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everything is learnable

Change your life by making this your mantra: “Everything is learnable”.

Look at the following phrases:

  • I wish I were. . .
  • I wish I had . . .
  • I wish I knew how to. . .

How would you conclude each of these phrases? There are hundreds of ways to do so, and nearly 100% of them are learnable. Below you’ll find some examples.

I wish I were. . .

1. I Wish I Were More Confident.

onehouradayformula banner longAccording to psychologists, confidence is a learnable skill. Most confident people achieved their goal of becoming more confident by deliberately learning specific skills. These skills include the following:

  • Displaying friendly body language;
  • Understanding the format of carrying out conversations with new people; and
  • Focusing on what the other person is saying instead of on how you’re being perceived.

Award-winning coach, mentor and speaker Dr. Ivan Joseph is the author of “You Got This: Mastering the Skill of Self-Confidence”. He explains that becoming more confident is all about repetition, repetition, repetition. Just as you would practice kicking a ball over and over again to become good at soccer, you can practice the actions that will make you more confident.

As an illustration, when Joseph has to give a speech in front of a large group of people, he practices his speech repeatedly. By the time he gives the speech he does so confidently become he’s already done it many times. That’s how he masters the skill of confidence.

2. I Wish I Were a Better Spouse.

Do you think you can learn to be a better spouse, or that being a good husband or wife is unteachable? Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, one the leading private research and teaching universities in the United States, would argue the former.

They have a course, Marriage 101, that relies on academic studies to teach their students how to have more fulfilling love relationships. The largest takeaway from the course is that fostering good relationships takes skills.

Here’s a quote from Alexandra Solomon, one of the professors teaching the course:

“We’re a very romantic culture, and it seems a little unromantic to talk about skill building and communication skills. But it’s important.”

Of course, loving your spouse matters, but knowing how to be a good spouse is just as important.

3. I Wish I Were A Good Parent.

You may think that parenting is simply an instinct. However, there are research-backed ways to raise kids well. And those good parenting skills can be learned.

I searched for “how to learn parenting skills” on Amazon, and I got the following results:

    • “The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind”
    • “Parenting Toolbox: 125 Activities Therapists Use to Reduce Meltdowns, Increase Positive Behaviors & Manage Emotions”
    • “Anger Management Workbook for Kids: 50 Fun Activities to Help Children Stay Calm and Make Better Choices When They Feel Mad”

In other words, these books will teach you the following skills:

  • How to nurture your child’s mind.
  • How to help your child manage their emotions.
  • How to help your child stay calm.

Those are all skills that will make you a better parent.

4. I Wish I Were A More Effective Leader.

There’s an age-old debate on whether great leaders are born or made. There are many examples of leaders who came naturally to leadership. But there are also examples of people who developed their leadership skills through tenacity and experience. That is, they learned to be effective leaders.

This year my new mantra is: “Everything is learnable.”Click To Tweet

5. I Wish I Were More Creative.

Creativity is often viewed as a quality that a person either has or doesn’t have. However, creativity is not a gift from the fickle gods. There are methods and techniques that can be learned that provide deliberate, systematic processes that result in innovative thinking.

One example of these methods is Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking, which forces the brain out of a purely analytical state. But there are many others. In fact, there are creative studies courses available in various universities around the world.

Just as you can learn critical thinking, you can learn creative thinking. Here’s a quote from the New York Times article linked to above:

“Once considered the product of genius or divine inspiration, creativity — the ability to spot problems and devise smart solutions — is being recast as a prized and teachable skill”

Have you always wished you were more creative? Sure, some people are more imaginative than others. But we can all learn to be more creative.

6. I Wish I Were Better at Math.

A lot of people–more women than men–tend to think that you have to be born with a special gene to do well in math. Well, scientists have concluded that there is no math gene. And a recent study found that boys are not better at math than girls.

In “A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science”, engineering professor Barbara Oakley explains how to effectively learn math and science. She explains that math is learnable. If you want to be good at math, you just have to apply the right learning strategies.

7. I Wish I Were Happy.

Science tells us that you can learn to be happy, just like you can learn to play the guitar, or learn a language. Books by positive psychologists show us how to acquire the skills necessary to be happy.

There are even courses taught at top universities, such as Harvard, that teach their students how to be happy. Yale has a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on The Science of Wellbeing in which they explain that you can become happier by learning and applying psychological science.

everything is learnable

I wish I had:

8. I Wish I Had More Friends.

Making friends is a social skill. Friendship skills include starting conversations (speaking and dialogue skills); listening; cooperation; emotional regulation; and being aware of the emotions of others.

As an illustration, here are three books you could use to learn the skill of making friends:

  • “The Social Skills Guidebook: Manage Shyness, Improve Your Conversations, and Make Friends, Without Giving Up Who You Are”
  • “4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work–Anywhere!: A How-To Guide for Practicing the Empathic Listening, Speaking, and Dialogue Skills to Achieve Relationship Success”
  • “The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over”

So, if you want to make new friends, learn how.

9. I Wish I Had More Money.

There are several different money skills–such as starting a side hustle, budgeting, investing, and managing debt–that will allow you to make, keep, and grow your money. And they’re all learnable.

10. I Wish I Had My Own Business. 

Some people believe that there are those who are cut out to be entrepreneurs, while others have no other choice but to be employees their whole lives. The truth is that entrepreneurship is a skill, and anything that is a skill can be learned. More precisely, it’s a cluster of skills.

The skills that you need to learn in order to be an entrepreneur include resource allocation, project management, problem solving skills, selling, time management, and strategic planning.

11. I Wish I Had A Good Contact Network.

Creating a good contact network involves skills such as building a brand, delivering your message simply and clearly, and relationship building. All of which are learnable.

12. I Wish I Had Better Health.

Would you believe that a lack of skills could be the root cause of your health problems? After all, if your poor health is due to bad eating habits, a lack of exercise, and too much stress, learning the right skills could help you with all of these.

You can improve your health by learning the following skills:

  • Stress management.
  • Cooking healthy meals.
  • Yoga or Tai Chi.
  • Weightlifting.

13. I Wish I Had Inner Peace.

Inner peace is something else that can be attained by learning different skills, including meditation, anger management and emotional control, present-moment attention, nonjudgmental acceptance, and managing your internal dialogue (or keeping your monkey mind in check).

I wish I knew how to:

14. I Wish I Knew How to Play Tennis (or any other sport).

Greg Glassman, cofounder of CrossFit, has the following to say: ”Regularly learn and play new sports.” By learning to play new sports you’ll be testing out your fitness level.

Playing a new sport will allow you to identify mobility/flexibility issues that need to be addressed, whether your cardio-vascular fitness is up to par, if there are certain muscles that you’ve been neglecting, and if you need to work on your balance and/or coordination.

If you discover that you have a problem in any of these areas, you can simply develop a plan for correcting those problems. This makes any sport learnable.

15. I Wish I Knew How to Draw (or carry out any other artistic skill).

John Gadsby Chapman wrote the following in his 19th-century instruction manual, “The American Drawing-Book”:

“Anyone who can learn to write, can learn to draw.”

If you learned the skill of writing, you can learn the skill of drawing. In fact there’s research that shows that taking an introductory class in drawing or painting literally alters students’ brains. These changes improve fine motor control and other technical capacities needed to carry out these artistic skills.

16. I Wish I Knew How to Adopt Good Habits.

Having a skill is when you have the knowledge, ability, and experience to carry out a task with predetermined results. Using this definition, adopting good habits is a skill that can be developed.

In fact, you can find tons of articles, books, and even courses along the lines of “how to adopt positive habits”. Once you’ve learned how to create new habits, you can continue applying your newly acquired skill to adopt more good habits.

17. I Wish I Knew How to Give Presentations.

Here’s a great joke by Jerry Seinfeld about public speaking:

“I read a thing that actually says that speaking in front of a crowd is considered the number one fear of the average person. I found that amazing – number two was death! That means to the average person if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Nonetheless, I can tell you from personal experience that public speaking is a skill that anyone can learn. When I was in college, I was embarrassingly bad at public speaking. Embarrasingly. Bad.

Now I’m very good at giving presentations (and it’s something I even enjoy). How? Because I learned how to give presentations. That is, I’ve acquired the skill of public speaking.

In the article, Conquering Public Speaking: From Zero Experience to World Championships in Seven Months, Tristan de Montebello explains how he went from having almost no experience in giving public speeches, to giving world-class speeches, in just a few months.

He indicates that if he can leave his readers with one lesson it would be the following: “Public speaking is a skill. Learning it will change your life.”

18. I Wish I Knew How to Write Persuasively.

Writing is a skill that can be learned and improved through deliberate practice, like any other skill. It involves learning to write clearly and concisely, establishing a clear structure, and making your writing more engaging to your audience.

19. I Wish I Knew How to Play a Musical Instrument.

One of the reasons that many adults shy away from learning to play a musical instrument is that they believe it’s too late. However, neuroscientists and music teachers alike say that it’s never too late to learn to play a musical instrument.

In fact, it’s a good idea to learn to play an instrument as an adult. It’s great mental exercise and can keep brain cells alive that would otherwise wither and die.

20. I Wish I Knew How to Code.

Avi Flombaum, co-founder and dean of the Flatiron School, a 12-week coding academy, explains that anyone can learn to code in the same way that anyone can learn to read and write. That’s not to say that learning to code is easy; you’ll be embracing a whole new way of thinking. But anyone who is willing to put in the work can learn to code.

If you need further convincing that everyone can learn to code, I think the video below will do the trick:

My Course is Ready to Launch

What do you want? Who do you want to be? What skills do you need to get the things you want and become the person you want to be? I can help you learn those skills.

My video course, “Learn Any Skill Faster and Better: How to Learn to Code, Play the Piano, Lift Weights, Speak French, Draw, Or Anything Else”, is launching soon.

You can sign up below to receive a free 5-part email course, “How to Learn a New Skill Quickly: A 5-Step Process” and to be notified when my video course launches.

Conclusion

If you want to learn something, go learn it. You don’t need anyone’s permission (except for your own). Live your best life by understanding that everything is learnable. Make it your new mantra!

 

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improve your life by 1000

Create a plan to improve your life 1000% this year!

Now that you’ve reflected on 2019 (because, you’ve done that, right?), you’re ready to plan for 2020. Of course, you should start by creating a ten-year plan to make sure you have an epic decade—and I show you how to that in this post.

onehouradayformula banner longOnce you have your ten-year plan in place, you can create a plan for each 0f the ten years, so that each one will help you move your ten-year agenda forward. One way you can do this is by planning how to improve each year—starting with 2020—by 1000%.

Here’s the process to follow:

  • Choose X number of goals (from 1 to 10).
  • Decide what the top score is for each goal, and what you need to do in order to earn that top score.
  • Come up with a way to break each goal down into chunks, with each chunk worth a certain percentage of the top score for that goal.

And that’s the process you need to follow in order to improve your life by 1000% this new year. I’m going to explain this in an easy-to-understand way below (there’s some math involved, but it’s simple math).

Choose How Many Goals You’ll Work On

You’re going to start out by choosing goals that are important to you and will help you to improve your life. How many goals should you choose? Choose between one and ten. Do the following:

  • You can choose ten goals and have each one be worth 100% (because 10 x 100 = 1000).
  • You can choose five goals and have each one be worth 200% (because 5 x 200 = 1000).
  • You can choose four goals and have each one be worth 250% (because 4 x 250 = 1000).
  • You can choose one really big goal that will a huge impact on your life if you complete it in 2020 and have it be worth 1000%.

You get the picture.

First Example: Running

For this first example, let’s say that you decide that in 2020 you’re going to become a runner. That’s going to help you become more fit, improve your health, and help you to develop discipline. Here’s the process you’re going to follow:

  • It’s one of ten goals that you’re going to set, so it’s worth 100%.
  • Create a schedule of how you’ll increase your mileage each week. For example, in Week One you can choose to run three times and run a third of a mile each time, for a total of one mile (if you’re athletic, you can choose to be more aggressive with your first runs).
  • Add up how many miles you plan to run each week (start with one mile on Week One and increase every second week between 5 and 10%).
  • Then, add up the miles that you plan to run in total for the year. Let’s say that it adds up to 200 miles. This means that your top score for running is 200 miles. If you run 200 miles in 2020, you give yourself 100% for that goal. If you run 150 miles you give yourself 75%, if you run 100 miles you give yourself 50%, and so on.

Second Example: Losing Weight

Suppose that your second goal for 2020 is to lose 36 pounds. Then the process would look as follows:

  • You can give yourself 100% for this goal at the end of the year if, by December 31st of 2020, you’ve lost 36 pounds.
  • This means you’re going to lose 3 pounds each month (12 x 3 = 36).
  • Each month that you lose 3 pounds, give yourself a score of 8.33 (100/12).
  • Therefore, if you lose 3 pounds in ten out of the 12 months of the year, give yourself a score of 83.3 (8.33 x 10).

Third Example: Reading More Books

If one of your goals is to read more books, decide how many books you plan to read in 2020. Suppose you decide to read ten books. Decide which ten books you’re going to read. Then, for every one of these books that you read, give yourself 10%.

If you read three of the ten books in 2020, then give yourself 30% for this goal. If you read all ten books, give yourself 100%.

Fourth Example: Build a Meditation Practice

You fourth goal could be to start a meditation practice. Let’s say that you’ve decided to achieve this goal by completing a 365-Day Project. Your project is the following: you’re going to meditate every morning of 2020 for ten minutes.

Here’s the process you’re going to follow:

  • Meditating every morning of 2020 gives you 100%.
  • Every day that you meditate for ten minutes, give yourself a score of .274. (100/365).
  • Sum up your totals monthly, and then sum up how much you got each month to give you a total for the year.

Therefore, if you meditated 273 days of the year, your score would be 74.8 (273 x .274).

Fifth Example: Wake Up Earlier

If you currently wake up at 7:30 a.m. and you set a goal of waking up at 6:00 a.m. by the end of the year, then waking up 90 minutes earlier by the end of 2020 would get you the top score of 100%. This means that every minute that you wake up earlier is worth 1.11.

So, if you’re waking up at 6:30 a.m. by the end of the year (60 minutes earlier), you give yourself a score of 66.6 (60 x 1.11).

Sixth Example: Learn a New Skill

Let’s say that another way in which you’re going to improve your life 1000% in 2020 is by learning a new skill. Specifically, you decide that you want to learn to blog so that you can create a new source of income. You decide to structure your goal as a 12 x 12 challenge which means you’re going to complete one challenge each month of the year.

You deconstruct the skill of blogging into 12 subskills, and you create a challenge for each subskill. Suppose you come up with the following subskills:

  • Subskill 1 – How to Use and Manage WordPress
  • Subskill 2 – How to Write for the Web (Content Creation)
  • Subskill 3 – Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Subskill 4 – Copywriting (craft compelling copy)
  • Subskill 5 Grow and Convert Traffic
  • Subskill 6 – Online Marketing
  • Subskill 7 – Using Twitter effectively
  • Subskill 8 – Instagram Marketing
  • Subskill 9 – Using Pinterest to promote your brand
  • Subskill 10 – How to Write an Ebook
  • Subskill 11 – Branding
  • Subskill 12 – Using Visual Elements to Enhance Your Blog Posts

Each subskill that you learn gives you 8.33% (100/12). If you’ve learned all 12 skills by the end of the year, give yourself 100%.

Seventh Example: Save Money

Another goal you may have is to save money. If you want to save $10,000 by the end of the year, then having $10,000 in savings by the end of 2020 would give you 100%. For every dollar you save throughout the year, give yourself .01 points.

Look at the following:

  • If you save $1000 in 2020, give yourself 10% for this goal.
  • If you save $2500 in 2020, give yourself 25% for this goal.
  • If you save $8500 in 2020, give yourself 85%.
  • If you save $10,000 in 2020, give yourself 100%.

Eighth Example: Declutter

You decide that you need to declutter your home to live a better life. In addition, you determine that you’ll give yourself a score of 100% if you pack 100 boxes full of stuff and get them out of your house (either by giving stuff away, donating it, or throwing it out).

For each box you successfully fill and get out of your house, you give yourself 1 point. If you pack and unload 95 boxes, this gives you a score of 95%.

Ninth Example: Create a Morning Routine

Suppose that you decide that you’re going to create a morning routine consisting of the six habits of  Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning. You’re going to follow this routine each weekday morning of 2020. That means you’re going to follow the routine 250 times in 2020.

If you follow the routine 250 times in 2020, you give yourself 100%.  Each time that you follow the routine you give yourself .4 points (100/250). Therefore, if you follow the routine 125 times in 2020, you would give yourself 50 points (125 x .4).

Tenth Example: Increase Your Focus

As a last example, let’s suppose that your life would be greatly improved if you increased your focus. You decide to do this by using the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro technique consists of setting a timer for 25 minutes and focusing all of your attention on the task at hand for those 25 minutes.

Specifically, you decide to use the Pomodoro technique four times a day, every weekday, for 2020. As in the pervious example, this means 250 days. Therefore, you’re going to use the technique a total of 1000 times in 2020. Each time that you use the Pomodoro technique, give yourself .1 points.

So, if you use the Pomodoro technique 900 times in 2020, you get a score of 90.

Did You Improve Your Life by 10,000%?

If we tally up how you did with your ten goals in 2020, we get the following:

  • Your first goal was to run 200 miles in 2020, and you did, so that’s 100% for that goal.
  • Your second goal was to lose 36 pounds in 2020, and you lost 30 pounds. Give yourself 83.3% for this goal.
  • Your third goal was to read more books. You read all ten of the books that you wanted to read in 2020, so that’s 100% for your reading goal.
  • Your fourth goal was to create a meditation practice. You meditated 273 days out of the 365 days of the year. This means you got 74.8% for this goal.
  • Your fifth goal was to wake up 90 minutes earlier. You’re waking up at 6:30 a.m. by the end of the year instead of reaching your goal of waking up at 6:00 a.m., so give yourself 66.6% for this goal.
  • Your sixth goal was to learn the skill of blogging. You learned all 12 of the blogging subskills, and you now have a blog. Therefore, give yourself 100% for this goal.
  • Your seventh goal was to save $10,000. You saved $9000, so give yourself 90% for this goal.
  • Your eighth goal was to declutter by filling 100 boxes with stuff you no longer need. You packed 95 boxes full of stuff and you got them out of your house. Therefore, you got 95% for this goal.
  • Your ninth goal was to follow a morning routine every weekday morning. You followed your morning routine half of the time, so you get a 50% for this goal.
  • Your tenth and final goal was to improve your focus by applying the Pomodoro technique 1000 times in 2020. You used the Pomodoro technique 900 times in 2020, so you get a score of 90%.

If you add up your scores for your ten goals, you get a total of 850.7. Therefore, you improved your life by 850.7% in a year. Not bad!

Conclusion

I know what I’m going to be doing on the 31st of December! Live your best life by setting goals that will improve your life 1000% in 2020.

 

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10 year plan

Instead of planning your life year by year, plan 10 years at a time.

The year 2019 is coming to an end, and 2020 is about begin. The question on a lot of people’s minds is: Is 2020 the beginning of the next decade? That is, is a new decade about to begin?

According to Farmers’ Almanac, an annual American periodical that has been in continuous publication since 1818, the answer is no. They argue that decades begin with the number “1” (as in 2021) and end with the number “0” (as in 2030).

Nonetheless, we refer to decades as the 50s, the 70s, the 80s, and so on. In addition, this Wikipedia article alleges that the 2020s begin on January 1, 2020, and end on December 31st, 2029.

onehouradayformula banner longSo, which, is it? Are we going to start a new decade in a little over three weeks, or do we have a year left of the decade we’re currently on? Whichever side of this debate you fall on, the fact remains that–if you want to have a remarkable life–you should be thinking long-term.

Every year people set New Year’s resolutions. The problem with this is that planning a year at a time is short-sighted. You should have long-term vision, which means that you should be planning for at least the next ten years.

In other words, you should create a 10 year plan. I’m going to show you how to do this in today’s post.

Why Make Long-Term Plans

I could write an entire blog post on the importance of thinking long-term (both for countries and for individuals). But for now, I’m going to refer to something I wrote on this blog a few years ago about building wealth.

Keith Cameron Smith explains in ““The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class” that millionaires think long-term, while everyone else thinks short-term. He breaks society down into five groups, and explains how each group thinks:

  1. The very poor think day to day.
  2. Poor people think week to week.
  3. The middle class thinks month to month.
  4. The rich think year to year.
  5. The very rich think decade to decade.

This is what happens when you plan long term:

  • If you have a bad few months, or even a bad year, it’s just a bump in the road.
  • Ten-year goals are small enough for you to believe that they’re achievable, but big enough to really move your life in the direction that you want it to go.
  • You can strike a better balance between your present wants–e.g. I want a new pair of shoes–and your future wants–e.g. I want to make a sizeable investment in a mutual fund.
  • Making a tangible difference takes a long time. If you’re always thinking in the short-term, you’ll never accomplish anything great.
  • Long-term thinking gives your life purpose and direction.
  • Once you have a long-term plan, you can set mid-term and short-term goals that will allow you to achieve that long term plan.

Now that you know why it’s important to think long-term, go ahead and create a 10 year plan. I’ll tell you how to do this next.

Questions To Ask

You create a 10 year plan by asking yourself questions in several life categories, such as the following:

Your Skillset In 10 Years’ Time

  • Mastery of a skill usually takes about ten years. Is there a skill that you want to get started learning now in order to have achieved mastery in ten years’ time?
  • You can get reasonably good at a skill in about a year. What skills do you want to get reasonably good at in the next ten years?
  • You can obtain basic proficiency in a skill in about a month’s time. Are there any skills in which you wish to gain basic proficiency in the next ten years? If so, which skills?

To help you gain all the skills that you want to acquire in the next ten years, I’ll be launching my video course on this topic soon. It’s called “Learn Any Skill Faster and Better: How to Learn to Code, Play the Piano, Lift Weights, Speak French, Draw, Or Anything Else”.

Sign up for my free 5-part course, How to Learn A Skill Quickly: A 5-Part Process, and you’ll be notified when the video course launches.

Your Finances In 10 Years’ Time

  • How much money will you have amassed in 10 years time?
  • What types of investments will you be holding?
  • What will your debt situation be like?
  • What assets will you own?
  • How will you be making your money?
  • What level of financial security will you have obtained?

Your Health in 10 Years’ Time

  • How will you manage your weight in the next ten years?
  • How will you stay fit?
  • How will you look and feel in ten years’ time?

Your Career In 10 Years’ Time

  • Will you move up the corporate ladder in the next ten years?
  • Do you want to strike out on your own in the next ten years?
  • What contributions do you want to make in your field in the next ten years? How will you expand your field’s area of knowledge?
  • What will you be known for in ten years’ time?
  • Do you want to retire in the next ten years?

Travel and Adventure In 10 Years’ Time

  • What countries do you want to visit in the next ten years?
  • What adventures do you want to have in the next ten years?
  • What events do you want to go to?

Your Relationships in 10 Years’ Time

  • What type of people do you want to surround yourself with in the next 10 years?
  • Do you want to get married in the next ten years?
  • If you’re married, how will your marriage grow in the next ten years?
  • Do you want to have kids in the next ten years?
  • If you have kids, how will you promote and support their physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development in the next ten years?
  • Do you want to build a business contact network in the next ten years? What kind of people do you want in your network?
  • What will your social life be like during the next ten years?

Your Personal Development In 10 Years’ Time

  • How will you change and grow in the next ten years?
  • How will you improve your mental and emotional health in the next ten years?
  • What habits do you want to adopt over the next ten years?

Projects In Ten Years’ Time

  • What projects–such as writing a novel, composing a piece of music, or opening a gym–do you want to work on during the next ten years?
  • Will you work on one long project for the next ten years?
  • Will you complete several mid-sized projects in the next ten years?

Contributions In Ten Years’ Time

  • How will you further your legacy in the next ten years?
  • How will you help make the world a better place in the next ten years?
  • What charitable contributions will you make? How will you volunteer in your community?

Next Steps

Once you’ve answered the questions above and used those answers to create a 10 year plan, you can plan for each of the ten years by referring back to your plan. Do the following:

If you do this every year for the next years, chances are high that you’ll achieve your 10 year plan.

Conclusion

What do you think? Are we about to start a new decade, or is that next year? Either way, I’m sure that you see the power of long-term thinking. Live your best life by creating a 10 year plan.

 

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how to practice gratitude

Notice and reflect on the many blessings in your life.

November–the month in which Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States–always makes me reflect on the transformative powers of gratitude. There are countless studies which show that feeling and expressing gratitude improves mental, physical, and relational wellbeing.

Some time ago I wrote a post on the life-changing benefits of gratitude. These benefits include the following:

  • Increased happiness;
  • Better sleep;
  • Strengthened resilience:
  • Improved health; and
  • Enhanced peace of mind.

I’ve illustrated these in the infographic below:

how to practice gratitude

With so many benefits that come with the feeling of gratitude, why don’t people engage in this emotion more often? I think that it’s because we have a tendency to focus on what is going wrong, and on what we lack.

Instead, we should be paying more attention to what is going right and to everything we have. To help you bring more gratitude into your life, I’ve collected–and created–a few gratitude exercises which I’m going to share with you in this post.

Below you’ll find 12 gratitude exercises for increased joy which you can go through the next time you’re wondering how to practice gratitude.

1. If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

“If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young” is a 2013 collection of nine commencement speeches from the beloved American writer Kurt Vonnegut. Here’s a quote from one of these commencement speeches:

“My Uncle Alex, who is up in Heaven now, one of the things he found objectionable about human beings was that they so rarely noticed it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and Uncle Alex would interrupt the conversation to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

So I hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

Gratitude isn’t about feeling thankful each time you get something more. It’s about pausing, looking around, and taking in what’s already there. Take Vonnegut’s advice and make sure to appreciate the simple, sweet moments that life offers.

2. Think of a Near Miss.

One day, while I was living in Washington, D.C., I walked into a furniture store looking for an item for my apartment. I was told by a salesclerk that I could find the item I needed on the basement floor. As I was walking down the stairs, suddenly and inexplicably, I stopped.

At that moment, a store employee who was standing on the floor above accidentally pushed over a large box with a heavy piece of furniture in it. It landed right in front of me. If I hadn’t stopped when I did, the box would have landed on me. It would have either killed me, or at the very least I would have been severely injured.

I don’t know what saved me that day (intuition, luck, a guardian angel. . .), but I’m grateful that it did. I think a lot of people have their own near-miss stories. What’s yours? Aren’t you relieved it was a near-miss? Take a moment to feel gratitude that it was just a close call.

3. Use Gratitude Prompts.

One of the most useful gratitude exercises that I’ve come across is creating an inventory of 100 things you’re grateful for. I have a post with 100 gratitude prompts that you can use to trigger ideas for your list, including the following:

  • I’m grateful for these 3 things I see:
  • I’m grateful for these 3 things I hear:
  • I’m grateful for these 3 things I smell:
  • Im grateful for these 3 things I touch/feel:
  • I’m grateful for these 3 things I love to eat:

You can find all of the prompts here: 100 gratitude prompts.

4. Turn a Negative Into a Positive.

One of the exercises that I include in my post, 22 Gratitude Exercises that Will Change Your Life, is to put things in perspective. One way to do this is to try to see things through a lens of gratitude.

After all, gratitude can help you turn negatives into positives. At least once a day, try turning a negative into a positive by asking yourself questions like the following:

  • Is there a silver lining to this?
  • Is there a better way to look at this?
  • What can I be thankful about in this situation?

Here’s an example from my own life: About three weeks ago, in close succession, my laptop’s battery died; the screen started freezing sporadically; the keyboard began scrolling down by itself; and my external speakers stopped working. It was almost like they had a team meeting and decided to retire, en masse.

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. However, I went on Amazon, and I was able to find replacements for everything that had stopped working at a reasonable price. When the stuff I ordered from Amazon arrived, I went to a computer store that’s close to where I live, and they installed everything in half-an-hour. Plus, everyone at the computer store was friendly to me.

I felt very grateful that everything could be fixed, and my computer is now working like new again.

5. Keep A Gratitude Journal.

Keeping a gratitude journal is an oldie but goodie. Every night, take a moment before you go to sleep to review the day and give thanks for all the good that came your way. Both the big and the small.

I’ve created the template below which you can use for your gratitude journal. You can download the template by inserting your name and email below:

how to practice gratitude

If you’re looking for gratitude quotes to write down at the bottom of the template here are 89 of them:

6. Think of All the Things You Take for Granted.

A while back I was watching one of the late-night talk shows—I don’t remember which one—and the celebrity that was being interviewed was talking about how fast we become accustomed to new benefits, and how quickly we start taking things for granted.

He explained that he was on a plane, when the pilot announced over the loudspeaker that the airline had started offering inflight Wi-Fi. Everyone was pleasantly surprised, and some people even started clapping. About half-an hour-later, the internet signal fell. You could immediately hear the groans and complaints from the passengers.

Something that had been unexpected boon just a few minutes before, had become standard in just half-an-hour, and people were upset that it had been taken away. In a very short amount of time, the passengers on the plane felt that they were entitled to WiFi during their flight.

Stop to think of all the things which make your life infinitely better, but which you simply take for granted, or feel entitled to. Here are ten of them:

how to practice gratitude

Now stop to think for a moment how lucky you are to have these things. There are many parts of the world where people don’t have access to many of the things that are simply a matter of course for you.

Eight Hours to Get Drinking Water

As an illustration, it takes Aysha—a girl in Ethiopia—eight hours a day to gather water for her family. If you really want to feel grateful the next time you simply have to walk over to your faucet and open it to get clean water, watch this video of Aysha’s daily trek through the desert in order to collect this vital liquid.

7. Gratitude Cards

At the beginning of each day, grab an index card and write at the top: “Things I’m grateful for today.” Put it in you wallet and fill it out throughout the day.

You can ask your family members to do the same. Then, at dinnertime, each family member can share with everyone else what they wrote down on their cards.

8. Show Yourself Some Gratitude.

There’s a little gratitude game that I play with myself, that involves my past-self, my present-self, and my future-self.

When my present-self benefits from something that my past-self did, I take a moment to thank my past-self. For example, if I’m hungry and I open my refrigerator door to find a delicious meal that I cooked the day before, I take a moment to thank my past-self for preparing the meal.

On the other hand, when I do something to achieve one of my goals, I visualize my future-self thanking my present-self.

For example, if I go to gym to exercise, I’m working toward my fitness goals. When I’m done, I think of the future version of myself who will have achieved those goals, and that version of me thanks my present-self for doing what was necessary for her to get there.

A little gratitude time travel, if you will. 🙂

9. Gratitude Questions.

The fifth item on this list was to keep a gratitude journal. I already gave you a template to help you with that, and now I’m going to go one step further. I’m going to give you 55 gratitude questions to help spark ideas on what to write in your gratitude journal.

Here are the first five:

  1. What was the best part of the day?
  2. Who helped me today?
  3. Who was kind to me today?
  4. What made me laugh outloud today?
  5. What insight did I gain today?

You can get all of the questions here: 55 gratitude Questions – Count Your Daily Blessings.

10. Remember a Teacher Who Believed In You.

At the very top of this post I shared with you an exercise taken from the collection of Vonnegut’s commencement addresses, If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young”. Here’s another one:

“That’s one favor I’ve asked of you. Now I ask for another one. I ask it not only of the graduates, but of everyone here, parents and teachers as well. I’ll want a show of hands after I ask this question.

How many of you have had a teacher at any level of your education who made you more excited to be alive, prouder to be alive, than you had previously believed possible?

Hold up your hands, please.

Now take down your hands and say the name of that teacher to someone else and tell them what that teacher did for you.”

We’ve all had that one special teacher who helped us become the person we are today. Think of them and what they did for you. Now, tell someone else.

11. Go On a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt.

I’m sure you’re familiar with scavenger hunts, but in case you’re not, it’s a game in which you take a list of items, and then the game participants proceed to search for the items. When each player finds an item, they can do any of the following:

  • Collect the item.
  • Check the item off the list.
  • Take a photo of the item.

Here’s a list of items you can use for your Gratitude Scavenger Hunt:

  • Find something you love to smell.
  • Go to the grocery store and pick out a fruit you love.
  • Find something that’s really useful for you.
  • Find something in your favorite color.
  • Find something you love to touch.
  • Find a sound you love.
  • Find something that reminds you of someone you love.
  • Find something that says “home” to you.
  • Find your favorite book.
  • Find a beautiful tree you can sit under.
  • Find a Siberian husky (or a dog of a breed that makes you smile).
  • Find a store clerk or government employee who does their job well,
  • Find a place with a great view of your city.
  • Find something that fills you with pride for your country.
  • Find a board game you love to play.
  • Find your favorite flower.
  • Find something that makes you laugh.
  • Find something that reminds you of something you’ve accomplished.
  • Find something that keeps you healthy.
  • Find something you’ve made with your own hands.
  • Find something you treasure that money can’t buy.
  • Find a gratitude quote you love.
  • Find a gift you received recently.
  • Find something you use when you need some self-care.
  • Find something that fills you with wonder.

12. A 2-Minute Morning Exercise to Boost Your Gratitude and Happiness

Most people are constanty looking for ways for start their morning right. After all, the way you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. You can start the day filled with gratitude by taking two minutes to say a few gratitude affirmations.

Here are three you can try:

  • Thank you for this new day.
  • I’m filled with happiness and gratitude.
  • I’m grateful for a new chance to live my life.

You can see ten morning affirmations here: 8 Ways to Practice Gratitude to Boost Your Wellbeing.

Conclusion

Gratitude allows us to shift our attention from what we lack to the abundance that is already present in our lives. It allows us to appreciate all the good that we have. Use these 12 exercises to help you bring more gratitude into your life this November, and every month of the year.

Live your best life by discovering how to practice gratitude.

 

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practice accpetance

Practicing acceptance can transform your life.

Acceptance means embracing reality. It is a willingness to experience things as they are, instead of insisting that they be as you want them to be. At the same time, acceptance is not any of the following:

  • Acceptance is not agreement—you may not agree with what happened, but you accept it, because it’s useless to struggle against what is.
  • Acceptance is not acquiescence that what happened is just—it’s a fact that there is often injustice in the world.
  • Acceptance is not weakness—it takes a lot of courage to face reality when it’s not in your favor.
  • Acceptance is not giving up—it’s realizing your time and effort are best applied elsewhere.
  • Acceptance is not quitting—it’s shifting your focus and attention from what you cannot change or influence, to what you can.
  • Acceptance is not resignation—it’s the first step to overcoming any misfortune you experience.

Although learning to accept the things you cannot change can be challenging, there are many benefits to doing so. Here are three of them:

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  • Practice acceptance because whatever you’re refusing to accept is causing you pain, but your nonacceptance is making it worse. Consider a common saying in Buddhist philosophy: Suffering = Pain x Resistance. You may be going through a painful experience but refusing to accept what happened will simply increase the pain.
  • Desiring the world to be something it is not at the moment is frustrating, demoralizing, and draining.
  • Acceptance allows you to move on instead of being perpetually stuck in a quagmire of “should haves” and “would haves”.

In this post I’m going to share with you three ways to practice acceptance:

  1. Practice Detachment
  2. Practice Letting Go
  3. Practice Stoicism

The first way to learn acceptance is to practice detachment.

Practice Detachment

I’m a big believer in setting goals, planning how to achieve them, executing your plan, and monitoring your progress. However, no matter how smart you are and how hard you work, there are lots of things that are simply not within your control.

Once you’ve done everything you can to achieve your goals, practice detachment.  That is, take a step back and simply allow things to unfold. Become an impartial observer who is just taking in what happens. Look at the following:

  • If you achieve your goal, you’ll be fine.
  • If you don’t achieve your goal, you’ll be fine.

As author Donald Miller once said, “Hold your dreams and aspirations with open palms.”  We all want to achieve our dreams, but if we hold on to them too tightly, we can’t change course if need be, or accept that we need to choose a different dream if the original one proves to be unattainable.

I recently read that the trick is to behave like an actor playing a role: become fully immersed in the part of someone who is one-hundred percent committed to obtaining your chosen objective. However, at any point you can step out of character and detach yourself from the desired outcome.

Don’t Attach Who You Are to Any Desired Objective

Detachment is knowing that you are complete in and of yourself, without anything external needing to happen. It’s understanding the following:

  • Your happiness does not depend on achieving a certain goal, having someone else’s love, or on how any situation unfolds.
  • Your love, respect, and appreciation of yourself do not depend on any particular outcome.
  • Things, other people, and situations don’t define you.

Osho–the Indian philosopher and spiritual guide–, wrote the following in his book, “The Secret of Secrets”:

“Remain in the world, act in the world, do whatsoever is needful, and yet remain transcendental, aloof, detached, a lotus flower in the pond.”

Detachment is realizing that you’re okay as you are. You can find wholeness within. Practice acceptance by practicing detachment.

Practice Letting Go

Do the following: pick up a pencil and hold it tightly in your hand. Hold it tightly, hold it tightly, hold it tightly. . .and then let it go.

When you refuse to accept something—an outcome, a situation, or an event—you’re holding on to the way you wish things would have happened like you were holding on to that pencil. And just like you can let go of the pencil, you can let go of your insistence that things should have unfolded differently.

I’m going to share with you an anecdote to illustrate the principle of letting go.

My College Flat Mate

When I was in college at Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., one of my flat mates was from northern Italy. She was in a relationship with an Austrian—who also went to Georgetown—and she thought they were both very much in love and had a future together.

However, one day, he broke up with her. He just didn’t want to be in a relationship with her anymore. This woman refused to accept the fact that the relationship was over.

She pestered him for months. Whenever I—or any of our other flat mates–spoke to her all she wanted to do was talk about her ex. She would go on and on about how perfect the relationship had been, and how they were meant for each other.

As time went on and he showed no interest in getting back together with her, it became abundantly clear to everyone around her that she was simply refusing to accept reality. Here’s what she was doing:

  • She was wasting her time—time she could have spent studying, having fun with friends, taking advantage of the cultural opportunities available in D.C., and so on.
  • She was causing herself a lot of stress and mental anguish—she was upset all the time and always seemed to be on the verge of tears.
  • She was limiting herself—after all, as the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea.

There was nothing she could do to get the outcome she wanted. He wasn’t going to get back together with her. Eventually she managed to let go and started dating someone else, but she would have spared herself a lot of unnecessary suffering if she had let go sooner.

When You Should Let Go

If there’s something that you’re refusing to let go of, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I beating a dead horse?
  • Am I wasting my time and effort?
  • Am I limiting myself?
  • Am I deceiving myself by thinking I can change the way things are when it comes to this situation?
  • Is it better for my mental, physical, financial, and/or emotional well-being to just let this go?

When the answer to one or more of these questions is “yes”, it’s time to let go. Take a deep breath, begin to loosen your grip, slowly open your hands, and let go.

Practice Stoicism

As I write in my post, “7 Lessons on Life and Happiness From a Stoic”, stoicism is a philosophy of life which was founded in ancient Greece. Stoicism can be summarized as follows:

“Stay calm and serene regardless of what life throws at you.”

That right there is acceptance in a nutshell. I’m going to share with you two stoicism exercises that will help you to practice acceptance.

First Stoicism Exercise

Among the most fundamental maxims of Stoicism is the idea that it is foolish to focus on things that are not within your control. Here’s how Epictetus—one of the most well-known practitioners of Stoicism–put it:

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”

Worrying, complaining about, and ruminating about things we cannot influence, or change is irrational and useless. On the other hand, when we focus on things that are within our control—our attitude, interpretation of events, habits, thought patterns, and actions—we can begin to change things.

In my post on “How to Take Back Control of Your Life”, I recommend that you give yourself a challenge that’s within your Circle of Influence—which includes all those things which are within your control.

For example, let’s say you’ve recently suffered a disappointment, and you’ve come to the realization that there’s nothing you can do to change things. Do the following:

  • Make a list of as many things you can think of that are within your control.
  • What challenge can you give yourself that would fall within your list?
  • Maybe you’re ten pounds overweight, and you decide to challenge yourself to lose those ten pounds. After all, starting an exercise regime and cleaning up your eating habits are two things that are within your control.
  • You can’t fix the event or situation that disappointed you, but you can fix the problem of being ten pounds overweight, so focus on that.

Practice acceptance by taking your attention off the things you can’t control and placing it on those things you can control.

Second Stoicism Exercise

You can think of whatever you’re refusing to accept as an obstacle. When you come across an obstacle, you can stand there and stare it as you bemoan your fate, or you can accept that you’ve come across an obstacle and deal with it as expeditiously as possible.

The Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius recommended the second approach. He admonished that we should deal with any obstacles we find along the way quickly, instead of wasting time complaining about the obstacle. Look at the following:

 “A cucumber is bitter. Throw it away. There are briars in the road. Turn aside from them. This is enough. Do not add, ‘And why were such things made in the world?’”

Here’s how to apply this stoicism exercise in your own life:

  • If you lose your job, apply for another job.
  • If your novel does poorly, write another novel.
  • If a friend betrays you, look for a better friend.

Don’t argue with what is. Practice acceptance by moving on.

Conclusion

The poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.” Live your best life by practicing acceptance.

 

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productivity killing habits

Identify those habits that are killing your productivity and eliminate them.

Being productive means that you get more of the right things done in the least amount of time. We all want this.

Nonetheless, sometimes we do things in the name of productivity which are actually making us less productive. And to make matters worse, a lot of these things are done on automatic. That is, they’re habits. To be more specific, they’re productivity killing habits.

In this post I’m going to share with you five of the most insidious and harmful of these productivity killing habits, as well as a strategy for breaking each of them.

1. Checking Your Email Constantly

Checking your email constantly throughout the day, which is something that a lot of us are guilty of, is a productivity killing habit for several reasons.

onehouradayformula banner longFirst, checking your email while you’re working on something else is commonly referred to as multitasking, However, Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT and one of the world experts on divided attention, explains that our brains are simply not wired to multitask well. He says the following:

“When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”

In addition, multitasking increases the stress hormone cortisol, as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline. This overstimulates your brain and causes mental fog and cloudy thinking.

And there are even more negative effects to interrupting your work in order to check your email. Once you’ve checked your email, you have to make all sorts of decisions, such as the following:

  • Should you answer that email from a client? Or should you mark it as “unread” and answer it later?
  • If you decide to answer, what should you say?
  • Are there a few emails you should just delete?
  • Since you’ve opened your inbox, should you send out a few emails of your own?

Making decisions, even small ones, decreases the amount of glucose that’s available for your brain. As a result of this, your ability to focus diminishes, which makes you more susceptible to other distractions.

To make matters worse, every time that you check your email you get a little hit of the feel-good hormone dopamine. This means that you’re rewarding your brain for losing focus and seeking novelty.  And the more you reward something, the more likely it is to continue to happen.

And let’s not even go into what happens if you get an email that irritates or annoys you. That will undoubtedly have a negative impact on your ability to concentrate on the report you were supposed to be working on in the first place.

productivity killing habits

How to Fix It

The way to stop checking your email nonstop throughout the day–like a mouse hitting a lever that releases food pellets– is by scheduling your email time. There are a few ways to do this:

  • First, have time blocks throughout the day for focused work when you absolutely will not check your email.
  • Second, go cold turkey and decide on one or two times during the day when you’ll check your email. For example, you could check your email at 10:00 am and at 5:00 pm. Then, check your email only at those times.
  • Third, gradually decrease how often you check your email. As an illustration, if you currently check your email once every fifteen minutes, start checking it once every half-an-hour. Then, once every hour. After that, once every two hours. Continue in this way until you’ve reached a frequency that works well for you.

2. Creating Long To-Do Lists

The next habit on this list of productivity killing habits is creating never ending to do lists.

Humans tend to think that their future selves will be very different from their present selves. This is so even if that future self is just twelve hours into the future. Maybe today you only managed to get seven things done in the entire day, but tomorrow. . . tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow you’ll be able to cross 20 items off your to do list.

That wishful thinking is what has us constantly creating extremely long to-do lists. But the same thing happens day after day: we never manage to get through that overly optimistic to-do list. This makes us feel stressed and overwhelmed, which are feelings that are not conducive to remaining productive.

My nephew has a t-shirt that says: “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. In that case, be Batman.” We all need to come to terms with the fact that we will never be Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, or any other superhero for that matter. Which means we need to stop creating superhuman to-do lists.

productivity killing habits

How to Fix It

The solution that I’ve come up with for finally eliminating the mile-long to-do lists I used to create for myself is something called calendar blocking. That is, instead of creating a to-do list, I take out my calendar, create time blocks, and write down what I’ll be doing during each time block.

Once I run out of time blocks, that’s it. Nothing else gets scheduled for that day. Why? Because there are no more time blocks left over. See how that works?

3. Scheduling the Trivial Things First

Many of us look at what we need to do for the day and see one big, hairy, difficult (and important) task, and four or five smaller ones. Then we tell ourselves that if we do the small stuff first, we get to knock four or five items off our to-do list. That’s more efficient than just finishing the one important task, right? Wrong!

Scheduling the trivial things first is one of the productivity killing habits on this list for two reasons. First, because you have limited willpower. And, second, because you have limited time.

In order to concentrate and avoid distractions, you need willpower. But willpower is like a muscle: it gets fatigued from overuse. Every time you use a little bit of willpower—to stop yourself from going on YouTube to watch animal videos or pop onto twitter to see what your friends are up to—your ability to subdue your impulses lessens.

Here’s willpower expert Roy Baumeister:

“The longer people have been awake, the more self-control problems happen. Most things go bad in the evening. Diets are broken at the evening snack, not at breakfast or in the middle of the morning. Impulsive crimes are mostly committed after midnight.”

productivity killing habits

This is one of the main reasons why you should do the most important thing you need to get done each day first. That is, when you have the most willpower and are most likely to be able to focus on the task at hand.

Also, if you do the most important thing first, you’ll be able to say that you had a successful day. This is so even if you don’t have enough time to finish the other tasks that you wanted to get done that day.

How to Fix It

When you’re creating your schedule for the day, ask yourself what your number one priority for the day is. Then, schedule that first. That way, you’ll tackle it when your willpower is at its peak.

In addition, even if the rest of your day doesn’t go as planned, at least you’ll have gotten your most important task for the day out of the way.

4. Working Nonstop Until You’re Done

It would appear to make sense that the longer you work, the more you can get done. Using this logic, if you start working at 8:00 am and work nonstop until noon, you’ll have an incredibly productive morning. But this isn’t the case.

The way to retain the highest level of productivity throughout the day is not working longer but working smarter with well-timed breaks. It’s much more effective to work for a short period of time—many argue 52 minutes is the sweet spot—with one hundred percent focus, and then take a ten to fifteen minute break, than it is to work for four unfocused hours nonstop.

How to Fix It

To stop the habit of working nonstop to exhaustion, set a timer for 52 minutes and focus completely on the task at hand during that time. When the timer goes off, stop and take a short break.

During your breaks you can go outside and take a short walk; close your eyes and meditate; or even do something playful like coloring or doing some origami.

productivity killing habits

5. The News Habit (Insert Your Own Productivity Killing Habit Here)

We all have that one habit that’s killing our productivity, that perhaps other people don’t share. For me it’s checking the news constantly throughout the day. There’s so much going on in the world, and I can talk myself into believing that I’m not being unproductive, because it’s important to know what’s happening.

Right now, I can tell you—with an embarrassing amount of detail–what’s going on in the US, Panama, Venezuela, Peru, Hong Kong, and Britain. And how does that help me achieve my goals? It doesn’t.

There’s nothing wrong with checking the news a couple of times throughout the day, but doing so constantly—like I do—is a terrible productivity killing habit. What’s the one thing that you find yourself doing constantly that’s killing your productivity? How are you talking yourself into believing that what you’re doing is actually productive?

Here are some possibilities:

  • Maybe you’re constantly logging on to social media, and you’ve convinced yourself that you’re building your brand.
  • Perhaps you’re playing video games more than you should, but you tell yourself that it’s important to have some downtime.
  • It could be that you’re constantly chatting with your coworkers, and you justify this to yourself by arguing that you’re creating good rapport and camaraderie with your colleagues.

All of the above is true: it’s a good idea to build your brand, have some downtime, and have a good relationship with the people you work with. However, none of these things should come at the expense of your productivity.

How to Fix It

My plan for controlling my news habit is to schedule when I can check the news, as well as limit the amount of time that I spend reading, watching, and listening to the news.

You can do the same. Create specific time slots throughout your day for going on social media, playing video games, and/or chatting with co-workers. Make sure that the amount of time that you give yourself for each of these activities doesn’t interfere with your ability to get the really important stuff done.

productivity killing habits

Conclusion

Break the habits that I’ve listed above and watch how your productivity skyrockets. Live your best life by getting your productivity killing habits under control.

 

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books on power

If you want to create a better world for yourself and others, you need to amass the power necessary to do so.

onehouradayformula banner longWanting power, like wanting money, is seen by many as being immoral. However, power is neutral. You can acquire it unethically and use it unjustly, or you can gain power through moral means and use it to improve your life and that of your loved ones, and for the betterment of society. In addition, knowing how others acquire power can help you to identify when someone else is trying to take your power away, so that you can take action to stop them.

In this post I’m going to share with you five books on power that you must read. In addition, I’ve summarized one or more of the best lessons in each book.

The Prince

books on powerThe Prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli is the first book on power I’m going to recommend that you read. It was written in 1513 but was not published until 1532. Machiavelli was a diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, writer, and playwright.  He had been exiled from Florence and wrote “The Prince” to curry favor with the ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de Medici (the grandson of Lorenzo Il Magnifico), and win an advisory position in the Florentine government.

Although some equate “The Prince” with ruthlessness and guile, it’s a must-read not just for those who are interested in political science, but also for those who want to understand how the world works. After all, Machiavelli was a pragmatist. Here’s a quote from the book:

“There is such a gap between how one lives and how one should live that he who neglects what is being done for what should be done will learn his destruction rather than his preservation.”

Here’s a gold nugget from the book: “… to exercise the intellect the prince should read histories, and study there the actions of illustrious men, to see how they have borne themselves in war, to examine the causes of their victories and defeat, so as to avoid the latter and imitate the former.”

In other words. read so that you can avoid the mistakes made by others and emulate their successes.

The 48 Laws of Power

books on power

The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene is another book that makes a lot of people’s hair stand on end. Greene explains that he wrote the book to expose the dirty ploys of the executives he encountered during a period as a Hollywood screenwriter. Here’s how one reviewer on Amazon describes the book:

“It doesn’t teach one to be self-absorbed or evil or a heretic. It teaches one to stand your ground and to protect yourself from taking unnecessary burden, unfair treatment, and manipulation from corrupt people.”

In other words, the book prepares you for the real world. You need to accept things as they are in order to be able to work toward making things run as they should.

My favorite of the 48 rules in the book is Rule 34: Be Royal In Your Own Fashion: Act Like a King to Be Treated like One. Here’s Greene explaining the law:

“The way you carry yourself will often determine how you are treated: In the long run, appearing vulgar or common will make people disrespect you. For a king respects himself and inspires the same sentiment in others. By acting regally and confident of your powers, you make yourself seem destined to wear a crown.”

Greene uses Christopher Columbus to illustrate this law. Columbus was the son of a humble wine merchant. Nonetheless, when he was in the Portuguese and Spanish courts trying to get his trip to Asia funded, he passed himself as Italian nobility.

He was confident and bold, and people—including the king of Portugal and Queen Isabella of Spain–believed him when he claimed to be the descendant of aristocrats. Therefore, these monarchs treated him seriously. Eventually, Queen Isabella funded his trip.

I would sum this idea up as follows: act like the person you want to be.

The 36 Strategies of Ancient China (or The 36 Stratagems)

books on powerThe Thirty-six Strategies Of Ancient China” is a Chinese collection of 36 proverbs meant to be used as military tactics to defeat your opponent.  Each stratagem refers to a battle or folklore from the Three Kingdoms (from 220–280 AD, when China was divided into three states). It was written by a General named Tan Daoji , around 400 AD, and it cannot be missing from a list of books on power.

To illustrate that these strategies are not just for war, I’m going to refer to Linda Tan, a social entrepreneur and rice farmer who uses these ancient war stratagems to defeat pests in her field. Linda explains that she dreams of a great yield at the end of each season. Her worst nightmare is that by the end of the year her plants will have been destroyed by insects.

Although the obvious choice to get rid of pests is to use pesticides, studies show that pesticides are bad for the farmers’ health. Therefore, Linda had to find a different approach to attack her enemy. So, she turned to the 36 stratagems. Here are two of the stratagems that she used:

  • 3 – To Kill With a Borrowed Sword
  • 10 – Hide a Knife Behind a Smile

Below you’ll find an explanation of each.

To Kill With a Borrowed Sword

What this stratagem means is that if you want to hurt your enemy, you should find a third party to attack your enemy for you. The third party when it comes to defeating the pests in the rice fields is ducks. If you release ducks in a rice field, they eat the pests. Therefore, Linda got some ducks and released them in her fields. And the strategy worked: the ducks foraged in the rice fields, thereby reducing Linda’s pest problem.

Hide a Knife Behind a Smile

This stratagem means that you defeat your enemy by giving it something it likes. Then, when it’s off its guard, you move in for the kill. Pests really like nitrogen-rich plants. Therefore, when the farmers are applying nitrogen fertilizers, they have to be careful not to use too much.

However, the farmers choose a section of the field in which they use a lot of nitrogen fertilizer. That means that there’s a section of the field that becomes incredibly attractive to pests. As a result, a large percentage of the pests move to this section of the field and leave the rest of the rice alone.

Furthermore, the farmers can then apply pesticide to that small area, thereby killing a large portion of the pests.

As you can see from the two examples above, the proverbs in “The 36 Strategies” have many real-world applications. Increase your power by learning to wield these stratagems wisely. You can read all of the stratagem here.

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

books on powerThe Art of Worldly Wisdom” is a gem. As I write in my post, 35 Pieces of Life Changing Wisdom That Will Make You More Powerful and Successful, this book was written by the Spanish Jesuit scholar Baltasar Gracian in the 17th century. It contains 300 proverbs that will help you to succeed in life.

Here’s one of my favorite proverbs from the book: “Don’t show off every day, or you’ll stop surprising people. There must always be some novelty left over. The person who displays a little more of it each day keeps up expectations, and no one ever discovers the limits of his talent.”

That is, make your skills and talents limitless by displaying them a little at a time.

Another of Gracian’s proverbs advises that you choose your friends wisely: “Put the right people beside you. The company you keep can work wonders. Customs and tastes and even intelligence are transmitted without our being aware of it.”

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said the following about The Art of Worldly Wisdom:

“Absolutely unique. . . a book made for constant use. . . a companion for life. [These maxims are] especially fitted to those who wish to prosper in the great world.”

I would wholeheartedly agree.

The 50th Law

books on powerA while back I watched a video of a group of three hunters in Africa who—without weapons—took a wildebeest carcass that a pride of lions was feasting on. They walked up to the lions with so much confidence and fearlessness, that when the lions saw them approaching, they fled.  The men cut the pieces of meat that they wanted and quickly walked off before the lions realized it was a bluff.

This video immediately came to mind as I was reading about the book “The 50th Law”, written by Robert Greene—author of the “The 48 Laws of Power”– and the rapper 50 Cent, who went from selling drugs at the age of twelve to becoming a Grammy -winning musician who has sold over 30 million albums worldwide. He’s also survived being shot at close range nine times.

Here’s a quote that perfectly encapsulates the message of the book:

“…your fears are a kind of prison that confines you within a limited range of action. The less you fear, the more power you will have and the more fully you will live.”

Whatever situation you’re in, be the person with the least fear. This will give you a constant strategic advantage.

Always remember that while fear can alert you to danger so that you can take action to stay safe, a lot of fear is in the mind. The second type of fear—which is the most common –is unjustified fear which simply keeps you paralyzed and stops you from taking bold action. Learn to tell the difference between the two.

Conclusion

Just as you should have a plan for increasing your wealth, you should have a plan for increasing your power. The five books on power that I recommend above will help you devise your plan. Live your best life by learning how to acquire and yield power, and how to protect yourself from power grabs by others.

 

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You can’t increase the number of hours there are in a day, but you can increase the amount of energy you have.

Time is the resource we most often turn to in order to meet the demands of life. As an illustration, if your workload increases, your response is probably to put in more hours. However, there comes a point at which you can’t put in more hours because time is a finite resource.

The good news is that there’s a different resource you can turn to, and that resource is energy. Energy can be systematically expanded, and it can be regularly renewed.

Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr explain in their book The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal that in order to be more effective throughout the day you need to start thinking about your energy instead of your time.

onehouradayformula banner longEnergy is your capacity to do work.  If you build the reservoir of energy that you have available to you–that is, if you put more fuel in your tank–, then you’ll have increased capacity. In addition, by creating rituals which regularly replenish your energy, you’ll be systematically refilling your tank and increasing your resilience.

Continue reading below to discover how to manage your energy to get more done.

The Four Sources of Energy

We need four sources of energy in order to be able to perform at our best: physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, and spiritual energy.  Here’s an explanation of each:

Physical Energy

Physical capacity is the foundation on which everything else rests. If you don’t have enough physical energy it’s going to influence your ability to focus your attention, your ability to manage your emotions under pressure, and so on. Physical energy is about the quantity of energy that you have available to you.

Physical capacity has four components:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Fitness
  3. Sleep
  4. Recovery or Renewal (daytime equivalent of sleep)

Emotional Energy

Emotional energy is about how you feel, which dramatically influences how well you perform, how well you lead, and how well you interact with others. Emotional energy is about the quality of your energy.

In order to be fully engaged in an activity–that is, in order to be able to concentrate your energy completely on the task at hand–, you need to quiet your mind chatter and release negative emotions.

Mental Energy

Mental energy is about the focus of your attention. We do our most effective work when we focus on one thing at a time.

However, Shwartz explains that the average person in an organization in the U.S. stays on task for 11 minutes before moving on to another task. And it gets worse: during those 11 minutes they interrupt themselves with something else an average of every three minutes.

When we temporarily shift our attention from one task to another, it increases the amount of time necessary to finish the primary task by as much as 25%. This is known as the “switching time” phenomenon.

You can increase your mental energy by learning how to focus your attention.

Spiritual Energy

Spiritual energy is the energy derived from the sense of living on purpose, and from an alignment of how you say you want to live your life and how you actually live. The better that alignment, the more powerful the source of energy available to you. 

For example, if you say that your family is very important to you but you hardly spend any time with them, then your spiritual energy is going to be misaligned. Spiritual energy  is the “why” energy.

Audit Your Energy

This a test created by Tony Shwartz to help you audit your energy. For each statement below answer “true” or “false”. The statements for which you answer “true” are the ones you need to work on.

  1. I don’t regularly get 7 to 8 hours of sleep and I often wake up feeling tired.
  2. I frequently skip breakfast, or I settle for something that isn’t particularly healthy.
  3. I don’t work out enough, meaning cardiovascular training at least 3 times a week and strength training at least once a week.
  4. I don’t take regular breaks during the day to renew and recharge, and I often eat lunch at my desk.
  5. I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient or anxious at work, especially when demand is high.
  6. I don’t have enough time for my friends and family, and when I’m with them, I’m rarely “with them”.
  7. I take too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy.
  8. I rarely stop to express my appreciation to others, or to savor and celebrate my accomplishments and blessings.
  9. I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time and I’m easily distracted during my day, especially by email.
  10. I spend much of my time reacting to immediate demands, rather than focusing on activities with long-term value and higher leverage.
  11. I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing and thinking creatively.
  12. I work in the evenings and/or the weekends and I rarely take a vacation free of work.
  13. I spend too little time at work doing what I do best and enjoy the most.
  14. There are significant gaps between what I say is important in my life and how I actually live.
  15. My decisions at work are more often influenced by external demands than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose.
  16. I don’t invest enough time or energy in making a positive difference to others or in the world.

The Importance of Renewal

At night you go through the Basic Rest Activity Cycle. All through the night, over periods of 90 to 120 minutes, you move from a light stage of sleep (REM), down into deep delta sleep. A similar cycle exists during the day.

Human beings are rhythmic, and we’re designed to balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal if we’re going to sustain energy at the highest level. When we’re awake, every 90 to 120 minutes we move from a high state of physiological arousal, slowly down into a physiological drop.

At the point of the drop your body is screaming at you: “Give me a break.” However, instead of taking a break, you probably reach for a diet coke or a cup of coffee and keep going. You also override your body’s need for a break with cortisol and adrenaline, the body’s own speed.

What you should do is build a rhythm throughout the day so that when you’re working you’re truly engaged, and after a period of  intense activity you take a break for renewal.

Energy renewal is vital if you want to sustain your energy at a high level. This is something Tony and his research team learned from athletes: they consistently found that athletes performed best when they respected the work-rest ratio.

Some of the things you can do during your renewal breaks are the following

  • Sit back in your chair and listen to music on your iPod.
  • Get up and walk up and down the stairs or take a short walk outside.
  • Do some stretching exercises.
  • Talk to a colleague about something other than work.

You don’t want to be a marathon runner. Marathon runners pace themselves instead of giving the race their all, because they know that they have a long race out ahead of them with no breaks in sight. They can’t push themselves to their full capacity because sooner or later they’d drop like a stone.

What you want is to be a sprinter. The sprinter brings 100 percent engagement to the 100, 200, 300, or 400 yards in front of them. There’s a finish line. They know they’re going to give it their all for a finite period of time, and then stop and recover.

Schwartz argues that most of us have lost the finish lines in our lives. We just keep going and going. However, it’s vital that we set stopping points for renewal or we’re going to burnout.

Build Positive Rituals

Tony explains in The Power of Full Engagement that in order to manage energy optimally, we have to build positive rituals into our lives. These positive rituals are highly specific behaviors that become automatic over time.

Relying on our pre-frontal cortex to adopt new behaviors–that is, relying on our will power–is not the best way to make changes. What we need to do instead is enlist the help of our automatic nervous system.  We need to get help from the part of our physiology that gets things done automatically.

How can we do this? By training ourselves through regular repetition. The idea is to get ourselves to act without having to think about it.

Look back at the energy audit that you took above to gather clues as to the behaviors that you need to turn into rituals in order to incorporate them permanently into your life. For example, you might realize that you need to start doing the following:

  • Start eating a healthy brekfast every morning instead of grabbing a coffee and donut on the run.
  • Begin a walking regime.
  • Set some time aside to plan your week every Sunday night.

Conclusion

Let’s imagine that there’s an important project that you need to work on. Look at the following two scenarions:

In the first scenario, you got little sleep the night before so you’re tire. While you’re working on the project you keep switching over to other tasks, such as checking your email. In addition, you keep thinking about the fight you had last night with your spouse. You keep working past the point of exhaustion and keep refueling with coffee.

In the second scenario, you got a good night’s sleep the night before. You get to work on the project before tackling anything else, you focus on it completely without allowing yourself to get distracted, and you take regular breaks to renew your energy.

In which of the two scenarios do you think you will get more done? Clearly, it’s the second one. Getting more done is not about investing more time; it’s about the proper management of your energy.

Did you take the energy audit? What do you need to work on? What behaviors are you going to turn into rituals?

Live your best life by learning to manage your energy.

 

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learning how to learn

The ability to learn faster than others will give you a competitive edge in the 21st century economy.

I write a lot about how to learn on this blog. That’s because acquiring this meta-skill is one of the best ways to leverage up your life. I take MOOCs on the best way to learn; I read books on the most effective ways to study and acquire skills; and I read blogs by experts on the topic. And, of course, I apply what I learn.

Here are five skills I’ve taught myself quickly and efficiently by learning how to learn:

  • Weightlifting
  • French
  • Piano
  • Drawing
  • Coding (in Python)

onehouradayformula banner longHow did I learn these skills? I took all the knowledge that I gathered while researching how to learn skills faster and more efficiently, and I created a learning system. I then tried out the learning system by learning weightlifting. The next step was to tweak and perfect the system by learning to code. Finally, I fine-tuned the system by learning French, piano, and drawing. Now I’m ready to share my system with you in a course titled: “Learn Any Skill Faster and Better: How to Learn to Code, Play the Piano, Lift Weights, Speak French, Draw, Or Anything Else”. I am now enrolling students in the course.

In the meantime, here are 10 ways in which learning how to learn will radically transform your life.

1. Learning How to Learn Will Allow You to Stay Current In Your Field.

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times before: the only constant is change. This adage applies to the modern world more than ever before. As business rules change, economic conditions shift, and new technologies make old ones obsolete, workplaces are being transformed faster the ever before.

Because success, and even survival, in today’s world requires constant growth and learning, lifelong learning must become a way of life for most of us. We need to be able to learn as rapidly as society progresses. By learning how to learn you’ll be able to keep abreast of changes in your field and ensure that your knowledge doesn’t become outdated.

2. You’ll Have the Flexibility to Change Careers.

Most people will change careers at least a few times throughout their lifetimes. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as the following:

  • Most people choose the profession that they’ll follow when they’re entering college at the age of 17 or 18, which is very young. A lot of people graduate from college and then discover later on that they chose the wrong career.
  • Automation is displacing a lot of workers.
  • For some people, one career for an entire lifetime is not enough. This is especially true now that—due to medical advances—people are living longer.
  • People who feel that they’re not making enough money may want to shift to a more lucrative career.

Changing careers means you’ll need to acquire new skills. If you know how to learn, you’ll be much more likely to succeed in your attempts to enter a new profession.

In addition, by being able to demonstrate that you know how to learn, you’ll make yourself more employable. Here’s a quote from an article published in the Harvard Business Review, which was written by Tomas Chamorro Premuzic:

“Unsurprisingly, there is now big demand for employees who can demonstrate high levels of “learnability,” the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable throughout their working life.”

Add the skill of “knowing how to learn” to your resume and include a link to your online portfolio in which you showcase evidence of your learnability. That’s guaranteed to make you shine at your next job interview.

3. Learning How to Learn Will Give You the Smarts Necessary to Achieve Your Goals.

We all know the acronym for goal achievement:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Relevant
  • T – Timely

I propose a new acronym: SMARTS. And what is the last “S” for? You guessed it: Skills!

One of the most important steps in planning how you will achieve a goal is to identify the skills that you’ll need in order to achieve that goal. As an illustration, if you want to start a blog that will earn you a side income, here are some of the skills that you’ll need to learn:

  • Learn how to write for the web.
  • Learn how to optimize your blog posts so that they’ll be found by the search engines.
  • Learn how to use social media.
  • Learn how to monetize your blog.

It will easier for you to learn these skills, and launch a successful blog, if you know how to learn. (Think of the blog you’re reading right now – I taught myself all the skills I needed to create this blog.)

Here’s a phrase you can use to remember this new acronym:

“To succeed you need to develop the SMARTS necessary to achieve your goals. You do this by learning how to learn.” – Marelisa Fábrega

learning how to learn

4. Learning How to Learn May Help You Slow Down Cognitive Decline.

A while back I read a study comparing levels of education obtained early in life with cognitive decline in old age. Researchers had concluded that those who had obtained a lot of education had built up a brain reserve which helped to slow down the harmful effects of cognitive decline that can occur later in life. This was good news for me because I have a lot of schooling.

However, new research shows that this may not be the case. Higher education can help to build more robust networks of cells, which seems to provide some protection against getting dementia.

But once the cognitive decline starts, that advantage disappears. This is probably because education occurs early on in life, and its effects may have worn off by the time a person hits old age.

The good news is that keeping the brain active by learning new skills—such as learning to speak a new language, learning to play a musical instrument, or learning new computer skills–can slow down rates of cognitive problems in a person’s later years.

I, for one, have chosen to learn to play the piano, and I’m going to share with you a quote on acquiring the skill of playing a musical instrument as an adult:

“Musical training seems to have a beneficial impact at whatever age you start. It contains all the components of a cognitive training program that sometimes are overlooked, and just as we work out our bodies, we should work out our minds.”

To help keep dementia at bay, learn new skills. Of course, you’ll be more likely to take on the challenge of learning new skills if you know how to learn.

5. Foster the Growth of New Brain Cells.

Although it was once believed that people are born with all the brain cells they’ll ever have, scientists have discovered that people can grow new brain cells throughout their entire life. The process is called neurogenesis. I wrote all about it in my post on how to grow new brain cells.

However, as I explain in that post, just because you’re growing new brain cells doesn’t necessarily mean those new brain cells will survive. You can help ensure that those brain cells stay alive by engaging in learning that requires effort.

One way to do this is by learning a complex skill, such as learning to play tennis, or learning to dance. And, once again, if you know how to learn you’ll be much more likely to try your hand at learning these complex skills.

6. It Will Help You Improve Your Health.

Everyone wants to be healthy, but a lot of people fail in their attempts to lead a healthy lifestyle. One of the main reasons why this happens is because most people don’t possess the skills that are necessary in order to maintain health. This includes skills such as the following:

  • Designing weekly menus that are healthy and balanced (as well as delicious).
  • Cooking healthy meals.
  • Using the workout equipment at the gym.
  • Performing flexibility and mobility exercises.

Learning these skills will go a long way toward the improvement of your health. One of the skills I chose to teach myself by following my learning system is weightlifting. I can already see and feel that I’m getting great results.

7. Learning How to Learn Will Allow You to Have More Fun!

One of the skills I decided to teach myself is drawing. Why? Because I wanted to be able to create something beautiful with my hands, have a creativity outlet, and find a way to de-stress. Drawing has done all of that for me.

What have you seen others doing that’s made you think: “That looks like fun! I wish I could do that.” Get out there and learn how to do it. Start by learning how to learn.

learning how to learn

8. You’ll Gain the Tools You Need to Become An Expert.

A while ago I wrote a blog post on how to become an expert. An expert is someone who has comprehensive and authoritative knowledge in a particular area, or of a specific skill. Being an expert comes with many benefits, such as the following:

  • People are more likely to trust experts.
  • Media outlets are constantly looking for experts they can interview.
  • Experts can charge more money for their services.
  • When someone is an expert, they can build a loyal customer base which will last for years and years.
  • Experts use more effective problem-solving strategies in their areas of expertise—that is, they’re better at solving problems that fall within their domain.
  • Being an expert will give you access to other experts.
  • In order to be able to innovate in your field, you need to have a lot of knowledge about your subject matter. The more expertise you have in an area, the more you know about that area.

In order to become an expert, you have to be really good at learning whatever it is that you want to be an expert in. That is, you have to know how to learn quickly and efficiently so that you can become an expert, and so that you can stay at the top of your field once you’re there.

The first step in becoming an expert is learning how to learn.

9. Learning How to Learn Will Make You Happier.

We all want to be happier. And learning new skills will help you with that. After all, learning is a core need for psychological wellbeing.

When you learn something new you do all of the following:

  • Increase your sense of self-efficacy.
  • Boost your self-confidence.
  • Feel that you’re in control of your life.
  • Your life will feel more meaningful when you learn skills that help to create a sense of purpose in your life.

All of these, in turn, will make you happier.

10. By Learning How to Learn You’ll Be Able to Reinvent Yourself.

Every so often we should all reinvent ourselves. As Bob Dylan says in a song: “If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.”

One of the best ways to reinvent yourself is to learn a new skill. After all, every time you learn a new skill you become a slightly different person. Look at the following:

  • A person who knows how to code in Python and can immediately get to work implementing their ideas is not the same as someone who’s not even sure what the print function is.
  • Someone who knows proper squatting technique is not the same as someone who only uses the Smith Machines because they’re intimidated by the barbells.
  • A person who can sit down at the piano at a party and play a few songs is not the same as someone who has never played a chord in their life.

By learning new skills, you can reinvent yourself in any of the following ways:

  • Go from struggling to make ends meet to financial independence.
  • Go from a job that pays the bills to a career you love.
  • Go from having low self-esteem to having high self-confidence.
  • Go from seeing only obstacles to noticing opportunities.
  • Go from being overweight and out of shape to being thin and fit.
  • Go from being fearful to having faith.
  • Go from victimhood to empowerment.

The first step is to learn how to learn.

What Skills Do You Want to Learn?

In preparation for the pilot course on learning how to learn which I’ll soon be launching, I want you to start thinking of the skills you would like to learn.

Download the two worksheets which you’ll find further down below. In the spaces provided, write down the skills that you would like to learn in the following twelve areas:

  • Technology Skills (e.g., Coding, MS Office, Photoshop)
  • Musical Skills (e.g. Singing, Piano, Composing)
  • Language Skills (e.g. Spanish, French, Arabic)
  • Business Skills (e.g. Marketing, Project Management, Networking)
  • Sports Skills (e.g. Surfing, Golf, Tennis)
  • Creative/Artistic Skills (e.g., Drawing, Creative Writing, Dance)
  • Communication Skills (e.g., Public Speaking, Persuasion, Conflict Resolution)
  • People Skills (e.g., Charisma, Teamwork, Developing Rapport)
  • Life Skills (e.g., Cooking, Running a Household, Image Management)
  • Personal Development Skills (e.g., Time Management, Decision Making, Problem Solving)
  • Finance Skills (e.g. Budgeting, Financial Planning, Investing)
  • Job Specific Skills – Skills that are specific to your job or career, e.g., lawyer, nurse, office manager, and so on.

Once you’ve written down all the skills you would like to learn, choose the one that you want to get to work on first. By the time you finish my course, “Learn Any Skill Faster and Better: How to Learn to Code, Play the Piano, Lift Weights, Speak French, Draw, Or Anything Else”, you’ll have learned that skill.

Use the two worksheets below:

Conclusion

Learning shouldn’t stop when you leave school. It should be a life-long endeavor. I hope the ten reasons I gave you above for learning how to learn will encourage to acquire this vital meta-skill.

Live your best life by learning how to learn.

 

 

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micro-steps

Sometimes the best way forward isn’t by leaps and bounds, but by taking micro-steps.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “micro”? Probably the following: extremely small; minute quantities or variations; or tiny. Micro-steps are exactly what the name implies:

“Micro-steps are minute actions that move you a little bit closer toward the achievement of your goals. Their power lies in their simplicity and painlessness. They require little effort, are utterly undaunting, and offer few hurdles–psychological or otherwise.” — Marelisa Fábrega

In this post I’m going to explain to you how micro-steps can help you to achieve even your boldest and most audacious goals.

How to Harness the Power of Micro-Steps

When trying to achieve your goals, you’ve probably faced the following challenges:

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  • A lack of time.
  • Your willpower fails you.
  • That pesky inner critic keeps sabotaging your efforts.
  • You just can’t get started, no matter how hard you try.
  • Money is an issue.
  • You find yourself in the grips of procrastination.
  • The motivation that you need to get started is nowhere to be found.

All of these challenges can be overcome by taking micro-steps. The way to take micro-steps is to choose one of the following (or combine two or more of them):

  • Make your goals exceedingly doable by setting micro-goals.
  • Set money aside for your goals by microsaving.
  • Make progress on your goals with micro-progressions.
  • Build the habits that are necessary to achieve your goals by adopting micro-habits.

There’s more on each of these below.

Set Micro-Goals

The first way to use the power of micro-steps to your advantage is by setting micro-goals. You’ve probably heard about BHAGs — Big Hairy Audacious Goals. This is a term that was coined by James Collins and Jerry Porras. Although I’m a big proponent of setting BHAGs, trying to achieve a BHAG is hard–because they’re big, and they’re hairy.

That’s where micro-goals come in. Here are the benefits of setting micro-goals:

  • Because micro-goals are so small, they’re–by definition–realistic.
  • You can easily get yourself to believe that you can achieve a micro-goal. As an illustration, it may be hard for you to believe that you can make a full-time living online, but you can probably get yourself to believe that you can make $1 online.
  • Each time you achieve a micro-goal, you feel like you’re making progress. That motivates you to pursue the next micro-goal, and then the next, and then the next. In time, those micro-goals will add up and you’ll have achieved one of your important life goals (one of your BHAGs).
  • You’ll be happier if you set micro-goals. Harvard Business Review researchers found that taking small steps allows you to experience a sense of progress more frequently, and this has been linked to greater happiness.

How to Set Micro-Goals

How do you set micro-goals? Easy: choose one of your important life goals and break it down into the tiniest goals you can think of. Here are three examples:

  • Do you want to lose 30 pounds? Start off by setting the micro-goal of losing one pound. One, little, measly pound.
  • What if you currently wake up at 8:00 a.m. but you want to join the 5 AM Club? Instead of setting the goal of waking up at 5:00 a.m., set the micro-goal of waking up at 7:55 a.m.
  • Do you want to declutter your home? Set the micro-goal of decluttering your kitchen junk drawer.

A micro-goal is so small, you can easily trick your brain into getting started. In addition, it’s so insignificant, your inner critic is likely to let it slip by without even uttering a disapproving “hmpff”. Finally, it’s over so fast, an ounce of motivation is all your need to achieve your micro-goal.

The first micro-step you should take is to set a micro-goal.

Make Microsavings

Saving money is hard–the average person has many expenses, and there are just so many things you could buy (I almost bought some crunchy slime just now, which I would have used once or twice). In addition, many goals cost money, which means that you need to save for them.

Here are three examples of the costs that are associated with different goals:

  • If your goal is to build strength by lifting weights, you have to save up for a gym membership.
  • You could set the goal of taking great photos during your upcoming trip to Paris. If that’s the case, you have to buy a camera and the photography gear that you’ll need (the right lens, extra batteries, a case for your camera, and so on).
  • What if your goal is to participate in the most scenic 10-kilometer races in the country? Then you have to save up for travel expenses.

You can set aside the money that you need in order to achieve your goals by using the concept of microsaving.

How to Start Microsaving

Microsaving consists of saving a little bit of money here and there. So little, that you barely feel it. Over time, these little bits of money add up.

One way to microsave is by downloading a microsaving app. These apps use artificial intelligence to analyze your spending. Then, they starts taking a little bit of money from your checking account here and there, and depositing those amounts in a savings account. And they do this in a way that will have very little impact on you.

If you spend little one week, the app that you choose will take more money from your account that week and save it for you. But if you overspend on another week, no money will be saved by the app that week. Drop by drop, money will be saved for you, and you will barely realize that it’s happening.

Of course, another way to microsave is by using an old-fashioned glass jar. Every day when you get home at night, simply place any loose change you have in your pockets, or in your wallet, in the jar. Then, watch how the jar slowly fills up.

Microsaving is yet another way to take advantage of the power of micro-steps.

Create Micro-Habits

One of the best ways to achieve an important goal is by turning the actions you need to take in order to achieve that goal into habits. Here are three examples:

  • If you want to lose weight, you need to create the habit of exercising on a regular basis.
  • To start a blog, you need to create the habit of writing on a regular basis.
  • If you want to acquire a new skill, you need to practice consistently.

All those who have tried adopting a new habit and failed now how hard it can be to acquire good habits. That’s where micro-habits come in. A micro-habit is an action that requires minimal effort and may appear to be inconsequential, but which slowly builds up to something meaningful.

As an illustration, suppose that you want to adopt the habit of walking on your treadmill for half-an-hour before work. You can begin by creating the micro-habit of standing on your treadmill for a few minutes as you drink your morning coffee and watch the news.

This micro-habit may seem like a total waste. You’re not even moving. Ahh. . . but once you’ve been standing on the treadmill for a few mornings, you can adopt the micro-habit of walking for one minute.

A while later you can decide to create the micro-habit of walking for five minutes. Maybe two weeks after that you decide to create the micro-habit of walking for seven minutes. Each micro-habit brings you one step closer to the habit of walking for half-an-hour before work. Sweet!

Make Micro-Progressions

Making progress toward an important goal means that you’re moving closer to the achievement of that goal. You can progress quickly, or slowly. If you progress quickly, you’ll achieve your goal sooner. However, it’s not always possible to progress quickly. Here’s why:

  • It requires more effort to make quick progress.
  • You may not be able to muster the motivation and the willpower necessary to make great strides forward.
  • There may be other things competing for your time and attention.
  • Progressing at a fast pace may be seem scary.
  • It could be that you simply don’t have the physical or mental capacity to make fast progress.

If you find that you can’t make quick progress, make slow progress. In fact, you can even make micro-progressions; progress that is so slow, it’s almost effortless.

An Example of Micro-Progression: Weightlifting

I’m going to use myself as an example of how to use micro-progressions to achieve your goals. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m a weightlifter. When you first start lifting weights, you begin with light weights–I started with the pink 5-pound dumbbells. However, you gradually progress by lifting heavier weights.

Lifting heavier weights is relatively easy, up to a certain point. Once you reach your genetic potential, lifting heavier weights gets harder. When that happens, it becomes more difficult to make progress.

That’s where micro-progression comes in. The smallest weightlifting plates at my gym weigh 2.5 pounds. This means that each time I want to make progress, I have to go up by 5 pounds (one 2.5 pound plate on each side of the bar). I’ve reached a weight at which this is really hard for me.

Therefore, I went on Amazon and bought myself 0.5 pound plates. Now, I simply put one 0.5 pound plate on each side of the bar and go up by one pound at a time. That’s a micro-progression. It’s progress that requires very little mental and/or physical effort on my part.

An added bonus of microprogressions is that you get a hit of dopamine each time you make progress on a goal. Here’s a tweet I sent out the other day:

In my post, How to Increase Dopamine to Skyrocket Your Motivation, I wrote that having high levels of dopamine in your brain leads to motivation. As I’ve already stated, each micro-progression increases the levels of dopamine in your brain, which will motivate you to make the next micro-progression.

If you’re having trouble making progress on an important goal, ask yourself what micro-progression you can make. Think of something that would be the equivalent of a 0.5 pound plate (seriously, they’re tiny and really light).

By making micro-progressions you’ll be moving toward your goal slowly, but you’ll be advancing, instead of standing still.

Conclusion

What do you think of the “micro” approach to achieving your goals? It requires little willpower, little motivation, and little effort. Try it! You may be amazed at what you achieve. Live your best life by taking micro-steps.

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