaningful bond with that person, make the first move — even if it should be them. Be the first to:

  • Initiate the conversation
  • Send the first text
  • Say you miss them
  • Say you love them
  • Apologize and ask for forgiveness
  • Organize a hangout
  • Compliment them
  • Thank them
  • Tell them you appreciate what they did

There’s no reason to not restore a broken relationship if it’s in your power to do so.

Life – The Happiness Habit

Happiness isn’t a destination, it’s a habit.

It’s what we do to make everything else in life awesome.

And once we make that internal shift, we can put our day-to-day external frustrations into perspective.

Our brains are wired to be negative, but the good news is that you can train your brain to hold on to happiness.

As we understand better how the brain works, it gives us more power to change our mind in so many ways, says Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence.

All mental activities — sights, sounds, thoughts, emotions, and both conscious and unconscious processes — are the result of firing neurons.

Intense, prolonged, or repeated neural activity leaves an enduring imprint through which future neurons are likely to flow.

Like a river shapes land, the more we think and feel a certain way, the deeper the river channel becomes and the more likely we are to think and feel the same way in the future.

You can train your brain to scan for the good things in life — to help you see more possibility, to feel more energy, and to succeed at higher levels.

According to Shawn Achor, psychologist, Harvard researcher, and author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, when you raise the positivity levels in your brain, you actually do better work and, generally, are happier.

Master the art of moderation

Lagom (pronounced “lar-gohm”) is probably why Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world, with a healthy work-life balance and high standards of living.

Lagom is a huge part of the culture in Sweden.

It means “Not too little. Not too much. Just right.”

It’s the opposite of materialism and consumerism.

“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance” — Epicurus.

You are probably exercising lagom is many aspects of your life already.

For Swedes, lagom is a lifestyle, a habit of mind.

The key to experiencing greater fulfillment and pleasure is actually moderation. It’s about having only what you need.

“Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide,” says Marcus Tillius Cicero.

In a busy world where we now have access to almost anything at any time, Lagom presents a simple and balanced way to live and work without missing out on anything.

Chef and author Bronte Aurell who runs a Scandinavian Kitchen in London’s Fitzrovia says, “Lagom is very important to the Scandi psyche.” In an interview, published in the telegraph, Aurell said, “There is balance and moderation in everything we do in Scandinavia — from our working hours to how many slices of cake we eat in one sitting. How much milk we take in our coffee, to the portion sizes of our dinner.”

Lagom is the new minimalism for anyone with the desire to live with fewer material possessions but aim to enjoy a fuller life.

But lagom goes far beyond embracing minimalism. In fact, it can teach us valuable lessons about how to live a happier life.

Niki Brantmark, author of “Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life,” argues, “In an age when we’re leading increasingly busy lives and feel connected 24/7 I think we should channel the Swedes, slow down and take more time out to relax. This might be enjoying fikas with colleagues, friends or family, it might be taking a decent lunch break to relax and prepare for the afternoon, using the weekend to head out for a day to the forest, beach or local park or enjoying an analogue activity like baking, reading, or crafting.”

Pursuing a more lagom style of happiness is preferable in many ways.

Jaime Kurtz, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at James Madison University writes in Psychology Today“For a happier, more balanced life, start by asking yourself, “Is this lagom?” Ask it when you look inside your crowded closet, or as you consider your relationship with your work. Ask it when a massive portion of food is placed before you, or as you consider that second bowl of ice cream. Ask it about your life in general. Amid the more typical American life questions, like “Am I joyful?” and “Can I do better?” add in these much more reasonable questions: ‘Am I content?’,’Is this good enough?’”

If you can find that balance between work and your personal life — giving yourself time to do the things you love — in the long run, you find that balance.

If you finish work on time, you give yourself more time for family and your relationships.

Give yourself more personal time to do the things you love, you will become healthier and happier in the process.

Find ‘lagom’ by by keeping track of your spending, upcycling furniture, consciously reducing your environmental impact on the world, taking purposeful breaks from work, spending quality time with family and friends, focusing on what is absolutely essential, and knowing when to stop.

Practice gratitude

What is the one unique thing you are grateful for today?

Practice writting everything you are grateful for every now and then.

Don’t write the same things everyday.

Selecting unique areas of gratitude each day forces you to re-frame your perspective to look for the positive, rather than the negative, aspects in your daily life.

Gratitude has been linked to a host of physical and psychological benefits, including happiness.

One study found that grateful people are 25 percent happier.

So whether you make it a habit to talk about what you’re grateful for, or you write in a gratitude journal before bed, train your brain to look for the good in your life.

It could be the simplest, most effective way to boost your well-being.

Charles Dickens puts this well: “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many, not your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Embrace positive journaling

Count your blessings, lucks, fortunes and everything good that happened today. Each day, spend just two minutes writing about one or two positive experience that happened to you in the past 24 hours.

One method of positive journaling is to write just three new things you are grateful every day for 21 days. This trains the brain to constantly be on the lookout for something to appreciate.

This invites your brain to re-live that situation, which doubles the positive impact it has on your life. It’s an amazing experience, don’t miss out on positive journaling.

Shawn Achor writes, “Focusing on the good isn’t just about overcoming our inner grump to see the glass half full. It’s about opening our minds to the ideas and opportunities that will help us be more productive, effective, and successful at work and in life.”

In Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Martin E P Seligman encourages use to make journaling a daily habit.

“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote, ”he says.

Be mindful on purpose

Mindfulness meditation has been reported to produce positive effects on psychological well-being that extend beyond the time the individual is formally meditating.

Parts of your brain associated with compassion and self-awareness growswhile parts associated with stress shrink when you meditate, according to research from Massachusetts General Hospital.

The study looked at brain scans of people before and after they participated in a course on mindfulness meditation. Studies report that meditation can “permanently rewire” your brain to raise levels of happiness.

Make time (even if it’s just two minutes a day) to meditate.

Find a quiet place and focus on your breathing — and nothing else — for at least two minutes each day.

In our distracted world, this can be hard but it’s not impossible.

If you do it successfully, and consistently make it a habit, you’ll sleep better, feel less stressed, and have more energy.

Key takeaway

Exercise your brain for happiness every day, and over time, you’ll train it for happiness and long-term success.

As you increasingly install experiences of gratitude, gladness, moderation, accomplishment, feeling successful, feeling that there’s a fullness in your life rather than an emptiness or a scarcity, you will be able to deal with the issues of life better.

Dig deeper

I’m creating a habits mastery course to help you master the kaizen principles for starting and maintaining great habits. Kaizen Habits will teach you how to make any change in life, one small habit at a time. Sign up to be notified when it launches.

START-UP – How to end the busy-brag

Stop that 80-hour hustle

How to end the busy-brag and take back your freedom

Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

“Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”

Maybe you’ve already seen this quote from serial entrepreneur and Shark Tank star Lori Greiner. If not, I bet you’ve heard a version of it.

Startup founders are infamous for busy-bragging. Sometimes it even feels like a competition:

Who can work the longest? Who can sacrifice the most? Who will sleep at the office and go a full week without natural light?

Yes, starting a business is hard work, and Greiner’s dedication has clearly paid off (she’s created over 700 products and holds 120 patents).

But the “willingness” she describes is really about freedom.

Whether they’re chasing a big idea or solving a real problem, most founders also want to call the shots; to make their own money, set their own hours, and to create something they care about.

So, why are we all trying to outwork each other?

I don’t believe in the 24/7 hustle-and-grind. It’s not productive. And it’s starting to kill us.

I also know first-hand that starting a business is not easy. I’ve been on a 12-year entrepreneurial journey, slowly building JotForm into a global company with 3.7 million users and 110 employees.

So, where is the balance? How can you fulfill your vision without sacrificing yourself?

Instead of logging more hours, the answer is to make the most of the hours you work.

If you’re smart about time management, you might be amazed by how much you can achieve in a sane, focused week.

Here are five strategies that help me to avoid overwork — even when there’s always more to do.

1. Minimize your active projects

Time management is attention management. Controlling your work is a matter of focus, not creating a crazy-strict schedule.

When you focus your attention, you maximize your time, which increases your motivation. It’s a productive cycle that feels really, really good.

Take me, for example. At any given time, I have no more than three core goalsor active projects. That’s it. I say “no” to everything else. I delegate or save any outside tasks for later.

You can also try a more sophisticated approach. For example, in a recent Fast Company articleGoogle for Work director Thomas Davies describes the problem with most time management strategies:

“Managing time starts from the premise that your workload is going to be what it’s going to be, and the best you can do is keep it ‘manageable.’ But what if you could design your work day instead?”

Davies decided to create a new strategy. He divided his work responsibilities into four quadrants: people development, business operations, transactional tasks, and representative tasks.

Then, he slotted every task into one of the four quadrants.

Once he had a high-level view of what actually occupied his time, he could decide what mattered most — and what made him feel most energized. Now, he tries to maximize his work in those “high-value” quadrants.

If this method speaks to you, give it a try. As Davies explains, you’ll soon realize that not all tasks are created equal. Armed with that knowledge, you can be mindful of where to dedicate your attention.

No matter how you choose your focus areas, make an active choice. Then be ruthless about eliminating distractions.

2. Monotask, don’t multitask

Establishing core priorities will narrow your focus.

You also need to perform just one task at a time. That’s because, as Phyllis Korkki writes in the New York Times, multitasking is a biological impossibility:

“Your brain may delude itself into thinking that it has more capacity than it really does, but it’s really working extra hard to handle multiple thoughts at once when you are switching back and forth between tasks.

Your ability to get things done depends on how well you can focus on one task at a time, whether it’s for five minutes or an hour.”

To create a monotasking environment, Korkki suggests that you remove all temptations — even if that means installing anti-distraction programs like Freedom or FocusMe.

Also, use just one screen. Work in set chunks of time, and if you lose focus, get up and walk around.

You can also try the popular Pomodoro Technique, which breaks the day into 25-minute, highly focused intervals, followed by a five-minute break.

After four intervals or “pomodoros,” you take a 15-minute break — ideally away from all screens and mobile devices.

3. Cut back on meetings

Meetings have become a contentious topic in entrepreneurial circles.

Tesla founder Elon Musk recently told his staff to “walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it’s obvious you aren’t adding value.”

And Basecamp’s Jason Fried says “it’s hard to come up with a bigger waste of money, time, or attention than status meetings.”

Some meetings are critical, but many are not. Unless the meeting can remove a roadblock or it’s essential for team cohesion, find another way.

Send an email and follow up later. Say “no” and protect your time. You’ll be helping colleagues and co-workers to regain their focus, too.

I’m honored to receive a lot of requests for coffee and casual get-to-know-you meetings. I mentor some young entrepreneurs, but I politely decline everything from speaking invitations to networking events as well.

I wish I had time to accommodate everyone, but I just don’t. I have to draw a firm boundary — and you should as well.

4. Make quick decisions

I recently wrote about how every decision you make is wrong and shared strategies on how to make better decisions.

As I mentioned, hording decisions creates stress. When your mind is buzzing with many different choices — from what to eat for lunch to which job candidate to hire — it’s almost impossible to have a productive workday.

Now, imagine your brain is a white board. Every time you make a decision, you’re wiping off more scribbles. Soon, it’s clear and ready for creative thought.

When it comes to decision-making, speed is the goal here. There are very few decisions that can’t be made quickly. I know that goes against conventional wisdom, but give it a try.

If you’ve already gathered enough information, combine that data with your personal instincts and make a choice — now.

Don’t have enough data? Then forget the decision and gather what you need.

Once you have the right information, make your choice and move on. Repeat as needed.

5. Make the most of your work time — then step away

Vacations and downtime are essential for success. There’s just no way around it.

You can hustle with the best of them, but at some point, your body is going to say “no.”

The mind will rebel, too. You’ll be less analytical, way less creative, and your emotions will eventually overrule all logical thoughts.

I’m currently spending the summer in Izmir, Turkey. We have a small office here. It’s also a beautiful city by the sparkling Aegean Sea. So, I’m going to work four-day weeks and explore the nearby beach towns with my family.

I realize this is a great privilege — and I know you might have a few more questions:

1 — Don’t you feel pressure to show your face in the office — i.e. do you worry that your team will lose morale and slack off if you’re not there?

Honestly? I’m just not concerned about it. I guess some employees might slip into “relaxation” mode if I’m not in the office, but I also know that our teams love their work.

They’re knee-deep in meaningful projects, and I have great respect for what they contribute to JotForm.

I encourage our employees to take time off, too. If you don’t take vacations, you’ll burn out and eventually produce less.

As the CEO, my job is to ensure our teams are motivated and they don’t hit roadblocks. Our employees won’t function well if they don’t take care of themselves.

2 — How on earth can I ease up when I’m just launching or growing my business?

I promise it’s not impossible. Even during the early days of my company, my wife and I took three months off to travel across Europe.

It’s a matter of planning and sticking to your priorities.

For example, if you’re working IN your business, it doesn’t function without you. When you work ON your business, you can develop systems and processes that let you step away.

You build a company that doesn’t break if you’re not answering every email or performing every single task. Even as a solopreneur, you can plan to hit pause — if it matters to you.

I know the details can be tricky, and this is a far easier proposition with an online business. But ultimately, life isn’t all about work.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t to want to work, work, work, and then retire for a couple years before I die. I want to enjoy my life and my freedom — which is also why I bootstrapped my business in the first place.

So, be strategic.

Ask for help.

Develop systems and safety nets that allow you to step away, even for a short time.

You and your business will be so much better for it. Soon, you won’t even dream about using the word “hustle.”

What If Your First Love Didn’t Work?

What If Your First Love Didn’t Work?

Nothing is predictable…not even ‘Life’!

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Unsplash

Ihave often seen people wonder the need to take another chance at love after suffering an episode of a major heartbreak or a backstab!

Such people are either too afraid to even try out something again. Or too apprehensive and skeptic.

It is to them I want to reach out!

One bad life experience can’t make you conclude that life is fucked!

God has no enmity with you, remember that.

Each one of us is his special child.

‘To experience joy, you have to feel pain.’ Keeping this in mind know that nothing great will ever come without a hefty input of effort.

‘Love’ can be the best effort you give to make someone in your life feel special. It can be a defining point in your life when you might suddenly decode the reason of your being- the true essence of youth!

It might present to you the perfect reason why you should love- once again- an yet again!

Love doesn’t come with a warranty card- There’s nothing certain about it.

Don’t fall in love with the concept of ‘Permanency’ in your mind.

‘Love’ is as unpredictable as ‘Life’ itself!!

It is boundless, and best described as an adventure for those who can make the best out of it.

Of course, you might be less willing after a decent try or two. But in those sharp edges you will find something smooth that you will keep in your memory and treasure for the rest of your life!

All I want to say aloud is just that…Love as much as you can.

If Love was the reason why you are broke today, Love shall be the only solution going to help you out too!

Ways you are sabotaging your career

12 ways you are sabotaging your career

I’ve had to learn most of these the hard way

Unsplash- Annie Spratt
  1. Not having awareness of the market value of your role and industry therefore accepting a lower salary.
    As daunting as negotiating can be at first, it is a skill worth developing. Start by recognising your bargaining position and the specific value you bring to the table. Be assertive.
  2. Not networking both inside and outside of your company.
    Decisions around promotions are influenced by your presence at social environments and opportunities often come via people. This is how you advance in a large corporate. Also helps you to develop a support network in advance should you ever need it. I attended a talk with Carrie Gracie (link to her article), an editor who is currently in an equal pay row with her employers, the BBC. She reinforced how important solidarity had been in her plight against injustice.
  3. Not being proactive in seeking opportunities to advance, also known as ‘not sitting at the table of your career’. As much as other people may have your best interests at heart, they can never advocate for your advancement in the way that you can. So avoid being passive and leaving these matters to your manager or your team. This goes beyond just working hard and hoping to be noticed. It requires that you volunteer to take on projects that will give you the chance to shine and show what you are capable of.
  4. Not contributing to meetings, nor sharing ideas in group settings.Your thinking is what sets you apart from your peers and sitting quietly whilst other share portrays you as somebody who has nothing interesting to add. I’m not suggesting that you talk for talking sake but rather demonstrate that you are able to bring ideas that will add value.
  5. Not being effective during working hours thus choosing to catch up in time best spent with family or recharging your batteries.
    ‘There is a time for everything’. It’s great to be committed to work but life is not all about work. That’s what causes people to burn out and one day realise (often when it’s too late) that there were other things that they should have prioritised.
  6. Not taking a long-term view of your career. 
    Taking a long term view means that you can recognise other areas worth investing in now that would boost your prospects further down the line. These may include skills such as leadership, people management, sales and learning new languages. Careers, just like life, can be unpredictable and taking this approach means you can be prepared to go back to the drawing board and explore a new direction if you so wish or circumstances demand that you do. By also committing to learning and developing yourself, you begin to build your self-confidence, which impacts your self-perception.
  7. Not anticipating nor adapting to change at work. 
    There is no denying that technology and innovation are changing the future of work, which in itself is bound to create instability and uncertainties. This will lead to restructuring and change in management. Whilst you cannot control this, you can however develop adaptability skills. ‘It’s not a matter of whether your cheese will be moved because it will. Rather how best you can prepare your mind to go in search of new cheese or anticipate that current cheese may run out. Complaining is not a strategy nor is burying your head in the sand.
  8. Staying in a job that you hate or makes you depressed.
    Life is too short to be spent in such toxic environments. Find the courage to seek out your options in advance, so you don’t end up jumping ship in a reactive manner. Always best to head towards the ideal role than to try and simply escape what you don’t like.
  9. Not taking the time to figure out how and what you want to add value to in your career. 
    The process of experimentation is how you truly find out what matters and you will commit to in the long-term. Competence can be up for sale to the highest bidder but commitment never is. The former is a heart thing and not a cheque thing. Purpose therefore is found at the intersection of earning a living through avenues that you are committed to. That’s how you get paid for what you would do for free.
  10. Not improving your interview skills. 
    This is vital, and thus an on-going project so that you are able to bring your CV to life in an effective manner. What helps is to clearly define your values, work on your self-confidence, and utilise storytelling (putting a select stories together from your experience so the interviewer can be clear on what your differentiation is). Also asking the right questions so you can make an informed decision. What are the company values, long term vision, what’s expected of you and how performance will be reviewed are a few worth putting across.
  11. Not being clear on your career boundaries. 
    You can’t always have it also best to determine in advance what your negotiable are. Higher salary can often require longer working hours. What are you willing to put up with?
  12. Not working on your personality.
    Skills are important but never underestimate the role of your optimism, patience, being good-natured, listening skills, being interesting and also showing interest in those around you. Not a case of just being a corporate robot or seeking to please everyone. I’ve noticed that in some cases, personality trumps skills. Hence why most business decisions are often made over lunch and people work with those they like.

Things You Can Do to Change Your Life

7 Easy Things You Can Do to Change Your Life in 2 Months

Making big changes in your life isn’t about moving across the country, or storming into your office and quitting your job.

Big changes are the result of small tweaks.

Whether your goal is to finish a project, change your friend group, make more time for passion projects, or improve upon a bad habit, here are 7 easy things you can do to change your life in the next 2 months:

1. You said you wanted to explore more of the city.

You’ve been saying that you want to go to more new places, to see things you haven’t seen before — so why don’t you do it?

This week, pick a different part of town, a new coffee shop, a museum, a restaurant, and go there. Put it on the calendar. Invite a friend. Make it happen.

2. You said you wanted to finish that big project.

Well, you can’t finish a big project until you finish a small project.

When was the last time you started and finished something in a weekend, or even a day? This week, pick one small thing you can finish and then finish it.

Then, next week, pick a slightly larger project (but not too much larger). Finish that.

Before you know it, you’ll be finishing big projects left and right.

3. You said you wanted to go to the gym more.

Ok, so when? When are you going to go?

“I’m going to go, I swear,” isn’t an answer anymore.

Tomorrow, don’t just make that loose promise to yourself that you’ll get there. Set a time and block off everything else. Then, before you go to bed, set what time you’re going to go to the gym again the next day, and the next day.

It’s just a habit. That’s all.

4. You said you wanted to eat healthier.

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

Is there healthy food in your fridge? Do you already know what you want to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

People eat unhealthfully, and live unhealthy lives, primarily out of a bad habit of failing to prepare. But if you had healthy food around, and if it was more of an option, chances are you’d probably eat better.

That’s pretty easy to solve for, isn’t it?

5. You said you wanted to stop scrolling through Instagram so often.

Well, is the app on the home screen of your smartphone?

That sort of easy access makes it difficult to break a bad habit.

Instead, move it to the last page. Maybe even delete it altogether. If you want to break a bad habit, you have to break your relationship to the activity — not forever, but for the time being.

6. You said you wanted to surround yourself with more positive people.

Ok, so what are you doing back at that dumpy bar with those same five friends you know aren’t going anywhere in life?

“You are a reflection of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I’m all for having friends with all sorts of different interests and backgrounds and aspirations. But if you have a goal, and if you want to improve something about yourself, and the people you’re always with make that process more difficult, then you need to reassess.

So, the next time they invite you out, say “No.”

Instead, give that other friend of yours a call. Maybe you two have never hung out. Cool, then dive in. Go grab a coffee. Change the dynamic and see where things go.

7. You said you wanted to work on yourself.

Let me guess: Netflix before bed?

Look, there is nothing wrong with watching a little TV every now and then. But working on yourself is, well, it’s work. And if you don’t prioritize things like self-reflection, journaling, meditation, etc., then you’re never going to grow into the person you know you’re capable of becoming.

Self-development is a practice. You can’t think about it like this big mountain you’re one day going to wake up having conquered. It doesn’t work like that.

Instead, focus on what you can do today that will quiet your mind down and allow you to really sit with yourself.

Before you go to bed, write a page in your journal.

You’ll be amazed at what you find out about yourself.

This article originally appeared on Inc. Magazine.