LIFE – Habits are the Compound Interest of Self Improvement

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

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

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

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


Build the Identity of the Person You Want to Become

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

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

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

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


Take Minimum Viable Actions

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

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

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


Raise Your Level of Intensity Gradually

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

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

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


What if You Miss a Day?

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


Develop a Keystone Habit and Stack More

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

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

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

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


The Compounding Effect of Habits

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

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

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

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


Systems Vs Goals

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

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

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


Purpose and Meaning

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

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

Habits That Have A Huge Return On Life

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10 Small Habits That Have A Huge Return On Life

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Over the years, I’ve adopted many different “positive” habits.

To me, a habit is positive when it improves the quality of my life. A lot has been written about forming habits.

How hard is? How long does it take? What’s the best way to break habits? How do we adopt new habits?

My experience is that everyone can adopt any habit they want. There’s only one condition though: You need a good reason to make a change (I talk about that in-depth on this podcast episode).

And in 99% of cases, the reason to change comes from personal suffering, sadness, and hurt. At some point, you can’t stand your current behavior anymore.

Don’t worry about how you will change. Focus on what habits you want to form and why.

After one of my friends recently asked me about my current habits, I decided to share them here—with a brief explanation of what the habits are good for.

1. Do a full-body workout with weights 3 times a week

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Strength training has several benefits. It protects bone health, muscle mass, keeps you lean, increases energy levels, and prevents injuries.

I’ve been lifting weights since I was 16. It’s the only habit on this list that I’ve been doing for that long. Like many people who lift weights, I started with split routines.

That means you work out different muscle during every session. With most routines, you’re training a specific muscle only one time per week. It turns out that muscles need more stress to become stronger.

Ideally, you want to train all your muscles, 3 times a week. That’s why I’ve been doing full body workouts. It’s simple, practical, and it works.

2. Set 3-4 daily priorities

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This is one of the best productivity strategies there is. We all know that focus is what brings us results.

No focus? No results. So how do you focus? By limiting your options and tasks. Elimination is the key.

Be very clear about what you want to achieve every single day, week, and year.

Every day, work on 3-4 essential (and small) tasks that will bring you closer to your weekly and yearly goals.

3. Read 60 minutes a day

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I get it, you’re too busy to read. Or maybe you just don’t like to read.

Well, you’re not getting off that easily.

Reading is essential for your cognition. But you already knew that. How about this? Reading will also turn you into a better thinker and writer.

“But I still don’t like to read.” Well, there are many things in life we don’t like, but we still do them. Instead of telling yourself you don’t like to read, learn to enjoy it by doing it every day.

And like magic, one day, you’ll love to read.

4. SLEEP 7-8 HOURS A DAY

Photo of a Woman Hugging a Blue Pillow

I never sacrifice my sleep for anything. I recently canceled a meeting in the morning because I slept late. The night before, I was reading a good book that totally consumed me.

After reading, I started taking notes. And before I knew it, it was 2 am. I had to wake up at 7 am to make the meeting.

I canceled the meeting. I’m not going to sleep for 6 hours so I can make a meeting when I know that I’ll be tired the whole day.

Some people can perform well with 5 hours of sleep. But most of us need more. If you’re part of the latter group, make sure you get enough sleep. And be dead serious about it. If you’re not in a position to cancel meetings etc, sleep early.

5. Walk 30 minutes a day

Three Women Walking on Seashore Under Blue Sky

If you can’t MAKE the time to go for a daily walk, you’re not in control of your life. I don’t even walk for the health benefits. Sure, walking keeps the body moving and is good for you.

But I go for a daily walk because it breaks the pattern of our mundane lives. Look, we can’t deny that life is routine. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But when you walk outside, you’re forced to be one with the world. It heightens your senses. You can go alone or with someone else. You can have a good conversation. Or you can simply enjoy the surroundings.

6. Follow the intermittent fasting eating pattern

Woman in Brown Classic Trench Coat Eating Mcdo Fries during Daytime

 

I don’t eat anything after my dinner. And I skip breakfast. That means I “fast” for 15-16 hours every day.

There are some health benefits associated with intermittent fasting. But we have to be careful with making claims.

The reason I like it is that it makes me feel and look better. Plus, I can eat whatever I want during the day without gaining any weight.

I don’t eat junk food. I stick to whole foods with high nutritional value. Also, my first meal contains a lot of unsaturated fat and protein. And finally, make sure you consume the calories your body needs to operate (2000 for women, 2500 for men, on average).

7. Be present

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We’re so focused on our goals that we forget to enjoy the present moment. This is one of my biggest pitfalls.

I really need to remind myself EVERY SINGLE day that I should enjoy the now.

We’re always waiting until we achieve something. “I will be happy then.”

Nope, you won’t if you’re always stuck in the future. Find a trigger that brings you back to the present moment.

For example, I recently bought a new watch. During the same time, I was reading a lot about this spiritual stuff. Now, every time I look at my watch, I say, “What time is it? NOW.”

8. Practice kindness & love

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We all treat our love like it’s a depletable resource. That’s false. Love is unlimited and never runs out. You can give it away as much as you like.

But your ego stops you from doing that. You always want something in return.

So give this a try. Realize that you have an unlimited resource. Give some of your love and kindness away every day. Don’t worry about keeping score. You have enough love anyway.

9. Journal or write 30 minutes a day

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I need to get my thoughts in order every day. I do that by writing. That helps me to focus on what matters to me. That’s why I journal.

Even when I’m not writing articles, I sit down and journal—only for myself. I don’t write in my journal for others. Journaling is also an excellent tool to become a better thinker and person.

10. Save 30% of your income

Ballpoint Pen on Top of White Printer Paper Beside 100 U.s. Dollar Bill

If you can’t save 30%, save 10%. Saving is not so much about how much. It’s about how often.

You save by cutting out useless things you do daily or weekly. You don’t need to buy a latte every day. You also don’t need to buy “organic” cashew nuts for $10.

Save on the small things. They will turn into big lumps of cash in time. Especially if you invest that extra cash.

And that is also the secret to these 10 habits. They are all small. And the daily progress you make seems insignificant.

You will only see the return it has on your life over time. You must stick to these habits until your life gets better.

And when that happens, you’ll keep going—not because you have to, but because you want to.

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).

Start-ups – Real Entrepreneur

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

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

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

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

1. You Have A Never Ending Passion

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

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

 

2. You Serve As a Fountain Of Ideas

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

4. You Never Like To Give Up

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

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

 

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

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

 

6. You Are Often a Calculated Risk Taker

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

 

7. You Are Able To See the Big Picture

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

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

 

8. You Can Keep Up With The Times

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

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

 

9. You Are Intelligent

 

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

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

 

10. You Are Not Afraid To Ask For Help

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

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

 

11. You Have The Ability To Finish Things

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

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

 

12. You Have An Infectious Excitement

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

 

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

About the Author: 

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

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

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.”

How to Overcome the Fear of Failure

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

Fear doesn’t discriminate.

Regardless if you made it to the top, you just joined a successful team or are considering launching your new venture — everyone is afraid of failing.

Fear is hardwired into us. It won’t go away — it’s a needed defense mechanism for survival. However, you can learn to distinguish real from imagined attacks.

Fear of failure is the anxiety you experience when you imagine all the horrible things that could happen. You put your creative juices to work against you instead of on your behalf — by imagining infinite threats your mind gets you paralyzed.

When was the last time you failed?

When I ask this question on a workshop, most participants avoid answering. Acknowledging our own failure is like having a rare disease. No one wants to be on the spot. Ironically, the fear of failure can cause more pain than failure itself.

Many people are so scared of failing that they get stuck. The fear of failure is the most significant obstacle that stands between you and your achievements.

Your success depends on your ability to conquer, not your fears, but your idea of failure.

Anxiety drives confusion. One question helps me regain clarity and overcome the fear of failing.

Dance with fear, not with anxiety

“It is foolish to fear what you cannot avoid.” — Publius Syrus

Fear is an emotional response to a threat in the present — for instance, if you are caught in a fire or being bullied by a colleague. It’s a natural response to an attack that can be either perceived or real.

Anxiety is emotional anticipation — it’s the thought of something going wrong in the future, not now. Health professionals use the term ‘anxiety’ to describe a persistent fear or a chronic sense of worry, the sources of which seem unclear.

We can see what we are afraid of; anxiety clouds our vision.

When all your negative fantasies are being projected in front of you, it’s hard to see things clearly. Either you tame your thoughts, or they will eat you alive, as I wrote here.

Anxiety will get you stuck; fear will keep you in motion.

As Seth Godin says: “Dance with fear. As you dance, you realize that fear is, in fact, a compass — it’s giving you a hint that you are onto something. Even though there is that possibility of failure, the fear-as-compass pushes you to persistently, consistently, and generously bring your creative work forward.”

If you want a different outcome, start by changing your mentality.

When your expectations are too high, your fears become bigger and bigger. Worrying about the future is pointless too — most things are out of your control. Focus on what you can manage, not on the infinite possibilities that might occur (or not).

What the worst thing that can happen?

We don’t fear to do stuff; we fear the outcome because we can’t control it. Failing makes us vulnerable — we feel exposed to other people’s judgment. However, that speculation prevents you from living life to its fullest.

I use a simple mantra to defuse the fear of failure.

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

That simple question has helped me deal with anxiety and uncertainty throughout my life. It allows me to recover clarity too, especially in the darkest hours.

Regardless if I was planning to move to a new country or thinking to start my own firm, this mantra allowed me to distinguish real from imaginary threats. And to focus on the now rather than getting stuck anticipating the future.

That’s the most powerful thing about asking yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen. Most of the times, you’ll realize that most scenarios are not as bad as you feel.

Every time I ask that question, it reminds me of similar situations I faced in the past. Though the challenges and what’s at stake are different, there’s always a common theme: I don’t know how things will turn until they happen.

So, what’s the point of worrying?

You are probably thinking this sound too simplistic. That’s okay. I will give you some practical steps to put this into practice in a second. However, before you write a simple method off, consider the following. Overcomplication drives worries and anxiety — we start overthinking potential outcomes and then get paralyzed.

Simplicity is the antidote to overcomplicating.

Bertrand Russell, in The Conquest of Happiness, recommends dealing with worry through the cultivation of right attitudes.

“A process can be adopted with regard to anxieties. When some misfortune threatens, consider seriously and deliberately what is the very worst that could possibly happen. Having looked at this possible misfortune in the face, give yourself sound reasons for thinking that after all, it would be no such very terrible disaster. Such reasons always exist, since at the worst nothing that happens to oneself has any cosmic importance.” — the British philosopher wrote.

We need to rewire our brain to avoid overthinking from making us more anxious. Realizing that the world doesn’t revolve around us, as Russel suggested, removes the need to be in control. It invites you to take a more relaxed approach to life.

Fear is just one of the many emotions you have. Use your other feelings to offset being taken hostage by what you are afraid of.

Five ways to overcome the fear of failure

“First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.” — Dale Carnegie

1. Distinguish real versus imagined fears

Asking what’s the worst thing that can happen is not a magic cure. It’s a first step towards finding clarity. You need to stop worrying and focus on the root cause.

Write down all the potential scenarios. Avoid exaggerating — the goals is to focus on probable situations, not to test your creativity. Categorize the answers in real and imagined fears. Discard the latter. This exercise requires practice until you build confidence.

Master your fears, or you’ll become their servant.

Bertrand Russell said: “Worry is a form of fear, and all forms of fear produce fatigue. The proper course with every kind of fear is to think about it rationally and calmly, but with great concentration, until it has been completely familiar.”

2. Don’t idealize life

If we expect life to be perfect, we will always be afraid of leaving our cocoon.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology demonstrated that when we have a too optimistic vision of our future, we become less energized and accomplish less also. That’s because we are not prepared to face struggles.

Life is not perfect; it’s not bad either — happiness requires embracing balance.

The same research has shown that successful people visualize a positive outcome, but also acknowledge future obstacles — the real ones, not the imagined ones.

3. Experience is about learning, not just achieving

If it’s hard to define what success looks like, what’s the point of defining failure then? Life is not perfect — there’s no point in trying to anticipate the future correctly.

When you focus on the outcome — what you want to achieve — you get distracted from playing your best game.

Winning is an outcome, focus on playing at your best.

There’s no such a thing as a perfect decision. A right decision made at the wrong time won’t do you any good either. Minimize risk by making decisions in small doses now. You can always course correct.

4. Standing still is more dangerous

Fear is not the enemy; paralysis is. The world will continue its natural course even if you don’t do anything. That’s the most hazardous part of standing still — everyone around you will move on as you keep rehashing things over and over.

Fear is a signal for you to wake up. What is the universe trying to tell you?

The world keeps changing even if you stay put. Failing to adapt can be more dangerous than experimenting with something new.

5. Defeat is temporary

Nothing lasts forever. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said:“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”

Mistakes are learning opportunities. Life requires a trial and error approach. We don’t come to this world with instructions manuals; we create our own as we live.

You battle the fear of failure every day.

Anticipation is the need to have the answers before you know what the questions are. Don’t let anxiety get in your way. Babies learn to walk because they don’t know there’s a thing called failure — they follow their instinct to get back on their feet again and keep trying.


The best way to overcome fear is by not being conquered by it.

Fear is a signal that something might happen. There’s no need to overreact. The future is uncertain because it’s meant to be designed on the go, not lived in advance.

Fear is not the enemy; paralysis is.

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

Daily Habits That Will Improve Your Life

10 Daily Habits That Will Improve Your Life

In the sea of habits that could enhance your life, only a few of them stand outfrom the rest and give you an edge in life.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. “

— Aristotle


1. Get Continuous Rest

Working in a high capacity for a long period of time can exhaust anyone, andif you are not taking the proper amount of time to rest, your body will crash,and it will have consequences on everything you do.

That’s why it makes a lot of sense to start everything here. Now, I won’t tell you to sleep for 8 hours every night or to wake up at a specific hour. That’sentirely up to you.

Instead, your goal should be to find the right time to go to bed and the right time to wake up, so you can get enough rest, remain healthy and feelenergized.


2. Wake up Early

The moment you step outside and let the daily momentum kick in, you slowlyreduce the control over how your day pans out. That control is difficult to re-gain later in the day.

That’s why it’s essential to wake up earlier and use the first couple of hours so that you can take control over your state of mind and your body. In those few hours, you’ll kickstart the day in the way it suits you best.


3. Eat Healthy & Exercise

The sedentary lifestyle is slowly killing us, and we are not even noticing it.

You need to make a deal with yourself that no matter what happens in your life, health comes first — which means that you need to take care of yourself first before you engage in anything else.

There are only two things you need to keep in mind:

  • Healthy Diet
  • Physical Activity

Make small actions every day, and let the compound effect do its thing.


4. Meditate

We live in a world where everything is designed to steal your attention(including this article), and that makes it challenging to find a peaceful moment just for yourself.

And these moments are necessary if we’re going to keep clarity and calmnessof our mind.

That’s why you need to find few minutes a day — preferably earlier in the day,to create a grounding effect that will help you center yourself, and re-focus on what’s important.

If nothing, just to breathe and calm your thoughts.


5. Plan

It’s easy to get swept away with the dynamic environment we live in.

Because of this, you need to constantly pull yourself back and plan out how you want your life to unfold instead of letting the external circumstances do it for you.

Execution is what matters, but this depends solely on your ability to plan and follow through on that plan.


6. Focus on High Leverage Activities

Not all things you do will give you a high return on investment.

Your time is precious, and you should be careful where you’re allocating it.

Whenever in doubt, look at your plan, and ask yourself:

What are the 20% of activities that will yield the 80% of the results?

And then do it.


7. Acquire New Skills

Know that your goals dictate what you need to learn.

You should never randomly acquire skills. Try instead to learn the skills that will help you achieve your goals, no matter in what area of your life.

Know that every skill you acquire will not be beneficial on its own but will stack up with every skill you’ve acquired earlier, and you will start movingforward.


8. Read

Reading, no matter the genre sparks creativity and unleashes your imagination.

The reason for this is because every new idea a book can offer (no matter how small it seems) interacts with the knowledge you already have.

So whenever you open a book, look for just one idea, and see how you canapply it in everyday life.


9. Interact with Doers

If you are the most active person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

Find people that are doing something incredible with their lives and learn from them.

Even interacting with people who are driven and are accomplishingsomething in their life will serve as an inspiration. It will get you to take action.


10. Reflect & Evaluate

Time is passing by faster than ever because we have more things thatpreoccupy us.

This makes it challenging to take a break to reflect and evaluate how our lives are turning out.

So, just before you go to bed, give yourself a goal to evaluate your day and what can be improved the next day.

Not only this but every couple of months you should take a day or two to evaluate your plans. To see what delivers results, and what needs to be cut.

Then, adapt your plan and don’t be afraid to pivot if necessary.

Change Your Life

How To Change Your Life In 30 Days

Your identity is not fixed, but highly fluid.

Your identity follows your behaviors.

How does this work?

It works based on two very important psychological concepts:

  1. Self-signaling: which means that, as a person, you evaluate and judge yourself the same way you judge others — based on behavior. So, if you watch yourself do something, you identify yourself with that behavior. If you drink alcohol, for example, you begin to identify yourself as someone who drinks alcohol. If you wake up early, you identify yourself as someone who wakes up early. If you write articles online, you identify yourself as a writer. Thus, how you see yourself is highly fluid, and based on your own behaviors. As your behavior changes, your perceived identity changes.
  2. Precognition: which means that thoughts don’t necessarily lead to behaviors, but that behaviors can also lead to thoughts. In other words,common wisdom suggests that your inner world creates your outer world.Hence, “mental creation precedes physical creation.” This is certainly true. But behaviors (and environments) can also create internal states. For example, if you jump into an ice-cold bath, you’ll begin to experience a cascade of emotions and thoughts. Or lack of thoughts. What precognition shows is that you can actually PREDICT your inner state by behaving in certain ways, and by placing yourself in certain environments. Thus,change doesn’t only happen from the inside out, but also from the outside in.

Both of these ideas are strongly related to other research in psychology, which suggests that behaviors generally come BEFORE psychological states. Again, this goes against most common wisdom.

My favorite example is the research on self-efficacy (confidence), which shows that confidence isn’t what produces high performance. But rather, that high performance is what produces confidence.

Put simply, if you want to have confidence, you can have it. All you have to do is behave in desired ways, even for a short period of time.

Why does all of this matter?

It matters, because you have the power to radically change your identity.

Even at a biological level, new science in epigenetics and neuroplasticity is showing how malleable and fluid our biology is.

The Problem With Succeeding

Most people plateau.

Even successful people.

It’s actually very common for people who are succeeding to get stuck.

Think about some of your favorite authors, musicians, and even companies.

At some point, they generally stop being as innovative.

We all have that band we love, whose first album or two had way more soul.Then, once they became famous, their music became far more tame.

The same is often true of world-class chefs.

Once a restaurant becomes highly successful, they usually stop innovating the menu as much.

Once something is working, it’s hard to go back to ground zero.

In psychological terms, your motivation can go from approach-oriented to avoid-oriented.

Specifically, all goals are either offensive or defensive.

If you’re seeking to advance your current position, you’re “approaching.”

If you’re seeking to maintain your position, or avoid something bad from happening, you’re “avoiding.”

When you’re approaching, you’re less concerned about risks and more focused on rewards. You’re willing to take risks. You’re willing to fail. You’re being PULLED forward.

When you’re avoiding, you’re less concerned about the rewards and more focused on the risks. And you have no desire to proactively confront those risks. Instead, you’re simply trying to shield yourself from any problems that come your way.

I’ve seen this with many of my role models. For example, some of my favorite authors have shifted from approach-oriented to avoid-oriented.

I can see it in their work.

It’s become far more safe.

They are making far less significant ideological attempts in their writing.Their books are becoming more mainstream. Obviously calculated and less intuitive and inspired.

When you begin succeeding, your focus can shift from WHY to WHAT. Instead of operating from your core, your simply try to maintain success.

This is how you get stuck.

This is how you get confused and lose your identity.

Are you on offense or defense?

Are you approaching or avoiding?

Are you proactively becoming the person you want to be?

Or are you holding on to the person you think you are?

The Antidote: Never Stop Re-Inventing Yourself

In the brilliant Netflix documentary, Chef’s Table, which highlights the lives of the world’s most successful chefs, one particular episode stands out.

The number one chef in Asia, Gaggan Anand, is known for spontaneously throwing out his entire menu and starting from scratch. Even when his current menu is getting lots of attention.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is.

When a restaurant starts getting recognized and certain awards, it’s generally based on the menu and overall atmosphere.

Being literally number one in Asia, it would make sense for Gaggan to keep his restaurant how it is.

But that’s not what he does.

Creativity, and always pushing his own boundaries, is what he is about.

So just because something is working doesn’t give him permission to stop evolving.

So he reinvents himself.

Over and over and over.

No matter how hard it is to walk away from something brilliant.

A true creator never stops pushing their boundaries.

They never stop reinventing.

Once you become awesome at something, use your new LEARNING ABILITIES to become awesome at something else.

The whole notion of “finding your calling” has led people to having fixed views of themselves.

There isn’t just one thing you were born to do.

You can expand and grow in countless ways. Especially after you learn the process of learning. You can take all of your experience becoming great at something, and quickly become proficient at something else.

In this way, you never plateau. You’re always growing and evolving as a person.

The 30-Day Challenge

Given that your identity is fluid and malleable, you have an amazing opportunity to redefine who you are.

All you have to do is consistently and boldly reshape your behavior.

You can do this in the form of a 30-day challenge.

What’s something you’ve wanted to do, that you haven’t done?

Or, what’s something that would clearly lead you to a place you’d like to be?

It could be 30 days of extreme health and fitness.

That would definitely change things.

It could be facing an extreme fear: like 30 days of asking people on dates.

It could be 30 days of writing articles, or filming videos.

Whatever it is, if you do it for 30 days, your identity will change.

Your fears will become cauterized and neutralized.

You’ll adapt to your new behaviors.

Your psychological state will change.

You’ll begin to identify with your new behaviors.

Will you have to deal with some negative emotions along the way?

Will you face a load of resistance and fear?

Will you want to quit?

The answer is probably yes to all of those questions.

But THIS is how you separate yourself from the masses.

This is how you make quantum leaps in your progression, while most people make incremental progress.

This is how you consciously shape your identity and future.

Where will you be in 30 days from now?

WHO will you be 30 days from now?

Ready to Upgrade?

I’ve created a cheat sheet for putting yourself into a PEAK-STATE, immediately. You follow this daily, your life will change very quickly.