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Benjamin Franklin life lesson

There are many life lessons that can be found in Benjamin Franklin’s writings.

I’m a huge Benjamin Franklin fan. Franklin, of course, was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. He was also a polymath, author, politician, scientist, and inventor. In addition, he was a self-improvement devotee.

Fortunately for us, this wise man left behind an autobiography, letters that he wrote to friends, and several other books he penned. From these documents, we can glean nuggets of wisdom which can help us lead better lives.

onehouradayformula banner longIn 1779, Franklin wrote a letter to a friend, Madame Brillon. In his letter, Franklin recounts an event from his childhood which taught him a life lesson that he never forgot. When he was about seven years old, on impulse, he bought a whistle from another child for a lot more money than the whistle was worth.

This taught him a lesson on being careful when buying material items not to pay more than the item was worth. But it also taught him to be careful before making any sort of expenditure. This included time; effort; attention; intangibles such as dignity and self-respect; and so on.

Below you’ll find the letter that Franklin wrote to his friend. Then, after the letter, you’ll find 20 questions that will help you to avoid paying more for anything than the thing is worth.

The Whistle by Benjamin Franklin

Here’s Franklin’s letter:

“In my opinion we might all draw more good from it than we do, and suffer less evil, if we would take care not to give too much for whistles.

For to me it seems that most of the unhappy people we meet with are become so by neglect of that caution.

You ask what I mean? You love stories, and will excuse my telling one of myself.

When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one.

I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure.

This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, ‘Don’t give too much for the whistle; and I saved my money.

As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for the whistle.

When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing his time in attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, this man gives too much for his whistle.

When I saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, ‘He pays, indeed, said I, ‘too much for his whistle.

If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth, ‘Poor man, said I, ‘you pay too much for your whistle.

When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to mere corporeal sensations, and ruining his health in their pursuit, Mistaken man, said I, you are providing pain for yourself, instead of pleasure; you give too much for your whistle.

If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses, fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts, and ends his career in a prison, Alas! say I, he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle.

When I see a beautiful sweet-tempered girl married to an ill-natured brute of a husband, What a pity, say I, that she should pay so much for a whistle!

In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.”


Are You Paying Too Much for Your Whistle?

It’s likely that there have been many times in the past when a soft voice in your head tried to warn you that you were paying too high a price for certain things. This could include things like the following:

  • Chasing after a promotion that really wasn’t worth it.
  • Maintaining a toxic friendship.
  • Buying a house with a lot more space than you really needed.
  • Getting a degree in an area that didn’t really interest you.

Do any of these sound familiar? Even if you’ve paid too much for things in the past, you can stop doing so now. Here are 20 questions to help you determine whether you’re paying too much for whistles:

1. Do I really want this, or is this something society is telling me I should want? (This can apply to anything: items, careers, status symbols, relationships, and so on.)

2. Is this item worth the amount of time that it took me to earn the amount of money that it sells for (i.e., if you make $30 an hour, an item that sells for $90 is equivalent to three hours of work)?

3. Should I wait 72 hours before deciding whether I should buy this?

4. Are there any cheaper alternatives?

5. What is the real cost of this item (including maintenance, repairs, storing, cleaning, additional parts that must be purchased, and so on)?

6. If I’m going to finance an item, what is the cost of the item once I factor in the amount of interest that I’m going to have to pay?

7. Is this costing me my mental or physical health? (For example, is a highly stressful job that doesn’t leave you enough time to exercise and practice self-care worth it—even if you make a lot of money?)

8. Is this relationship worth the amount of heartache it’s costing me?

9. Is this friendship worth the amount of inner peace it’s costing me? Is it worth holding myself back so that “my friend” doesn’t feel inferior?

10. Is this goal worth the amount of time, effort, and energy expenditure that it’s costing me?

11. What could I buy with this money, instead?

12. What could I be doing with my time, instead?

13. Does this task justify the amount of time it takes to complete it?

14. When I factor everything in, what am I really trading for this–including things such as happiness, love, life meaning, passion, honor, dignity, and self-worth?

15. Is this brownie covered in vanilla ice cream worth the calories?

16. Is this meal of a cheeseburger and fries worth an increased risk of heart disease?

17. Is relaxing on the couch and watching TV worth missing another workout?

18. Is the feeling of safety that comes from staying in my comfort zone worth the cost of not going after my dreams?

19. Is partying with my friends worth getting bad grades because I don’t have enough time left over to study?

20. What is this costing me in terms of what I value most in life?

Conclusion

Live your best life by estimating the real cost of things. Don’t give too much for whistles.

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learn from your mistakes

Mistakes can be a good thing – if you learn from them.

You’ve probably heard repeatedly that it’s fine to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. But that can be easier said than done. After all, society is very good at punishing people for making mistakes. On the other hand, we’re never really taught how to learn from our mistakes.

No worries. I’ve got you covered. I know a lot about making mistakes–I’ve definitely made my share of them. And I also know how to learn from them.

Below you’ll find six ways to learn from your mistakes.

1. Be Willing to Admit Your Mistakes

onehouradayformula banner longKathryn Schultz– an American journalist and author–explains in her TED Talk, “On Being Wrong”, that we all understand in the abstract that everyone makes mistakes. However, when we think of ourselves in any given situation, this acceptance of fallibility goes out the window. We feel that we’re right about everything.

After all, realizing that we’re wrong feels bad. It can be embarrassing and it can even make us feel stupid. But if you’re wrong and you don’t acknowledge it, then you don’t feel those negative feelings — being wrong and not acknowledging it, feels like being right.

This unwillingness to feel the negative feelings that come from accepting that we’re wrong makes us very attached to being right. In turn, this attachment to our rightness does the following:

  • It doesn’t allow us to prevent the mistakes that are preventable.
  • It doesn’t allow us to learn from our mistakes so that we can avoid making those same mistakes in the future.

Therefore, the first step to take in order to learn from your mistakes is to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Simply allow yourself to say: “I’m wrong”, and tolerate the discomfort that comes along with that.

I would argue that being able to admit that you’ve made a mistake is a sign of intelligence. It means that you’ve being able to do the following:

  • You’ve overridden society’s conditioning that making mistakes and being wrong is shameful.
  • You have self-awareness: you have the ability to step outside of yourself, notice what you’re doing, and evaluate it objectively.
  • You’ve recognized that being able to admit your mistakes, and learn from them, is an important tool for achieving your full potential.

When you’ve admitted that you’ve made a mistake, you’ve taken the first step toward learning from that mistake.

2. Don’t Dwell On Your Mistakes

In the previous point I encouraged you to admit your mistakes, even if this means having to feel the discomfort of acknowledging that you were wrong. However, the idea here isn’t to replay your mistakes in your head in an endless loop like a broken record. Rumination offers few insights and will keep you stuck in a negative state.

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D, a former psychologist and professor at Yale University, indicates that, instead of dwelling on your mistakes, you need to practice adaptive self-reflection.

This means taking the time to reflect on your mistakes with the purpose of identifying how you need to alter your behavior so that you can do better the next time. You can differentiate between rumination and adaptive self-reflection by asking yourself the following:

  • Is this keeping me stuck in the past? Then it’s rumination.
  • Is this helping me to learn and grow? Then it’s adaptive self-reflection.

One way to practice adaptive self-reflection is by asking yourself the right questions. This is addressed in the next point.

3. Ask the Right Questions

When you’ve made a mistake, to learn from it, you need to ask yourself the right questions. Here are some examples of the questions you should be asking in order to learn from your mistakes:

  • Is there something you can do to remedy the mistake?
  • What can still be salvaged?
  • Is there a hidden opportunity in the mistake?
  • What was the cause of the mistake?
  • Was the goal that you set for yourself feasible?
  • Did you make a mistake in the strategy or the method that you chose to follow?
  • Did you make a mistake executing the plan?
  • What should you have done differently?
  • Were there any warning signs that you missed?
  • Did you make any assumptions that turned out to be wrong?
  • Has making this mistake revealed any of your blind spots?
  • What did this teach you about other people and how they behave?
  • Did this mistake reveal that there’s a skill that you lack or that you need more practice in?
  • What worked? What didn’t work?
  • Did this mistake reveal a character trait that’s holding you back, such as hubris or inflexibility?
  • What insight did you gain from this mistake?
  • Did a negative habit play a role in this mistake, such as going to bed late, failing to put things back where they belong, or leaving things until the last minute?
  • How will you do things differently moving forward?
  • What will you do to prevent this—or something like this—from happening again?
  • How do you think your behavior should/would change if you were in a similar situation in the future?
  • If you saw someone else making a similar mistake, how would you advise them?

Learn from your mistakes by going carefully through the answers that you gave to the questions above.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Once you’ve asked yourself the right questions and have identified the lessons you can learn from the mistake you made, release any remaining negative feelings you may have about the mistake by showing yourself self-compassion.

I’ve already referred on this blog to a study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley on the positive effects of self-compassion.

That study found that, when students did poorly on a test, they were more motivated to spend more time studying for the next test if they were reminded to show themselves self-compassion. The researchers used phrases like the following:

  • “Try not to be too hard on yourself.”
  • “It’s common for students to have difficulty with tests like these.”

Here are some phrases you can use to show yourself self-compassion the next time you make a mistake:

  • “I’m not my mistakes. My mistakes don’t define me.”
  • “No one has ever succeeded in life without making mistakes.”
  • “Making mistakes is part of being human.”
  • “I’m proud of myself for having tried.”
  • “I made a mistake, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it.”
  • “I’m grateful to this mistake for the lesson it taught me.”
  • “I’m now better equipped to do better in my next attempt.”
  • “I can’t undo this mistake, but I can refuse to carry it into the future.”
  • “I forgive myself for having made this mistake. I’m ready to move on.”
  • “I’m going to take corrective action and try again.”

In order to allow yourself to learn from your mistakes, you need to show yourself self-compassion.

5. Learn From Your Mistakes and Move On Fearlessly

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said the following:

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

The fear of never achieving anything worthwhile, and failing to even try to go after what you want in life, should be much bigger than the fear of making mistakes.

Plan ahead and look for ways to avoid making mistakes to the extent that you can, but know that–sooner or later– you will make a mistake. And that’s OK.

When you do make a mistake, be prepared to learn from it by following the steps that have been covered here so far. Then, armed with your newfound knowledge, move on fearlessly!

6. Take a Trial and Error Approach to Life

The world is incredibly complicated. No one can be expected to go out there and get everything right from the get-go, not even extraordinarily smart, educated, and talented people. The technique that should be used for solving problems and trying new things in this complex world is the trial and error approach.

The trial and error approach is basically the following:

  • When faced with a problem, make the decision to try many different things.
  • Create a systematic way to determine what’s working and what’s not.
  • Analyze the data you receive by trying, make any necessary adjustments, and try again.

It’s similar to the rapid prototyping approach that I wrote about in my post, “How to Apply Design Thinking to Your Life”.

The next time you’re going to try something new, tell yourself the following: “This is what I want to achieve, and this is what I think will allow me to achieve it. However, I can’t be sure that this is going to work. I’m going to try and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else.”

Here’s a quote by Frank Underwood—the President of the United States in the TV series, House of Cards—which illustrates this point:

“Franklin Delano Roosevelt ushered in an era of hope and progress when he proposed the New Deal, and at the time his reforms were considered radical. But he once said, ‘This country demands bold, persistent experimentation.’ It is common sense to take a method and try it and if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. Roosevelt would have understood better than anyone the necessity for trying something different. The New Deal succeeded for many years, but we must now try something newer before it fails us. If America Works succeeds, we will reinvent the American Dream. If we fail in our attempt, we will admit it frankly and try another. But above all, we must try something. Thank you, and God bless the United States of America.”

Your life demands bold, persistent experimentation. Try to achieve your goals. If you fail in your attempts, learn from your mistakes, and try again.

Conclusion

Everyone makes mistakes. We might as well stop being afraid of the inevitable and look for ways to turn our mistakes into something positive.  We do this by turning our mistakes into learning opportunities.

Live your best life by learning from your mistakes.

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How many of your dreams have you missed out on due to self-sabotage?

self-sabotage

It’s time to stop being your own worst enemy.

Self-sabotage is having conflicting thoughts and feelings about achieving what you say you want. In addition, it’s when these thoughts and feelings lead you to act in ways that interfere with your ability to achieve your long-term goals. In other words, it’s you, acting against yourself.

People can sabotage themselves in any life area. Here are some examples:

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  • Finances: You’re trying to set money aside for an emergency fund and you already have a few hundred dollars in your savings account. Then, you go to the mall to get a birthday gift for a friend and end up buying five pairs of shoes, a leather jacket, and a couple of kitchen gadgets you have absolutely no need for.
  • Health and Fitness: After three weeks of healthy eating, you’ve lost five pounds and are feeling proud of yourself. But then you spend the weekend overeating fatty and sugary foods, and you gain all the weight back.
  • Relationships: You’ve been in a new relationship for four months, and everything is going great. Then, as always, you become overly critical of the other person, or you start accusing them of imaginary slights, and everything goes south from there.
  • Work: You’re a good and efficient worker, and you get things done. However, every time you’re up for a promotion you start missing deadlines and coming in late.
  • Business: You launched a small business and your income has been climbing slowly and steadily. Then, you notice a great opportunity. However, instead of taking advantage of that opportunity you find yourself  watching too much TV and playing video games.
  • Self-Growth: You’ve set aside one-hour-a-day to learn new skills, you’ve started meditating, and you’re working on increasing your self-esteem. But then you go back to spending endless hours with your “friends” who do nothing but gossip and complain.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you’re like most people, the answer is “yes”. But why would anyone act in a way that is contrary to their own self-interest? And what can be done about it? Below you’ll discover the root cause of self-sabotage, and seven ways to overcome it.

Your Deserve Level

Psychotherapist Pat Pearson is the author of “Stop Self-Sabotage: Get Out of Your Own Way to Earn More Money, Improve Your Relationships, and Find the Success You Deserve”. In her book, she identifies something which she calls the “Deserve Level”. Here’s how she defines it:

“Just as your IQ, your intelligence quotient, is an indicator of your level of intelligence, your Deserve Level is a gauge of the degree to which you believe you deserve to have what you want in various areas of life.”

She adds that self-sabotage is how we regulate ourselves to make sure that we stay within our self-chosen boundaries. In other words, your Deserve Level creates a ceiling beyond which you won’t allow yourself to go. The good news is that your Deserve Levels can be changed.

How to Stop Self-Sabotage

We’re often very good at recognizing self-sabotage in others, but we have a hard time recognizing it in ourselves. The way to stop sabotaging yourself every time you start gaining traction is through self-awareness.

By taking a good, hard look at yourself, you can begin to notice how you act in ways that are counter-productive to the achievement of your goals. Here are seven ways to become more self-aware and put an end to self-sabotage:

1. Become Aware of Your Ceiling.

Notice where your Deserve Levels are right now in your different life areas. Have you been stuck at a certain level of income for a long time? Is there a certain number of clients you can’t seem to get over? Do you feel like you stay at a certain weight no matter what you do?

The first step in breaking through the ceiling being set by your Deserve Level is noticing where the ceiling is.

2. Accept Responsibility.

One way in which people sabotage themselves is by denying responsibility for what happens to them and blaming others. External forces–such as other people and circumstances–can be partially responsible for your failure to get what you want.

However, in the end, it’s your choices and your actions that will determine where you end up. Stop playing the victim and take back control of the wheel.


3. Identify Your Patterns.

What do you do to stop yourself when you start getting close to achieving what you want? In other words, what’s your self-defeating behavior? Maybe you do the following:

  • When the alarm rings in the morning, you find yourself hitting the snooze button over and over again. Oversleeping is one way to avoid taking the risks that are necessary so that you can achieve what you want.
  • You get irritable and find yourself snapping at those around you.
  • Worry gets the better of you and starts making you sick. It’s one thing to think about what could go wrong so that you can plan ahead and decide how you’re going to deal with any problems that come up. It’s a whole other thing to ruminate endlessly over possible negative outcomes.
  • Instead of working on what’s most important, you obsess over unimportant details. Perfectionism is self-sabotage in disguise.
  • When things seem to be speeding up you get scared and pull back. You decide that you need to take another course, read a few more books on the subject, or consult with yet another expert, before you can continue moving forward.
  • You get to work on secondary projects–most of it “busy work”– and you focus on tasks that you could be delegating. That is, you procrastinate.

Once you’ve identified how you sabotage yourself, you can be on the look-out for these behaviors. Then, when you spot yourself acting in self-limiting ways, make sure to stop.

4. Change Your Stories.

The stories that you tell yourself about what has happened to you, and what you’ve done, create your self-image, or how you think of yourself. Those stories may be getting in your way and holding you back.

Keep in mind that the worst stories–the ones that will really keep you down–are those that make you feel shame and guilt. You may be holding yourself back in an effort to “make up” for something you feel you’ve done in the past.

If this is the case, you need to reexamine and reframe your life stories.

5. Identify Negative Beliefs.

Sit down and think about an important goal you’ve set for yourself. What thoughts pop into your head when you think about your goal? Maybe you think something like the following:

  • “There’s no way I can achieve that.”
  • “If I fail I’ll never be able to show my face in public again.”
  • “I don’t deserve that.”

If so, you’ve identified negative, self-sabotaging beliefs. You need to replace those negative beliefs with positive, empowering beliefs. Say things like the following to yourself:

  • “I’m going to have to work hard to achieve this goal, but it’s important to me and I’m ready to do what it takes.”
  • “Failure is evidence that I tried to make a better life for myself. There’s no shame in that.”
  • “I’m a good person and I do good for others. I deserve to be happy and realize my dreams.

Don’t just accept what your inner saboteur says to you. Instead, be ready with your counter-arguments.

6. Move Away From People Holding You Back.

Let’s face it: one of the reasons we sabotage ourselves is out of fear of outgrowing the people who currently surround us. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • What if your friends no longer want to hang out with you if you start making a lot more money than they do?
  • Or what if your boyfriend feels threatened if you start to lose weight and get in shape?
  • Who will you have lunch with if your colleagues at work resent the fact that you got a promotion and are moving up the corporate ladder?

Encourage your friends and loved ones to join you as you strive to improve yourself. But if they try to hold you back, then you need to move away from them. Find a group of people who will pull you up, instead of allowing those around you to drag you down.

7. Raise Your Feelings of Self-Worth.

The higher your self-worth, the more you’ll feel that you deserve to have the things you want. And the more deserving you feel, the less likely it is that you’ll sabotage yourself.

One way to raise your self-worth is to take inventory. Sit down and ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What good have you done?
  • How have you helped others?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What value have you contributed to society?

The worthier you feel, the more likely it is that you’ll allow yourself to break through your current Deserve Level and achieve more of what you want.

Conclusion

Instead of being your own worst enemy, work on becoming your greatest ally. Uncover your inner saboteur, and escort them out of your life. Live your best life by putting an end to self-sabotage.

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Fogg Behavior Model

The Fogg Behavior Model will take you from where you are now, to where you want to be.

Psychologist. BJ Fogg is the founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University in California. He’s been studying how to change behavior for the past 20 years.  Fogg condensed his findings on how to change behavior into a model which he named: the Fogg Behavior Model.

In essence, the Fogg Behavior Model states that behavior will only happen when three elements occur simultaneously. These three behavior change elements are the following:

  • Motivation — People have to be sufficiently motivated to change their behavior.
  • Ability — They must have the ability to do the behavior.
  • Trigger — They have to be triggered, or prompted, to do the behavior.

If one of the elements is missing, behavior won’t happen. Another way to say this is as follows:

B = MAT

(Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger)

Here’s what the Fogg Behavior Model looks like:

The Fogg Behavior Model

Below you’ll find an explanation of the Fogg Behavior Model.

Application of the Fogg Behavior Model

The Fogg Behavior Model can be applied in any area in which there’s a behavior that you want to take place, including the following:

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  • There’s a habit that you want to adopt—such as exercising, working on your blog, meditating, or clearing your desk every day before you leave work—but you can’t get yourself to do it.
  • There’s something that you want someone else to do—such as getting your kids to do their homework when they get back from school.
  • The model can also be applied in a technological environment. For example, you’re a website owner/designer and there’s something that you want your visitors to do – such as sign up for your newsletter.

As you can see, the model can be applied in both a professional and a personal setting. In addition, it can be applied to change your behavior or to change the behavior of others.

Overview of the Fogg Behavior Model

Here are four things you can notice right away about the Fogg Behavior Model from looking at the graph:

  • As a person’s motivation and ability to perform the target behavior increase, the more likely it is that they will perform said behavior.
  • There’s an inverse relationship between motivation and ability. The easier something is to do, the less motivation is needed to do it. On the other hand, the harder something is to do, the more motivation is needed.
  • The action line—the purple curved line—lets you know that any behavior above that line will take place if it’s appropriately triggered. At the same time, any behavior below the line won’t take place regardless of the trigger used. Why is that? Because if you have practically zero motivation to do something, you won’t do it regardless of how easy it is to do. At the same time, if you’re very motivated to do something, but it’s incredibly difficult to do, you’ll get frustrated and you won’t act.
  • If you want a behavior to take place, look for ways to boost motivation or ability (or both). In other words, aim for the top right of the model — move along the red line toward the yellow star:

The Fogg Behavior Model

Below you’ll find more information on how to apply the Fogg Behavior Model to trigger behavior change. As an illustration, I want to do a 30-day planking challenge (do plank exercises every day for 30 days). I’m going to use the Fogg Behavior Model to help me with this challenge.

The Three Elements of The Fogg Behavior Model

As stated above, the three elements of the Fogg Behavior Model are motivation, ability, and trigger. Let’s take a look at each of these, one by one.

Motivation

As you can see from the graph, the Fogg Behavior Model has two axes. The vertical axis is for motivation and it goes from low motivation to high motivation.

The Fogg Behavior Model

As has already been stated, the more motivated you are to do something, the more likely it is that you’ll do it. According to Fogg, there are six core motivators, grouped into the following three categories:

  • Sensation – Pleasure/Pain. The result of this motivator is immediate. People are responding to what’s happening in the moment.
  • Anticipation – Hope/Fear. Hope is the anticipation of something good happening. BJ Fogg considers hope to be the most ethical and empowering motivator. Fear is the anticipation of something bad happening, often the anticipation of loss.
  • Social Cohesion – Social Acceptance/Rejection. People are motivated to do things that will win them social acceptance and status. People are especially motivated to avoid any negative consequences that will lead to them being socially rejected.

I plan to increase my motivation to plank daily for 30 days by doing the following:

  • Making planking fun by playing music I like while I plank, and turning it into a competition with my sister (pleasure).
  • Pledging to give my sister $10 for every day I don’t plank (pain).
  • I’m going to print out the Lifehack article on 7 Things That Will Happen When You Do Planking Exercise Every Day, which describes all the wonderful things that will happen to you if you start planking, and put it up where I can see it (hope).
  • I’m doing the plank challenge with my sister (social cohesion).

Ability

The second axis is horizontal, and it’s for ability. It goes from hard to do, to easy to do (or from complicated to simple).

The Fogg Behavior Model

Although one way to get people to take action in terms of ability is to train them to carry out the target behavior, Fogg explains that people have a tendency to be lazy. Therefore, it’s a better idea to make the behavior easier. In other words, make things simpler.

Fogg breaks down ability into six sub-components.

  1. Time– The behavior shouldn’t take up a lot of time, or you probably won’t do it.
  2. Money—If you can’t afford to take a certain behavior, then you won’t have the ability to carry out that behavior.
  3. Cognitively Demanding (Mental Effort)—You probably already have a lot to think about, so any new behavior that you’re trying to take shouldn’t increase your cognitive burden too much.
  4. Physically Demanding (Physical Effort)– For behavior that requires physical effort, you’re more likely to take action the less physical effort is required.
  5. Social Deviance—It’s not easy for anyone to take behavior that goes against the social norm.
  6. Non-Routine—You’ll find it a lot easier to take on a new behavior if you include it in your routine. That is, tie it to something that you’re already doing.

This is how I plan to make planking as easy and as simple as possible:

  1. Time — The Lifehack article I mentioned earlier contains a five minute planking routine which I plan to follow. Five minutes is very reasonable.
  2. Money — All you really need for planking is a yoga mat, which I already own.
  3. Mental Effort — Planking doesn’t require much thinking.
  4. Physical Effort — Although planking isn’t difficult to do, right now my left arm hurts since I haven’t been stretching properly after lifting weights. Therefore, I don’t have the physical ability to start the plank challenge, yet. However, my arm will be fine soon, and then I’ll have the ability to plank and I’ll get started with the challenge.
  5. Social Deviance — Fortunately, planking is socially acceptable behavior. 😊
  6. Non-Routine — I’m going to include planking in the morning routine that I already have in place. Specifically, I’m going to do it right after I meditate.

Trigger

A trigger is a cue, or a call to action. It’s something that says, “Do this now.” There are three types of triggers in the Fogg Behavior Model, depending on where a person is on the graph:

  • Spark — A trigger which is applied when there is high ability but low motivation. The trigger should be designed in tandem with a motivational element. As an example, it’s easy to wake up in the morning when you’ve gotten enough sleep, but you may not be motivated to leave your comfortable, warm bed. If that’s the case, you can get yourself a really loud alarm clock, like the Sonic Bomb, and place it far away from your bed. When the alarm goes off you’ll definitely be motivated to get out of bed to turn that thing off!
  • Facilitator — A trigger that is applied when there is high motivation but low ability. It seeks to simplify the task. As an illustration, suppose that you’re trying to eat healthier but you’re not very organized. You can sign up for a newsletter that is delivered every Sunday morning to your inbox with easy-to-make, delicious recipes for healthy meals. This will prompt you to sit down with the newsletter and plan your meals for the upcoming week, right there and then.
  • Signal — A trigger applied when both motivation and ability are high. This is just a prompt that serves as a reminder. It can be something as simple as a post-it note.

Take a look at the following image so that you can see the triggers graphically:

The Fogg Behavior Model

Keep in mind that the trigger has to occur at the right time. That is, it has to occur when the target behavior is supposed to take place.

In my example of planking, I have high motivation and high ability (once my arm heals), so all I’ll need is a signal. I’m going to turn my morning routine into a checklist–which will include planking–and put it up where I’ll be able to see it in the mornings. Looking at my checklist will remind me, or trigger me, to plank after I meditate.

Conclusion

If you’re having trouble getting yourself, or others, to adopt a certain behavior, ask yourself the following:

  • Is there a motivation problem? If so, how can I fix it? Which of the six core motivators should I apply?
  • Is there an ability problem? If so, how can I fix it? How can I make the behavior easier or simpler? Which resource is the most scarce (time, money, physical ability, and so on), and how can I address that?
  • Am I using the right trigger? Am I applying the trigger at the right time?

Live your best life by applying the Fogg Behavior Model.

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mantra meditation

Meditate for five minutes a day by focusing on five beautiful mantras.

The 5-Word Mantra Meditation is a five-minute meditation that I came up with and which I use every morning to help me start the day off right. I find it’s very effective, and I wanted to share it with you.

Meditation is bringing all of your awareness to the present moment. One way to achieve this is by repeating a mantra over-and-over again and placing all of your attention on the mantra as you say it. A mantra is simply a word or phrase that has meaning for you.

This meditation consists of five mantras—or five words—each of which you repeat for one minute. The five words are the following: Release; Peace; Tranquility; Love; and Joy. I’m going to say each of these words for one minute, and you just silently repeat each word as you hear it.

The meditation is accompanied by a beautiful piece of music which is called Ofelia’s Dream, and it’s from www.bensound.com. Here’s the meditation:

I hope you enjoyed it!

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self-care

Self-care is care given for you, by you.

If you fall and cut yourself, what do you do? You clean the cut, put some Neosporin on it, and then cover it with a Band Aid. That is, when you suffer bodily injury you act quickly so that you heal properly.

But what about mental injuries? You suffer mental injuries all the time. In fact, almost everyone suffers mental injuries much more often than they suffer physical injuries. Here are some examples:

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  • You overhear someone say something negative about your looks as they walk by.
  • Your boss asks for several corrections on a report you worked hard on.
  • You’re rejected by a love interest.
  • You fail to meet your monthly sales quota.
  • You’re publicly shamed by your professor when he calls on you and you don’t know the answer.
  • You get into an argument with a co-worker and she starts spreading lies about you.

At the same time, it’s very likely that you just try to ignore those mental injuries. But if you ignore them, they don’t heal properly. And that leads to all sorts of problems: you become convinced that you can’t succeed; you begin to suffer from low self-esteem; you start to lose perspective; and so on.

Self-care is the mental equivalent of washing a wound, putting an antibiotic ointment on it, and covering it up. It’s important to practice self-care on a regular basis so that your mental wounds heal properly and you can stay mentally healthy. This will make you more self-confident, resilient, and optimistic.

Below you’ll find 15 self-care practices for well-being (for both women and men).

1. Get a Massage.

There’s a shopping center across the street from my building, and they have a kiosk that offers chair massages. Last Friday I got one for the first time ($10 for 15 minutes). I lift weights and the lady got all the knots out of my back–which was heavenly–and I’m thinking of making it a weekly thing.

2. Meditate.

When you meditate you’re taking a break from the rest of the world and you’re redirecting your focus toward yourself. It’s a mental break from the deluge of information that you’re constantly being subjected to. This is indispensable for the brain.

You can also practice self-care with active meditation, which includes yoga, Tai chi, and–my personal favorite– Spring Forest Qigong.

3. Journal.

While keeping a diary is primarily a way of recording the events happening around you, journaling focuses on your interpretation  and reaction to those events. It offers you a glimpse into the workings of your mind, and it helps you to deal with whatever is worrying you or making you anxious.

4. Fika.

Fika? What’s that? It’s a Swedish coffee break. But it’s more than that. It’s making sure that you build some downtime into each day. Here’s a quote from the book Fika: The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break, with Recipes for Pastries, Breads, and Other Treats:

“Functioning as both a verb and a noun, the concept of fika is simple. It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it. You can do it alone, you can do it with friends. You can do it at home, in a park or at work. But the essential thing is that you do it, that you make time to take a break: that’s what fika is all about.”

Fika is about self-care.

5. Read a Good Book

Reading a good book can give your mind a break from what’s going on around you, so you can come back to the “real world” refreshed. For me, this year, it’s the Russians (Tolstoy, Pushkin, Nabokov, Chekov, Dostoevsky, and so on). For you it might be a book by Elena Ferrante, a suspense thriller, or science fiction.

Choose a genre you enjoy–there’s nothing quite like getting lost in a good book, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

6. Take a Long Shower or Bath.

Water has restorative powers. For millennia, people have sought physical relief, emotional healing, and spiritual renewal by immersing themselves in water. If you choose to take a bath, you can enhance it by adding a bath bomb. Bonus: turn on some ambient sounds and light a candle.

7. Soak Your Feet.

Soaking your feet is one of the most relaxing things you can do. After all, you have over 72,000 nerve endings in your feet, and each one corresponds to a different area of the body. Get a basin and add some hot water (not too hot), Epsom salts, and your favorite essential oils. Then, slide your feet into the water.

When you’re done, dry your feet, get some lotion, and give yourself a foot massage.  Bliss!

8. Go Out In Nature.

As I wrote in my post on 8 Reasons Why You Need To Spend More Time in Nature,  studies show that spending just 20 minutes in vegetation-rich nature improves vitality. Vitality is defined as emotional strength in the face of internal and external oppositions, and living life with enthusiasm.

I sit outside and put my bare feet on the grass for fifteen minutes, at least three times a week. I find that this direct contact with nature is beneficial to my physical health and psychological well-being.

9. Take a Nap.

In her book Take a Nap! Change Your Life, Dr. Sara Mednick explains that taking a nap does all of the following for you:

  • Increases alertness;
  • Boosts creativity;
  • Reduces stress;
  • Improves perception, stamina, motor skills, and accuracy;
  • Enhances your sex life;
  • Helps you make better decisions;
  • Keeps you looking younger;
  • Aids in weight loss;
  • Reduces the risk of heart attack,
  • Elevates your mood; and
  • Strengthens memory.

Excuse me. I’m going to take a short nap now. 🙂


10. Listen to Music.

I’ve written about easy ways to bring more music into your life on this blog. When you listen to music, your brain releases the “pleasure chemical” dopamine. This is one of the reasons why music has played such an important role in societies throughout history.

In addition, research shows that people who combine music with a healthy diet and exercise get better results in achieving wellness.

If you’d like, you can dance and sing along.

11. Play.

I have an adult coloring book and a Play-Doh set (Playful Pies). And I take play breaks throughout the day, guilt-free. Playing is fun, it relaxes me, and it keeps my inner kid happy. Practice self-care by playing more.

12. Move.

Moving is vital to our well-being. It’s like taking a happy pill with no side effects. Go rollerblading, go for a bike ride, go for a hike, walk your dog, or find a buddy to join you for a friendly game of tennis.

13. Practice A Hobby .

Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, doodling, or filling out puzzles, practicing a self-absorbing activity that promotes your health is a great way to take good care of yourself. Practicing a hobby isn’t just a way to pass the time, it’s also a way to promote mental and emotional balance.

14. Listen/Watch/Read Something Inspirational.

I’ve already mentioned reading fiction as a method of self-care, but you can also read personal development books for inspiration. YouTube videos, inspirational movies, and motivational podcasts are also a great choice.

Another fantastic option is to peruse the articles on this blog.

15. Use Acupressure.

Acupressure is placing pressure over specific points along the body to improve blood flow, release tension, and enhance or unblock the life-energy, or chi. This release allows energy to flow more freely, promoting relaxation and healing.

The most popular acupressure point is the meaty part of the hand between the thumb and the index finger. Here’s how to locate the specific point.

Another option is to get yourself an acupressure mat and lie on it for twenty minutes or so while you watch TV, meditate, or before you fall asleep.

Bonus — Here are seven self-care affirmations that will foster self-nurturing:

self-care

Conclusion

Use the 15 ideas above to create your own list of self-care alternatives for when you need them. Live your best life by taking good care of yourself.

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curate your life

Imagine a life in which everything that’s in it has been carefully curated by you.

I love to read. I’ve been an avid reader my whole life. However, up until about two years ago, my reading was very haphazard. I would choose what book to read next on things like the following:

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  • A friend would mention that they were reading a book and that it was good, so I would go out and get myself a copy.
  • I would walk into a bookstore, browse around, and pick something.
  • I would happen upon a book review while perusing a magazine or newspaper, and I would order the book.
  • A neighbor would leave a book that they had finished reading in the building’s lobby, for anyone to take (that someone was invariably me).

That made for a lot of random reading—some good, and some not so good.

However, my reading is no longer determined by chance. Instead, I now have a reading plan. I’ve created a list of the 365 most important books–from the time of the ancients until around 1975–, in various fields, including literature, philosophy, and political science.

I am now making my way through that list. That is, I’ve curated my reading. This has helped me to ensure that I spend my reading time on the best books in existence (at least the best books according to me), instead of simply grabbing whatever book I happen to chance on next.

It recently occurred to me that I could apply this same concept to other areas of my life, with the purpose of making my life richer, and to live more on-purpose.

To illustrate further, think of what a museum curator does to build a museum exhibit:

  • They select the artwork or artifacts that best represent the story that they’re trying to convey.
  • The curator strategically excludes those pieces that detract from the overall beauty of the exhibit.
  • They organize a layout for flow and clarity.

Doesn’t that sound like a great approach to life? By curating your life you’ll be more intentional with the things that you do, the relationships you enter into or cultivate, and your general environment.

In addition to your reading list, below you’ll find seven more areas you can curate in order to live a better life.

1. Curate Your Closet.

Curate your closet so that your wardrobe consists only of those pieces you would want in your fashion story. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What colors do I most love to wear?
  • Which styles suit me best?
  • If I could only own 40 pieces of clothing what would they be?

Imagine opening your closet in the morning to get ready for work, and finding it contains only high quality pieces that you love, that look good on you, and that mix and match well. Keep your closet neat and organized and filled only with those things that make you feel great.

By curating your closet you’ll be wearing your favorite clothes every day.

2. Curate Your Belongings.

Curate your home with quality pieces over time. For each and every room in your house, ask yourself these two questions:

  • What function does this room serve?
  • How do I want this room to “feel”?

Then, buy quality pieces one at a time. Carefully consider how each piece will serve in your home. If the piece is expensive, save for it. If you’ve thought carefully about your choice, it won’t have gone out of style by the time you can afford it.

When you curate your life you should always keep in mind that quality is infinitely more important than quantity.

3. Curate Your Relationships.

Life’s too short to spend it with people you don’t really like, or people who bring you down. Curate your social circle so that it includes only people you love spending time with—people who add to the joy in your life, instead of subtracting from it.

Ask yourself questions  like the following:

  • What kind of people do I want to be surrounded by?
  • Who do I want in my social circle?
  • What do I want my friendships/personal relationships to be like?

4. Curate Your TV Watching.

I’m not one of those productivity bloggers who tries to get people to stop watching TV. Instead, I encourage people to limit their TV time. You do this by being picky about what you watch. Don’t just watch what’s on.  Watch only what you love.

For those times when none of your favorite TV shows are on, have a list of documentaries or YouTube videos to choose from. Curate your life by curating your entertainment.

5. Curate Your Goals.

Curate your goals by looking for projects—whether it’s writing a novel or running a 5K—that will allow you to create the future that you want for yourself. When you’re curating your goals, ask yourself questions like the following:

  • Do I find this goal meaningful?
  • Is this goal in line with my values, purpose, and life mission?
  • Does this goal make me feel joy, or stress and frustration?

Curate your life by pursuing only those goals that will help you build the vision that you have for your life.

6. Curate Your Time.

Tumblr is a micro-blogging tool where people can publish short posts of text, images, quotes, links, video, audio and chats. Most people who have a Tumblr invest a lot of time in curating it. They carefully comb through content and then re-blog only the best material that they can find.

Follow a similar approach when it comes to your time. Instead of adding tasks to your schedule willy-nilly, carefully consider each task before penciling it in. Do the following:

  • Like they would ask, “Is this worthy of my Tumblr?”, you should ask: “Is this worthy of my time?”
  • Like they would ask, “Will this add to the usefulness and beauty of my Tumblr?”, you should ask: “Will this add to the usefulness and beauty of this day?”
  • Like they would ask, “Is this image consistent with my brand?”, you should ask: “Does this task help me create the kind of life I want for myself?”

Curate your life by curating your time.

7. Curate Your Thoughts.

I recently wrote a post on following a 7-day mental detox. In that post I explain that, while you can’t choose the first thought that enters your head, you can choose the second. That is, whenever you start thinking about anything, you can choose to tell yourself: “I’m not going to think about this.”

Instead of passively allowing your inner voice to prattle on about anything it wants, actively choose which thoughts you’re going to allow to blossom in your mind, and which thoughts you’re going to pull out and toss out like weeds. That is, carefully curate your thoughts.

Conclusion

Curate your life carefully. It’s your masterpiece, after all. Live your best life by selecting only the best for yourself, excluding anything that does not contribute to the beauty of the whole, and arranging the pieces into a glorious work of art.

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how to become an expert

If you want more power, money, success, and life satisfaction, become an expert.

At midnight on December 31st, 1999, the Panama Canal was transferred from the United States of America to the Republic of Panama. At that moment, the Panama Canal Commission (PCC) seized to exist, and the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) came into being.

onehouradayformula banner longSimultaneously, the labor laws of the US federal government seized to apply, and a new labor regime—the PCA’s special labor regime—was made applicable to the 8,000 PCA employees. This was a unique labor regime which applied in just one place in the world: the PCA. I was a labor attorney at the PCC, and then at the PCA. When I left the PCA in 2004, no one knew the special labor regime better than I did. At the age of 32, I was the world’s foremost expert on the PCA’s special labor regime. It took me about three years to reach that level.

As you can see from the story above, “expert” is a very relative term. If it’s a niche topic that hasn’t been in existence for long, you can become an expert in that topic in a relatively short amount of time.

For other topics, it’s much more difficult to become an expert. As an illustration, if you want to become an expert in a legal field such as admiralty law, bankruptcy law, family law, and so on, you would have to devote many years to your work in that field in order to be recognized as an expert.

This blog post is divided into the following six sections:

  • What is An Expert?
  • Why Become an Expert?
  • The Tim Ferriss Approach to Becoming an Expert
  • The 10,000 Hours Approach
  • Using Expertise or Proficiency Scales
  • My Proposal – How to Become An Expert

By the time you’re done reading this blog post you should have a good idea of what you need to do in order to become an expert.

What is An Expert?

“Expert” is one of those words that can be defined narrowly or expansively. Here are some possible definitions:

  • Having a deep understanding of a topic.
  • Someone who can confidently help others in a given area. They can solve problems and offer solutions.
  • A person who has or displays lots of knowledge in a specific area.
  • A person recognized by others as having lots of knowledge in an area, based on decisions made and actions taken.
  • An expert must produce consistent, concrete, successful results.
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson defines “expert” as follows: “[Being] on the frontier, making discoveries, thinking thoughts never before dreamed of.”

For the purpose of this post, we’re going to go with the second definition: “Someone who can confidently help others in a given area. They can solve problems and offer solutions.”

Why Become An Expert?

Here are four reasons why you should consider becoming an expert:

  1. Become More Powerful – As I wrote in my post on “50 Ways to Increase Your Personal Power”, one of the sources of power is knowledge. Since experts have a lot of knowledge in their given area, they’re more powerful–at least when it comes to their area of expertise–than non-experts.
  2. People Trust Experts — People are more likely to believe your opinion when you know more. Everyone wants to work with or buy from the person who has the reputation, credibility and knowledge of an expert.
  3. Make More Money – The more people perceive that you’re the “it” person when it comes to finding a solution to a problem that they’re having, the higher the fees you can charge for your products and/or services.
  4. Gain More Life Satisfaction: The more you know about a topic, the greater your ability will be to help others solve problems in that area. In addition, you’ll be in a better position to make valuable contributions to a topic if you become an expert in that topic.

Become an Expert – The Tim Ferriss Approach

In his book, “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich”, Tim Ferriss–author, entrepreneur, and public speaker–proposes the following process for becoming an expert in four weeks:

  • Join two or three related trade organizations.
  • Read the three top selling books on your topic.
  • Give one free one-to-three-hour seminar at the closest well-known university.
  • Give two free seminars at branches of well-known companies.
  • Offer to write one or two articles for trade magazines.
  • Join ProfNet — a service that journalists use to find experts to quote for articles.

The approach above is more about appearing to be an expert to others, than about actually being an expert, so take it with a grain of salt. That being said, Ferriss argues that it’s not about pretending to be something that you’re not, but about presenting yourself in the best possible light.

The 10,000-Hour Rule

In his book, “Outliers: The Story of Success”, journalist Malcolm Gladwell argues that—according to research done in the area of expertise—to be an expert you need to follow the 10,000-hour rule. Here’s Gladwell:

“. .. [it’s]an extraordinarily consistent answer in an incredible number of fields … you need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good.”

In other words, becoming an expert is about putting in the time. It takes about ten years to become an expert.

The 10-000 hour rule has been widely criticized. Many people have argued that it’s not the number of hours that you devote to an endeavor that mattes, but the quality of your effort during the hours that you put in. Repeating a task over and over mindlessly is not the same thing as doing so with focused attention and with the specific goal of improving performance.

Use Expertise or Proficiency Scales

If you want to know whether you’re approaching–or have reached–expert status in any given field, you can consult an Expertise or Proficiency Scale. I’m going to share three of these scales with you. They are as follows:

  • The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition
  • The Competencies Proficiency Scale
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

Let’s take a look at these, one by one.

The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

This model was developed by the Dreyfus brothers—Stuart and Hubert–in 1980. It breaks down the journey to mastery into five discrete stages, outlining what’s necessary to improve at each of them.

Here are the five stages:

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

The second scale we’re going to refer to is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. Bloom argued that there are six steps that need to be followed to learn anything. These steps are the following:

  • Step 1: Knowledge – You’re able to identify what is being said or what you’re reading–the topic, the issue, the thesis, and the main points.
  • Step 2: Comprehension — Comprehension means understanding the material read, heard or seen. In comprehending, you make the new knowledge that you have acquired your own by relating it to what you already know.
  • Step 3: Application – Application requires that you carry out some task to apply what you comprehend to an actual situation.
  • Step 4: Analysis – Analysis is being able to break down what you have read or heard into its component parts in order to make clear how the ideas are ordered, related, or connected to other ideas.
  • Step 5: Synthesis – Synthesis involves the ability to put together the parts you analyzed with other information to create something original.
  • Step 6: Evaluation – Evaluation is concerned with making judgments about the value of materials and methods for given purposes.

I would posit that an expert is someone who has reached the evaluation stage.

Competencies Proficiency Scale

The third scale I’m going to refer to in this post is the “Competencies Proficiency Scale” created by the Office of Human Resources at the National Institute of Health. It looks as follows:

My Proposal – How to Become an Expert

I came up with a ten-level process for becoming an expert. It’s based on actions that you take, and the results that you get, not on time. The levels are as follows:

  • Level One. You hear about the topic, but you know nothing about it.
  • Level Two. You’re curious about the topic, so you Google it and read the first three articles from reputable sources that come up.
  • Level Three. You identify the top three to five experts on the topic and you find lectures they’ve given on the topic that are up on YouTube. You watch between five and ten of these YouTube videos, preferably TED Talks, Talks at Google, or interviews they’ve given to well-recognized figures/organizations.
  • Level Four. Find a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that will allow you to understand the theory of the topic. Read the corresponding, or related, book (a lot of MOOC instructors base their lectures on a book they’ve written). If the instructor hasn’t written a book, read the book that they recommend, or the one they keep referring to throughout the MOOC.
  • Level Five. Once you’re familiar with the theory, gain understanding of the practical application of the topic by taking a Udemy course on the topic, and by reading three to five books written by the experts you identified previously.
  • Level Six. Start a blog on the topic and publish at least 25 articles for your blog (this will require that you do additional research on your topic). In addition, publish 3 articles on well-known blogs about your topic. This will allow you to promote on your blog that you’ve been featured on these blogs.
  • Level Seven. Create a project that will allow you to demonstrate to yourself and others that you can apply the knowledge that you’ve gained about the topic to real world situations. That is, you don’t just have book knowledge on the topic, you also have actionable knowledge. In addition, get your project to the fourth iteration. Put your project out there, get feedback, and make modifications. Do this three times.
  • Level Eight. Give a lecture at a local college, a company, or a trade organization on your topic.
  • Level Nine. Create a Udemy course and/or an info product to sell from your blog teaching others about the topic (now you’re making money from your expertise). Get at least five testimonials from people who have been helped by your product.
  • Level Ten. Get featured by three media/news organizations as an expert in your chosen topic.

Devote one-hour-a-day to following the process above, and you’ll become an expert in the topic you’ve selected sooner than you think.

how to become an expert

Conclusion

What do you want to become an expert on? Choose your topic and follow the process I explained above. Live your best life by becoming an expert.

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comfort zone

It’s time to break out of your comfort zone and get more out of life.

Most of us spend a lot of time in our comfort zone. After all, when we’re in our comfort zone we know what to do and what to expect. Here are some descriptions of “comfort zone”:

  • Your “comfort zone” is a psychological, emotional, and behavioral construct.
  • It’s what’s familiar to you and what feels safe—your regular habits and routines.
  • When you’re in your comfort zone, you experience low levels of stress and anxiety.
  • In your comfort zone, there’s little to no risk.

There’s nothing wrong with spending some time in your comfort zone. After all, we all need to take time to relax and just “be” every now and then.

The problem starts when you get too comfortable in your comfortable zone. When this happens, you stop striving to achieve your goals, you stop challenging yourself, you let opportunities slip by, and you become overly complacent.

The only way to grow, build your capabilities, and reach your full potential is by stepping outside of your comfort zone. As Neale Donald Walsh once said, “Life begins outside of your comfort zone.”

Here are some examples of things which may currently be outside of your comfort zone:

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  • Speaking up in class or business meetings.
  • Meeting new people.
  • Speaking in public and giving speeches.
  • Learning new skills.
  • Traveling to new places.
  • Starting a new business venture.
  • Taking advantage of new opportunities.
  • Making changes simply to spice up your life.

In order to achieve any of these things, you need to start taking steps to break out of your comfort zone. Below I’ll share with you eight ways to escape from your comfort zone and make things happen.

1. Use Onboarding.

One way I recently stretched outside of my comfort zone was by taking a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on gamification. Although I’m not a video game player, I love board games. The idea of applying game elements—those elements that make games so engaging and fun—to any life area caught my attention.

I’m glad that I took the course— I learned a lot of interesting things. One of the things I liked about gamification is the concept of onboarding. Onboarding is about getting the player to take the first steps toward playing a new game. Here are some of the guidelines for the onboarding stage:

  • It has to be very simple—the onboarding task has to be easy to complete.
  • You want to make the player feel smart and competent.
  • When a player takes the small steps necessary for onboarding, reward them.

Apply these same principles when you’re trying to step out of your comfort zone:

  • Make the first step you have to take as easy as possible. As an illustration, if you want to start going to the gym, the first step you can take is simply making a list of gyms that are near your house or workplace.
  • Acknowledge yourself for taking the initial step, no matter how small that step may be.
  • Give yourself a reward for venturing even slightly outside of your comfort zone. This can range from giving yourself a pat on the back, to stopping by a coffee house and getting yourself a victory cappuccino.

2. Use Design Thinking.

In my post on “How to Apply Design Thinking to Your Life“, I explain that the essence of design thinking is to focus on building prototypes. That is, your goal is never to build the end-product from the get-go.

Instead, your objective is to build a prototype knowing that it’s very rudimentary. Then, get feedback; improve the product based on the feedback; and create another prototype. You continue in this way until you have something you can be proud of.

In much the same way, when you want to do something that’s outside of your comfort zone, think in terms of prototypes. As an illustration, if you want to start blogging, do the following:

  • Launch a blog and write the first blog post. Publish it.
  • Share the post on social media and get some feedback.
  • Write another blog post incorporating some of the feedback you received.
  • Get more feedback.
  • Continue improving your blog posts in this way until, eventually, you have a successful blog.

3. Get Comfortable with Discomfort.

As I explained in my blog post on how to become a runner, when I was in middle school the gym teacher would make us run around the soccer field twice before each class to warm up. I would get tired and feel winded after a few minutes of running. Since I assumed that this discomfort meant that I simply wasn’t a runner, I would slow down to a walk.

Today I run 7.5 km, three times a week. How did I manage to build up to this? Because I finally understood that pushing through discomfort is how you build endurance in running. And that’s true for anything.

By definition, anything that’s not within your comfort zone is located in your discomfort zone. Every time that you step into that discomfort zone, what should you expect to feel? That’s right: you’re going to feel discomfort.

Understand that discomfort isn’t a sign that there’s something wrong. It’s a sign that you’re trying something new and different.

4. Use Progressive Loops.

In gamification, there’s something called a “boss fight”. A boss fight is an epic challenge which usually signals the end of one journey and the beginning of another one. When it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone, the final goal that you’re trying to achieve is your boss fight.

A game never starts out with a boss fight. Instead, as I said at the beginning of this post, players start out with onboarding. They then move toward the boss fight in something called progressive loops.

Progressive loops are made up of a series of small quests, each one a little more difficult than the one before. After each small quest, there’s an opportunity to rest before taking on the next small quest. Then, after the player gets progressively more skilled at playing the game by completing these small quests, they’re presented with a boss fight.

Progressive loops look as follows:

comfort zone

Take the same approach when it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone. Instead of tackling a huge challenge all at once, move toward it slowly by completing small challenges, each one a bit more difficult than the one before.

5. Build Your Self-Efficacy.

One of the reasons that people stay stuck in their comfort zones is because they feel that they don’t have the ability to be successful in situations outside of their comfort zone. That is, they lack the necessary self-efficacy.

As I explain in my post, How to Increase Your Self-Efficacy and Do Better in Life, there are four things you can do to boost your self-efficacy. Here are the four things you need to do in order to increase your self-efficacy so that you can break out of your comfort zone:

  • Think of a time in the past when you’ve done something that was outside your comfort zone. Remind yourself that stepping outside of your comfort zone is something you’ve done successfully before.
  • Look for examples of people who are similar to you who have moved beyond their comfort zones in order to accomplish their goals.
  • Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone.
  • Talk yourself into escaping your comfort zone by using affirmations and reassuring, positive self-talk.

6. Create an Alter-Ego.

If even after building up your self-efficacy you still have trouble getting yourself to take those first steps outside the current boundary of your comfort zone, you may need the help of an alter-ego.

In my post, “How to Create an Alter-Ego and Why You Should”, I explain that having an alter-ego can help you to bring forth certain aspects of your personality that you normally don’t give voice to, but which can serve you well in specific situations.

Create an alter-ego. Then, allow your alter-ego to take you by the hand and lead you out of your comfort zone.

7. Draw a New Square.

Moira Geary recommends that you empower yourself to step out of your comfort zone by drawing a new square. Start by visualizing yourself inside your comfort zone, as follows:

comfort zone

Now, if you’re told to step out of your comfort zone, you may be hesitant to do so because you’ll basically be stepping out into an abyss. That sounds really scary. No one wants to do that.

Instead of trying to force yourself to step out into empty space, draw a new, bigger square. Like so:

comfort zone

Then, tell yourself that all you have to do is to step out into the slightly bigger square. Clearly identify what the new, larger square consists of. This works because, psychologically, it’s a lot easier to get yourself to step out into another clearly defined space then it is to step out into a space with no preset boundaries.

Once the bigger square becomes your new comfort zone, draw an even bigger square around that. Then, step out into the bigger square. Continue in this way and your comfort zone will grow bigger and bigger.

8. Use the 3 C’s.

Andy Molinsky, PhD, is a professor of psychology and organizational behavior at Brandeis University’s International Business School. He’s the author of Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge and Build Confidence.

Molinsky explains that in his research, he’s found three tools that people use to step outside of their comfort zones successfully. He refers to these tools as the three C’s. They are as follows:

  • Conviction
  • Customization
  • Clarity

Here’s an explanation of each one:

Conviction

Conviction is having a deep sense that taking the action that’s going to lead you out of your comfort zone is worth doing the hard work that stepping outside of your comfort zone entails. This includes knowing why taking this action is important to you.

As an example, Andy explains that doing the promotional work that’s involved with publishing a book—making public appearances, giving interviews, and so on—is outside of his comfort zone. However, he does it because he really believes that his book can help people to lead better lives.

Customization

Customizing consists of tweaking, or adjusting, how you perform a task–even if it’s just slightly– to make it feel more comfortable and natural.

As an illustration, I recently wrote a post on 7 Science-Backed Ways to Get a Quick Self-Confidence Boost. The next time you want to push yourself to speak up at a meeting, you can follow some of the tips that I wrote about in that post to feel more confident. Here are some examples:

  • Wear a power suit.
  • Hold a power pose before the meeting.
  • Carry your lucky charm in your pocket.

That way, you’ll show up at the meeting in a way that makes you feel powerful and confident (and nobody else has to know about it).

Part of the reason that it’s scary to step out of our comfort zones is because we feel a sense of helplessness and of not being in control. You can regain some sense of control by customizing the action that you take in a way that you find empowering.

Clarity

When we have to take action that will make us step outside of our comfort zone, we can have a tendency to allow irrational thoughts to take over. You may find yourself thinking thoughts like the following:

  • “This is going to be a disaster.”
  • “I’m going to fall flat on my face and I’ll never hear the end of it.”
  • “I’m not going to do this unless I’m sure I can do it perfectly.”

You can see how those kinds of thoughts are likely to paralyze you and keep you stuck in your comfort zone. What you need to do is to recognize that you’re having irrational thoughts, and then gain some clarity.

Clarity is developing an even-handed, reasonable perspective on the challenges you face. In other words, it’s stopping yourself from succumbing to the distorted and exaggerated thinking so many of us fall prey to in very stressful situations. Try saying things like the following to yourself:

  • “Everything is going to be fine.”
  • “Even if things go wrong, it’s not the end of the world.”
  • “I’m not aiming for perfection. I’m just going to do the best I can.”

Conclusion

What would you do if you stopped hesitating and managed to break out of your comfort zone? Use the eight strategies I gave you above to take the first step. Live your best life by stepping out of your comfort zone.

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Leave a legacy

We all want to leave our mark on this world—to know that our life mattered.

What does it mean to leave a legacy? It means putting a stamp on the future, and making a contribution to future generations. People want to leave a legacy because they want to feel that their life mattered.

Deciding what your legacy will be can help you with all the following:

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  • Once you know what you want your legacy to be, you can start building it.
  • You can start living in the way you want to be remembered.
  • It will allow you to start doing what matters, now.
  • Knowing what you want your legacy to be will allow you to make better use of your time and other resources.
  • It will influence your day-to-day decisions in a positive way.
  • Gaining clarity on what you want your legacy to be can give your life meaning and purpose.
  • It will enable you to allow the legacy that you’re building to determine how you show up in the world each day.
  • You will live your life as if you matter.

Below you’ll find seven ways to identify the legacy that you want to leave behind after you’re no longer here.

What Will Your Verse Be?

Dead Poets Society is an American film set in 1959 at a fictional elite conservative boarding school located in Vermont. The film stars Robin Williams as John Keating, an English teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry.

In one scene, Keating talks to his students about the meaning of life. Keating quotes from Walt Whitman’s poem, Oh Me Oh Life, as follows:

“Oh life! of the questions of these recurring, Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

The poem explains that life is like a play, in which everyone who has ever lived gets to contribute a verse. Keating then asks the students: “What will your verse be?” The verse that you contribute to the play of life is your legacy.

See Yourself As a Relay Runner

In a relay race, members of a team take turns running while they hold a baton in their fist. Each team member runs a portion of the race, and then they hand the baton over to the next runner. One way to think of your life is to see it as a relay race. That’s how President Barack Obama thinks of his life.

On May 25th of this year, Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin for a discussion on democracy. Here’s what Obama said about leaving a legacy:

“I saw myself as a relay runner. I would take the baton and I would run my leg of the race. And then I’d pass the baton to someone else. . . Each generation tries to make progress knowing that what we do is not going to be perfect. . . But, hopefully, we’ve run our leg of the race effectively – and the world’s gotten a little bit better.”

How are you doing on your leg of the race? Are you advancing the baton? What are you doing to advance the baton?

Picture Your 80th Party

Most of us are familiar with Stephen Covey’s obituary exercise. Covey indicates that you should imagine your funeral. Then, you should ask yourself questions like the following:

  • Who would give a eulogy at your funeral?
  • What will they miss about you?
  • What positive attributes will they associate you with?
  • How are they describing you?

Imagining your funeral is a little macabre, so a variation of this exercise is to picture your 80th birthday party. Everyone you’ve had an impact on, or have influenced in some way, is there. As they get up to toast you on your birthday, what would you like them to say about you? That’s what you want your life to stand for.

What Words Do You Want Etched On Your Tombstone?

Before his death, Thomas Jefferson–the third president of the United States–gave instructions on what he wanted on his grave site. Jefferson wanted an obelisk with the following engraved on it:

Here was buried Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
Of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia.
Most of us won’t have anything nearly as grand as Jefferson to put on our tombstones. Nonetheless, an ordinary life lived well and lived with grace can make an important difference in the lives of others. What words do you want etched on your tombstone?

Leave a Legacy – Questions to Ask Yourself

These 10 questions will help you to identify the legacy that you wish you leave:

  • What do you want your life to stand for?
  • How do you want to be remembered by your family and friends?
  • What will those beyond your circle of family and friends remember you for?
  • What kind of an impact do you want to have on your community?
  • How will the world be a better place because you were in it?
  • What contributions do you want to make to your field?
  • Whose lives will you have touched?
  • What lessons would you like to pass on to future generations?
  • What do you want to leave behind?
  • How can you serve?

20 Ways to Leave a Legacy

Brainstorm ways in which you can leave a legacy by using the following ideas as a jumping off point:

  1. Add knowledge to your field.
  2. Leave a legacy through your body of work.
  3. Write a book.
  4. Leave money for your descendants that serves as a foundation on which they can build their financial futures.
  5. Bequeath money to charities that are near and dear to your heart.
  6. Write down family recipes and family traditions.
  7. Serve as a good role model.
  8. Pass down a heirloom.
  9. Be a mentor.
  10. Volunteer.
  11. Start a business or a non-profit organization.
  12. Write your memoir. You can also record video messages for your loved ones, create a scrapbook for them, or create a web site dedicated to your legacy.
  13. Endow a scholarship to your alma mater for future students.
  14. Write a legacy letter — write down everything you’d want to tell your loved ones if you knew you didn’t have long to live. Be sure to capture the essence of who you are by writing about your life lessons, values, accomplishments and hopes. Think of it as an emotional heirloom.
  15. Start a blog.
  16. Pass down handmade items, such as quilts, cedar hope chests, or wooden crafts.
  17. Start a new program in your community, such as starting a recycling program; planting a community garden; or constructing a playground.
  18. Pass down skills and know-how.
  19. Right a wrong.
  20. Identify your strengths, develop your skills, and be true to who you are.

Leave a Legacy Quotes

Here are 10 legacy quotes for further inspiration:

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” —Benjamin Franklin

“Immortality is to live your life doing good things, and leaving your mark behind.” —Brandon Lee

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way. . . and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.” ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.” ― Bill Graham

“The little bit you and me might change the world,” Malloy smiled, “it wouldn’t show up until a hundred years after we were dead. We’d never see it. But it’d be there.” ― James Jones, From Here to Eternity

“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

“To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A writer doesn’t dream of riches and fame, though those things are nice. A true writer longs to leave behind a piece of themselves, something that withstands the test of time and is passed down for generations.” ~ C.K. Webb

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

“While it is well enough to leave footprints on the sands of time, it is even more important to make sure they point in a commendable direction.” ~ James Cabell

Conclusion

What will you legacy be? What will live on after you’re gone? Live your best life by creating a legacy you can be proud of.

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