Growing new brain cells—or neurogenesis–is possible for adults.
For a long time the established dogma was that the adult brain couldn’t generate any new brain cells. That is, it was believed that you were born with a certain amount of brain cells, and that was it. And since you naturally lose brain cells as you age, after age 25 it was all downhill for your brain function.
The good news is that scientists have now discovered that you can grow new brain cells throughout your entire life. The process is called neurogenesis. Specifically, new brain cells–which are called neurons–grow in the hippocampus. This is the region of the brain that is responsible for learning information, storing long-term memories, and regulating emotions. This has many different positive implications. Here are some of the most important ways in which taking action to encourage neurogenesis can help you:
Growing new neurons can help you stave off Alzheimer’s.
Neurogenesis will help you to keep your memory sharp.
The growth of new brain cells can both treat and prevent depression, as well as help to reduce anxiety.
In order to make the most of your brain you need to do the following:
Take Care of Your Brain Cells
Grow New Brain Cells
Keep the New Neurons From Dying
These three points are explained below.
Take Care of Your Brain Cells
Before we get into how to grown new brain cells, it’s important to note that you should take steps to take care of the brain cells you already have. Right now it’s very likely that there are things you’re doing which are damaging your brain cells. These include the following:
Leaving Stress Unchecked. Stress can damage brain cells over time. Protect your brain cells by managing stress. Do things such as simplifying, meditating, and prioritizing your to-do list.
Not Getting Enough Sleep. To begin with, scientists now believe that sleep “detoxes” the brain, flushing out waste products linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation kills a particular type of brain cell called locus ceruleus (LC) neurons, which play an important role in keeping us alert and awake.
Following a Poor Diet. Eating a poor diet that’s loaded with industrial fats, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened treats is shrinking your brain. Data shows that the more junk food a person reports eating, the smaller their hippocampus tends to be.
If you’re doing any of the things above–leading a high-stress life, being sleep deprived, and eating a poor diet–, stop it. Your brain cells will thank you.
How to Grow New Brain Cells
This is where things get good. In a TED Talk, Doctor Sandrine Thuret, a neuroscientist at King’s College London, explains that until the 1990s people thought that adults couldn’t generate new brain cells. But now we know that they do.
Here, then, are 10 ways to grow new brain cells:
Eat Blueberries. Blueberries are blue due to anthocyanin dye, a flavonoid which research has linked to neurogenesis.
Indulge in Dark Chocolate. I’ve already encouraged you to eat dark chocolate in my post about longevity, as well as in my post about giving your mood a boost. Well, now it turns out that those delicious morsels of chocolaty goodness will also help you grow new neurons. This is because dark chocolate, like blueberries, contains flavonoids.
Keep Yourself Engaged. Cognitive stimulation increases hippocampal neurogenesis. What does this mean? It means that you need to keep your brain engaged: learn new skills, interact with other people, travel, try new things, and keep stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Eat Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Foods that are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids — avocados and fatty fish like tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines —promote the growth of neurons. You can also opt for flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Exercise. We can foster new brain cell growth through regular endurance exercise, such as jogging. Here’s how it works: jogging stimulates the production of a protein called FNDC5. In turn, FNDC5 stimulates the production of another protein in the brain called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which stimulates the growth of new nerves and synapses. If jogging is not your thing, try walking briskly.
Eat Turmeric. Not only does the yellow spice turmeric help with neurogenesis, but a study conducted relatively recently found that turmeric may contribute to the regeneration of a ‘damaged brain’ and help with neurological disorders. One thing you can try is to add a teaspoon of turmeric to your morning or afternoon smoothie.
Have Sex. Having frequent sex can help you to repopulate your brain (pardon the pun).
Expose Yourself to Sunlight. When your body is exposed to natural sunlight, it produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D increases levels of BDNF in the brain — as was previously mentioned, BDNF promotes neurogenesis.
Intermittent Fasting.Dr. Thuret explains that she eats every other day. On the days in which she fasts she’ll grab a big latte and then maybe later an apple and a cereal bar. The other days she eats normally. She explains that when you fast intermittently you’re mildly stressing your brain, and it’s likely that this leads to an increase in neurons so you can search for food more efficiently.
As you can see from the list above, there are lots of simple things you can do to grown new brain cells. Once you’ve grown new brain cells, you need to maintain them. You’ll discover how in the next section of this blog post.
How to Keep the New Brain Cells Alive
Everything mentioned in the section above will help you to grow new brain cells. But growing new neurons is not enough. You also have to keep the new neurons alive.
Studies show that new neurons are kept alive by learning that requires effort; this means a process that involves concentration in the present moment over an extended period of time.
In last week’s post I encouraged you to use the last 100 days of the year wisely by working on one of your most important goals for the year. The goal that I’m going to be working on is finishing my eBook on how to learn any skill fast. It’s tentatively titled:
“Learn Any Skill Fast – How to Quickly Learn to Draw, Code, Play the Piano, Create Video Courses, Weight Lift, Speak French, Play Chess, or Anything Else”.
So, be on the look out for it before the end of the year. You can use it to learn new skills so you can keep all of those new neurons you’ll be growing alive and well. 🙂
I, on the one hand, feel very optimistic about the fact that I can grow new brain cells. I hope you do too. And now I’m going to have some green tea with two squares of dark chocolate, and then spend some time on my chess game. After all, I have to put my new brain cells to good use. 🙂
Live your best life by growing new brain cells with the tips explained above. You’re in charge of your neurogenesis!
There are 100 days left of 2016 –make the most of them.
Remember all those goals you set at the start of the year? Chances are, there are at least a couple of those resolutions that you haven’t gotten around to. And time is running out. On September 23rd the countdown begins: it’s day number 1 of the last 100 days of the year (I can hear a few gasps).
What’s still on your “this year I will” list? Maybe one or more of the following:
Whatever goals you haven’t gotten around to yet, the most likely culprit is procrastination. Not to worry — in this post I’m going to tell you what to do so that you can overcome procrastination and make the most of the 100 days left of the year.
Let’s get started with a fantastic TED Talk given by Tim Urban, a person who didn’t begin writing his 90-page senior thesis until 72 hours before it was due. It’s titled, “Inside the Brain of a Master Procrastinator“. Below you’ll discover what Tim has to say.
Inside the Brain of A Master Procrastinator
A while back, Tim decided that he wanted to explain to non-procrastinators what goes on inside the head of a procrastinator. In order to do so he made a drawing of a non-procrastinator’s brain, as well as a drawing of a procrastinator’s brain. Here is the brain of a non-procrastinator:
Now, here’s the brain of a procrastinator:
As you can see, both brains have a Rational Decision-Maker standing at the helm. However, the procrastinator’s brain also comes equipped with an “Instant Gratification Monkey”. When the procrastinator wants to get to work on an important goal, the monkey–almost invariably–grabs hold of the wheel.
This means that, instead of working on the task at hand, the procrastinator ends up doing some, or all, of the following:
Reading about Albert Pierrepoint, a hangman in England who executed at least 400 people.
Dusting the ceiling fan.
Brushing up on the Spanish Civil War.
Walking to the corner drug store to pick out a new shade of nail polish.
Watching the best of late night comedy on YouTube.
Going through Pinterest to see what great DIY projects have been pinned by others lately.
Why does the monkey do this? Because the task that the rational brain wants to work on fills the monkey with dread and/or anxiety. This could be for any of the following reasons:
The monkey perceives the task is going to be difficult.
The monkey feels overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and doesn’t know how to get started.
The monkey knows that there’s a lot riding on doing well on the task and gets performance anxiety.
The monkey thinks the task is going to be really boring (and the monkey hates being bored).
Therefore, the monkey copes with these negative feelings by finding something else to do. That is, by procrastinating. Here’s an illustration of what this looks like:
So, with the Instant Gratification Monkey at the wheel, how does the procrastinator ever get anything done? The procrastinator finally manages to get things done when a third character enters the picture: the Panic Monster.
The Panic Monster is dormant most of the time. However, he wakes up whenever any of the following starts getting close:
A looming deadline;
A career disaster; or
Some other scary consequence.
The Panic Monster is the only thing that the Instant Gratification Monkey is scared of. When the monster appears, the monkey runs for the hills. With the monkey out of the way, the Rational Decision-Maker can finally take back control of the wheel and get to work on the task at hand.
This is how procrastinators tend to get things done. This is their system. It’s not a particularly good system, but, in the end, things get done.
The problem is that, once you become an adult, most of your goals won’t come with a preset deadline. Here are some examples:
You decide to learn a new skill.
There’s a MOOC that caught your eye and you decide you want to take it.
You want to write a novel.
You would like to lose 15 pounds so that you can look more fit and trim.
These are all things you would like to do, but there are no dire consequences–like failing a test or getting fired from your job–if you haven’t achieved these goals by “X” date.
Therefore, the Panic Monster–aka, your savior–doesn’t get involved. Which means that these goals never get achieved.
Tim’s solution to this quandary is something which he calls “The Life Calendar”. The calendar contains one box for every week of a 90-year life. It allows you to see–very clearly–that there is a deadline for the achievement of your goals. It looks like this:
I took Tim’s idea and applied it to the situation that we currently find ourselves in: starting on September 23rd, there are 100 days left of the year. Here’s the calendar that I came up with to illustrate this:
In the next section you’ll discover what to do with the 100-day calendar.
Make the Most of the 100 Days Left of the Year
In order to make the most of the 100 days left of the year, do the following:
1. Look back at the resolutions you set at the start of the year. Which are still unfinished? Pick one of your unfinished resolutions. You should be able to finish the resolution that you choose in the next 100 days.
If your chosen resolution can’t be completed in the next 100 days, pick a different goal or make it smaller so that it can be completed in 100 days.
2. Make sure your resolution is written down as a specific goal and not as a vague wish. Here’s an example:
Vague wish: “I want to write an eBook”.
Specific goal: “In the next 100 days I’m going to write a 160-page eBook on how to learn any skill fast. I’m going to break down the process of learning a skill into 15 steps, and write one chapter for each step.”
3. Set December 31st as the deadline for achieving your goal.
4. Resolve to work on your goal for one-hour-a-day from September 23rd until December 31st. Make sure that you pencil your one-hour-a-day into your schedule.
5. Print out this 100-day calendar and put it somewhere visible. Every day that you work on your goal put a little check mark, an “X”, or a star in the box for that day. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, don’t break the chain.
6. To make it more likely that you’ll achieve your December 31st deadline, do the following:
Make sure that the goal that you’re going to be working on is meaningful to you.
The other day I mentioned to someone that soon there would be just 100 days left of 2016. That person said to me, in a tone of voice filled with regret, “Yes, the year is almost over.” I answered, “There’s still time to get things done”. And there is, as long as you stop procrastinating and get to it.
When you fall in love with yourself you gain a deep appreciation of your own worth and capabilities. Falling in love with yourself also means that you genuinely like yourself, and you enjoy spending time alone.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.” – Oscar Wilde
There’s a lot of emphasis in our culture on romantic love. A lot of people think that finding the right partner will somehow make them “whole”, fill an inner void, and solve all of their problems.
However, another person can never do all of these things for you. You have to do them for yourself. That is, you have to fall in love with yourself. Falling in love with yourself will allow you to do all of the following:
Give yourself what you need, instead of waiting for others to do so.
Embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses.
Be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake or fail.
Be comfortable with doing things alone.
Know you’re in your corner, even if nobody else is.
Know that you’re enough.
Have the confidence to go after what you really want.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? So, how does one fall in love with oneself? I’ll tell you. Below you’ll find 10 ways to fall in love with yourself.
1. Make a List Your Accomplishments
We all have to-do list filled with all of the things that we need to get done. How about creating a list of all the things we’ve already accomplished?
Everyone should keep a running list of their accomplishments. This has numerous benefits, including the following:
It will remind you of how much you’ve achieved.
It will keep how capable and valuable you are at the forefront of your awareness.
It will help you to feel pride and admiration for yourself.
Feeling good about yourself will certainly help you to love yourself more.
2. Talk to Yourself How You Talk to People You Care About
I have two young nephews. When they were very small I discovered that if I softened my voice when I spoke to them, and I spoke sweetly, they were more likely to pay attention to what I was saying. In addition, they would soften their own demeanor toward me and I was more likely to get smiles, hugs, and kisses from them.
Lately I’ve been making it a point to make my inner voice use the same “tone of voice” that I use with my nephews. That is, I speak to myself—in my head—in a sweet, tender tone. And I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a soft-spoken person inside your head.
Of course, it’s not just the tone of voice that you use with yourself that’s important, but also the kinds of things that you say to yourself. Fall in love with yourself by saying positive, uplifting things to yourself and speaking sweetly to yourself.
3. See Yourself Through the Eyes of Someone Who Loves You
Think of someone who loves you—this can be your spouse, your child, your best friend, or an admirer. Picture that person standing there, looking at you.
What do they see?
How would they describe you?
What would they say they appreciate about you?
What would they say makes you a great friend, romantic partner, parent, and so on?
Why do they love you?
This exercise will allow you to focus on your good points, instead of dismissing them or taking them from granted. It will also help you realize how much there is in you to love.
4. If There’s Something You Don’t Like About Yourself, Change It
If there’s something you don’t like about somebody else, there’s very little you can do about it. However, if there’s something you don’t like about yourself, you can change it.
I grew up with a very critical father, so I have a tendency to be critical myself. A couple of years ago I decided that I didn’t like this about myself. Therefore, I decided to change it. I began monitoring what I was thinking and I stopped myself every time I realized that I was judging someone.
In addition, when I was talking to others I started being more careful with what I said to them, and how I said it, so that it wouldn’t sound critical. As a result of this effort, I am now much less critical than I used to be.
That is, I’m much closer to the kind of person I want to be, which makes me love myself more. Fall in love with yourself by working on yourself.
5. Fall in Love With Yourself by Working on Your Self-Trust
If you’re with someone and that person is constantly lying to you and letting you down, how much love would you feel toward that person? Probably not much. However, we do these things to ourselves all the time.
To be able to fully love yourself you have to know that you can trust yourself. You can increase your self-trust by doing the following:
Remember past instances when you’ve come through for yourself. Have retrievable memories of experiences where you were able to rely on yourself to handle a difficult situation.
Keep your promises to yourself. When you set a goal, follow through with it.
Trust your own judgment. When you have a decision to make, you can ask others for their input. However, at the end of the day do what you think is right, even if it goes against what others think you should do.
Stop arguing against yourself. Stop highlighting your flaws and limitations. Stop selling yourself short.
Bet on yourself. Back your own plan.
The more you trust yourself—the more you realize that you will always have your back–the more you can love yourself. Fall in love with yourself by making sure you can rely on yourself.
6. Take Yourself Out On Dates
My favorite food in the whole world is Indian food. There’s an Indian restaurant here in Panama that I always ask to be taken to on special occasions, and the other day I decided to go alone.
Lately I’ve become obsessed with Shakespeare, so I picked up my copy of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I, along with Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, and headed over to the Indian restaurant.
When I was done having lunch—which was fantastic–I went to a different place to have chocolate crepes for dessert (topped with strawberries and accompanied with a cappuccino, of course). I then went home and watched “The Hollow Crown”, a film adaptation of Henry IV Part I.
I had a lovely time, and it reminded me of what great company I am. 🙂
7. Treat Yo’ Self
I love giving gifts to people I care about. When I was living in Florence, Italy, my mother sent me money so that I could buy some things for myself. I used the money to get gifts for everyone back home.
When I decided that I was going to add myself to the list of people whom I love, I started getting gifts for myself. Not all the time, of course, and not extravagant gifts, but if there’s something that I really want, I treat myself.
The last time that I treated myself was about three weeks ago. I bought an acupressure mat called Spoonk. I lie down on my Spoonk for about twenty or thirty minutes every night before falling asleep. As I lie down on it and feel myself relaxing almost immediately, I invariably think:
“I’m so glad I got this for myself!”
Pampering yourself is a great way to show yourself some love.
8. Develop Positive Habits
I’ve developed many positive habits over the years. Here are some of them:
How can I not love myself when I take such good care of myself? Love yourself more by developing positive habits.
9. Listen to Yourself
We tend to be so outwardly focused—listening to other people, watching the news, reading, and so on—that a lot of the time we fail to stop and turn inward. That is, we fail to listen to ourselves. Yet one of the best ways to make ourselves feel loved is to listen to what we have to say.
One of the best ways to listen to yourself is to journal. Two journaling methods you may want to try are proprioceptive writing—a method for exploring the mind through writing–and morning pages, three pages of stream of consciousness writing which is done first thing in the morning.
Build a better relationship with yourself—and fall in love with yourself—by listening to yourself.
10. Ask Yourself What You Need
Ask yourself the following:
What do I need right now?
Do I need some alone time?
Do I need a creative outlet?
Do I need to explore different career opportunities?
Do I need to get myself out of a rut by learning something new?
Do I need to have an adventure?
How would you feel about someone who’s attuned to your needs, and then does their best to fill those needs? I don’t know about you, but I’d have an easy time falling in love with that person. Find out what you need, and then give it to yourself. Fall in love with yourself by fulfilling your needs.
Doesn’t the person above sound wonderful? They’re accomplished, they speak kindly to you, they listen to you, they’re attuned to your needs, they take good care of you, they take you out on fun dates, they’re trustworthy, and they even give you great gifts!
Wouldn’t you fall in love with that person? Of course you would. But, wait a minute . . . it’s you! Live your best life by falling in love with yourself.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it on the social media network of your choice, or email it to your friends and family. Upon doing so you will immediately receive a virtual hug–or handshake, if you prefer–from me. 🙂
An autodidact is a self-taught person. In today’s world it’s vital to be one of those people who’s capable of engaging in self-directed learning. In addition, being a self-learner will add zest to your life.
Today, being an autodidact is a must.
Throughout the ages there have been many successful people who have been autodidacts. Some of the world’s most famous autodidacts include the following:
Leonardo da Vinci
Currently, being an autodidact is both easier and more important than ever. In fact, there are those who claim that we live in the golden age of self-directed learning, or the golden age of the autodidact. After all, the internet is packed with self-learning resources. These include online courses from the world’s top universities, online academies, blogs devoted to teaching practically any subject you can think of, online book collections, and documentaries.
I have a lot of formal education, but I’m constantly learning new things through self-directed study. I proudly consider myself to be an autodidact. And if you want to succeed in the Knowledge Age, and live life to the fullest, you also need to hop on the self-directed learning wagon.
To help you get started, I’ve created a manifesto which you’ll find below.
The Autodidact Manifesto
1. I’m passionate about being a lifelong learner.
2. I’m insatiably curious.
3. I believe that knowledge is power.
4. I know that if I’m truly invested in learning something, there’s no need to go back to school to learn it.
5. I believe I can teach myself any subject if I have a serious interest in it.
6. I’m 100% responsible for my learning – I take full ownership of the process of improving myself.
7. Being an autodidact gives me the freedom to learn what I want, when I want.
8. I can be my own coach, mentor, and teacher.
9. If there’s something that I want to learn, I can figure out how to learn it. I know I can learn anything I set my mind to.
10. I make the time to learn. I include learning in my schedule.
11. I overcome inner obstacles to learning such as procrastination, fear, and perfectionism.
12. I ignore the naysayers who say that you can’t teach yourself.
13. My diploma is the project that I complete with my newly-acquired knowledge.
14. I constantly push myself to step out of my comfort zone. Instead of constantly doing what I already know how to do, I stretch myself in order to learn more.
15. I’m self-directed and I work well on my own – I don’t need someone looking over my shoulder telling me what to do.
16. I’m good at goal setting and set S.M.A.R.T. learning goals.
17. I’m good at plan creation, implementation, and iteration. When I want to learn something new I create a plan for learning it and I follow through with my plan.
18. I know that all of the information that I need is at my fingertips.
19. I have the discipline necessary to accomplish my learning goals.
20. I have the necessary grit to persist until I achieve my learning objectives.
21. I’m self-motivated — I can keep my motivation and enthusiasm for learning high.
22. I see obstacles to my learning as challenges to be overcome, not as stopping points.
23. I’m willing to put in the necessary time and effort to learn what I want.
24. I’m committed to self-learning.
25. I learn something new every day, even it’s just a new vocabulary word.
26. I move quickly from learning to doing.
27. I’m invested in learning how to learn.
28. I know that making mistakes is simply part of the learning process.
29. I can deal with the frustration and confusion that are integral components of learning.
30. I’m willing to be a beginner.
31. If one learning strategy doesn’t work, I look for a different strategy.
32. As I learn I make careful self-assessments and adjustments.
33. Those who have the most success with learning are those who try the hardest.
34. I learn actively, not passively.
35. I share what I learn with others.
You can achieve anything you want by acquiring the necessary skills. And if you don’t have the necessary skills, you can acquire them through self-learning. Live your best life by becoming an autodidact.
Setting limits will help you to achieve your goals.
We live in a society that scoffs at setting limits. You often hear phrases like the following:
The sky’s the limit.
Aim to have it all.
Don’t limit yourself.
I would argue that you should definitely dream big and examine any subconscious limits that may be holding you back. However, an important step in achieving your goals and turning your dreams into reality is to set carefully chosen limits. After all, limits help to define, give shape, and add substance to your dreams. During the past few years I’ve set several limits for myself that have been of great use in helping me to achieve my goals. I’m going to share nine of them with you so that you can consider applying these limits in your own life.
Below you’ll find 9 limits that will drastically improve your quality of life.
1. Limit the Amount of Food You Eat.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths is that I’m very consistent when it comes to exercising. I’ve shared on this blog that I’m a runner and a weightlifter. I carry out both of these activities on a regular basis and seldom miss one of my workout sessions.
One of my weaknesses is food. I love eating. You may have heard that you can’t outrun food, and I can attest to the truth of this statement. A while back I was in great shape because of all the exercise I was getting, but I also weighed more than I should because I was overeating.
For me, the solution to the problem of overeating was portion control. That is, to limit the amount of food that I was ingesting.
There are many ways to do this. One way is to simply use the size of your hand to gauge portion sizes. For example, one serving of protein is the size of the palm of your hand. In addition, women should have one serving of protein with each meal, while men should have two.
After all, you can’t possibly grow pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, lavender, roses, tomatoes, sweet peppers, spinach, snow peas, red cabbage, chrysanthemums, pansies, hydrangeas, and so on, all at the same time.
In much the same way, you can’t achieve all of your life goals at once. Instead, you need to choose a few life goals to work on each year. That is, limit your New Years’ Resolutions, or yearly goals, to 5 or 7.
If you try to work on too many goals at the same time, you won’t be able to give any of them the time, energy, and attention that they need. This means that you won’t make any real progress on any of them.
Look at the two situations below:
Ann sets 10 goals at the start of the year and spends the next 12 months trying to move all of them forward. They’re ambitious goals, ranging from learning French to writing a novel. By the 31st of December she’s made a little progress with each goal, but she hasn’t succeeded in achieving any of them.
Billy sets 5 goals at the start of the year: to spend more time with his family; to start a blog; to lose 15 pounds; to travel with his family to Spain for summer vacation; and to run a 10K. By the end of the year he’s accomplished all of them.
By limiting the number of goals that you work on in any given year, you’ll make it much more likely that you’ll be able to achieve your goals.
3. Limit Yourself to One Important Thing for the Day
For each day you should identify one important thing that you’re going to achieve that day. That is, your highest priority for the day. It could be something like the following:
Write a 1500-word blog post;
Create a 10-minute video;
Prepare the slides for the presentation for the Board of Directors;
Learn to conjugate French “er” verbs in the present tense; and so on.
Try to get your most important thing done first thing in the morning—start each day by eating a live frog. That way, even if your plans for the rest of the day go astray, at least you’ll have gotten the most important thing done. Imagine a whole year in which you got one high priority item done each day!
4. Limit Your To-Do List to Important Tasks
We’re all familiar with Stephen Covey’s time management matrix. The matrix uses four different quadrants to help you determine the priority of a task. In turn, the four quadrants are organized by importance and urgency. Here’s the matrix:
As you can see, the items in the top two quadrants are important, while the items in the bottom two quadrants are not. You should try to limit the tasks that you include in your to-do list for each day to those that fall into one of the top two quadrants.
Avoid tasks that fall into the Quadrant of Deception, and eliminate the tasks that fall into the Quadrant of Waste.
5. Limit the Amount of Time You Allot to Each Task
Once you have your to-do list ready for the day, calculate the amount of time that you’re going to need to complete each task.
Then, when you’re working on the task, make sure that you don’t exceed the time that you’ve set aside for it. After all, as the famous Parkinson’s Law states, work expands to fit the amount of time that is allotted to it.
This limit will do two things for you:
It will help you to focus on the task at hand since you know it has to be completed within a specific time frame.
It helps you to deal with perfectionism. Your goal isn’t to produce something perfect, but to do the best that you can within the time that you have available.
6. Limit the Items You Add to Your Schedule
When you’ve assigned a time limit to each task on your to-do list, add the tasks to your schedule. That way, you’ll know when to work on what task.
As an added benefit, having a full schedule will help you to limit your to-do list. After all, if a new task comes in during the day—unless it’s something really urgent—you’ll have to set it aside to be done on another day because your schedule is already full.
7. Limit Yourself to Working on the Task at Hand
There are some instances in which you can multitask. For example, you can listen to an audiotape while you go for a run, you can cook dinner while you do the laundry (which is what I’m going to do as soon as I finish this blog post), or you can answer the phone while responding to a run-of-the-mill email.
However, for tasks that require deep, uninterrupted thought, you need to unitask. That is, you need to limit yourself to working on the task at hand to the exclusion of everything else.
8. Limit Your Work Hours
Limit the amount of time that you spend working. There’s a correlation between working hours and output. With higher work hours, labor output falls. Knowing that there’s a cap on your work hours will make you more productive and it will help you to stave off procrastination.
While a lot of people think that the more that you work the more you’ll be able to get done—I used to be one of those people—this is simply not the case. To do more, limit the number of hours that you work.
9. Limit Your Belongings
A few years back I considered renting a storage unit. Then, thankfully, I came to my senses and started decluttering instead. One way to limit your belongings is to choose a specific quantity that you’re going to limit yourself to for each category of items that you own.
For example, I only allow myself to own one perfume at a time. I choose the perfume that I’m going to buy very carefully, and then I stick to it until the bottle is empty. At that point I decide whether to try a different perfume or buy another bottle of the same one.
The only category of items I haven’t been able to stick to a limit for is books. 🙂
In order to achieve your goals, set limits. You can get started by setting the 9 limits I’ve explained above. Live your best life by setting limits.
I love gardens. Although I currently live in an apartment building, I grew up in a house—in Costa Rica–that was surrounded by a large garden. The garden had mango trees, blackberry shrubs, rows of corn stalks, a lemon tree, and all kinds of flowers. In addition, my father had hired a landscape architect who had created a tiny creek complete with a waterfall and a small pond.
I spent many hours out in that garden, climbing trees, picking fruit, playing with my brother and sister, lying on the grass, hiding when I had misbehaved, and chasing our German Shepherd dogs around. Today I was thinking about that garden and it occurred to me that gardening is a great metaphor for life. After all, nature is a great teacher and there are many life lessons that can be learned by spending time out in the natural world.
I sat down to write and came up with this post on the garden as a metaphor for life. Below you’ll find 10 life lessons you can learn from gardening.
1. Have a Vision for Your Garden.
When you’re going to plant a garden you have to create a vision for it. You don’t just grab whatever seeds you can get your hands on, throw them around willy-nilly, and hope for the best. Instead, you have to ask yourself what type of garden you want, the purpose you want your garden to serve, what you want to grow in your garden, and how you want your garden laid out.
Just as you should have a vision for your garden, you should have a vision for your life. What kind of life do you want to have? What’s your life’s mission? What do you want to achieve? What do you want to do, have, and experience?
Imagine walking out your back door into a garden that doesn’t look anything like your dream garden. Maybe it’s overgrown, it’s decorated with garden paraphernalia you can’t stand to look at, it has no fruits or vegetables, and you can only find one or two of your favorite flowers. That’s what your life will look like if you don’t create a vision for it.
2. You Need to Prioritize.
When you’re planning your garden you can start by creating a wish list of everything you want to grow there: tomatoes; geraniums; pumpkins, watermelons, strawberries, green beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, forget-me-not flowers, zucchini, sunflowers, and on and on.
However, you then need to trim down your list to the plants that you feel are the most important for you to grow. Keep in mind that your garden is a limited space, and you can’t possibly grow everything at once. If you try, you’ll end up with a huge mess that will soon be unmanageable.
In much the same way, when you’re planning your dream life you can start out by creating a list of everything you want to do. Then, you need to prioritize your list and get to work on the things you want most. After all, you can’t train for a marathon, learn to play an instrument, start a business, and write a novel all at once.
Plant the seeds that will bear the fruit that are most important to you. Then, the next year–if you wish–, you can try planting different seeds. You just can’t plant too many things at the same time.
3. You Need Good Soil.
Whatever it is that you decide to plant in your garden, it won’t grow well unless you have healthy soil. A gardener spends a lot of time, energy, and expense to improve the soil of their garden and create a strong, rich, durable soil.
They do this by adding compost, manure, and other nutrients to the soil in order to create an environment that is conducive to vibrant growth. Creating a truly great soil can take years. But by laying down this strong foundation it will be much more likely that the garden will yield a beautiful, strong crop.
In the same way, you need to build a strong foundation for your dreams. You achieve this by doing the following:
Getting the education that you need and learning the skills that will allow you to achieve your goals.
Creating spatial order – decluttering and getting organized.
Getting your financial life in order – creating and following a budget, getting out of debt, and starting an emergency fund.
When you’ve made your soil fertile—when you’ve laid out a strong foundation for your dreams–you can dramatically improve its productivity.
4. You Reap What You Sow.
Gardeners know that they reap what they sow. If they want tomatoes, they plant tomato seeds. They don’t plant hemlock seeds and then wonder why there’s a poisonous plant growing in their garden instead of delicious, bright red tomatoes.
Many people take a look at their lives, they don’t like what they see, and they wonder what went wrong. The answer is that they planted the wrong seeds. Look at the following:
Instead of eating well and exercising, they overate and watched too much TV.
Instead of spending time bonding with their spouse, they spent too many hours at the office.
Instead of saving and investing their money, they bought things they didn’t need to impress other people.
When I was in law school I had a friend who came from a very humble background. Nonetheless, he was very bright, he was studious, and he was constantly looking for ways to better himself. That’s how he had made his way into one of the top law schools in the United States. His brother, on the other hand, was a high school drop-out who was always looking for an easy way out.
Today my friend is a highly successful lawyer, while his brother has been in trouble with the law a few times and can barely make ends meet. It’s clear that since each brother planted different seeds, they each got very different results.
Ask yourself what you want, and then make sure that you’re planting the seeds that will get you those results.
5. Assess Your Garden’s Conditions.
Different plants need different environments to thrive. How well a plant will do in your garden depends on many different factors, including the following:
Climate and temperature.
Amount of sunlight.
Amount of water.
The pH levels of the soil – how acid or alkaline the soil is.
Exposure to wind.
The other plants and animals in the environment.
In life, when you set goals you need to take into account things such as the following:
Your likes and dislikes.
Your character and temperament.
The people who surround you.
Depending on what these factors are, some goals will be much easier for you to achieve than others. So make sure that you choose goals that are a good fit for you.
In addition, the environment that you find yourself in will have an enormous impact on whether or not you’ll be able to achieve your goals. I recently read an anecdote about a woman who had gorgeous yellow Texas climbing roses that grew up along a fence. Her neighbors had a young pine tree.
One year the pine tree had grown large enough to cast a shadow over the roses for most of the day. As a result, the roses withered and died. The woman spent three or four summers trying to salvage the roses, to no avail. The circumstances in her garden were now such that roses couldn’t possibly thrive there, no matter what she did.
This anecdote made me think of the time that I spent working at the Panama Canal Authority—the Panamanian government agency that runs the Panama Canal. It’s an incredibly bureaucratic entity, but I simply didn’t fully comprehend that while I was there.
I would work overtime; take responsibility for projects that were not part of my position description; take the courses—on my own time—that were important to management; try to institute change; and so on. In the end, I had nothing to show for my efforts. The environment I was in was simply not conducive to change or improvement.
When setting your goals, take inventory of who you are, and analyze the environment and the circumstances you find yourself in.
6. Build a Fence Around Your Garden.
If you want a pest-free garden, you need to build a fence around it. The last thing you want is to look out at your garden and spot a furry creature munching away at your carefully planted crops. In much the same way, you should build a fence around your goals. That is, set boundaries.
Here’s what you should do:
Keep naysayers and toxic people at arm’s length.
Say “no” to unwanted commitments.
Block out time to work on your goals and refuse to allow interruptions or distractions to take your attention away from the task at hand.
7. A Garden Needs Constant Tending.
After you’ve prepared your soil and planted your seeds, there’s still lots of work to do in your garden. A garden requires constant care and attention. You need to do all of the following:
Set a watering schedule.
Pull weeds regularly, or crabgrass and all kinds of unwelcome weeds will sprout up.
Prune trees, shrubs, and bushes—cut away dead or overgrown branches or stems.
Check to see how the plants are growing and take corrective action if necessary.
Just as a garden needs constant tending, so do your goals and dreams. Make sure that you take the action necessary to achieve your goals on a continuous basis. It’s the only way you’ll get your goals to bear fruit.
As an example, suppose that your goal is to write a novel. You have to do all of the following:
Set a writing schedule and stick to it.
Beware of “weeds” such as mindless internet surfing and other forms of procrastination; self-doubt; perfectionism; and so on. When you come across one of these weeds, immediately pull it out.
Prune away tasks and projects that are not as important to you as writing a novel.
If you need some inspiration, read a book on writing or read writing quotes.
Ask someone you trust to read each chapter as you finish it and give you constructive feedback that you can apply to make your novel even better.
Devote one-hour-a-day to tending your most important goal so that it can grow nice and strong.
8. Have Patience and Trust the Process.
There’s a quote by John Wenger that states, “You can’t pull on the plants and expect them to grow faster.” That is, you can’t force a seed to grow faster than nature intended it to, and you can’t make trees bear fruit on demand.
All you can do is create the best possible conditions in your garden, plant the right seeds, and give those seeds the care and attention they need. Then, trust that nature will take care of the rest.
When it comes to your goals, you also have to be patient and trust the process. Maybe you want your blog to have 10,000 subscribers; or you want your business to generate a million dollars in sales; or there’s a particular award that you want to win. You can’t force these things to happen.
All you can do is take the action that is most likely to produce the results that you want, and then patiently await the results.
9. Learn to Deal with Things Outside of Your Control
Gardeners know that sometimes it doesn’t rain as much as it should, so the plants don’t get the amount of water that they need and their growth is stunted or they die. Or it rains too much and the roots drown. In addition, there are many other things which are not within their control that can damage the garden—the climate, diseases, a bug infestation, and so on.
In much the same way, as you’re working on your goals it’s almost certain that you’ll run into obstacles and that you’ll suffer some unforeseen setbacks. That’s just the way it is. Be flexible and look for ways to keep moving forward.
10. Reap Your Harvest.
After all your hard work, your garden should start producing a bountiful crop, ready to be picked. Similarly, if properly executed, a good life plan will produce bountiful rewards: you’ll have a career you love, financial security, good relationships, fond memories of trips and adventures, and so on.
On the other hand, if the harvest wasn’t as bountiful as you would have liked it to be, or if some plants failed to bear fruit, analyze went wrong. Then, come up with a different strategy and try again!
So, what do you want your garden to look like? What seeds will you plant? What steps will you take to tend your garden? Live your best life by being a good life gardener.
Imagine waking up every morning with an indefinable feeling of happiness and contentment.
Harvard-trained positive psychologist Shawn Achor–author of the New York Times bestseller “The Happiness Advantage“–has made a career out of studying the science of happiness. His TED talk on happiness is one of the most popular of all time with over 13 million views. Achor argues that, as a society, our focus is on productivity, and we’ve ignored happiness and meaning. And we’ve done this to our detriment. After all, studies show that having a happy brain gives us a competitive advantage at work, and in life.
Here are some of these advantages:
When the human brain is positive, intelligence rises. This is because we stop diverting resources to worry and to feeling anxious.
Happiness triples our creativity.
When we’re happy our productive energy rises by 31 percent.
Being happy makes you more effective — happy workers make less errors than their unhappy counterparts.
Achor explains that the traditional formula of “I’ll strive to be successful so that I can be happy once I’ve achieved my goals” is wrong. Instead, you have to flip it around. Invest in becoming happy now, so that you can be successful in the future.
In order to help his students and clients apply the principles that he teaches, Achor set out to identify small, simple habits that can be done every day that will increase happiness levels. He uncovered six habits that can be done by anyone–regardless of age–in order to rewire their brain for happiness.
Below you’ll find Achor’s six happiness habits, as well as a method that I developed for making sure that you follow through on the six habits.
The Six Habits that Will Rewire Your Brain For Happiness
Here are the six habits that Achor came up with:
1. Gratitude List.
Every night, spend two minutes writing down three things you’re grateful for that occurred during the last 24 hours. It doesn’t have to be anything profound, but it does have to be specific. For instance, instead of being grateful for your child, be grateful for the big smile and sticky hug that your child gave you that morning.
Due to your brain’s innate negativity bias, you’re usually scanning the environment for threats. However, when your brain knows that it has to come up with three things to be grateful for each night, it will start to do the opposite. It will start scanning the environment for positives.
This brings your brain into better balance. It also retrains your brain so that it will start seeing more possibilities.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t write down the same three things every night. You want to get your brain to scan the world and notice new things to be happy about. Therefore, make it a rule not to repeat something you’ve already written about.
2. The Doubler.
Take one positive experience from the past 24 hours and spend two minutes writing about the experience. Aim to write down at least four details about the experience.
This is helpful because when you take a moment to remember a positive experience, your brain labels it as meaningful, which deepens the imprint. In addition, it allows you to relive the positive experience–along with the positive feelings that came with it (hence the name, the doubler).
3. The Fun Fifteen.
The effects of daily cardio can be as effective as taking an antidepressant. Hence, one of the six happiness habits is to engage in 15 minutes of a fun cardio activity every day. This includes activities such as gardening, rebounding on a mini-trampoline, and briskly walking your dog.
Achor adds that your brain records exercise as a victory, and this feeling of accomplishment transfers to other tasks throughout the day. It also teaches your brain to believe, “My behavior matters”, which also enhances happiness.
Every day take two minutes to stop whatever you’re doing and concentrate on your breathing. Just focus on your breath moving in and out. Even a short mindful break can lower stress and result in a calmer, happier you.
When Achor got Google employees to stop what they were doing for two minutes a day and just focus on their breath, here’s what happened 21 days later:
Their accuracy rates improved by 10%;
Their levels of happiness rose; and
Their engagement scores rose significantly.
Meditation will rewire your brain and allow it to work more optimistically and successfully.
5. Conscious Act of Kindness.
Being kind to others feels good, and carrying out an act of kindness each day is a great happiness booster.
Achor recommends that at the start of every day you send a short email or text praising someone you know. An added bonus is that it’s very likely that the other person will respond with an appreciate comment about you.
Nonetheless, your act of kindness can be anything:
Hold the elevator door open for someone.
When you go on a coffee run ask a co-worker if you can get a coffee for him as well.
Let someone who seems to be in a hurry cut ahead of you in line.
Even something small and simple like giving someone a smile works.
6. Deepen Social Connections.
Our social connections affect our success and health, and even our life expectancy. In addition, having a feeling of social support is vital for happiness. In fact, Achor’s studies show that social connection is the greatest predictor of happiness.
Have some contact with family and friends each day, even if it’s just calling them to chat for two or three minutes, or texting them to meet up for brunch on Sunday.
The Happiness Journal (Free)
Achor explains that if you follow the six habits explained above daily, for 21 days, you’ll be transformed from a pessimist to an optimist. In addition, within 30 days, following these habits will change the neuropathways of your brain and turn you into a lifelong optimist. That’s quite an assertion.
Let’s try it and see if it works, shall we? How? By filling out the Happiness Journal that I’ve created based on Achor’s six habits. I’m going to share it with you, because I’m just that awesome. 🙂 The journal will allow you to record your practice of the six happiness habits for thirty days.
Here’s what the journal contains:
A cover page.
An instructions page — basically, what you already read above.
Thirty journal pages — write down the date at the top of each page and read the happiness quote for the day. Then, write down three things you’re grateful for, a positive experience for the day, and your act of kindess for the day. At the bottom of the page there’s space for you to check off if you exercised, meditated, and connected with someone.
Here’s what each journal page looks like:
You can download the Happiness Journal, for free, here. And if you’re not currently subscribed to Daring to Live Fully, you can subscribe by clicking here.
Go ahead and rate your current happiness level on a scale from 1 to 10. Then, download the Happiness Journal, print it out, and spend the next 30 days filling it out. At the end of that time, rate your happiness level again.
Did your happiness level go up? If all the scientific data collected by Achor is correct, your answer will a resounding “Yes!”.
Starting this blog–Daring to Live Fully–is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I use my blog for all of the following:
As a creativity outlet and as a way to express myself.
As a medium for fleshing out my ideas.
As a money-maker — as a recovering lawyer, I now make a full-time living from my blog.
As a way to be recognized as a thought-leader in the areas of personal development, productivity, and self-learning.
As a way to sharpen my business skills.
As a way to help and inspire others to live their best lives.
As a way to create a legacy.
In addition, in the future I might choose to write a book and have it published through traditional means. In that case, my blog would be a platform that I can use to promote and market my book.
Here are some other ways people use their blogs:
To create a portfolio of their work which they can show to prospective employers or clients.
As a hobby.
As a way to document a journey — a weight loss journey, a home renovation project, a journey to financial independence, and so on.
To tell you the truth, I knew absolutely nothing about blogging when I first got started. In addition, I don’t have a background in technology — when I published my first blog post I was a total newbie when it came to anything technology-related.
However, one of my life mottos is, “I can figure anything out if I set my mind to it”. So, I took the plunge and started to blog.
Soon, I discovered that blogging is a lot easier than it looks, and that –with a little effort–I could in fact figure out everything that I needed to know to become a successful blogger. Also, technology gets more user-friendly every day, so it’s a lot easier to get started blogging today than it was when I got started.
Basically, all you need to do to start a blog is follow 10 easy steps. These are the 10 steps:
Step 1 – Believe that You Can Become a Blogger
Step 2 – Choose a Topic/Niche
Step 3 – Choose A Name and A Domain For Your Blog
Step 4 – Choose a Blogging Platform
Step 5 – Choose a Hosting Provider
Step 6 – Setting Things Up
Step 7 – Choose a Theme For Your Blog
Step 8 – Write and Publish Your First Blog Post
Step 9 – Pick Up Additional Skills As You Go Along
Step 10 – Devote One-Hour-A-Day to Blogging
I’m going to take you through these steps, one-by-one.
Step 1 – Believe You Can Become a Blogger
Whatever it is that you want to do–whether it’s to make more money, learn a new language, or start a blog–the first step is to believe that you can do it. Here are some of the beliefs you should adopt in order to gain the necessary confidence to start a blog you can be proud of:
I have value to offer to the world.
Even though I don’t know how to blog yet, I have the ability to learn everything that I need to know.
My blog doesn’t have to be perfect. It will get better as I learn more and become more skilled at blogging.
I know that I’ll make some mistakes at first, but that’s OK. I’ll learn from my mistakes and get better as I gain more experience.
The only failure is the failure to try.
I’m going to be daring, bold, and audacious and get my thoughts and ideas out there.
I can do this!
With your new found belief that you have what it takes to become a great blogger, you’re ready to move on to Step 2 and decide what you’re going to blog about.
Step 2 – Choose a Topic/Niche
The first decision that you have to make in order to start a blog is to determine what you’ll be blogging about. When you choose your blog’s niche, or topic, you need to take two basic things into consideration:
Choose something that you’re interested in writing about. You have to enjoy writing about the topic that you select, or you’ll get bored after a few months of blogging and quit.
There has to be an audience for your topic — that is, choose something that other people will be interested in reading about. This is particularly important if you want to make money from your blog.
Here’s a Venn diagram that I came up with to visually represent what your blog topic should be:
You can really start a blog about anything:
Review books that you’re reading — Bill Gates has a blog in which he writes about the books he’s reading.
Give yourself a challenge and blog about it — one man gave himself the challenge of having 52 new experiences in 52 weeks, and he blogged about it.
Become a mommy blogger and blog about your kids’ shenanigans.
Write about recipes and cooking tips.
Write about getting over a divorce, raising a special needs child, or going back to college after 40.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide on a blog topic:
What do I love reading about?
What do I love to do?
How do I spend my free time?
What am I good at?
What problems do I know how to solve?
What kinds of blogs do I visit on a regular basis? What do my favorite bloggers write about?
What do my family members and friends ask me for advice on?
What would I like to know more about?
Who do I want to write for? What do they want to know?
Keep in mind that you don’t have to be an expert on a topic in order to write about it. You just need to be willing to do the necessary research to find out enough about the topic so that you can start writing about it with some authority.
Another tip is not to make your blog’s topic too broad or too narrow. Take a look at the following:
You may have lots of interests, but if you write about fishing one day, you post about your favorite book the next week, and then you write about the steps that you’re taking to train your dog to do tricks the week after that, you’ll just confuse your readers.
At the same time, if your topic is too narrow you’ll probably have a very small audience and it-s likely that you’ll run out of things to say after publishing a few blog posts.
Make your blog’s topic broad enough that you’ll have lots of people searching for the information you’ll be offering and so that you’ll have lots to say, but also narrow enough that people will know what to expect when they land on your blog.
Here’s a scene from the movie “Julie and Julia” in which the protagonist decides to start a blog and wonders what she should blog about:
Here’s what I recommend you do:
Give yourself five minutes to brainstorm 100 possible blog topics.
Whittle that list down to your favorites.
Rank the topics left on your list by using criteria such as the following: how passionate you are about the topic; how knowledgeable you are about the topic; and how likely it is that you’ll be able to make money by writing about that topic.
Once you’ve ranked your topic, the one with the highest score wins. You have a blog topic!
I decided to start a new blog — it’s going to be about becoming well-educated and well-read (a subject which is near and dear to my heart). I’m going to show you how I start this new blog and you can follow along and start your own blog. Sound good? Let’s go.
Step 3 – Choose A Name and A Domain For Your Blog
The next step on your blogging journey is to come up with a good name for you blog. A good name has all of the following elements:
It let’s people know what your blog is about –it’s descriptive.
It’s catchy and memorable.
It’s easy to pronounce and spell.
It’s not too long.
It helps you to build your brand.
It’s in line with the tone/mood that you want for your blog (serious, funny, sassy, inspiring, and so on).
As you can see from my header, my blog’s name is “Daring to Live Fully”. I’m very happy with the name, and I think it helps anyone who lands on my blog to know right away that they’re going to find advice, tips, strategies, and information on how to live their best lives here.
The name of my new blog will be “A Liberal Education in 15 Minutes a Day”. Why? Because I’m going to choose the 365 most important classic works and create a summary of each that can be read in 15 minutes.
Once you’ve chosen a name for your blog, you can select a domain name. Your domain name is just your blog’s URL. As an illustration, the domain name for my blog is daringtolivefully.com. In most cases, you should favor the domain extension “.com”.
The URL for my new blog will be liberaledu15.com. Originally I thought of making it 15minuteliberaleducation.com, but that’s too long. I played around with the words “liberal”, “education”, and “15 minutes”, until I found a combination I liked.
If you’re having trouble naming your blog, one option is to use your full name. Then your domain would just be your name as well. Here are two examples:
If your name is “Edith Taylor”, then that would be your blog’s name and your domain would be edithtaylor.com.
If your name is “Matt Smith”, then that would be your blog’s name and your domain would be mattsmith.com.
Later on you can add a tagline that describes what your blog is about (my current tagline for Daring to Live Fully is “Live the Length and Width of Your Life”). Here are three examples of how you can use a tagline to let visitors know what your blog is about:
If your blog is about home decor, your tagline could be “Simple, Elegant Decor”.
If you’re going to write about business your tagline could be “Business Advice You Can Trust”.
If you’re going to share the parenting tips that you’ve picked up as you raise your kids, your tagline could be “Raising Happy, Confident Kids”.
The tagline for my new blog is going to be “Become Well-Educated in 365 Days”.
Again, you can come up with your tagline after you have a few blog posts under your belt and you have a better feel for the direction your blog is going to be taking.
When you’ve chosen your domain name, you have to register it. This typically costs about $10 – $12. However, the hosting provider that I’m going to recommend in Step 5 is Bluehost, and you can register your domain name with them as you set up your hosting account, so I’ll be covering domain registration in Step 5.
Step 4 – Choose a Blogging Platform
There are many blogging platforms out there, and they’re basically divided into two categories: hosted (or free) and self-hosted.
Some of the free blogging platforms out there include the following:
The good thing about a hosted platform is that it’s free. The bad thing is that the site isn’t really yours, and you have a lot less freedom to do what you want with it than you would with a self-hosted site.
The three most popular self-hosted platforms are these:
WordPress.org (yes, another WordPress platform, but this one is .org and is self-hosted)
If you want to have complete control over your blog, then you need a self-hosted platform. With self-hosting your blog will be 100% your property, and you can build it from the ground up as you see fit.
WordPress.org is by far the most widely used self-hosted platform, and the one that I would most definitely recommend. It’s flexible and easy to use. In addition, there are tons of plugins available for WordPress.org which will improve your site’s functionality.
One of the benefits of using Bluehost as your hosting provider–as I recommend that you do in Step 5 below—is that you can install WordPress.org with just one easy click.
Step 5 – Choose a Hosting Provider
A hosting provider basically connects your site to the worldwide web so that it’s accessible to others. It’s vital to choose the right hosting provider. I cannot emphasize this enough.
I made the mistake of choosing the wrong hosting provider when I first started blogging, and that hosting provider went bankrupt and disappeared. As a result of this, I lost my first blog and all of the hard work that I had put into it. Needless to say, this was an incredibly painful experience, which I don’t want you to have to go through.
Some of the things that you should consider when choosing a hosting provider are the following:
The hosting provider’s reputation for reliability.
The technical support that they offer.
The features that they have available.
Their money-back guarantee.
Taking all of these things into consideration, I recommend Bluehost.com. Here’s why:
You get a free domain–as you’re setting up your account with them you simply enter the domain that you want, and it’s registered.
As I mentioned before, you can install WordPress.org with one simple click.
They have 24/7 support, so there’s always someone available to help you and answer your questions. The Bluehost support staff is courteous and knowledgeable.
They score a 99.9% uptime on average, which means your site is always available.
They’re very affordable.
They allow their users to host multiple domains and websites under one account.
They have a 30-day money-back guarantee — during the first 30 days, they’ll refund your hosting fees in full.
Set-up is really easy and intuitive – just follow the instructions and you can have your blog up and running in five minutes.
Are you ready? Go to the Bluehost.com site and click on the green “get started now” button. (Yes, I’m an affiliate so I get a commission if you sign up for Bluehost through my link, but you don’t pay anything extra for signing up through me). Then, just follow along with video I made for you below:
Step 6 – Setting Things Up
Since I recommend that you choose WordPress.org as your blogging platform, this is the platform that I’m going to show you how to set up. Once you’ve installed WordPress.org, log into the “administration area” or the back end of your site. This is your “dashboard”, and it’s where the magic happens.
Then, take the following steps:
Go to Settings > General. Fill out your tagline if you have one (right now it should say “Just Another WordPress Site”), choose your timezone, and save your changes.
Go to Users > Your Profile. Fill out your first and last names, choose a nickname (it can be your first name), and the name you want to display publicly. You can also add some biographical information if you want to. Save your changes.
Go to Settings > Permalinks. Check “custom structure” and write in the following: /%postname%/
Now you’re all set up.
Step 7 – Choose a Theme For Your Blog
Once you’ve created your account with Bluehost.com and installed WordPress.org, you’ll have a blog. Yay! The next step is to make it look the way you want it to. You do this by selecting a theme.
In your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes. The theme “Twenty-Sixteen” will already be activated, but look through the other themes there and see if there’s another one you prefer. If so, install it. You can also visit the WordPress Theme Directory, where you’ll find hundreds of free themes you can choose from.
Alternatively, you can purchase a premium theme. Premium themes have a higher quality and more functionality than the free themes. They’re also better for search engine optimization, which means that if you use a premium theme it’s more likely that your blog posts will rank well in the search engines.
The most popular premium themes right now are these three:
Thesis WordPress Theme
This blog uses the Thesis theme, and I would have recommended them in a heartbeat a couple of years ago. However, the theme has been updated several times and somehow they’ve managed to make it more complicated and harder to use. Therefore, if you’re a complete blogging newbie, I would not recommend that you get Thesis.
Instead, I would recommend the Thrive Themes. Here’s why:
Their themes are conversion focused, which means that they’re designed to help you sell more.
Their themes have built-in functionalities so you don’t need as many plugins–this means your site will be faster.
With Thrive Themes you can create landing pages and optin forms in minutes.
Of course, you can start out with a free theme and update to a premium theme later on. That’s what I did when I started my first blog.
Step 8 – Publish Your First Blog Post
After you’ve chosen a theme for your blog, you’re ready to start blogging. Click on Posts > Add New. And there you go. Write your first post.
What should your first blog post be about? One idea is to talk a little about yourself, your interests and accomplishments, why you decided to start a blog, and what your blog will be about. However, what you decide to write about is completely up to you!
Always keep in mind that each time you write a blog post your goal should be to strive to create value for others. Ask yourself questions such as the following:
Will this post help people solve a problem that they’re having?
Will this post give people information that they need?
Will this post inspire or motivate others?
Will others find this post entertaining, filled with beauty, instructional, or helpful in some other way?
Your blog posts can be as short or as long as you want them to be, but it’s a good idea to shoot for about 600 words. In addition, you want to post consistently. This doesn’t mean that you need to post daily, but you should post on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is to post once a week, and to always post on the same day of the week.
Step 9 – Pick Up Additional Skills and Knowledge As You Go Along
The first eight steps that I’ve explained above are all you need to know in order to start blogging. In fact, you could blog for years without knowing how to do anything else. However, in order to become a successful blogger there are many more things that you need to know.
Blogging, like anything else, is a skill. And, like any skill, it can be learned. When you want to learn a new skill the first thing that you need to do is to deconstruct it into is various components. Then, just tackle one at a time.
Off the top of my head, here’s how I would deconstruct blogging:
How to Customize Your Theme’s Design
How to Write Catchy Headlines
How to Come Up With a Unique Selling Proposition for Your Blog
How to Write Content That’s Optimized for the Internet
How to Increase Your Blog Traffic
How to Build a Loyal Blog Audience
How to Submit Guest Posts to Other Blogs
How to Re-purpose Your Content
Search Engine Optimization
Social Networking (FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and so on)
How to Monetize Your Blog
How to Create eBooks
How to Take Beautiful Photographs for Your Blog
How to Create Useful Printables
How to Pick the Best Plugins for Your Blog
I would like to emphasize that you don’t need to know how to do everything related to blogging in order to get started. When I started blogging I didn’t know how to do any of the things on the list above. Nonetheless, I got started.
I learned how to make my blog better little-by-little as I went along. After all, it’s always a good strategy to learn by doing. I recommend that you do the same: just start your blog and improve it gradually day-by-day by acquiring new skills and trying out different things.
Step 10 – Devote One-Hour-A-Day to Blogging
One of the reasons that you may be hesitating to start a blog is because you may be telling yourself that you simply don’t have the time to blog. However, blogging doesn’t have to take over your life. It’s something that you can do on the side, even if you lead a busy life.
In fact, once you have your blog up and running, all you need to do is devote one-hour-a-day to writing your blog posts and learning the skills that I mentioned in Step 9 above. You’ll be a blogging expert in no time!
To conclude, here’s a two-step summary of the instructions contained in this blog post:
There’s lots of little things you can do to boost your mood.
Today, as I walked to the organic foods store, a car drove by. I won’t go into detail as to the conduct of the three passengers in the car, but let’s just say that their behavior left much to be desired. Although I was in a good mood before they drove by—I had just spent an hour lifting weights at the gym, which is something I love to do—my mood quickly dropped.
I’m sure you can relate. We’re all subjected to stressors and micro-aggressions throughout the day that can have a negative impact on our mood. Here are some examples:
Another driver swerves and cuts ahead of you in traffic, and you barely have enough time to step on the brakes to avoid hitting them.
Your boss scolds you in front of others for a mistake that resulted from her inability to communicate clearly.
Your neighbor’s dog digs up your flower bed, again.
You overhear two snippy co-workers gossiping about you.
You’ve put on some weight and your so-called friend makes a comment along the lines of, “Goodness, you’ve been hitting the donuts pretty hard, haven’t you?”
Fortunately, for those times when the environment and other people seem to be conspiring against your mood, there are many ways to give yourself a mood boost. Below you’ll find 13 quick ways to improve your mood.
1. Think Fast
Accelerate your thinking – experiments conducted by Princeton University and Harvard University have shown that there’s a link between thought speed and mood. Slow thinking can lead to feelings of despondency and dejection, while fast thinking has joy-enhancing effects.
There are several theories as to why this is so:
People associate fast thinking with happy moods, so if they’re thinking fast they trick their brains into believing that they must be happy.
Thought speed may increase dopaminergic activity which is associated with experiences of reward and pleasure.
Fast thoughts distract you from thinking about the person, event, or circumstance that made you feel bad in the first place.
In order to get yourself thinking fast, you can do any of the following:
Give yourself a brainstorming task. For example, tell yourself that you have three minutes to come up with 100 possible titles for an eBook you’re thinking of writing.
Watch a video in accelerated mode.
Take out a book and speed read.
If you have any poems memorized, recite the poem quickly in your heard.
The next time you feel your mood taking a nosedive, elicit fast thinking.
2. Make Yourself Smile
You may have read the following quote by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
James Laird, PhD, from Clark University in Massachusetts wholeheartedly agrees with Nhat Hanh. He’s spent his entire professional life studying the connection between behavior and feeling, and he argues that we can make ourselves happy just by smiling. Plus, he has research to back this up.
Afterwards, both groups were shown cartoons. The group that was asked to smile found the cartoons funnier than the frowners did. Dr. Laird wrote in his conclusions to the study that the simple act of smiling seems to activate happiness centers in the brain.
Smiling does all of the following:
It activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress.
The feel good neurotransmitters dopamine and endorphins are released when a smile flashes across your face.
Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as a mood lifter
So, the next time you need a quick mood lift, show off those pearly whites.
Chocolate is a source of tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter of happiness and positive mood.
Chocolate is the main food source of anandamide, a neurotransmitter which is very similar to the primary psychoactive component in marijuana.
Dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a compound which creates a brain buzz similar to being in love.
When you need a mood boost, dark chocolate is your friend.
5. Listen To An Upbeat Song
Recent research at the University of Missouri revealed that listening to upbeat music—while trying to feel happier—will improve your mood. This is evidence that trying to be happier and making a conscious effort to improve your mood really does work.
Create a soundtrack of your favorite upbeat feel-good songs. Then, the next time that you want to improve your mood, hold that intent while you listen to the soundtrack.
6. Sing Along
Don’t just listen to upbeat music. Make sure that you also sing along. Researchers have discovered that singing releases endorphins, which is associated with feelings of pleasure and elation. It also releases oxytocin, a hormone which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress.
Although the greatest benefits come from group singing, singing alone also works. The musical vibrations created by singing move through you, creating a soothing and calming effect.
7. Get Up and Boogie
Now take it one step further: as you listen to the music and sing along, get up and boogie. Alice Domar, PhD, director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Waltham, Massachusetts explains that movement will release endorphins and elevate your mood.
It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet. Just move. If you absolutely can’t get yourself to dance around, grab your iPod and go for a quick stroll.
8. Light a Vanilla Scented Candle
Certain scents can alter or heighten your mood. If you need a happiness boost, the smell of fresh vanilla beans will do the trick. A study published in the Proceedings of ISOT/JASTS 2004 found that taking a whiff of vanilla beans elevated participants’ feelings of joy and relaxation.
Meditation is like taking a mini-retreat from the world, which is something you need when the world is getting you down.
In addition, meditating stimulates the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, releasing endorphins and increasing the production of serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin—all associated with relaxation and happiness.
If you need a little help, there are free apps that offer short meditations specifically designed for mood improvement. One of these is Stop, Breathe & Think, which will prompt you to check how you’re feeling and will then recommend three guided meditations– each one between five and 10 minutes long—for you to choose from.
10. Pet a Pooch
A study by the University of Missouri–Columbia showed that petting a dog for just 15 minutes brightens your mood. This is because petting your dog—or cat– releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. It also lowers the stress hormone cortisol.
All of this means that petting your pet will lower your blood pressure and evoke a sense of calmness, happiness, and well-being.
I don’t have pets, but I’m not shy about petting strangers’ dogs.
11. Eat a Banana
When you’re feeling down, make yourself a smoothie and add a banana, or just peel a banana and eat it. A banana can contain 10 milligrams of dopamine. Dopamine is our primary reward chemical, and since bananas give you extra dopamine, they’re one of those feel-good foods you should reach for when you need a mood boost.
12. Ask Yourself: “What’s Going Well?”
Dr. Martin Seligman is the founder of positive psychology—a branch of psychology that studies what makes people thrive. One of the tools that he recommends for increasing well-being is the “What Went Well” exercise. It consists of the following:
Look back at the end of each day and find three things that went well.
Reflect on them and even replay them in your mind.
You want to revisit the good feelings brought on by those successes.
Do something similar when you need a quick mood boost. Even though something just went wrong which led you to feel bad, ask yourself: “What’s going well?” By thinking of what’s going well you’ll be counteracting the negative emotions which are bringing down your mood.
13. Have Some Green Tea
If something upsets you and you need to calm down fast, take out a teapot and brew yourself a cup of green tea. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a researcher, nutrition expert and author of “Beat Sugar Addiction NOW! “explains that sipping green tea will calm you down because it causes changes in body chemistry that relax, enhance the ability to think, and change mood.
So, which of these did I try after my unfortunate post-workout encounter? All of them. Did I feel better afterward? I most certainly did. Live your best life by using the 13 strategies explained above to improve your mood.
Thinking optimally will allow you to achieve your best results.
Being a positive thinker is often equated with being confident and assured, thinking in terms of success, and believing that you deserve the best that life has to offer. And, of course, these are all good things.
However, positive thinking can lead you astray. Here are some of the traps you could fall into if you’re always thinking positively:
Disregarding the old adage that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. This can lead you to fall victim to scams, such as investing your hard-earned money in get-rich-schemes.
Jumping into situations without taking the necessary time to weigh the risks and prepare adequately
Failing to anticipate likely obstacles.
Failing to prepare a contingency plan in case something goes wrong.
Hoping that an unfavorable situation will rectify itself, instead of taking the necessary action to make things right yourself.
Continue investing your time, money, and energy into a project when all the facts show that there’s no way to salvage it.
Ignoring negative information which should be taken into account in order to get an accurate picture of the situation that you’re facing.
So, what’s the answer? Certainly not negative thinking. There are countless problems with negative thinking. Here are some of them:
Negative thinkers are constantly missing out on opportunities because their attention is focused on all the things that could go wrong.
Instead of coming up with ways to get things done, negative thinkers enumerate all of the reasons why this or that can’t be done.
Negative thinkers anticipate failure, and they have a tendency to see their life as a series of problems.
The answer, then, is not to think positively or negatively. Instead, you should think optimally. What is optimal thinking? It’s a term coined by Rosalene Glickman in her book, Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self.
Optimal thinking will allow you to make the most constructive choice at any given moment, and to take the best actions to accomplish your highest priorities. Below you’ll discover how to think optimally.
What is Optimal Thinking?
Optimal thinking is focusing on the best or most constructive thought at all times. Optimal thinkers have realistic expectations and focus on optimizing situations within their control. It’s about constantly choosing your best option in any given moment. Optimal thinkers do the following:
They embrace reality and ask: “What’s the best thing I can do under these circumstances?
They take the worst-case scenario into account and ask themselves how they can minimize the risk and reduce the cost to themselves if things go wrong.
When faced with a problem they ask themselves: “What’s the problem?”; “What are my options for resolving this?”; and “Among my options, which one will be the most beneficial?”
Three Ways of Thinking
Suppose that you have three friends and their names are Bob, Sue, and Ellen. They’ve all invested in the stock market. In addition, suppose that there’s been a lot of bad news about the stock market lately.
Bob is a negative thinker, Sue is a positive thinker, and Ellen is an optimal thinker. Here’s how each one would react to the fact that the stock market is dropping:
Bob (negative thinker): “Of course the stock market is going to come crashing down, now that I’ve decided to invest in it. Things can only get worse. I better get all of my money out as soon as possible and salvage whatever I can.”
Sue (positive thinker): “Well, I’m just going to leave my money where it is and trust that everything will turn out well in the end. If I think positively, everything will fall into place.”
Ellen (optimal thinker): “Under these circumstances, is it better to take my money out of the stock market in order to minimize my present losses, or do I stand to gain in the long run if I leave my money where it is?”
Of the three, Ellen’s line of thinking is clearly the one that is most likely to lead to optimal results.
Making Optimal Decisions
Here’s another example: your employer goes out of business and you suddenly find yourself unemployed. Once again, the three possible scenarios are the following:
Negative Thinking: “I’m going to become a bag lady and end up living in a box outside of Macy’s”.
Positive Thinking: “Everything is going to be OK. I have enough money to cover my current expenses for the next six months, and I’m sure that I’m going to have found another job by then.”
Optimal Thinking: “What expenses can I cut right away and how do I need to modify my lifestyle so that I can stretch out my savings for as long as possible? Can I create an additional source of income to make sure that I’ll be OK?”
Once you’re thinking optimally, follow the process that Glickman recommends in order to optimize your decisions. Here are the steps:
Define the problem.
Define the time frame in which the decision needs to be made.
Make a list of all your possible options.
Eliminate any options that are unrealistic.
Write down the advantages and disadvantages of each option (the “pros” and “cons”).
For each option, rate each “pro” and “con”– where a “10” means that it’s important, and a “1” means that it’s not important at all.
Score each option. For each option, add up all of the points for the “pros” and all the points for the “cons”. Subtract the total for the “cons” from the total for the “pros”, and that gives you the score for that option.
Choose the option with the highest score.
Some More Optimal Action Steps You Can Take
Here are three more steps that Glickman suggests that you take in order to become an optimal thinker:
1. If You Feel Like a Victim. Whenever you feel that you’re being victimized by another person, ask yourself what you want from that person that you’re not giving to yourself. What actions can you take in order to start providing this for yourself?
2. Dealing With Criticism. Decide on the best way to deal with criticism. Write down your strategy for dealing with criticism and practice it the next time somebody criticizes you. This is your Criticism Optimal Response.
Keep refining it until you have a strategy in place which allows you to learn and grow from any criticism that you receive, without feeling bad about yourself or becoming discouraged from going after your goals.
3. Dealing With Fear. Whenever you begin to feel afraid ask yourself the following questions: “What am I afraid of?”; “What is the best way to overcome this fear?”; and “What action can I take to get over this fear, or to act in spite of this fear?”
I’m an optimist by nature, but when it comes to making decisions I always try to do so by thinking optimally. I recommend that you follow Glickman’s advice and do the same.
To recap, when assessing any situation, you need to do the following:
Take the good and the bad into account;
Weigh both your strengths and your weaknesses;
Ask yourself what’s the most constructive action that you can take given your current set of circumstances;
Make the best choice given the facts; and
Come up with a contingency plan in case things go wrong.
Marelisa Fabrega is a lawyer and entrepreneur. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., as well as a Juris Doctor from the Georgetown University Law Center.