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good citizenship

We should all aspire to be good citizens of our country, and of the world.

The concept of citizenship was born in the city-states of Ancient Greece; specifically, in Athens. Greek education at the time was designed to instruct citizens in the values, intellectual frameworks, and habits-of-mind required to be free men. That is, to actively participate in the political system that shaped their lives and guaranteed their freedoms.

Today, being a citizen means that you’re part of a group, and that you have legal and political rights within that group. It brings with it both privileges and obligations. I would argue that we each have a duty, or an obligation, to be good citizens. After all, a nation is only as healthy as its individual citizens.

Nonetheless, in modern times, people generally aren’t educated on how to be good citizens. Therefore, I asked myself the following questions: “What does it mean to be a good citizen?”, and, “How do you become a good citizen?” In this post I’m going to share with you the answers that I came up with.

Below you’ll find 10 ways to be a good citizen.

1. A Good Citizen is Patriotic.

Patriotism is having and showing devotion for your country. It means having an attachment to certain national cultural values and showing critical loyalty to your nation. Some ways to show patriotism include the following:

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  • Brush up on your country’s history.
  • Read up on social studies.
  • Obey the rule of law.
  • Pay your taxes.
  • Learn the national anthem.
  • Fly your country’s flag.
  • Don’t litter or engage in acts of vandalism that deface your environment.
  • Travel around your country and talk to your fellow citizens.
  • Cheer for your country’s team in sports events (World Cup, I’m looking at you).

At the same time, keep in mind that patriotism should not be confused with nationalism. Nationalism is thinking of your nation as being superior to others, and worthy of dominance. Patriots are proud of their country, but they understand that other people are also rightly proud of theirs.

Look at the words of a church hymn written in 1934 by the American Lloyd Stone to the melody of Finlandia by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius:

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

A good citizen loves their country—a good citizen is a patriot.

2. Model the Personal Qualities of Good Citizens.

The personal qualities of a good citizen include the following:

  • Honesty – tell the truth.
  • Integrity – be morally upright.
  • Responsibility – be accountable for yourself and your actions.
  • Respectfulness – treat others how you want to be treated.
  • Compassion – show fellowship with your compatriots who are down on their luck by volunteering and/or making donations to charities.
  • Kindness – be friendly.
  • Tolerance – be tolerant of other races and religions.
  • Courtesy – be considerate of others.
  • Self-Discipline – have self-control and cultivate the ability to follow through on what you say you’re going to do.
  • Moral Courage – stand up for what you consider to be wrong and defend those who cannot defend themselves.
  • Love of Justice – be fair and ask that others be so as well.

Imagine what your country would be like if all its citizens strived to achieve these personal qualities. Start by adopting them yourself.

There are two ways in which you can develop the characteristics listed above. In my post on How to Develop Your Character – Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues, I explain that at the age of twenty Benjamin Franklin resolved to always do right and avoid any wrongdoing.

The way in which he planned to achieve this was by creating a list of 13 virtues. He also created a plan for developing those virtues. I recommend you do something similar.

In addition, in his youth George Washington captured 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior. They were rules for comporting oneself in a way that would be respectful of others, and of the self. Look through the rules and come up with your own set of rules of behavior.

3. Be a Productive Member of Society.

A good citizen contributes to their nation by being productive. They’re productive employees, business owners, artists, public servants, caregivers, and so on. Good citizens share their skills, talents, and abilities with others. They make a positive contribution to their nation.

4. Be Active In Your Community.

A good citizen is active in their community. They participate in the social life of their city or town, and they look for ways to make their communities a better place to live. That is, if they see a problem in their community they look for ways to solve it.

Here are some ways to be active in your community:

  • Shop locally.
  • Attend community events – keep your eyes open for events that are happening in your area such as festivals, community theatre, a gallery opening, and so on.
  • Join a local club that’s devoted to an activity that interests you, such as running, cycling, or kayaking.

Here are some ways to better your community:

  • Participate in a community-driven cleanup project.
  • Help plant a community garden.
  • Organize a campaign to raise money for new playground equipment.
  • Help out your neighbors.

Instead of being cooped up in your home glued to a technological device, get out there and become an active member of your community. It will make you a better citizen.

5. Keep Yourself Well-Informed.

Read to educate yourself about the important issues facing your nation. In 1761, John Adams implied that one of the reasons to emphasize literacy is that it makes people better citizens. Look at the following quote:

“Every man has in politics as well as religion a right to think and speak and act for himself. I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading?”

If you’re asking yourself what you should read to keep well-informed, here are some suggestions:

  • Various news sources that cover local, national and global news.
  • Books on important world issues.
  • Biographies of people who have helped shape the world.
  • History books.
  • Political science books such as Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, Plato’s The Republic, and Mill’s On Liberty.

6. Be Vigilant.

A country depends on a well-informed and civic minded population to safeguard the people’s individual freedoms and political rights. A good citizen remains vigilant in order to ascertain that the government is doing all of the following:

  • Meeting its obligations to its citizens;
  • Acting appropriately within its sphere and jurisdiction; and
  • Adhering to the limits of state action.

To do this, a citizen must have the basic skills necessary to be able to assess arguments logically and critically.

In addition, if a citizen believes that the government is overstepping its bounds or failing in its duties, the citizen must speak up. In the words of Thomas Jefferson:

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

7. Participate in Your Nation’s Political Life.

If you want to be a good citizen, you should be politically active. There are many ways to this. Here are some ideas:

  • Identify an issue you care about and pursue it.
  • Attend rallies and events.
  • Go to city council meetings.
  • Join a political organization.
  • Volunteer for a political campaign.
  • Vote! Do your part to elect capable, civic minded leaders.
  • Run for political office.

As a citizen, you have the right to have your voice heard. Exercise that right.

8. Be a Mentor.

Today’s kids are tomorrow’s citizens. Help shape the citizens of the future by mentoring kids. Some ideas on ways you can mentor kids are the following:

  • Talk to your own kids about civics and teach them to be good citizens.
  • Join a school-based mentoring program and tutor kids who aren’t doing well academically.
  • Get involved in an organization such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.

A while ago I published a post on how to leave a legacy. A great legacy to leave your nation is to play a part in forming good citizens who will contribute to the nation’s well-being.

9. Be Well-Rounded.

The third point in this blog post indicates that a good citizen has to be productive. That is, they need to have the knowledge necesary to produce in today’s world — technical skills, legal skills, medical skills, and so on. However, a good citizen should also be well-rounded.

A well-rounded person is better at creative problem solving and innovation than a person who is not well-rounded. In addition, they can make contributions not only to a country’s GDP, but also to the cultural wealth of their nation.

Here are some of the qualities of a well-rounded person:

  • They’re well-read.
  • A well-rounded person is cultured.
  • They’re well-educated.
  • They develop not only their mental faculties, but also their emotional, physical, and spiritual faculties.

10. Order Your Corner Of the World

Your home is a microcosm of your country. If you want to live in a clean, healthy, prosperous, happy nation, start by creating these circumstances at home.

The Chinese philosopher Confucius once said the following: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

Do things like the following:

  • Keep a clean and organized home environment.
  • Eat healthy meals.
  • Keep to a budget and don’t go into debt.
  • Pay your bills on time.
  • Don’t waste water or electricity.
  • Recycle.
  • Create a list of simple rules for your family to follow.
  • Set personal development goals and strive to achieve them.

Start small- create order at home. Good homes lead to good neighborhoods, which lead to good cities, which lead to good states, which lead to good countries, which lead to a good world.


I, for one, am making an effort to be a good citizen of Panama, and of the world. How about you? Live your best life by being a good citizen.


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TED Talks for lifelong learners

Becoming a lifelong learner is no longer optional.

To stay competitive in the 21st century, you have to constantly learn, grow, and improve yourself. That is, you have to commit to lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning is the ongoing and voluntary pursuit of knowledge, as well as the development and improvement of skills. It can be for either personal or professional reasons. In addition, it can be formal–learning in a traditional classroom setting–or informal, which is learning on your own.

Being a lifelong learner can help you with all of the following:

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  • Keep your career skills relevant–in this day and age, skills that are cutting edge one year are outdated just a few years later.
  • One of the best routes to financial independence is to start a business, even if it’s just a side business. If you don’t have business skills, you can acquire them through self-learning.
  • You can engage in a practice called “second-skilling”: gaining a second area of expertise which compliments your primary area of knowledge. As an illustration, I took a course to get a realtor’s license a few years ago. I was working as an independent attorney, and with a realtor’s license I could help clients find and buy an apartment, and then do all of the related legal work for them.
  • Keeping our brains active and engaged by learning new skills can help keep them in good shape as we get older.
  • Explore other career opportunities–I went from being a lawyer to becoming an entrepreneur.
  • Keep up with your interests by pursuing new hobbies.

So, how do you become a lifelong learner? Start by reading my article on learning skills fast. Then, supplement that material with TED Talks. Which TED Talks? I’m glad you asked. Below you’ll find 10 must-watch TED Talks for lifelong learners.

1. Self-Learning: Ryan Lee

When Ryan Lee gave his TED Talk a few years ago, he was a fifteen-year-old kid who had taught himself to code and create apps and websites. He explains that the way in which he teaches himself new things is by having something very specific that he wants to accomplish with his newly acquired knowledge.

Ryan explains that if you want to learn something new, you should turn it into a project. That is, there should be a clear end result. Here’s an example:

  • Ryan didn’t just tell himself, “I want to learn HTML and CSS”.
  • Instead, he told himself, “I want to learn HTML and CSS so that I can create a cool user profile for this online game I love to play.”

Each time that Ryan embarks on a new self-learning adventure, he’s highly motivated. This is because he knows exactly what he wants to accomplish with the knowledge and skills that he’s acquiring.

Like Ryan, when you want to learn to do something new, turn it into a project.

2. The Power of Believing That You Can Improve

Carol Dweck, PhD, is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She’s best known for her research on mindset, and how it can impact a person’s ability to learn. Specifically, Dweck has coined the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset”.

Here’s the difference between the two:

  • People with a growth mindset believe that if there’s something they don’t understand, or a skill that they haven’t been able to learn, they just need to try harder. If they fail at learning something new, they simply tell themselves that they need to try a different approach. Then they try again.
  • People with a fixed mindset believe that you either have the ability to learn about a new topic, and the talent to acquire a new skill, or you don’t. If they fail at something, they conclude that they simply don’t have what it takes, and they stop trying.

Obviously, the first mindset–the growth mindset–is much more conducive to learning. You can find out more about the growth mindself by watching the TED Talk below, and by reading my post on Five Mindsets That Will Transform Your Life.

3. You Can Grow New Brain Cells. Here’s How.

When it comes to adults learning new things, there are two brain-related terms that are very important: neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Here’s how these terms are defined:

  • Neurogenesis — the brain’s ability to create new neurons, or brain cells.
  • Neuroplasticity — the malleability of the brain and its ability to create new and stronger neural connections.

When it comes to neurogenesis, I wrote extensively about Sandrine Thuret’s TED Talk on growing new brain cells in this post: How to Grow New Brain Cells and Make Yourself Smarter. Read that post, or watch Thuret’s TED Talk below.

4. How to Learn Anything in 30 Days

Connor Grooms shares in his TED Talk that the previous year he had been in Medellín, Colombia. When he arrived, he spoke almost no Spanish. A month later, he was conversational. Groom revealed the process that he used to learn Spanish, which is the same process that he uses whenever he wants to learn something new.

His process consists of the following three steps:

  • Do research.
  • Create a plan.
  • Execute the plan.

However, Grooms adds that no learning methodology or strategy in the world will work for you, unless achieving the learning project that you’ve set for yourself is nonnegotiable. You have to be absolutely committed.

Think of something that’s nonnegotiable in your life, like going to work. You don’t ask yourself whether or not you’re going in to work each weekday morning; you simply get up and do it. When you’re going to learn something new, you have to have this same level of commitment, or you won’t follow through.

What do you want to learn to do? How committed are you?

5. Auto-Learning Through Self-Teaching and Experimentation

The fifth talk in our list of TED Talks for lifelong learners is by Biologist/Geneticist Connor Edsall. Edsall indicates that self-learning is a combination of self-teaching and self-trying. In order to illustrate his point, Edsall refers to four individuals who changed the world although they had little or no formal education.

These four people made great achievements in their respective fields through self-learning. They are the following:

  • Michael Faraday – he established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field in physics. Faraday developed his theories through experimental observation.
  • John Hunter – he became known as the father of scientific surgery. Hunter accomplished this through observation, dissection (of dead human and animal bodies), and experimentation.
  • The Wright brothers – Orville and Wilbur Wright invented, built, and flew the world’s first successful airplane. They were encouraged by their parents to design and invent from a young age, and they would often cooperate on simple projects like building kites, creating replicas of a toy rubber band helicopter, and inventing a newspaper folding machine.

Edsall adds that today we have access to enormous amounts of information. However, absorbing information isn’t really learning. In order to learn, you have to get out there and apply what you learn. That is, you have to observe and carry out experiments. You have to try.

When learning something new, keep the following in mind: “Experiri est Discere.” It means: “To try is to learn.”

6. The Curious Person’s Guide to Learning Anything

Stephen Robinson decided to give himself the challenge of learning something new every week, for 52 weeks. He shares his learning adventures in his blog, 52Skillz. Here are some of the things he learned:

  • Doing a backflip.
  • Crocheting a tie.
  • Racing a rally car.
  • Juggling.

Stephen explains that when he was in his last year in college he grew frustrated. He had developed a routine of going to school, going to work, and then going home to consume things created by others (TV, newspapers, video games, and so on). Stephen realized that he was simply maintaining his lifestyle, and maintaining the expectations of others.

He wasn’t following up on what he wanted to do, and he wasn’t really living. That’s when he decided to learn something new every week, for 52 weeks.

Stephen then goes on to show the TED audience how they, too, can learn new skills. He uses “Learn How to Give a TED Talk” as a case study. Here’s the process:

1. Write It Down.

Whatever your learning goal is, you have to get it out of your head and unto a piece of paper.

2. Create Urgency.

Stephen received an email from the Alberta TED Talks coordinator indicating that someone had dropped out of their program, and they wanted him to take their place. This meant he had five days to come up with a TED Talk. Now that’s urgency!

3. Create Accountability.

A TED Talk can be a huge boost for your career, or it can simply get lost among the billions of things that can be found on the internet. The fact that Stephen had a looming deadline created urgency, and the fact that there was so much riding on whether he did well or poorly created accountability.

4. Fail.

Stephen indicates that in order to learn anything new, you need to fail. When he was preparing his TED Talk he wrote several rough drafts which were really bad.

He cautions that you shouldn’t interpret failure as evidence that you’re weak, dumb, or don’t have the ability to learn the skill that you’re trying to acquire. Instead, interpret failure as growth. Anyone who has tried to learn anything new will spend a lot of time doing things wrong. That’s just the way it is.

5. Ask for Help.

When you’ve failed a few times and you aren’t sure what to do next, ask for help. Stephen called some of his friends who were keynote speakers and asked for help in writing his TED Talk. His friends gave him some great pointers which were very helpful in getting his TED Talk in good shape.

6. Follow Through.

On the day of his TED Talk, Stephen showed up, stood in front of the audience, and gave his talk. He followed through and demonstrated that he had successfully learned how to give a TED Talk.

7. The First 20-Hours: How to Learn Anything

In the 7th of our 10 TED Talks for Lifelong Learners, Josh Kaufman goes through the learning process he laid out in his book, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast!

When Kaufman and his wife had their first child, he was saddened to think that he would never have time to learn anything new. That’s when he decided to find a way to learn skills fast. His objective was to choose a few skills and go from being grossly incompetent at those things, to being reasonably good, in as little time as possible. He discovered that this took 20 hours.

Here are Kaufman’s four simple steps for rapid skill acquisition:

  1. Deconstruct the Skill –most of the things that we think of as skills are actually bundles of skills. Take the skill that you’re trying to learn and break it down into as many sub-skills as you can. This will allow you to identify the sub-skills that you need to concentrate on in order to achieve what you want.
  2. Learn Enough to Self-Correct. Identify three to five resources you can use. You want enough knowledge so that you can start practicing and self-correcting as fast as possible.
  3. Remove Practice Barriers. Remove all distractions and anything that will get in the way as you try to learn the new skill.
  4. Practice for At Least 20 Hours. Kaufman explains that most skills have what he refers to as “the frustration stage”. It’s that initial stage at which you’re grossly incompetent at your new skill, and you know it. It’s very uncomfortable to be at this stage, and you’ll probably be tempted to quit. The way to get over this stage is to pre-commit to practicing whatever it is that you’re trying to learn for at least 20 hours. That will help you to push through the frustration stage and stick with the practice long enough to reap the rewards.

Kaufman used this four-step process to teach himself, among other things, to play the ukulele. You can watch him play the ukulele in his TED Talk below.

8. Learning Styles and The Importance of Self-Reflection

You’ve probably always heard that some people are visual learners, others learn better by listening, and still others are kinesthetic learners. Well, it turns out that’s a myth. Yep. You heard here first. Tesia Marshik does a great job of debunking this myth in her TED Talk.

Marshik also points out that incorporating multiple sensory experiences into one lesson is the best way to make the lesson more meaningful and memorable. For example, if you’re teaching someone about the sound that a musical instrument makes, do the following:

  • Have them listen to the instrument (audiatory).
  • Let them watch someone play the instrument (visual).
  • Allow them to hold the instrument and see what sounds they can make with it (kinesthetic).

Watch Marshik explain why there’s no such thing as learning styles in her TED Talk.

9. How to Get Better at Things You Care About

If you decide to watch only one of these TED Talks for lifelong learners, I recommend you watch this one.

Eduardo Briceño explains that people reach a point at which they stop getting better at the things that are important to them. Almost everyone reaches a point of stagnation, even if they’re working really hard. However, there’s a way to fix this.

Briceño indicates that the most successful people and teams spend their lives alternating between two zones:

  • The Learning Zone; and
  • The Performance Zone.

When you’re in the learning zone, your goal is to improve. In this zone you carry out activities designed for getting better at things that are important to you. In the learning zone, you try things which you haven’t mastered yet, which means that you’re going to make mistakes. However, you look for ways to learn from those mistakes so that you can improve and grow.

When you’re in the performance zone, your goal is to do something as well as you can. In this zone, you concentrate on those things which you’ve already mastered, and you try to minimize mistakes. In this zone you execute to the best of your ability.

The key to continous improvement is to spend time in both the learning and the performance zones. A great way to see the difference between the learning and the performance zones is through examples. In his Ted Talk, Briceño uses Demosthenes and Beyoncé as examples.


Demosthenes was one of the greatest orators and lawyers of ancient Greece. When it was time to act as an orator or lawyer, he performed masterfully. However, he would also take time to improve his craft by doing things such as the following:

  • Since persuasion is so important in the practice of law, he would study acting;
  • He would practice his speeches over and over again in front of a mirror to perfect his style of presentation; and
  • Demosthenes would even practice by the ocean so that he would have to project his voice over the waves.


Beyoncé is one of the world’s best-selling music artists. When Beyoncé is on tour, during her concerts, she’s in her performance zone. The audience is treated to her masterful performance.

But every night, when she gets back to the hotel room, she switches to the learning zone. She watches a video of the show she just gave to identify opportunities for improvement for herself, her dancers, and the rest of her crew. The next morning, everyone receives notes on what adjustments to make. Then, they spend the day working on those adjustments so that they can improve before the next performance.

To sum things up: you build your skills in the learning zone, and then you apply those skills in the performance zone.

10. Can You Get An MIT Education for $2000?

As I wrote in post on 10 Ways Taking MOOCs Can Improve Your Life, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a great tool for lifelong learners. An example of someone who used MOOCs to teach himself valuable new skills is Scott Young.

Young decided to try to get the equivalent of a four-year degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in just 12 months. He used courses put up on the internet for free by MIT to build a computer science curriculum with 33 classes. The curriculum was almost identical to the one followed by students who actually attend MIT. The only cost was for a few textbooks which cost him about $2000.

What do you want to learn? Follow Young’s example and create a curriculum for yourself based on MOOCs.


I hope you decide to take the time to watch the 10 Ted Talks for lifelong learners which I curated for you and listed above. It will help you to take your self-learning to the next level. Live your best life by committing to lifelong learning.


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seize the day

Grab life by the horns.

The words “Carpe Diem” were popularized by Mr. Keating—an English teacher played by Robin Williams—in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. He borrowed the phrase from the Roman poet Horace, who once wrote:

“Dum loquimur, fugerit invida. Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.”

“As we speak cruel time is fleeing. Seize the day, believing as little as possible in the morrow.”

Here are other ways to express that same adage:

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  • Memento mori – remember you will die.
  • YOLO – You Only Live Once.
  • Just Do It! – Nike’s exhortation to get out there and live your life.
  • “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying; and this same flower that smiles today tomorrow will be dying.” – Robert Herrick
  • “Make your lives extraordinary!” – John Keating
  • Dare to Live Fully (the name of this blog).

Steve Jobs reminded us that we have limited time on this planet in his famous 2005 Stanford commencement speech:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life…because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

I’m not telling you all of this to make you panic or have an anxiety attack, but simply to remind you that you won’t live forever. And this reminder is a good thing, because it can inspire you to stop living life as a spectator. Instead, get out there, step up to the plate, and swing as hard as you can.

Below I’m going to share with you 10 exercises I came up with to help you seize the day. The methodology I’m going to use is the following:

  • I’m going to share a quote with you.
  • Then, I’m going to suggest an exercise or activity inspired by that quote, so that you can stop thinking about seizing the day and start acting.

Here we go.

1. Forget Regret

“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.” – Jonathan Larson

We all have regrets about things we wish we’d done differently in the past. As an illustration, the other day I was watching a TED Talk by Lisa Bu in which she explains that she really wanted to become a Chinese opera singer.

Unfortunately, Bu’s parents did not support her dream. By the time Bu was fifteen years old, she realized that she had not gotten the early start that she would have needed to become a Chinese opera singer, and that her dream would never come true.

However, instead of resigning herself to a life of second-hand happiness, here’s the attitude that Bu chose:

“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from. Even a shattered dream can do that for you.”

Do the following:

  • Think of an important goal you set for yourself in the past which you failed to achieve, and which now fills you with regret.
  • Then, use that regret to reconnet to that place where dreams come from. Now, come up with a different dream.
  • Lastly, record a video in which you share your regret and your new dream, and put it up on YouTube.

Seize the day by turning your regrets into motivation to pursue a different dream.

2. Take the First Step!

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” – Lao Tzu

There’s almost certainly an important goal that you’ve been putting off because it will take a lot of effort to achieve it. That is, it’s a one-thousand-mile goal. Stop for a minute and remind yourself that if you don’t start right now, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll never achieve that goal.

The first thing you need to do is to chunk down your goal, so that you can start tackling it, one step at a time. In my post, How to Chunk Down Goals Into Manageable Pieces, I explain that there are three methods I use to chunk down goals. These three methods are the following:

  • Chunk Down Goals by Time
  • Chunk Down Goals by Quantity
  • Chunk Down Goals by Actionable Steps

Seize the day by deciding which of these three methods you’re going to use to chunk down your one-thousand-mile goal. Then, identify the first step. Draw a foot step like the one below and write down in the middle of it what your first step is going to be:

seize the day

Lastly, take that first step.

3. Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

“Get out of your comfort zone. Wake up the sleeping giant in you.” – Dr. T. P. Chia

A sure way to allow opportunities to pass you by and to fail to make the most of your life is to remain stuck in your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is a cage in which the bars that keep you locked in consist of your current habits, rituals, practices, and beliefs. You hold the key to the cage, but you stay in it voluntarily because you feel safe in there.

You can expand your comfort zone, and still feel safe, by following an approach which I explain in my post, 8 Ways to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone.  Basically, instead of breaking out of the cage, you’re just going to make it a little bit bigger by pushing the bars out slightly. Do things like the following:

  • Change your look to a small degree. You could try a different pant style, part your hair differently, or try a new shade of lipstick.
  • The next time you go out, try a new restaurant.
  • Start waking up five minutes earlier. Use those five minutes to meditate, do planks, or write in your journal.
  • Take a new way home from work.
  • Get a new board game for game night.
  • Find an interesting recipe online and try it out.
  • Write the first sentence of your novel and post it on Twitter.
  • Read a book that’s slighly more difficult than the books you normally read.

By slowly, but consistently, expanding your comfort zone, you’ll begin living a fuller and more vibrant life. That is, you’ll get better and better at seizing the day.

4. Make the Call

“If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?” ~Stephen Levine

My paternal grandmother–whom I adored–passed away in March. She had been very ill for months, so we knew she didn’t have much time left. Three days before she died I went to visit her, and I made sure to tell her how much I loved her. Although I was very sad when I heard she died, at least I felt some comfort from the fact that I had gotten the chance to say goodbye.

Is there someone you need to visit or call? Who would that be? What would you say? Now call or visit them.

5. You Do You

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”– Steve Jobs

If you’ve been living the life that someone else wants for you, instead of your own, it’s time to seize the day by shutting out the voices of others and tuning in to your own inner voice. Ask yourself the following:

  • Are you being true to yourself?
  • If you were to accomplish all your current goals, would you be happy with the person you would become?
  • When you look in the mirror, do you like the person you see?

In the Harry Potter series by the fabulous J.K. Rowling, Harry stumbles upon a mirror which he later discovers to be the Mirror of Erised. It’s a mirror that shows the user his or her heart’s desire. The mirror has an inscription; when the inscription is reversed it reads:

ishow no tyo urfac ebu tyo urhe arts desire

Which, by changing the spacing and punctuation, reveals:

I show not your face, but your heart’s desire

Close your eyes and visualize the Mirror of Erised in front of you. What do you see? Where are you? What are you doing? How are you doing it? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Is there anyone else there? Open your eyes and write down the answers to these questions.

Then, start following your heart’s desire. Or, as the kids would say: you do you.

6. Go On an Adventure

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” ~ William Feather

Seize the day by going on an adventure. An adventure is something that’s novel and exciting. It can have an element of peril in it, such as going bungee jumping, but that’s not essential. What matters is that it’s something that arouses enthusiasm and eagerness.

In addition, it often involves exploring unknown territory. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to visit a far-off land. You can simply take a day trip to a neighboring city, or to a part of town that you’re curious about and have never been to before.

Lastly, going on an adventure can be very expensive, or it can be very cheap. There are even some adventures that are free!

Follow these steps:

  1. Write down six adventures–make sure that you could go on any one of them in the next two weeks.
  2. Assign each of the adventures that you come up with a number from one to six.
  3. Roll a die.
  4. What number is face up? That’s the adventure you’re going on.
  5. Go on your adventure!

6. Stop Procrastinating

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ~ Karen Lamb

Procrastination is the opposite of seizing the day.  While seizing the day allows you to make things happen and get sh*t done, procrastinating is all about wasting precious minutes and hours, and allowing your days to slip by with little or nothing to show for the passage of time.

For this exercise you’re going to choose a goal that you’ve been procrastinating on. Then, you’re going to write two letters, as follows:

  • The first letter will be addressed to you, one year from now. In that letter you’re going to describe what your life will be like one year from now if you stop procrastinating and get the goal done.
  • The second letter will also be addressed to you, one year from now. However, in this letter you’re going to describe what your life will be like one year from now if you fail to overcome procrastination and you don’t achieve the goal.

Once you have your letters, go to the site futuremeorg and send both letters to yourself. You’ll be receiving both letters in one year’s time in your email box. Which one will turn out to be true? It’s entirely up to you. Seize the day by overcoming procrastination.

8. Carve Out Some Time

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” ~Charles Buxton

As I was doing the research for this blog post I came across a device called the Tikker. It’s a watch that figures out when you’ll probably die–based on an questionnaire that you fill out–and then counts down to that date. That way you’ll constantly be aware of how much time you have left on earth.

The irony that watch reminds me of is that people claim that they don’t pursue their dreams because they don’t have the time, until one day their time really does run out. When something is really important to you, you make time for it. I never tire of saying that whatever your dream is, all you need to accomplish it is to carve out one-hour-a-day to work on it.

Right now, think of a goal that you’ve been postponing because you claim that you don’t have the time to work on it. Then, come up with at least three ways you can start carving an hour out of your day. Do the following:

  • Think of one task that doesn’t really need to get done, and cross it off of your to-do list.
  • Shorten the time you need to accomplish an important task that needs to get done by creating a system to complete said task.
  • Identify a task you can delegate to someone else.

Seize the day by carving one hour out of each day for yourself.

9. Get to Work On Your Legacy

“Try and leave this world a little better than you found it, and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate, you have not wasted your time but have done your best.” – Robert Baden-Powell

We all want to leave our mark on this world — that is, leave a legacy. Even if leaving a legacy is something that you’ve been putting off, as long as you’re still alive there’s something you can do about it.

The first step in leaving a legacy is to decide what your legacy will be. In my post, How to Leave a Legacy, I include questions you can ask yourself in order to help you determine what your legacy will be. In addition, I set forth 20 ways to leave a legacy to help give you some ideas.

Once you’ve decided on your legacy, don’t let another day go by without getting to work on it. Do the following:

  • Write down your legacy on a Post It note.
  • Put the Post It up in a place where you’ll be sure to see it every day.
  • Each day look at the Post It ask yourself: What will I do today that will help me to achieve my legacy?

Seize the day by getting to work on your legacy.

10. Add Laughter to Your Day

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” e.e. cummings

Seizing the day isn’t just about being yourself, achieving your goals, and living a meaningful life. It’s also about finding joy in every day. And one of the best ways to make life more joyful is by laughing more. Every day, find something that makes you laugh.

If you haven’t laughed so far today, I found this tweet hilarious. You can also go through Julio Torres’ tweets (a  Salvadoran comedian who lives in the US, and who is absolutely hilarious).  Here’s one of his tweets:

I also love the British comedian Eddie Izzard. Here’s a great 6 minute routine in which he talks about learning French:

Create a list of 10 ways in which you’re going to laugh more each day. If you need some inspiration, go through my post How to Laugh More — 22 Ways to Bring More Laughter Into Your Life. Make the most of each day by adding play, fun, and laughter to it.


In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there’s a race known as the Q Continuum. This race is immortal. Their immortality has led them to live in a constant state of boredom and monotonous stagnation. Knowing that they have all the time in the world has zapped them of their motivation to get anything done in the present.

Seen from that perspective, it’s a good thing that humans don’t live forever. Knowing that one day we will die should push us to act to make the most of our lives, while we still have time. Live your best life by seizing the day. You can get started with the ten exercises above. Carpe diem!


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Michel de Montaigne

In his essays, Michel de Montaigne—the famous 16th century French philosopher—shares three strategies for increasing self-esteem.

On February 28, 1571, Michel de Montaigne—a highly educated nobleman—marked his 38th birthday by retiring from public duty. He moved a chair, a table, and his library of a thousand books to the tower of his family castle near Bordeaux and proceeded to dedicate himself to reading, reflecting, and writing.

Montaigne marked the occasion by having the following written on the wall of a study opening onto his new library:

“Worn out with the slavery of the court and of public service, Michel de Montaigne … retires to the bosom of the learned Muses … to pass what may be left of a life already more than half spent, consecrating this ancestral dwelling and sweet retreat to his liberty, tranquility and repose.”

The subject he chose to write about was himself. He believed that if we can’t understand ourselves, then we won’t be able to understand anything else. In addition, his intent was to write about himself in order to create a mirror in which other people could recognize their own humanity.

The result of his writing was thousands of pages of something he referred to as “essais”, from the French verb essayer: “to try or attempt”. Today, these are known as The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, and they are widely read all over the world. These essays contain the answers he came up with to questions such as the following:

onehouradayformula banner long

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • Why do I behave as I do?
  • Why do other people behave as they do?
  • How should I live?
  • How does a person make wise and honorable choices?
  • How should I treat others?
  • How can I acquire peace of mind?
  • How can people cope with fear of death?
  • When I play with my cat, am I playing with her, or is she playing with me?

Contrary to the other philosophers of the French Renaissance who—like the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers they so admired—thought that we could reason our way to happiness, Montaigne put little trust in reason. In fact, Montaigne believed that a lot of our problems stem from the fact that our brains are large and complex.

We often misuse our big brains and end up making our lives a lot more difficult and complicated than they need to be. That is, we reason our way to unhappiness, low confidence, and misery. Instead, Montaigne thought we should accept that we are human and limited, and allow ourselves to be imperfect.

A few days ago, I came across an interesting video by British Philosopher Alain De Botton–one of the founders of The School of Life–in which he discusses Montaigne’s solution for self-esteem problems. Namely, Botton argues that Montaigne believed that low self-esteem is a result of feelings of inadequacy in three main areas. These areas are the following:

  • We feel inadequate about our bodies.
  • We feel inadequate around other people because we feel we’re being judged by them.
  • We feel inadequate about our intellect.

In his essays, Montaigne offers practical solutions for overcoming these three sources of feelings of inadequacy. You’ll discover these solutions below.

Feeling Inadquate About Our Bodies

According to Montaigne, one of the problems with having such big brains is that they lead us to have grand ideas about how our bodies should look and behave. However, the reality is that our bodies sag, they pulse and ache, and sometimes they even smell.

Montaigne noticed that many people find their bodies embarrassing. Nonethless, he thought that “we should accept our bodies with good grace and a touch of humor”. He tried to make others feel more comfortable about their bodies by writing candidly about his own.

Farting and bowel movements were subjects he wrote about with complete ease. He told his readers, for example, that he liked quiet when sitting on the toilet: “Of all the natural operations, that is the one during which I least willingly tolerate being disrupted.”

Montaigne even wrote about his penis and impotence. On this subject, he had the following to say:

“We are right to note the license and disobedience of this member which thrusts itself forward so inopportunely when we do not want it to, and which so inopportunely lets us down when we most need it; it imperiously contests for authority with our will: it stubbornly and proudly refuses all our incitements, both of the mind and hand.”

He felt we should be more accepting of the reality that our bodies do all sorts of things that are outside of the purview of our reason and mental abilities. That’s just the way it is.

Also, Montaigne wrote about our tendency to compare our bodies to those of others. When we do so, he argued, we often feel that we come up short. We feel that we’re too fat, our hips are too wide, our shoulders are too narrow, and so on. Montaigne’s solution to this is to recognize that, when it comes to the body, we’re simply animals.

If we look around at other animals, we’ll notice that they don’t walk around feeling bad about themselves because their bodies are not as “beautiful” as those of other animals. Just as other animals accept their bodies unapologetically, and simply enjoy the pleasure of being alive, we should do so as well.

Lastly, we should feel gratitude for our bodies and everything that they do for us. Our bodies deserve our compassion and respect, instead of our acrimony and condemnation.

Feeling Inadequate Because We Fear We’re Being Judged

A second source of indequacy which Montaigne refers to in his essays is our fear of being judged by others. Our big brains cause us to be arrogant–we think that we know what’s right, and we try to impose it on other people.

Every society has an idea of how its members should act, what they should wear, and what can and cannot be said in polite society. Anyone who strays from these norms is criticized or made fun of. As a result of this, people tend to feel that they’re constantly being judged by others. This can make people feel inadequate.

The solution that Montaigne came up with for dealing with the prejudice of others is to go traveling. To go traveling simply means to expand your horizons and become aware that there are many different ways of thinking and of doing things. This doesn’t just broaden your mind; it also allows you to see how narrow your oppressors’ minds are.

By learning about the diversity that exists among people, we will grow more accepting of others, and of ourselves. This will make it easier to brush off the restrictive views and judgment of others.

Feeling Indequate About Our Intellect

Although Montaigne was very well-educated, he was incredibly down-to-earth and despised pedantry. He indicates in his essays that people often feel indequate because they think that others are more clever or have more knowledge than they do. To this Montaigne would say that there’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Perhaps someone can read Greek and Latin, and write poetry and prose. But, look at the following:

  • Do they know the difference between right and wrong?
  • Do they have good judgement?
  • Are they happy?
  • Do they know how to live well?
  • Do they simply repeat the opinions of others, or do they form their own opinions?
  • Are they better and wiser as a result of their studies?
  • Do they have good character traits?

Montaigne believed that we should each design our own curriculum based not on what others think we should know, but based on what we believe would be useful to us. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I need to know to be happier?
  • What skills do I need to live a better life?

Then, go out and learn those things and acquire those skills. If you do this, you’ll be much wiser than someone with fancy degrees who doesn’t know how to live a good life.

Michel de Montaigne Quotes

Before finishing this post, I wanted to share with you a few more quotes by Montaigne so that you get a better feel for this unusual philosopher.

  • “Stubborn and ardent clinging to one’s opinion is the best proof of stupidity.” – Michel de Montaigne
  • Montaigne had the following to say about his beloved friend Étienne de La Boétie with whom he had one of history’s most notable friendships: “If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I.”
  • “I want Death to find me planting my cabbages.” – Michel de Montaigne
  • “My business, my art, is to live my life.” – Michel de Montaigne
  • “Upon the highest throne in the world, we are seated, still, upon our arses.” –  Michel de Montaigne
  • “Scratching is one of nature’s sweetest gratifications, and the one nearest at hand.” – Michel de Montaigne
  • “I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself.” – Michel de Montaigne
  • “In true education, anything that comes to our hand is as good as a book: the prank of a page-boy, the blunder of a servant, a bit of table talk – they are all part of the curriculum.” – Michel de Montaigne


In the closing chapter of his essays, Montaigne wrote the following:

“There is nothing so beautiful and legitimate as to play the man well and properly, no knowledge so hard to acquire as the knowledge of how to live this life well and naturally. And the most barbarous of our maladies is to despise our being.”

You can love yourself more by following the three recommendations above to bolster your self-esteem. Live your best life by following the advice Montaigne offers in his essays.


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increase dopamine

Dopamine plays a key role in motivation.

The neurotransmitter dopamine has long been associated with the pleasure we feel when we get something we want.  When you do pleasurable things, like eating a brownie or having sex, dopamine levels rise. They also rise when you set and achieve a goal.

However, new scientific evidence shows that dopamine begins to act before it was previously thought. It’s not just that we get a hit of dopamine as a reward after we’ve achieved something we want.

onehouradayformula banner longInstead, dopamine is released when the possibility of a reward is presented, in order to encourage us to act. It’s also released to help us to act to avoid something bad that could take place. In other words, dopamine motivates us to act to achieve something we want, or to avoid something we don’t want.

Dopamine has all the following effects:

  • When dopamine accumulates within the nucleus acumbens of the brain, this signals to the brain that an event—good or bad–is about to happen. The rest of the brain is then triggered to develop a plan or decide to act to have an impact on that event. That is, to make it more or less likely that the event will happen.
  • Dopamine also helps people to persevere once they start working on a goal, and to keep going until the goal is achieved.
  • Dopamine helps with concentration and focus. Enhanced concentration is characterized by having the right mix of certain neurotransmitters and hormones—of which dopamine is one–within the prefrontal cortex of the brain. People who  have a dopamine deficiency have trouble focusing.
  • Your overall mood is affected by the dopamine levels in your brain. Dopamine is one of the “happiness molecules” (along with serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, and others).
  • Dopamine is believed to regulate sleep-wake states and help control when we enter each. People with low levels of dopamine can have trouble waking up in the morning.
  • Low dopamine levels can result in low enthusiasm. As an illustration, people with depression don’t feel like doing anything because they have low levels of dopamine.
  • Low dopamine results in an increased tendency to procrastinate. If you want to stop putting off important goals, one strategy you can follow is to look for ways to increase dopamine levels in your brain.
  • Dopamine secretions help to improve your working memory. It affects the learning process and your ability to retain information.

When it comes to motivation, what you need to keep in mind is the following: high levels of dopamine lead to high motivation, while low levels of dopamine lead to low motivation. Therefore, if you want more motivation so you can get to work on an important goal, look for ways to increase dopamine levels in your brain.

I’m going to do two things in this post:

  • First, I’m going to share with you six ways to keep your overall levels of dopamine high to make it more likely that you’ll be motivated to act to achieve your goals in general.
  • And, second, I’m going to tell you what to do to get a dopamine boost when there’s a specific task that you’re trying to achieve, but you’re feeling lackadaisical about getting started with it.

Here we go.

Six Strategies to Increase Dopamine

Here are six strategies to increase dopamine levels in your brain:

1. Eat Foods Rich in Tyrosine

Dopamine is synthesized from the amino acid tyrosine. In other words, tyrosine is the building block of dopamine. We get tyrosine from food.

Foods that are good sources of tyrosine include the following:

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Leefy Green Vegetables
  • Almonds
  • Oatmeal

2. Reduce Stress

Lowering stress is one of the best ways to get the dopaminergic system working efficiently. My stress reduction kit includes the following:

I also love the 4-7-8 breathing technique taught by Dr. Andrew Weill. It consists of breathing in through the nose for a count of 4; holding the breath for a count of 7; and then blowing the air out through the mouth for a count of 8. If you want to try this technique you can follow along with this video:

3. Do Cardio

Here’s yet another reason take up jogging or get a gym membership: the brain releases important neurotransmitters during cardio-intensive exercise. These include serotonin and dopamine.

A sustained program of moderate- to high-intensity exercise can boost overall levels of essential neurotransmitters and enhance mental function, brighten your mood, and improve sleep quality. So, the next time you need a dopamine hit, put on your running shoes and hit the pavement.

4. Meditate

As with exercise, meditating has many benefits. If you want yet another reason to jump on the meditation bandwagon, here it is: meditating has been shown to raise levels of dopamine.

Fortunately, meditating doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as repeating a mantra.

5. Do Something Creative

I’ve written before that although a lot of people think that having a hobby is a waste of time, there are many ways in which engaging in a hobby can be incredibly beneficial.  Some of these benefits include reducing the incidence of dementia, boosting your brain power, and reducing anxiety.

Yet another benefit of engaging in a hobby is that it can allow you to reach the flow state–that state in which time seems to stand still and you feel at one with what you’re doing. One of the reasons that reaching the flow state can be so incredibly blissful is that when you’re in the flow your brain releases the pleasure molecule, dopamine.

Not sure what hobby to take up? I recommend doodling or drawing.

6. Listen to Music

Why do people spend so much time listening to music? Because it’s highly pleasurable to do so. And now we know that one reason for this is that our brains release dopamine when we listen to music we enjoy.

I love listening to Bach and Rachmaninov. Also, right now I can’t get enough of a Spanish singer named Miguel Bosé who was popular in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. What music do you love? When you want to increase your dopamine levels, turn that music on, crank up the volume, and enjoy.

Get a Dopamine Boost to Finish a Specific Task

I’m going to share something with you. There are times when I get an idea for a blog post and I’m able to sit down, get to work, and write the post quickly and almost effortlessly.

But then there are times when I have trouble getting to work. I sit down to write, but then I’m distracted and start doing things that–as a procrastination expert–I know full well that I shouldn’t be doing. Here are some examples:

  • I visit the CNN homepage to see if there’s any breaking news.
  • I go on Twitter to see if any of my friends are hanging out there.
  • I watch Husky videos on YouTube (I love Huskies).
  • I get a sudden urge to read a few pages of whatever book I’m currently reading (right now it’s “Don Quixote”).
  • I decide I’m too hungry to write, so I go to the kitchen to get myself a snack.
  • I check my blog analytics.
  • And on and on.

What do all of the things above have in come? They all give me a tiny dopamine shot each time I do them. So, if I want to stop doing them, I have to find another way to get my dopamine fix. Here’s what I do (you can apply these five steps to any task or goal that you want to get to work on):

1. Set a Clear Goal

Setting a clear goal that is challenging but doable is a great way to increase dopamine levels. Whenever I sit down to write a blog post, I set a clear goal such as the following:

Write a post on motivation and dopamine that clearly allows my readers to see how dopamine influences motivation; the post will also give them easy-to-understand strategies that they can use to increase dopamine levels in their brain, thus boosting their motivation and improving their ability to achieve their goals.

2. Imagine the Joy Of Completing the Task

I then take a moment to visualize having finished the blog post. I imagine the satisfaction that I’ll feel once the post has been published on my site. This gives me another shot of dopamine.

3. Break the Task Down Into Small Bits

A while ago I created a blogging checklist for myself. I took the large task of “write a blog post” and I broke it down into many smaller subtasks. These subtasks include things like the following:

  • Come up with a tentative title.
  • Write down a tentative subtitle.
  • Create an outline.
  • Write the introductory paragraph.
  • Find a good image to go along with the post.

You get the picture. That way, I can tackle each subtask as an independent unit and get a small increase in dopamine each time I complete one of the subtasks and gleefully cross it off my checklist.

4. Set Micro-Deadlines

Each of the items on my checklist has a time limit next to it. That way, I have micro-deadlines for each item, which keeps me focused and turns the activity into a game.

Can I research and explain the first point which supports the thesis of the blog post in twenty minutes? Well, I’m certainly going to do my best to do so. The challenge also gets my brain to release more dopamine.

5. Sit Back and Smile

The last step is to publish the blog post. I love the feeling I get when I look at a brand new post published on my site. Then, I send out an email letting my readers know that there’s a new post, and I watch as people click over to read it (on my real-time web analytics).

Finally, I sit back and bask in the dopamine hit I get from having achieved the task of having published yet another stellar article on my blog (He, he, he).


Dopamine is often referred to as “the motivation molecule”. Put this neurotransmitter to work for you and you’ll have more motivation in no time. Live your best life by following the strategies above to increase dopamine levels in your brain.


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must-read classics by women authors

Women have made invaluable contributions to literature.

Historically, the talent of women authors has not been recognized. As an illustration of this, a while ago I wrote about the Harvard Classics–a famous anthology of classic books from world literature compiled and edited by Harvard University president Charles W. Eliot. When it was first published in 1909, no female writers were included in the anthology.

onehouradayformula banner longToday is the 8th of March–International Women’s Day 2018. It’s a global day for celebrating the contributions that women have made to society. In recognition of International Women’s Day, I wanted to share with you what I consider to be 15 must-read classics by women authors. You’ll find the list below.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813). Novel – England.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.”

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818). Novel – England.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“Few creatures of horror have seized readers’ imaginations and held them for so long as the anguished monster of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The story of Victor Frankenstein’s terrible creation and the havoc it caused has enthralled generations of readers and inspired countless writers of horror and suspense.”

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847). Novel – England.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries.

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847). Novel – England.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.

She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.

However, there is great kindness and warmth in this epic love story, which is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Yorkshire moors.”

5. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (1847). Novel – England.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“This novel is a trenchant expose of the frequently isolated, intellectually stagnant and emotionally-starved conditions under which many governesses worked in the mid-19th century. This is a deeply personal novel written from the author’s own experience and as such Agnes Grey has a power and poignancy which mark it out as a landmark work of literature dealing with the social and moral evolution of English society during the last century.”

6. Sonnets from the Portuguese: A Celebration of Love by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1850). Poetry – England.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“Written for her husband, Robert Browning, who had affectionately nicknamed her his “little Portuguese,” the sequence is a celebration of marriage, and of one of the most famous romances of the nineteenth century. Recognized for their Victorian tradition and discipline, these are some of the most passionate and memorable love poems in the English language. There are forty-four poems in the collection, including the very beautiful sonnet, ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.'”

7. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852). Novel – American.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“Stowe’s powerful abolitionist novel fueled the fire of the human rights debate in 1852. Denouncing the institution of slavery in dramatic terms, the incendiary novel quickly draws the reader into the world of slaves and their masters.”

8. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871). Novel – England.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“Middlemarch is a complex tale of idealism, disillusion, profligacy, loyalty and frustrated love. This penetrating analysis of the life of an English provincial town during the time of social unrest prior to the Reform Bill of 1832 is told through the lives of Dorothea Brooke and Dr Tertius Lydgate and includes a host of other paradigm characters who illuminate the condition of English life in the mid-nineteenth century.”

9. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickenson (1890). Poetry – American.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“Though generally overlooked during her lifetime, Emily Dickinson’s poetry has achieved acclaim due to her experiments in prosody, her tragic vision and the range of her emotional and intellectual explorations.”

10. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920). Novel – American.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“At the heart of the story are three people whose entangled lives are deeply affected by the tyrannical and rigid requirements of high society. Newland Archer, a restrained young attorney, is engaged to the lovely May Welland but falls in love with May’s beautiful and unconventional cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska. Despite his fear of a dull marriage to May, Archer goes through with the ceremony — persuaded by his own sense of honor, family, and societal pressures.”

11. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolf (1925). Novel – English.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“In this vivid portrait of one day in a woman’s life, Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of a party she is to give that evening. As she readies her house she is flooded with memories and re-examines the choices she has made over the course of her life.”

12. A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor (1955). Short Stories – American.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“Steeped in a Southern Gothic tradition that would become synonymous with her name, these stories show O’Connor’s unique, grotesque view of life– infused with religious symbolism, haunted by apocalyptic possibility, sustained by the tragic comedy of human behavior, confronted by the necessity of salvation.”

13. Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1956). Poetry – American.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“Alongside Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, and E. E. Cummings, Millay remains among the most celebrated poets of the early twentieth century for her uniquely lyrical explorations of love, individuality, and artistic expression.”

14. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957). Novel – American.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“With this acclaimed work and its immortal query ‘Who is John Gait?’, Ayn Rand found the perfect artistic form to express her vision of existence. This is the book that made her not only one of the most popular novelists of our century, but also one of its most influential thinkers.”

15. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960). Novel – American.

From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:

“The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it. . . Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.”


How many of the classics above have you read? I’ve read several of them, but I still have work to do. In addition, which books did I leave out which you think should have been included?

Live your best life by reading these must-read classics by women authors.


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positive affirmations

There’s a better way to use positive affirmations to make them more effective.

Your self-talk is vitally important to how you feel about yourself. One way to improve your self-talk is through the use of positive affirmations. However, there’s a negative side to positive affirmations: when you keep telling yourself things that you don’t believe.

Here are some examples of popular positive affirmations:

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  • All is well in my world.
  • I’m a money magnet.
  • Others recognize my worth.
  • Everyone I encounter has my best interests at heart.
  • My life gets better each day.
  • I’m thriving at work.
  • My business is growing and prospering.
  • I can achieve greatness.
  • I can do anything I set my mind to.
  • Everything I want also wants me.

The problem with these affirmations is that a lot of people will repeat them, while a little voice inside their head keeps insisting that these things just aren’t true. There’s a 2009 study which argues that, for this reason, positive affirmations can be harmful.

Canadian researcher Dr. Joanne Wood and her team at the University of Waterloo published a study in the Journal of Psychological Science which states the following:

“Two experiments showed that among participants with low self-esteem, those who repeated a positive self-statement (“I’m a lovable person”) or who focused on how that statement was true felt worse than those who did not repeat the statement or who focused on how it was both true and not true.”

Based on this study, and other observations I’ve made about affirmations throughout the years, I came up with what I consider to be a much better way to use positive affirmations. You’ll discover my six-step process for using positive affirmations, below.

My Process For Using Positive Affirmations, In a Nuthshell

The six-step process that I recommend for using positive affirmations is the following:

  • Step One. Affirm the Reality You Want for Yourself in Any Given Life Area
  • Step Two. Find Evidence to Back Up Your Affirmations
  • Step Three. Acknowledge Your Doubts About the Affirmations
  • Step Four. Identify Action Steps to Improve the Situation
  • Step Five. Act!
  • Step Six. Neutralize the Affirmations

There’s more on this methodology, and how you can start applying it in your life right away, in the steps that follow.

Step One. Affirm the Reality You Want for Yourself in Any Given Life Area

The first step is to choose an area of your life and come up with a list of positive affirmations that reflect the reality that you want for yourself in that life area. As an example, let’s choose the area of personal development.  More specifically, let’s choose the topic of self-esteem.

Here are some positive affirmations you could choose for the reality that you want for yourself when it comes to self-esteem:

  • I have high self-efficacy and believe I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
  • I love the way I look.
  • I respect myself.
  • I have high self-worth.

Step Two. Find Evidence to Back Up Your Affirmations

By asking yourself how each affirmation is true, you’ll be searching for evidence that what you’re affirming reflects reality, even if it’s just to a small degree. You’ll also be giving yourself a mood boost.

For the affirmations that we listed in step one above, you could ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What are some of the goals I’ve been able to achieve in the past?
  • What do I like most about the way I look?
  • When have I stood up for myself? When have I kept my word to myself?
  • What are some examples of the good that I do in the world?

Step Three. Acknowledge Your Doubts About the Affirmations

In this step you’re going to be honest with yourself and admit that you don’t think that the affirmations that you came up with in the first step are entirely true. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What goal am I working on that I’m doubtful I can achieve?
  • What do I feel I need to improve about my appearance?
  • How am I not showing myself respect? Am I allowing others to talk me into doing things I don’t want to do? Do I speak negatively about myself to others?
  • Under what circumstances do I feel that I’m coming up short?

Step Four. Identify Action Steps to Improve the Situation

Here’s something that’s usually missing from the process of repeating positive affirmations to yourself: coming up with action steps to make the reality that you’re affirming come to be.

Once you’ve identified how you doubt that the affirmations you’re saying to yourself are true, ask yourself how you can improve so that the affirmations become more aligned with reality. You can ask yourself questions like the following:

  • How can I modify this goal to make it more likely that I’ll be able to achieve it? Who do I know—that’s a lot like me— who’s been able to achieve a similar goal in the past? Who can I talk to who will encourage me to pursue this goal and help persuade me that I can achieve it?
  • How can I lose twenty pounds? What steps can I take to improve my personal hygiene?
  • What are my values? How can I make sure that I stick to those values even when I’m under pressure from others to act contrary to them?
  • What skills do I need to acquire? How can I practice those skills so I can gain mastery in them?

Step Five. Act!

The fifth step is to take action. Look at the answers that you came up with for the previous step, and act based on those answers. Do the following:

  • Modify the goal that you’re working on so that it’s easier to achieve.
  • Learn to cook seven healthy, delicious meals. Start walking around the block for twenty minutes every morning before work.
  • Identify your values and come up with a strategy for sticking to those values.
  • Choose a skill that you need to acquire, learn the skill, and then practice it until you reach a level of mastery that you’re comfortable with.

Step Six. Neutralize the Affirmations

The last step of the process for making positive affirmations more effective is to neutralize the affirmations to make sure that you believe them when you repeat them to yourself. Here are the affirmations that we came up with at the very start of this process, in a neutralized form:

  • I know I can increase my self-efficacy if I work at it, and that’s what I’m doing.
  • I’m taking steps to appreciate the way I look more and more.
  • I’m taking care to show myself more respect.
  • My self-worth grows as I make an effort to increase the positive impact I have on the projects I’m working on, on those around me, and on the world at large.

Since all of these neutral affirmations are true, you should be able to get yourself to believe them when you repeat them to yourself.


What do you think of my six-step process for using positive affirmations more effectively? I hope that you find it to be as useful as I have. Live your best life by making better use of positive affirmations.


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self-love quotes

Self-love is holding yourself in high regard, and prioritizing your well-being.

A few years ago, for Valentine’s Day, I published a post filled with love quotes. This year, I’m going to do the same thing, but with a different twist: I’m publishing self-love quotes. After all, to be able to truly love someone else, you have to love yourself first.

So, without further ado, here are 48 inspiring self-love quotes:

1. “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha

2. “If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved of you and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.” – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

3. “Love yourself first and everything else falls into place. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball

onehouradayformula banner long4. “When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits – anything that kept me small.

My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.” Kim McMillen

5. “The quality of your relationship with yourself determines the quality of your relationship with everything else.” – Dr. Robert Holden

6. “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” – Whitney Houston

7. “Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first.” – Carrie Bradsaw

8. “Self-love seems so often unrequited.” – Anthony Powell

9. “Love is the great miracle cure. Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives.” – Louise L. Hay.

10. “Friendship with oneself is all-important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

11. “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.” – Oscar Wilde

12.  “Even when it seems that there is no one else, always remember there’s one person who never ceased to love you – yourself.” – Sanhita Baruah

13. “Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.” – Rudy Francisco

14.  “Self-love is the source of all our other loves.” – Pierre Corneille

15. “Sometimes your soulmate is yourself. Sometimes you have to be the love of your life until you discover that type of love in someone else.” –  r.h. Sin

16. “Self-respect, self-worth, and self-love, all start with self. Stop looking outside of yourself for your value.” – Rob Liano

17. “The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.” – Steve Maraboli

18. “If you don’t love yourself, you’ll always be chasing after people who don’t love you either.” – Mandy Hale

19. “It’s not your job to like me– it’s mine.” – Byron Katie

20. “You have to love yourself because no amount of love from others is sufficient to fill the yearning that your soul requires from you.” – Dodinsky

21. “Practicing self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate toward ourselves…” — Brené Brown

22. “Never underestimate the importance of self-love. It is like a magnet that draws people to you.” – Toni Payne

23. “Love yourself enough to create an environment conducive to the nourishment of your personal growth. Allow yourself to let go of the people, thoughts, and situations that poison your well-being. Cultivate a vibrant surrounding and commit yourself to making choices that will help you release the greatest expression of your own unique beauty and purpose.” – Steve Maraboli

24. “When nobody celebrates you, learn to celebrate yourself. When nobody compliments you, then compliment yourself. It’s not up to other people to keep you encouraged. It’s up to you. Encouragement should come from the inside.” – Joel Osteen

25. “Regardless of how anyone else feels about me, I am going to choose to be happy and completely love myself today.” – Unknown

26. “Self-love is the greatest middle finger of all time.” – Unknown

27. “The best way to be loved is to love yourself.” – Adam Lambert

28. “It is not love that should be depicted as blind, but self-love.” – Voltaire

29. “It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit.” – Earth Kitt

30. “I love myself.’ the quietest. simplest. most powerful. revolution. ever.” — Nayyirah Waheed.

31. Dare to love yourself as if you were a rainbow with gold at both ends.” – Aberjhani

32. “I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.” – Maya Angelou

33. “In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.” — Unknown

34. “Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.” — Wilfred Peterson

35. “Love yourself unconditionally, just as you love those closest to you despite their faults.” – Les Brown

36. “Self-love is asking yourself what you need—every day—and then making sure you receive it.” – Anonymous

37. “The only cure I’ve ever known for fear and doubt and loneliness is an immense love of self.” – Alison Malee

38. “Well-ordered self-love is right and natural.” – Thomas Aquinas

39. “Document the moments you feel most in love with yourself – what you’re wearing, who you’re around, what you’re doing. Recreate and repeat.” ― Warsan Shire

40. “Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.” – Margo Anand

41. “If you’re searching for the one person who will change your life, take a look in the mirror.” – Anon

42. “He fell in love with himself at first sight, and it is a passion to which he has always remained faithful.” – Anthony Powell

43. “Loving yourself starts with liking yourself, which starts with respecting yourself, which starts with thinking of yourself in positive ways.” – Jerry Corstens

44. “Love yourself. . . enough to take the actions required for your happiness. Enough to cut yourself loose from the drama-filled past. Enough to set a high standard for relationships. Enough to feed your mind and body in a healthy manner. Enough to forgive yourself. Enough to move on.” – Steve Maraboli

45. “The fact that someone else loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of loving yourself.” – Sahaj Kohli

46. “We must fall in love with yourselves. I don’t like myself. I’m crazy about myself.” – Mae West

47. “Do you want to meet the love of your life? Look in the mirror.” – Byron Katie

48. “The qualities of the perfect love interest are the following: they speak kindly to you; they listen to you; they’re proud of your accomplishments; they’re attuned to your needs; they take good care of you; they’re trustworthy; they take you out on fun dates; and they treat you to the things you really want. Now realize that these are all things you can do for yourself. Be the person you need and fall in love with yourself.” – Marelisa Fábrega


I hope the self-love quotes above have encouraged you to reexamine your relationship with yourself and start holding yourself in high regard. Live your best life by increasing your self-love.


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One of the most important skills you can acquire is to learn how to read a book.

There’s an important distinction between reading for relaxation and entertainment, or reading just for information, on the one hand, and reading for understanding, for deepening your mind, and for acquiring insight, on the other.

onehouradayformula banner longMortimer J. Adler–who wrote the classic “How to Read a Book” in 1940–explains the art of reading consists of having the skills required to take a book and use it to lift your mind up from understanding less, to understanding more. Adler’s book, which was rewritten with the collaboration of Charles Van Doren in the 1970’s, will initiate you into the true art of reading. This post will show you how the wisdom contained in “How to Read A Book” will make all your future reading more enjoyable and worthwhile.  In addition, it will show you how to use books written by others to create something new.

Reading for Information v. Reading for Understanding

Adler and Van Doren explain that the goal that you set for yourself when you’re going to read any text-whether you’re reading for entertainment, information or understanding-should determine the way in which you read. Reading for entertainment is very simple.

But what’s the difference between reading something for information, and reading for understanding?

When you read something–such as a magazine, a newspaper, a blog post, and so on–which is completely intelligible to you, your store of information might increase, but your understanding doesn’t. Your understanding was equal to these texts before you read them. Otherwise, you would have felt the puzzlement and perplexity that comes with reading something that is out of your depth.

When you read something that at first you don’t completely understand, then what you’re reading is initially higher than you are. The text contains insights which you lack. If you manage to acquire greater understanding after having read some text, you’ve elevated yourself through the activity of reading.

How to Read a Book – The Four Levels of Reading

The authors of “How to Read a Book” explain that there are four levels of reading, which are cumulative. That is, you can’t move on to the next level until you’ve mastered the one before. The four levels of reading are the following:

1. Elementary

Elementary is the level of reading that is ordinarily learned in elementary school. A child that is learning to read is simply trying to make sense of the squiggly lines on the page. The question at this level is: What does the sentence say? If the sentence says, “The cat sat on the hat”, that’s all the teacher wants to know.

If you try to learn a foreign language as an adult, at first, you would be back at this level. Also, if you’re trying to read at college level, but you lack the necessary vocabulary, or knowledge of grammar and syntax, you will need help with elementary reading. The current educational system often stops at the elementary level, and fails to move on to the next three reading levels.

2. Inspectional

Inspectional reading is scanning and superficial reading. You do this in order to get a general idea of what a text is about, and the type of information that it contains, in order to determine whether it’s something which you’re actually going to take the time to sit down and read.

At this level you want to know what type of book it is –a novel, a biography, a historical treatise, and so on–and what the book is about. You’re just acquiring superficial knowledge of the book at this point: it’s as if you were on a reconnaissance mission.

3. Analytical

Analytical reading is thorough reading. This level of reading is very active: the reader is making the book his or her own. Analytical reading is done for the sake of understanding.

The authors of “How to Read A Book” point out that Francis Bacon once remarked that “some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Reading a book analytically is chewing and digesting it.

4. Syntopical

When reading syntopically, the reader reads several books on the same topic, not just one. The objective is to be able to construct an analysis of the subject matter which cannot be found in any of the books. You’ll be making novel connections and coming up with new insights.

The levels of reading are further discussed and explained below.

Level Two: Inspectional Reading

Even though “How to Read A Book” devotes a chapter to the elementary level of reading, we’re going to jump straight into level two: inspectional reading.

The first thing you want to do when you pick up a book is decide what you want to get out of reading the text that’s in front of you. Are you reading for pleasure? Are you looking for an answer to a specific question? Do you want to gain general-knowledge of the subject matter of the book? What do you want to know, or what do you want to be able to do, after reading this text?

Once you know your purpose for reading the text, set a limited amount of time which you’re going to use to inspect the text in order to determine whether it’s going to help you to achieve your goal. Inspectional reading consists of two different steps: the first step is systematic skimming, or pre-reading; and the second step is superficial reading.

Systematic Skimming

Here are some suggestions offered by Adler and Van Doren on how to skim a book:

  1. You can start skimming the book by looking at the book’s subtitle, which will probably give you an indication of the scope and aim of the book. Flip the book over and look at the back cover, which usually contains information about what’s inside the book. If the book has a dust jacket, read the jacket flaps. These often contain good summaries of the most important points developed in the book.
  2. Place the book in the appropriate category in your mind: What genre does it belong to? What type of book is it? If you walk into a classroom in which a teacher is lecturing, the first thing you want to know is whether it’s a history, science, or philosophy class. Likewise, you want to know what type of book you have in your hands.
  3. Study the book’s table of contents to get a general idea of how the book is structured. In a good nonfiction book the table of contents will probably be similar to an abbreviated outline of the book.
  4. Check the index, if the book has one. Look at the range of topics, and the types of books and authors that the book refers to. Identify crucial terms by the number of references under them. You might want to go ahead and read some of the passages that contain these crucial terms in order to get an idea of the crux of the book, and what the author’s main arguments are.
  5. Read the book’s introduction, preface, and foreword. If the most important chapters in the book contain summaries, read those.
  6. Now start leafing through the book, quickly dipping in and out, reading a paragraph here and there. If something catches your attention, you may want to read two or three pages in sequence, but no more than that.

Once you’ve skimmed the book in this way you should be able to decide whether the book is likely to meet your objectives, and is therefore something you’re going to read carefully, or if you’re just going to set it aside. Even if you decide not to read the book at this point, it’s now part of your mental catalogue and you may decide to read it at some future date.

Superficial Reading

If you decide, after skimming, that the book meets your objectives and that you’re going to go ahead and read it, then move on to the second step in inspectional reading, which is to read the book superficially.

The authors explain that the first time that you read a difficult book you should read it once through without stopping to look up terms that you don’t understand, or ponder over concepts that are new to you. Just pay attention to what you do understand, and don’t worry about those things which you can’t immediately grasp.

Adler and Van Doren are not suggesting that you avoid consulting a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or other materials and references in order to try and make sense of the difficult passages in a text that you’re trying to read. They just caution that you shouldn’t do it prematurely.

When you’ve read through the book once superficially, you can go back to the parts that you didn’t understand and look up anything that you want to.

Why is it so important that you read the book once through without stopping?

  • First of all, what you understand the first time you read the book–even if it’s just about 50% of the text–will help you to make sense of the rest of the book the next time you read it.
  • Second, if you stop frequently to look things up it’s very likely that you’ll get frustrated and bored, decide that the book is too difficult for you, and just set it aside.
  • Third, constant starting and stopping may make you miss the forest for the trees.
  • And fourth, reading the book quickly once through will allow you to form your own impressions about the book, before you start reading commentaries by others on what the book is trying to say.

Make the Book Your Own

The authors of “How to Read a Book” are big proponents of marking up your books. They say the following:

“When you buy a book, you establish a property right in it, just as you do in clothes or furniture when you buy and pay for them. But the act of purchase is actually only the prelude to possession in the case of a book. Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it—which comes to the same thing—is by writing in it.”

While reading a book, you should be holding a conversation with the author, asking questions, making comments, and so on. Do the following:

  • Write your questions and comments in the margins.
  • Underline key sentences.
  • Circle things you want to come back to.
  • Place an asterisk next to a passage you find particularly interesting.
  • Highlight key words.
  • Write your observations and short summaries of what you have just read at the top and bottom of the page.
  • Place the number of other pages which are related in the margin.

Make the book your own.

Level Three: Analytical Reading

Analytical reading–the third level of reading–consists of three different stages. Each stage consists of several rules, for a total of fifteen rules of analytical reading. This is further developed below:

First Stage: What Is the Book About As A Whole?

The first stage of analytical reading consists of 4 rules which have the objective of helping you to determine what the book is about and to outline its structure. These four rules are:

Rule 1. Classify the book according to kind and subject matter.

Rule 2. State what the whole book is about with the utmost brevity. That is, you’re going to state what the book’s theme is–its main point– in a single sentence, or at most a few sentences (a short paragraph).

Rule 3. Divide the book into its main parts and outline those parts.

Rule 4. Define the problem or problems the author is trying to solve. What questions is the author trying to answer?

Second Stage: What is Being Said in Detail, and How?

The second stage of analytical reading consists of four rules for interpreting the book’s contents:

Rule 5. Understand the terms and keywords the author uses. Keywords are those which are emphasized, repeated, defined, and/or italicized. You can find the meaning of those words from the context.

Rule 6. Grasp the author’s most important propositions. Propositions are the author’s judgments about what is true or false. They’re also the author’s answers to the questions he or she posed in the book.

Rule 7. What are the author’s arguments in support of his or her conclusions? What are the grounds, or reasons, the author gives for having arrived at his or her judgments and conclusions?

Rule 8. Determine which of his problems the author has solved, and which he has not; and as to the latter, decide which the author knew he had failed to solve.

Third Stage: Do You Agree With the Author’s Arguments and Conclusions? What of it?

The third stage of analytical reading sets down the rules for criticizing the book.

Rule 9. You must be able to say, with reasonable certainty, “I understand,” before you can say any one of the following things: “I agree,” or “I disagree,” or “I suspend judgment.”

Do not begin criticizing until you have completed your outline and your interpretation of the book. As Adler and Van Doren point out: “Reading a book is a kind of conversation. The author has had his say, and then it is the reader’s turn.”

Rule 10. When you disagree, do so reasonably, and not disputatiously or contentiously.

Rule 11. Demonstrate that you recognize the difference between knowledge and mere personal opinion by presenting good reasons for any critical judgment you make.

Rule 12. Show wherein the author is uninformed.

Rule 13. Show wherein the author is misinformed.

Rule 14. Show wherein the author is illogical.

Rule 15. Show wherein the author’s analysis or account is incomplete.

Level Four: Syntopical Reading

It’s been said that anyone can read five books on a topic and be an expert. However, becoming an expert really depends on how you read those five books. If you read them analytically, you’ll be able to give a good explanation of the arguments and opinions presented by the five different authors that you just read.

But what you really want to do is read the five books syntopically, so that you can develop and present your own unique perspective and insights, make novel connections, and contribute something new to the field.  That’s what will really make you an expert.

Inspectional reading (reading level two) is critical to syntopical reading. Once you’ve put together a bibliography of books on your subject-matter which look promising, you must quickly indentify which of these are among the best five (10, or 15).  You do this by inspecting all of the books on your list.  Once you’ve decided which books deserve the time and attention to be read carefully, you can apply the five steps of syntopical reading.

The five steps of syntopical reading are the following:

Step 1: Find the relevant passages. You’re going to inspect the books you’ve chosen once again in order to select the passages from the books which are most germane to your needs.  It is unlikely that any of the books will be of use to you in its entirety.

Step 2: Establish a common terminology. In analytical reading, you identify the author’s chosen language by spotting the author’s terms of art and keywords. But now you’re faced with a number of different authors, and it’s unlikely that they all use the same terms and keywords.   At the syntopical level of reading you’re going to either choose the terms and keywords used by one of the authors, or come up with your own terminology.

Step 3: Clarify the questions. Decide which are the questions that you’re going to answer.  You want to come up with a set of questions which shed light on the problem which you intend to solve.  At the same time, the questions should be stated in such a way that all, or most of, the authors that you’re reading can be interpreted as giving answers to them.

Step 4: Define the issues. It’s very likely that not all of the authors answered your questions in the same way. When experts have differing or contradictory responses to the same question, this means that an issue has been defined.

Step 5: Analyze the discussion. Now you’re free to analyze the discussion. Identify and compare where each of the authors stands on the issue you’ve identified.

  • Why are the authors saying what they’re saying?
  • Who do you agree with?  Why?
  • Did you come up with an entirely different conclusion (thereby adding unique value)?

You’re holding a discussion with the experts on the issues which you’ve identified, and by this point you should be conversant enough on the subject matter to be able to hold your own.


If you follow the process laid out in “How to Read a Book”, you’ll be continuously lifting your mind by reading–and understanding–books which contain insights and perspectives which are new to you. In addition, you’ll be able to become an expert in your chosen topic by using books written by others in order to ask your own questions, come up with your own answers, discover new connections, and draw new conclusions.

Live your best life by mastering the true art of reading.


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miracle morning

If you want to have a great day, start with a great morning.

Hal Elrod is the bestselling author of “The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)”. In “The Miracle Morning”, Hal reveals the six morning habits that helped him to rebuild his life after he lost just about everything.

Here’s Hal explaining the importance of developing good morning habits:

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“How you wake up each day and your morning routine (or lack thereof) dramatically affects
your levels of success in every single area of your life. Focused, productive, successful mornings
generate focused, productive, successful days—which inevitably create a successful life—in
the same way that unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre mornings generate unfocused,
unproductive, and mediocre days, and ultimately a mediocre quality of life. By simply changing
the way you wake up in the morning, you can transform any area of your life, faster than you
ever thought possible.”

I’ve started applying the six habits of the Miracle Morning in my life, and I’ve gotten fantastic results. Therefore, I wanted to share these habits with you. Below you’ll discover what the six habits of the Miracle Morning are, as well as ideas on how to start applying these habits in your own life.

Habit Stacking

Before I tell you what the six habits of the Miracle Morning are, it’s important to talk about habit stacking.  Habit stacking is grouping together a set of short, easy to carry out habits. The habit stack is then treated as a single action.

Although the Miracle Morning consists of six different habits, you’re going to stack them together and treat them as a single action. That is, each habit is going to trigger the next one, so you do one after the other. Look at the following:

  • Waking up triggers the first habit.
  • Finishing the first habit triggers the second habit.
  • Finishing the second habit triggers the third habits, and so on, until you’re done with all six habits.

The Six Habits of the Miracle Morning – SAVERS

Elrod uses the acronym SAVERS to make it easier for people to remember the six morning habits—or daily practices–that make up the Miracle Morning. Here’s what each letter of the SAVERS acronym stands for:

S – Silence. Start your day with silence. This can mean taking a few deep breaths, meditating, repeating a mantra to yourself, and so on. The point of this habit is to start the day with calm clarity and a peaceful mind.

A – Affirmations. We all know the importance of positive self-talk. The second habit of the Miracle Morning will allow you to begin the day with encouraging words which will motivate you to go after your goals with a feeling of confidence and self-efficacy.

V – Visualizing. With this third habit of the Miracle Morning you’ll be taking a moment to see yourself in your mind’s eye going through your day, doing what needs to be done, and making things happen.

E – Exercise. The fourth habit of the Miracle Morning is to exercise to get your heart pumping and get oxygen flowing to your brain. It will wake up your body and prepare your brain to meet the challenges the day will undoubtedly bring.

R – Reading. We all know that input determines output. By adding the habit of reading to your morning you’ll be starting the day by filling your brain with inspirational words and/or knowledge that will help you to accomplish your daily to-dos.

S – Scribing. The habit of journaling will allow you to clarify your thoughts and feelings by putting them down on paper.

Ideas for SAVERS

How you apply each of the six habits in your life is entirely up to you. In this section I’m going to share with you some ideas for you to choose from.


Here are five ideas for the habit of silence:

  • Sit on the edge of your bed and give thanks for the day that’s about to begin.
  • If you’re religious, say a prayer.
  • Follow along with a meditation app, such as Headspace.
  • Try a conscious breathing exercises, or pranayama, such as alternate nostril breathing.
  • Slowly move your awareness through your body. As you focus on each body part—your eyes, ears, mouth, throat, and so on—be grateful for everything that body part does for you.


Here are four ideas for affirmations:


Visualizing is simply picturing and feeling yourself achieving your goals, being the person you want to be, and having the experiences you want to go through. Here are four ideas for visualizing:

  • Sit down, close your eyes, and create a detailed mental picture of the things you want to come to pass, using all of your senses. See yourself taking action so that these things come to be in your life.
  • Create a vision board filled with images that represent the goals you want to achieve. Then, every morning, sit down and review your vision board.
  • Create a mind movie by collecting images that represent your goals and using them to create a video. Then, every morning, sit down and watch your video.
  • Look through your to-do list for the day and see yourself in your mind’s eye going through your day, being calm, productive, efficient, and full of joy.


Here are five ideas for exercise:


Here are four ideas for reading:


Here are some ideas for scribing:

  • Answer a question such as: “What am I looking forward to today?” or “What good will I do today?” Some argue that you can have a happier life by asking yourself the following question each morning: “Is the world inherently good or bad?”
  • Think of a challenge you’re having and brainstorm ideas on how to overcome it.
  • Write about your most important task of the day and how you plan to tackle it.
  • Write down a list of things you’re grateful for.
  • Write one sentence about what you hope the day will bring.
  • Create a mind map for the day.
  • Write in your journal.

Length of Time for Each Habit

Ideally, you’ll be spending an hour on your Miracle Morning — about ten minutes for each habit.

However, Elrod recognizes that most people don’t have an hour in the morning that they can devote to these practices. If that’s the case, he says that you should start by doing each habit for just one minute. That way, the Miracle Morning will require just 6 minutes from start to finish.

Then, if you can, gradually begin waking up earlier and adding more time to each habit.


By adopting the six habits of the Miracle Morning you’ll be setting your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual dials to the “well-being” setting at the start of the day. How do you plan to adopt each of these habits? Live your best life by starting each day with the Miracle Morning.


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