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make your confidence soar

Confidence is the key to happiness and success.

What would your life be like if you were more confident? For starters, the following would probably be true:

  • You would feel better about yourself.
  • You would be happier.
  • You would have healthier relationships.
  • You would take action in order to live up to your full potential.
  • You would be more successful.

If I were to ask you, “Where does confidence come from?” a lot of people would answer something like the following:

  • Confident people are tall and slim, with perfect skin and symmetrical features.
  • Confident people come from wealthy families.
  • Confident people have high IQ’s.
  • Confident people have degrees from the best learning institutions in the world.

Fortunately, confidence doesn’t come from any of the things listed above. Confidence isn’t about looks, money, or the diplomas hanging on your wall. Instead, confidence is an attitude and an approach to life. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin, and being at ease with yourself and your surroundings.

All this means that confidence is something that you can cultivate, even if you’re shorter than you’d like, your net worth is currently in the red, and you got your degree from a community college.

You can make your confidence soar by fine-tuning your attitude. Below you’ll discover twelve ways to do this.

1. Start Feeling Confident Right Now.

Stop waiting for something to happen before you allow yourself to feel confident. Many people say the following to themselves:

  • “I’ll feel confident when I’ve lost twenty pounds.”
  • “I’ll feel confident when I’m in a relationship with someone who loves and respects me.”
  • “I’ll feel confident when I get my degree.”
  • “I’ll feel confident when I start earning more money.”
  • “I’ll feel confident when I have the right car, and I’m wearing the right clothes.”

Stop waiting for something to happen, or for some external signal of validation to take place, in order to begin to feel confident. Instead, start feeling confident right now, regardless of where you are in life or what may be going on around you at the moment.

After all, as Eckhart Tolle teaches, the now is all there is. Therefore, if you don’t feel confident in the now, you’ll never feel confident.

In addition, you may notice the following paradox:

  • When you allow yourself to feel good about yourself, even if you’re currently in a situation that’s less than ideal, you’ll start to act in ways that will help you to create the situations that you’re hoping for.
  • But if you tell yourself that you can’t feel good about yourself until a certain situation or event takes place, you’ll act in a way that will prevent those situations from taking place.

You first have to be confident, then you’ll behave in a confident manner, and then you’ll experience the positive situations that come into the lives of those who are confident.

2. Put Yourself In a Resourceful State of Mind.

Paul McKenna, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading hypnotists and Britain’s most successful self-improvement author. In his book, I Can Make You Confident, he explains that most people work themselves into an unresourceful state of mind right before doing something important. They do this through their thoughts, feelings, and physiology.

Here are three examples:

  • Right before they walk into their boss’s office to ask for a raise, they tell themselves, “I’m not going to get a dime out of her.”
  • Before giving an important presentation they’ll slouch their shoulders and start to fidget.
  • If they want to approach someone they find attractive, they’ll talk themselves out of it, out of fear of being rejected.

McKenna goes on to say that confident people do the exact opposite: before taking any action that involves uncertainty and risk, they practice putting themselves into a resourceful state of mind. Resourceful states of mind include the following:

  • Excitement;
  • Enthusiasm;
  • Determination;
  • Compassion; and
  • Playfulness.

Again, they do this through the mental images that they run through their mind, their feelings and emotions, their breathing, and their posture.

3. Pretend That You’re Confident.

A while back I came across an interesting anecdote involving the Spanish Surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Dali came to be known as one of the most extroverted and gregarious personalities of his time. However, his biographer, Ian Gibson, reveals that this was not always the case. In fact, while he was at the Madrid Art Academy, Dali was morbidly shy.

That’s when he received the following piece of advice from his uncle: he should pretend to be an extrovert. Dali followed his uncle’s advice. Every day he went through the motions of being an extrovert. Soon, he became what he was pretending to be. Do the same as Dali: in order to be more confident, pretend that you’re confident.

4. Act “As If”.

Exactly how do you pretend to be confident, if you’re not? You act “as if”. Ask yourself the following:

  • If I were confident, how would I move?
  • If I were confident, how would I be sitting?
  • If I were confident, how would I dress?
  • If I were confident, what sorts of things would I say?
  • If I were confident, what would my mental chatter sound like?
  • If I were confident, where would I go and what would I do?

Then, take your answers and begin applying them. Do this consistently and, pretty soon, you’ll forget that you’re acting.

5. Move Toward Self-Confidence by Taking Small, Consistent Steps.

In the first point of this post I asserted that you need to feel confident right now, regardless of where you are at the moment. However, this is often easier said than done. The truth is that the best way to feel confident is to take action.

  • Imagine that there’s another version of you standing or sitting at your side. This version of you is slightly more confident than you are.
  • Now ask yourself what you need to do in order to be able to step into that more confident version of yourself. Do you need to be more assertive? Do you need to break your goals down into smaller chunks so that you can start taking action in order to achieve them? Is there a skill that you need to develop? Start doing these things.
  • Once you’ve started taking steps in the right direction, imagine once again that there’s an even more confident you sitting to your right. This version of you is even more self-assured, more charismatic, and more resourceful. What do you need to do in order to step into that version of yourself? Do it.
  • Keep imagining versions of yourself that are just a bit happier, more enthusiastic, more passionate, and more determined than the version before. Keep taking action in order to keep stepping into these better versions of yourself, until you feel yourself overflowing with confidence.

6. Take Better Care of Yourself.

Confident people excel at self-care. Follow their lead by doing the following:

  • Eat healthy, nutritious meals.
  • Get some sort of regular exercise.
  • Have “me time” during which you meditate, read novels by your favorite authors, or participate in some other activity that you enjoy.
  • Stop over-extending yourself.

When you take care of yourself you’re sending yourself the message that you consider yourself to be important, and worthy of care and attention. And, at the end of the day, your self-confidence depends on what you tell yourself about you.

7. Paint Yourself In a Favorable Light.

The other day I was reviewing a college application for a friend’s daughter as a favor to my friend. The girl had written down in the college application, among other things, that she had lived in Turkey and that she spoke French. Here’s why there was a problem with this:

  • First, the girl’s mother lived in Turkey when she was pregnant with her, but she returned to Panama to give birth to the girl, and the girl herself has never been to Turkey (being in a country for a few months as a fetus in your mother’s womb does not count as having lived in that country).
  • Second, the girl does not speak French. She simply enrolled in French lessons a week before filling out her college application.

Clearly, this girl is rather delusional. However, at the other end of the spectrum are all those people who refuse to give themselves credit for what they do. Here are some examples:

  • I knew one woman in Costa Rica with great taste. Her friends were always asking her to help them re-decorate their homes and she always did a great job. However, she refused to take her decorating skills seriously because she hadn’t gone to design school. The truth is, this woman was better at interior decorating than a lot of people with degrees from fancy interior design schools.
  • I know someone else who refuses to write down in her resume that she speaks three languages just because she’s not 100% fluent in one of them.
  • Yet a third person I know refuses to call himself an entrepreneur just because his small side business isn’t making much money yet.

These three people need to start giving themselves more credit.

Take a good hard look at what you know how to do, and what you’ve done, and paint your skills and your life experience in the most favorable light that you can (obviously, without telling any lies). Then, allow yourself to feel proud and confident of who you are, what you know, and what you’ve done.

8. Be Prepared.

One of the best ways to feel confident in any situation is to do your homework ahead of time and be fully prepared to do what’s expected of you. For example, if you have to give a presentation at work, do the following:

  • Make sure that you take the time to do the necessary research.
  • Draft up several alternatives.
  • Choose the alternative that you think is best, and have all of the necessary data to back up the alternative which you’re recommending.

After all, how can you possibly feel confident in a situation that you haven’t adequately prepared for?

When I was in law school at Georgetown, most of my classes were very large. The professors used the Socratic method of teaching, which means that they taught by asking the students questions, and by stimulating debate. That is, there was a lot of class participation.

At first, I was scared to death of being called on.

  • What if I didn’t know the answer?
  • What if I made a complete fool of myself in front of the whole class?
  • What if the professor yelled at me for not having prepared adequately for class?

In fact, I was so scared of being called on, that on the first day of class I sat all the way in the back of the room. Surely, I would go unnoticed sitting all the way back there. That was not to be; law professors can smell fear.

I was the first person called on, on the very first day of class. And I hadn’t read the material specified on the syllabus. When the professor asked me who was suing whom in the case we were supposed to have read, I answered:

“The plaintiff sued the defendant.”

Of course, the plaintiff always sues the defendant, and it was obvious that I hadn’t read the case. To this day I still blush when I think of that experience.

After that I made sure to read all of the material that was assigned for every class. I even bought study aids to supplement my reading. I can tell you from first-hand experience that your confidence level soars when you walk into a class fully prepared; and this applies to everything in life.

9. Use Visualization.

When you need to do something important that’s outside of your comfort zone, and you’re worried that you’re not going to do well, visualize yourself doing a good job. As an illustration, suppose that you have to give a speech in front of your company’s Board of Directors. Do the following:

  • Before the big day, take a moment to close your eyes and see yourself standing in front of the Board, looking confident and self-assured, and flawlessly delivering your speech.
  • See yourself in your mind’s eye calmly answering any questions asked by the members of the Board.
  • Then, visualize each of the Board members walking up to you at the end of the speech, shaking your hand, and thanking you for your excellent work.

By visualizing yourself doing a good job, when the day comes in which you have to give your speech, you’ll feel as if you’ve already done it before, and that it went well. This will give you the confidence that you need to do a good job.

10. Distance Yourself From People Who Bring You Down.

Unfortunately, the world is full of small, angry people who have failed repeatedly and who have made it their life’s mission to make sure that everyone else feels as miserable as they do. These people will suck all of the self-confidence right out of you, if you let them.

If you want your confidence to soar, stay away from these people.

11. Make It a Point to Catch Yourself Doing Things Right.

There’s a book called “The One Minute Manager”, by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.

Although the book’s purpose is to help managers make their team members feel better about themselves–because people who feel good about themselves do better work–you can use some of the lessons in this book  to manage yourself in a way that will help you to feel good about yourself.

Here are some of the ideas in the book which you can start applying right away:

  • Make it a point to catch yourself doing things right.
  • When you do catch yourself doing a good job, praise yourself and give yourself a little pat on the back.
  • Allow yourself to feel the pride that comes from doing good work.
  • Do this as often as you can.

12. Stop Being So Hard On Yourself.

Lots of people have a tendency to be overly critical of themselves. They tell themselves that they have to do everything perfectly. Then, they berate themselves for every mistake that they make and for every failure to hit the mark smack in the bull’s eye.

If you’re one of these people, in order to make your confidence soar, you have to stop being so hard on yourself. When you do something wrong, do the following:

  • Acknowledge to yourself that you could have done a better job.
  • Ask yourself how you can correct the mistake, or learn from it so that you don’t repeat the error.
  • Remind yourself of how valuable you are.
  • Reaffirm that the fact that you did poorly in this situation speaks to your performance on this specific task, but does not in any way affect your worth as a person.
  • Once you’ve gone through this process, resolve to do better in the future, and simply release the mistake. It’s over.


Everyone is capable of feeling more confident. All you need to do is to change your attitude and develop new behaviors and strategies. Get started by applying the 12 strategies explained above and watch your confidence soar.

Live your best life by becoming more confident.

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weight lifting

Men and women of all ages should strength train, for more reasons than you think.

Although I strength trained for several years, I stopped about six years ago (for reasons that are not relevant to the subject matter of this blog post). For the past six years my exercise has consisted solely of running four days a week, and walking two days a week. That is, until a few weeks ago.

In mid-April of this year I decided that it was time to hit the weights once again. Why? There’s a long list of pros to lifting weights. First, there are many physical goals that you can achieve by strength training. Here are just some of them: you’ll shrink your waist line, you’ll be able to fit back into your skinny jeans, and you’ll look lean and toned. These benefits, alone, should be enough to get anyone to start hitting the gym on a regular basis. However, strength training doesn’t just make you look good.

Weight lifting also provides a myriad of health and mental benefits. In addition, it will increase your overall sense of well-being. If you’re not already lifting weights, I strongly encourage you to start. In case you need a little push, below you’ll find 8 ways lifting weights will transform your life.

1. You’ll Lose More Fat. Adam Campbell, the fitness director of Men’s Health and author of the New York Time’s best-selling The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises explains that by lifting weights you’ll lose 40% more fat than by dieting alone, or by dieting and just doing cardio.

He cites a study done by Penn State University in which overweight people were put on a reduced-calorie diet and split up into three groups:

  • Group one didn’t exercise.
  • Group two performed aerobic exercise three days a week.
  • Group three did both aerobic and weight training three days a week.

Participants in all three groups lost roughly the same amount of weight: 21 pounds. However, groups one and two lost 15 pounds of fat and about 6 pounds of muscle. Group three—the group that lifted weights—lost all 21 pounds from fat. Which group do you think looked better and was most likely to keep the weight off? Obviously, group three.

Alwyn Cosgrove echoes the advice of lifting weights in order to lose fat. He says the following:

“Strength training is a critical component of any program that emphasizes long-term fat loss.”

Cosgrove is co-author of The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle and The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess.

2. You’ll Be Smarter. A study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress found that people who exercised fared better in terms of mental acuity—the ability to acquire and process knowledge– than those who did not exercise. The study involved overweight, sedentary adults. This is what happened:

  • Participants underwent a series of assessments.
  • Then, for four months they exercised twice a week. These exercise sessions involved both cardio and weight training.

At the end of the four months participants had reduced waist circumference and they had lost weight. However, the benefits were more than just physical. Participants also significantly improved functioning on the tests of mental acuity.

Why does exercise make you smarter? Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, explains that exercise increases the level of brain chemicals called growth factors. Growth factors help make new brain cells and establish new connections between brain cells to help us learn.

In addition, although both cardio and resistance training increase the level of growth factors, there are studies that show that more neurogenesis—or brain growth–occurs when you add strength training to your workout instead of just doing cardio.

3. You’ll Relieve Stress. Physical activity reduces stress by releasing endorphins, which are feel-good hormones. Although both cardio and strength training stimulate your body to release endorphins, your body produces more endorphins in a faster period of time when you’re weight lifting than when you’re doing cardio.

In addition, certain strength-training exercises produce more endorphins than others. Specifically, compound exercises—exercises that involve more than one muscle group– have been shown to produce the most endorphins during and after a workout. Compound exercises include the bench press, the dead lift, and the barbell squat.

4. You’ll Be Protecting Yourself Against Diabetes. Studies have shown that the bodies of people who weight train have better blood sugar control than the bodies of those who don’t weight train. This is because building muscle tissue increases the muscles’ demand for glucose.

Muscles pull glucose from the bloodstream, and this prevents blood sugar levels from rising dangerously. In turn, this helps to prevent diabetes.

In addition, weight lifting melts away visceral fat, which is the fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity and builds up around the organs found there, and which has been associated with a higher risk of both cancer and diabetes.

5. You’ll Have Stronger Bones. One of the best ways you can control bone loss as you age is to add strength training to your workout plan. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Therefore, you’ll be less prone to fractures and breaks as you get older.

In addition, weight lifting results in improved strength and balance, which makes it less likely that you’ll fall.

As an aside, my 70-year-old aunt was saying the other day that she wants to learn to ski, but at her age, she’s terrified of falling (because of the potential for bone breakage). I love skiing, and I hope to still be doing it at 70. So, off to the gym I go.

6. It Can Make You Younger. As I wrote in my post, 17 Ways to Slow Down the Aging Process and Live Longer, one unfortunate aspect of aging is the loss of muscle tissue and strength. However, a 2011 study published in the Sport Medicine journal found that it’s possible to slow down the aging process by improving strength.

In addition, in 2007 a team of American and Canadian researchers compared 596 aging-related genes of older adults to the ones of younger participants. As expected, the older genes did not perform as well. Then, the older participants were asked to follow a resistance training routine twice a week, for six months.

At the end of the six months researchers repeated their gene analysis. They saw a significant improvement in gene expression. To summarize their findings: increasing your strength by lifting weights will make your genes younger.

7. You’ll be Happier. Adam Campbell, who was mentioned in the first point of this article, writes in The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises that lifting weights will make you happier. In order to support his claim, Campbell cites research conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the United States.

Researchers there took a group of people and had them perform three weight workouts a week, for 6 months. The results of the study were that participants significantly improved their scores on tests measuring anger–which had dropped– and overall mood, which had gone up.

In addition, Campbell refers to a study done at the University of Sydney in Australia. Scientists there found that regularly lifting weights significantly reduces symptoms of depression. They reported that a meaningful improvement was seen in 60% of clinically diagnosed patients; a similar response rate from antidepressants–without the negative side effects.

8. You’ll Gain Confidence and Self-Esteem. Right now you may be thinking that you’re too weak or too old to lift weights. However, almost anyone willing to follow a situation-specific training program can lift weights. In addition, you can challenge yourself by doing the following:

  • Gradually increase the amount of weight that you lift — this applies to both men and women (ladies, you will not bulk up and end up looking like men).
  • Increase the amount of repetitions that you do for each exercise;
  • Increase the number of sets that you do for each exercise; and
  • Try more challenging exercises.

Set weight lifting goals for yourself and then follow through on them. This will give you a sense of achievement which you can then apply to help you achieve your goals in other areas of your life. In addition, lifting weights will make you stronger, and feeling strong is empowering.

How does weight lifting increase your self-esteem? People who lift weights look good. And, let’s face it: looking good will give your self-esteem a nice boost.


I enjoy lifting weights. It makes me feel powerful. Plus, I think strength training is sexy. I hope that the 8 reasons why you should start lifting weights outlined above have convinced you to add weights to your exercise regime. Live your best life by starting a strength training program (with your doctor’s approval).

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hobbies for self-improvement

Having a hobby is not just a way to pass the time; it can also improve the quality of your life.

A hobby is something that you do for fun or pleasure. You do it during your free time, and you don’t get paid to do it. Since hobbies are leisure activities, a lot of people discard hobbies as a “luxury” they can’t afford. Who has the time, right?

However, it turns out that a hobby is more than just a way to have fun. Picking up a hobby has myriads of benefits, such as the following:

  • A hobby can give you a sense of self-efficacy.
  • A hobby can be a creativity outlet.
  • Having hobbies will keep your brain engaged.
  • A hobby gives you something to look forward to.
  • A hobby can give you something to be passionate about.

Fun and good for you; that’s a winning combination. Below you’ll discover 16 habits that will improve your quality of life:

1. Say Your Oms. Everyone should take up meditation. But is meditation a hobby? I say that it is. Taking up meditation will help you to reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, and even improve your ability to concentrate.

Is meditating fun? When I meditate–which I do for ten minutes, daily–I turn on my Enya CD, light a candle, and lie down on my yoga mat. Once I’m completely relaxed I get into such a good mood, that I would say that meditating is definitely fun.

2. Grow Something. Gardening is a surprisingly beneficial hobby. There’s the obvious benefit of growing your own fruits and vegetables, as well as pretty flowers, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It also does all of the following for you:

  • It reduces your levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone.
  • Nurturing a plant from seed to fruit-bearing reinforces your ability to cause positive change in the world.
  • It counts as exercise (and we all need to get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week).
  • Studies show that gardening reduces incidence of dementia by 36%.

To top it all of, gardening puts you out in nature. I wrote about eight of the many benefits of being out in nature in this post: “8 Reasons Why You Need to Spend More Time in Nature“.

3. Reacquaint Yourself With Your Kitchen. Studies show that those who cook their meals at home are healthier and live longer than those who regularly eat out. Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder indicates that when people pick out their own food at the grocery store, they buy less processed foods, less sugary foods, and less fat. Instead, they make healthier food choices.

In addition, cooking at home helps you to save money.

4. Pick Up a Book. Reading is a lot more than just a pleasant pastime. Reading sharpens comprehension, teaches your mind to focus, and improves your vocabulary. It also boosts your brain power: just like jogging gives your body a workout, reading gives your brain workout.

Furthermore, studies show that reading can reduce stress by 69%. Since reading also helps you sleep better, a good time to practice this hobby is right before bedtime.

5. Tickle the Ivories. Playing an instrument, such as the piano, can increase cognitive development. In addition, it improves eye-hand coordination and fine-motor skills. And here’s the kicker: playing a musical instrument raises IQ by seven points, in both kids and adults. Kind of makes you want to run out and get yourself a keyboard, doesn’t it?

6. Dust Off the Chess Board. You probably already know that chess is a great hobby to take up if you want to improve your brain’s cognitive functions. To start off, playing chess exercises both brain hemispheres. First, players must develop and utilize the left hemisphere of the brain, which deals with object recognition. Second, they must utilize the right hemisphere which deals with pattern recognition.

Chess also helps to improve memory and helps to develop strategic thinking.

7. Take Up the Mambo. Not only is dancing fun, but it also has many benefits. Of course, when you dance you’re getting a physical workout. In addition, dancing reduces stress and increases levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s linked to feelings of well-being. Another benefit of dancing is that it increases cognitive acuity, which means that it makes you smarter.

8. Find Nemo. A growing body of scientific research shows that having pets can make us healthier. That’s why more hospitals, nursing homes, and mental institutions are using animals for animal-assisted therapy. Granted it’s mostly dogs and cats, but fish are also being used.

While it’s not always practical to keep dogs and cats, there’s always room for fish. In addition, fish require little time and attention. Finally, no one can argue against the calming effect of watching fish serenely gliding through the water. I’ve owned several goldfish throughout my life (all currently deceased), and I’m thinking of getting another one.

9. Get the Ball Over the Net. Joining a sports team is a great way to meet new people and make friends. Signing up to play intramural sports–volleyball is an easy team sport to learn to play decently–is  a fun way to spend time with others, which is one of the keys to happiness. In fact, studies show that social isolation is deadlier than obesity.

So, the next time you’re about to go home and watch TV alone, head over to the YMCA, instead, and play some volleyball with others.

10. Connect With Your Inner Karate Kid. Studying and learning a martial art–such as karate–has real value. By learning a martial art you’ll be learning self-defense skills. In addition, you’ll be acquiring discipline and improving your ability to focus. Also, practicing martial arts will help you to develop balance, stamina, coordination, and strength, as well as bring together your body and mind.

11. Ride the Waves. You’ve probably heard of the state of flow — when you’re so completely immersed in what you’re doing, that your ego fades away, time stands still, and you become one with what you’re doing in the present moment. Surfing is a great way to experience the state of flow.

After all, surfing is packed with what Steven Kotler calls “flow triggers” in his book, The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance. Some of these flow triggers include the following:

  • A challenging environment: there’s always unpredictability when riding a wave, so you have to remain fully focused on what you’re doing.
  • Having clear goals: what could be more clear than the goal of riding a wave without falling off the board.
  • Immediate feedback: you either ride a wave successfully, or you don’t.

12. Pick Up Those Knitting Needles. Experts say that crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic pain. In fact, crafting has benefits similar to meditation. Occupational therapist Victoria Schindler explains that the repetitive motions of knitting, for example, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which quiets the “fight or flight” response.

13. Put Pen to Paper. Keeping a journal can help you to organize your thoughts, plan how you’re going to achieve your goals, help you to solve problems, and serve as a stress-relief mechanism.  In addition, University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker argues that regular journaling strengthens immune cells called T-lymphocytes.

Finally, journaling can help you to know yourself better. You’ll be able to uncover what makes you happy and what’s draining you of energy. With that knowledge you’ll be able to do more of what brings you joy, and distance yourself from people and situations that are not serving you well.

14. Take Online Classes. Knowledge is power. By taking online classes–and making a hobby out of it–you can achieve all of the following:

  • Learning new skills increases feelings of self-efficacy, which means that your belief in your ability to produce the results that you’re after increases.
  • Learning new skills can make you more valuable at work, which could result in a promotion.
  • Learning new things stimulates the brain and helps to keep your mind sharp.

15. Learn a New Language. Learning a new language has the obvious benefit of allowing you to communicate with people who speak that language when you travel. Also, being bilingual or trilingual looks great on your resume.

The icing on the cake is that studies have shown that the brains of bilingual people operate differently than the brains of single language speakers. Learning a new language will make you smarter, it will make you more decisive, and it will even make you better at speaking your native tongue.

And here are two more benefits of learning a new language: it makes you more perceptive and it helps you to ward off dementia.

16. Engage Your Inner Clown. Try juggling. Juggling improves your focus and eye-hand coordination. In addition, it counts as active meditation: your attention is fully focused on the objects that you’re juggling, which puts you in the same beneficial relaxed state as when you’re sitting on the floor cross-legged, chanting.

Also, a 2004 report from the University of Regensberg in Germany found that learning to juggle causes certain areas of your brain to grow. Unfortunately the brain will return to its original size if you stop juggling, so you need to keep it up.


Take some of the time that you’re currently devoting to Facebook and to watching TV and use it to pick up a new hobby. There are an endless number of hobbies you can choose from, but you can get started with the 16 hobbies outlined above. Live your best life by starting a hobby.

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birthday bucket list

Birthdays—like the New Year– are a fresh start, which means that they’re a great time to create a bucket list.

Experts at Wharton found that “fresh starts” throughout the year cause people to evaluate their lives in a wider context and be more effective at setting goals. In addition, tackling a goal during a “fresh start” increases people’s chances of achieving that goal. “Fresh starts” are temporal landmarks that allow us to say the following:

  • The past is behind me.
  • I’m ready to become a new, improved version of myself.

The most obvious “fresh start” is New Years. However, birthdays are another opportunity to start anew. My birthday was on May 2nd, so I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I want to achieve before my next birthday. One popular tradition is to create a bucket list every year on your birthday, with the number of items to be achieved in the next 365 days equal to the number of years you’ll be turning next.

So, for example, you could create the following bucket lists:

  • 30 Before 30 Bucket List
  • 40 Things to Do Before Turning 40
  • 50 Experiences to Have Before Turning 50

You get the picture. With that in mind, here are 25 ideas on things to do before your next birthday:

1. Splurge and have a meal at one of the world’s best restaurants. If you’d like some ideas on restaurants you may want to dine at, year after year these three top the lists of great restaurants:

  • Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark;
  • Alinea in Chicago, Illinois; and
  • Napa Valley’s French Laundry.

In the alternative, you can try at least one dish you’ve never eaten before.

2. Test drive your dream car. Most people have a dream car. What’s yours? Find a dealership for that car and just walk in as if you own the place (attitude goes a long way), and ask one of the salespeople for a test drive.

In the alternative, rent your dream car for a day. Last, but not least, there are companies that will allow you to spend the day driving several exotic luxury cars. By your next birthday you may not own your dream car, but at least you’ll have driven it.

3. Conquer one of your biggest fears. Everyone’s afraid of something. What are you afraid of? Choose one of these things and start planning now how you’re going to get over that fear. This could be fear of heights, fear of public speaking, fear of rejection, or anything else that makes you shake in your boots.

There are few things in life that will give you more of a confidence boost than conquering one of your fears.

4. Learn to make one cocktail really well. Think Margaritas, Long Island Iced Tea, or Mai Tais. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, invite some friends over and let them sample and enjoy your new-found talent.

5. Try a new sport. There are tons of sports you can try. To name just a few, you can try paddle boarding, ski boarding, or mountain biking.

6. Get into the best shape of your life. These days, getting into the best shape of your life is achievable even if you’re in your forties (look at Sofia Vergara and Hugh Jackman). However, it’s not a goal that can be put off until the last moment, so you better get going with this one.

7. Own a power suit. Make this the year you finally get that power suit you would be proud to wear if you were suddenly called in for an interview for the job of your dreams. It doesn’t have to be a Giorgio Armani pantsuit or a Channel suit, but you do want it to suggest exclusivity.

8. Sign up to be a mentor or spend some time volunteering. Teach others something you’re knowledgeable about, raise money for a charity, or coach a youth soccer team. Opportunities for helping others abound.

9. Attend a major sports event. What’s your favorite sport? What’s the major event for that sport? Make plans to go before you reach your next birthday. Here are some ideas to consider: the Kentucky Derby, the World Cup, or the Super Bowl.

10. Take a MOOC—a Massive Open Online Course. Although you can find a MOOC in practically any subject you can think of, popular choices include Gamification, Learning to Program, and Songwriting.

11. See your favorite artists perform live. Think David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, and The Rolling Stones.

12. Adopt one habit that will have a major positive impact on your life. Ideas include becoming an early riser, starting an exercise program, or writing for an hour every morning. Meet your next birthday with another positive habit under your belt.

13. Drop one habit that is holding you back. Do you have a bad habit that’s sabotaging your efforts to get ahead in life? Drop it within the next 365 days! This can include smoking, eating junk food on a regular basis, and spending too much time watching TV.

14. Read a book. Cross at least one book off of your “books to read before I die list” and come one step closer to your goal of being well-read. Popular options include Don Quixote, War and Peace, and Moby Dick.

15. Take a 30-day challenge. Taking a 30-day challenge is a great way to jump-start an important goal. For example, you can challenge yourself to do the following:

  • Exercise for half-an-hour every day, for 30 days;
  • Stick to your budget for the next 30 days; or
  • Take a photo every day, for 30 days.

The possibilities for 30-day challenges are endless.

16. Cross one item off of your travel bucket list. Take a look at your travel bucket list and choose one place to visit before the earth orbits the sun–with you on it–one more time. Make this the year you finally climb the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France; or visit Machu Picchu in Peru; or transit the Panama Canal.

17. Increase your income. There are many ways to start making more money. Examples include making yourself more valuable at work and then asking for a raise, getting a job that pays more, or starting a business on the side. Start taking steps now in order to be a little bit richer by your next birthday.

18. Redecorate one room in your home. Remodel your kitchen by adding classic country details; add a swing and some wicker furniture to the front porch to encourage neighbors to stop by and shoot the breeze; or turn your bathroom into a peaceful oasis, complete with a clawfoot tub for taking long baths.

19. Do something adventurous. The truth is, everyone’s definition of “adventure” differs. However, typically, adventure refers to activities such as taking a glider flight, trying indoor skydiving, or going abseiling. If these ideas don’t rock your boat, that’s OK. Come up with your own.

20. Improve your relationships with others. You shouldn’t leave relationships out of your bucket list. It’s important to have a close group of friends you can rely on, and to get along well with others. There are many things you can do in order to improve your relationships with others, such as the following:

  • You can choose to befriend someone new;
  • You can reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with; or
  • You can look for ways to spend more time with someone you love.

21. Create something new. Who doesn’t have the urge to create? By the time your next birthday comes around you could have a painting made by you hanging on your wall; you could be selling an eBook you wrote on Amazon; or you could be wearing a scarf you knitted yourself.

22. Become a better person. You can become a better person by achieving one of your personal development goals. Personal development goals can include things such as becoming more confident, overcoming procrastination, or learning to manage stress effectively.

23. Have more fun. As Jim Morrison once wrote, “No one gets out of here alive.” Make a list of ways to have fun (think of things that are fun for you) and make sure that you incorporate as many items on that list as you can into the next year of your life.

24. Make yourself more attractive. Let’s face it, attractive people have a leg up in the world. However, there’s no need to go out and get plastic surgery. Instead, work with what you’ve got. You can get a great haircut that suits your face, have your teeth whitened, or get yourself some clothes that fit you well.

25. Put yourself out there. Stop holding yourself back. Submit your short stories to magazines to be published; read your poetry out loud at a poetry open mic; or audition for the lead in a play. “Someday” is now. Make this the year you muster up the courage to make your mark in the world. After all, each birthday is a reminder that you’re not getting any younger.


If you create a bucket list on your birthday, and you begin crossing items off of that bucket list right away, by your next birthday you’ll be a new and improved version of yourself. And isn’t the point of life to be a little better each year? I think so.

Think of your next birthday as a “fresh start” and spend the day creating a bucket list of all of the things you’re going to achieve before you’re blowing out candles on your birthday cake once again.

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feel wealthy, lucky and successful

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?” – Dirty Harry

Your state of mind can make all the difference in the world. To be wealthy, lucky, and successful you need to think wealthy, lucky, and successful thoughts. That is, you have to feel wealthy, lucky, and successful.

In addition, adopting a feeling of wealth, luck, and success is easier than most people think. You do it by tuning into the real sources of wealth. These are the following:

  • Health;
  • Creativity;
  • A good attitude;
  • A good mind;
  • A strong work ethic;
  • Appreciation;
  • Imagination;
  • Peace of mind;
  • Meaning; and
  • Faith in the future.

If you have these things, and you apply them well, you will–almost without a doubt–be wealthy, lucky, and successful in the foreseeable the future. Below you’ll discover 20 ways to feel wealthy, lucky, and successful now, regardless of your current circumstances.

1. Make a List of Five. Make a list of five things that you want more of in your life, which don’t involve money. For example, more love, more serenity, and more laughter.

Then, make a conscious effort to be more loving, actively look for reasons to laugh more often throughout the day, and start a meditation practice. You’ll soon have more of what you want in your life, without having spent a penny. And that will make you feel wealthy, lucky, and successful.

2. Become Financially Literate. Regardless of the current size of your bank account, start learning about money–learn how to take care of it and how to make it grow. Do the following:

  • Pick up a book about managing your finances, such as “The New Guide to Financial Freedom” by Charles Schwab.
  • Take a personal finance class, whether in person or online.
  • Set up a mock portfolio — choose a list of stocks and track their performance over a certain period of time.

Being knowledgable about money will help make you feel that you have what it takes to make lots of it and invest it well.

3. Go On a Rampage of Appreciation. Right now think of 100 things that you’re grateful for. Write them down. Then, read through your list and allow the feeling of gratitude to wash over you.  It’s hard not to feel wealthy, lucky, and successful when you’re focused on all the good that there is in your life.

4. Help Someone Else. Realizing that you have more than enough is a great way to feel wealthy, lucky, and successful. The best way to realize how much you have–other than by feeling grateful–is by giving to others.

There are many ways to give to others: you can make a donation; volunteer your time or services; mentor an at-risk-youth; and so on. Whatever you have, share it with others, and notice how that makes you feel. Good, I bet.

5. Nurture a Positive Attitude. Having a positive attitude can help you feel lucky and successful. Look at the following:

  • Negative Attitude: “It doesn’t matter what I do, I’ll never be successful.”
  • Positive Attitude: “By adopting good habits and taking small steps in the right direction, I will succeed.”

Which of the two thoughts above is more likely to make you feel good about yourself? Which is more likely to encourage you to perservere, instead of giving up? Obviously, the positive one. Instead of telling yourself that you’ll never have what you want, nurture a positive attitude and tell yourself that by being resourceful and working hard, you can have everything you want.

6. Dress the Part. Neil Pattel, owner of the popular blog Quicksprout.com, wrote a post in which he explains that spending $162,301.42 on clothes made him $692,500. Why? Because the reality is that people make assumptions about you based on how you look and dress. If you dress well, others will assume that you must be in high demand and they’ll want to do business with you.

This doesn’t mean that you should go into debt in order to buy nice clothes. What it does mean is that you should accept the reality that people do judge a book by its cover, and buy–and wear–the best quality clothing you can afford. In addition, looking good will make you feel good about yourself, and it will make you feel more successful.

7.  Treat Yourself to a Small Luxury. It’s essential to set money aside for a rainy day, for investments, and for your retirement. However, it’s also important to treat yourself to small luxuries once in a while. Here are some examples:

  • Pamper your inner diva or divo (the male equivalent of “diva”) by spending the day at a spa.
  • Indulge the serious artist in you by getting a Moleskine notebook and a fountain pen.
  • Be a food snob–if only once in a while–and eat at the best restaurant in town.

Denying yourself what you want all the time will make you feel deprived, which is not conducive to feeling wealthy, lucky, and successful. Once in a while, buy the expensive chocolates, get yourself tickets to the opera, and have lobster for dinner. Small luxuries can give you a high return on your invesment in terms of how you feel and how you portray yourself to the world.

8. Let Go of 27 Things. Letting go of items and possessions which you no longer find beautiful or useful can help you to make room for good things to come into your life. Also, decluttering will help bring to your awareness the fact that you own a lot more things than you need, which will go a long way toward making you feel wealthy and lucky.

In Feng Shui–a Chinese philosophical system which examines how the placement of things and objects affects the energy flow in your living environment–27 is a lucky number. Do the following:

  • Go through your living space and look for 27 items which you can donate, give away, or throw out.
  • If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, spend the next nine days–nine is another lucky number in Feng Shui–decluttering 27 items each day.

9. Strip Experiences Down to Their Essence. Strip an experience that you want to have, but which you can’t afford at the moment, down to its core essence. As an illustration, if you really want to visit Italy, but you can’t afford to do so right now, ask yourself what it is about Italy that you really want to experience.

  • Is it the food? Then start looking for the best Italian restaurant you can find within driving distance of where you live.
  • Is it the art? Go to a museum.
  • Is it the culture in general? Rent a couple of Italian movies, such as “La Strada” and “Profumo di Donna”.

Even if you can’t go to Italy at the moment, you can find ways to experience the things that you love about Italy, right now.

10. Start a Dream Jar. In my post, 14 Awesome Things You Can Do With Just $25, I explain that the way to finance your life goals is to start right away setting aside some money–even if it’s just one dollar a day–and placing that sum in a dream jar. Knowing that you’ve started saving for your dreams, even if it’s just a small amount, will help you feel that you’re on your way toward making those dreams come true.

11. Adjust Your Materialism Levels. It’s fine to want things. However, in today’s society people are incessantly bombarded with messages from marketers trying to sell everything from expensive colognes to insanely priced cars, which often creates a feeling of dissatisfaction among those who do not belong to the wealthy elite and who can’t afford these items.

If your levels of materialism have gone off the charts, you need to adjust these levels or risk never feeling like you have enough and never feeling satisfied.

12. Lack Is In Your Mind. Realize that a feeling of lack is all in your mind. There are 3 billion people in the world living on less than $2.00 a day. In addition, 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.  (Source). And you feel that you live in a state of scarcity because you can’t afford that leather jacket in the store window? You may want to rethink that.

13. Let Go of Your Need To Own Things. A while ago I was reading an anecdote about a group of tourists who were in Africa on safari. They were watching a beautiful sunset over a lake, when one of them said: “I would love to have a house overlooking that lake”. The guide that was with them pointed out that he had noticed the following about tourists to his country: when they experienced beauty, their first reaction was to want to “own it”.

Experience the beauty around you, and just let it be.

14. Nurture Inner Peace. By nurturing inner peace you’ll be creating calm and joy in your inner world, which will help you to feel good about yourself regardless of what may be happening in your outer world. Those who are spiritually rich feel wealthy, lucky, and successful even during the most trying of times.

15. Spend Time in Nature. Instead of going to the shopping mall, go to the beach. Instead of watching TV, go to the park, sit under a tree with a good book, and read. Instead of eating at the cafeteria, walk to an arboretum or a public garden near your place of work, and eat there. It’s hard to harbor feelings of lack when you’re surrounded by the abundance of nature.

16. Read Rags to Riches Stories. There are many biographies available of people who started out with little and ended up having a lot. Read these stories when you need inspiration. After all, if they could do it, why not you? Feel wealthy, lucky, and successful by reading about others who were once where you are and then went on to rise to great heights.

17. Learn Something New. Even if you’re not rich in material goods at the moment, you can be rich in knowledge. Explore Beethoven’s sonatas, read the classics, and memorize great poetry, such as “Daffodils” by William Wordsworths. After all, how can you not feel wealthy and lucky to be alive when you’re engulfed by one of Beethoven’s cello sonatas or dancing with daffodils.

18. Learn a Marketable Skill. Prepare yourself to be wealthy and successful in the future by learning a marketable skill now. The more valuable you are to others, whether it’s a boss or your clients, the wealthier and the more successful you’ll be. And the way to make yourself more valuable is by learning new skills.

19.  Make a List of Ten Things Money Can’t Buy. The best things in life can’t be bought. Here are some of them:

  • Friends who love you for who you are.
  • A close-knit family.
  • A spouse whom you would trust with your life.

If you have these things, you can be sure that you’re luckier and wealthier than most people living in mansions and driving around in Bentleys.

20. Set Goals For the Future. The fact that you don’t have the money to take singing lessons or visit Paris right now, doesn’t mean that you won’t have the resources to experience these things in the future. Accept where you are now, while you make plans for where you want to be in the future. Then, allow yourself to feel that you can, and that you will, have these things.


Live your best life by feeling wealthy, lucky, and successful. You can start with the 20 ways explained above.

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Mind maps engage your whole brain and allow you to see the big picture.

A mind map is a whole-brain method for generating and organizing ideas which is largely inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s approach to note-taking. The concept was brought into the mainstream by Tony Buzan and is based on patterns found in nature, and on research on how humans think and how the brain works.

In “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”, Michael J. Gelb explains that by using mind mapping regularly, you can train yourself to be a more balanced thinker, like da Vinci. Gelb adds that mind mapping stimulates both brain hemispheres: it lets you develop a logical sequence and detailed organization of your material, while encouraging imagination and spontaneity. In fact, he explains that the note-taking styles of many of history’s geniuses feature a branching, organic structure complemented by lots of sketches, creative doodles, and keywords.

These geniuses include Charles Darwin, Michelangelo, Mark Twain, and, of course, da Vinci. Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions for creating mind maps, as well as 14 brilliant uses for mind maps.

How to Create Mind Maps: Step-by-Step Instructions

Mind maps represent a task or an idea in pictorial form with a minimum of words. They rely on key pictures and keywords that act as triggers. Here are step-by-step instructions for creating mind maps:

Step 1. Get a plain sheet of paper and turn it so that it’s on its landscape side. You’re also going to need colored pens and/or pencils.

Step 2. In the center of the page draw a picture or paste an image that represents the central concept of your mind map. Then, write down a keyword which represents the central idea.

Step 3. Use colors throughout. Adding images and colors stimulates right-brain thinking. That is, it stimulates creativity and imagination.

Step 4. What are the main concepts or ideas that can be derived from the image and/or keyword you’ve placed in the middle of the page? Do the following:

  • Draw anywhere from three to ten thick branches leading out from your central image/keyword.
  • Make the branches curve and flow.
  • Try to make each branch a different color.
  • Choose an image and a keyword for each branch.

Step 5. Look at your branches and begin making free associations. Draw smaller sub-branches that stem from each branch to accommodate the new associations that you’re making.

Step 6. Connect third-level branches from the ends of the sub-branches. You can even create a fourth and a fifth level. Let your mind work freely by association and have fun.

Step 7. Throughout the mind map, use keywords. Keywords exercise your analytical “left brain” and help you find the essence of your subject. However, using too many words will restrict your thinking. Try using just one keyword per line; this will give you the freedom to discover lots of creative associations for your keyword.

Step 8. Use images throughout. Images make the mind map more interesting and more memorable. In addition, pictures generate far more associations than words do.

Step 9. When you’re done with your initial mind map, do the following: add details; jot down questions that radiate from particular nodes; and draw little “vines” that connect ideas on different branches.

14 Brilliant Uses For Mind Maps

Now that you know how to create mind maps, here are 14 brilliant uses for mind maps:

1. Use Mind Maps For Idea Generation. Place an image in the center of the page that represents the topic for which you want to generate ideas. From that image, start to radiate out every idea that comes into your mind on that subject-matter. Create a branch for each idea.

Look at the branches and see what ideas are triggered by the keyword and the image on each branch. Put these new ideas down as sub-branches. Next, brainstorm at least three ideas for each sub-branch and put these down as third level branches. You can stop there, or you can add a fourth level.

When you’re done, look through your final mind map and decide which idea you’re going to implement. Finally, go out into the world and implement your idea.

2. Use Mind Maps to Better Retain Information From Books and Articles. Most people complain that they quickly forget what they read. However, there’s a way to remember and retain more of the books and articles that you read. You can achieve this by creating a mind map each time that you read something that you find informative or helpful.

When you’re reading a book, the branches of the mind map can be the chapter headings of the most important chapters. Then, write down the main ideas of each chapter as subheadings. Third level branches can include examples, quotes, and even your own comments on what you just read. In the fourth level you can write down ideas on action steps that the book or article has inspired you to take

3. Use Mind Maps For Problem Solving. When problem solving, insert an image which represents the problem you’re having in the center of a piece of paper, along with the appropriate keyword.  Then, draw six branches leading out of the center image/keyword and write one of the following questions on each branch:

  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?
  • Who?

Answer these questions in the sub-branches of your mind map and proceed to free-associate solutions to your problem from there.

4. Use Mind Maps to Take Notes During Meetings. When you’re at an office meeting, do the following:

  • Write the purpose for the meeting in the center of the page.
  • Each agenda item will be represented as one of the main branches on your mindmap (get the agenda ahead of time, if you can).
  • As the meeting progresses, add sub-branches to each agenda item with the main points discussed for each item (ideas, facts, budget, who is going to do what, and so on).
  • Draw pictures and interlink items.

5. Use Mind Maps to Set Life Goals. Write “Life Goals” in the center of the page (you can also draw an image of yourself or paste a photo). Choose what you consider to be your main life areas. These can include travel, adventures, family, contributions, career, finances, and so on. Each one of these will be one of the branches of your mind map.

Further divide each life area in a way that makes sense to you. For example, the “Family” branch could be divided into the following sub-branches: parents; siblings; spouse; kids; extended family; and so on. Then, write down at least three life goals for each of your sub-branches. These will be the third level branches.

As fourth level branches you could write down ideas on how to achieve each goal, a deadline, the resources that you’ll need, and so on.

6. Use Mind Maps for Project Management. What’s the name of the project that you’re going to be working on? Write it down in the center of the page. What are the main tasks that need to be completed for the project? Write those down as sub-branches. Divide the main tasks into sub-tasks and write those down as third level branches.

For each sub-task you can create a fourth level by adding information such as duration, cost, materials needed, and so on.

7. Use Mind Maps to Write Your Novel. Put your story’s tentative title, or the genre, in the middle of the page. Your branches can be the following: Setting; Characters; Conflict; Theme; Plot; Scenes; and Point of View. The “Character” branch–for example–can be further broken down by creating a sub-branch for each character.

Then, create third level branches by creating a character profile for each character. You can write down things such as the following: Age; Appearance; Occupation; Income; Education; Special Characteristics; Strengths; Flaws; and so on.

8. Use Mind Maps to Write Ebooks. If you’ve been trying to write an eBook for a while but you keep getting stuck at the planning stage, a mind map could be just what you need. What’s your eBook’s topic? Write that down at the center of the page.

Then, add ten branches. Temporarily label them Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and so on. Later on you can add the specific titles of each chapter, but for now just write down potential topics. For each chapter include sub-branches with ideas of what you’re going to include in each chapter. Then, as a third level, write down examples for each of your ideas.

9. Use Mind Maps to Write a Business Plan. Write the name of your business or your business idea in the center of the page. The branches are the major components of your business plan. This can include things such as your business concept; your legal structure; your marketing plan; a market analysis; your financials; and your sales strategy.

Further divide each of the main components by adding sub-branches. For example, your “Marketing Plan” branch could lead to the following sub-branches: brochures; press releases; web site; social media; advertisements; and so on.

10. Use a Mind Map to Write Your Memoir. Write down your name at the center of the page. Your main branches could be something like the following: early childhood; adolescence; college; life after college; marriage; retirement; and so on. Taking “early childhood” as an example, you could create the following sub-branches:

  • School
  • Friends
  • Neighborhood
  • After-School Activities
  • Chores
  • Holidays
  • Family Life
  • Pets
  • Favorite Memories
  • Traumatic Events

Then, you can take “School” and further divide it as follows: Favorite Subjects; Favorite Teachers; Grades; Riding the Bus; School Books; Learning to Read; Kids From School; and so on.

11. Use A Mind Map to Plan Your Finances. Creating a mind map of your finances is a good idea since it illustrates the big picture of your financial life. The branches of your financial mind map can include things such as the following: Income; Expenses; Debt; Investments; Retirement Plan; Estate Plan; and so on.

Each branch can then be further broken down into sub-branches. For example, the “Estate Plan” branch could be broken down into the following: Will; Revocable Living Trust; Power of Attorney; Health Care Proxy; and so on. You can choose to add more details by adding third and fourth level branches.

12. Use Mind Maps for Your To-Do List. Write something obvious such as “to do” at the center of the page. Then, identify your main categories and put those down as branches. Here are some examples: Blog; Work; Home; and Errands. List the tasks that you need to get done for each of your categories as sub-branches.

As an illustration, for the “Blog” category you could add the following sub-branches: write a blog post; share the blog post on social media; spend 15 minutes on Twitter; visit three blogs in my niche and leave comments; and email potential sponsors.

For a third level you could further break down each task: include time limits for each task; include more information about the task; and so on.

13. Use Mind Maps for Holiday Planning. The holiday that you’re planning goes in the center of the page. Let’s use the 4th of July as an illustration. Draw an American flag and write down “July 4th” at the center of the page.

Then, create a branch for each major area that you need to plan. Here are some examples:

  • Barbecue
  • Decorations
  • Parade
  • Fireworks Show
  • Teach the kids about the 4th of July

The “Barbecue Branch” can be further broken down with the following:

  • Drinks
  • Food
  • Snacks
  • Dessert
  • Backyard Activitivies for the Kids
  • Music

Each sub-branch can be further broken down by adding more details. As an illustration, you could create third level branches for “Dessert” with the following: flag cake; cupcakes with sparklers; carved watermelon filled with fruit; red, white, and blue jello; and so on.

14. Use Mind Maps for Yearly Planning. Write down the year that you’re going to be planning in the middle of the page. Create branches: each branch represents a goal for the year. For example, let’s say that one of your goals for the year is to make an additional $12,000 which you’re going to put down toward your retirement.

You’re going to divide that goal into four milestones; each milestone is a sub-branch. Here are your four sub-branches:

  • Make $3,000 by March 31st.
  • Make $6,000 by June 30th.
  • Make $9,000 by September 30th.
  • Make $12,000 by December 31st.

Then, further break down each milestone. Continuing with our example, the sub-branch “Make $3,000 by March 31st” can be broken down as follows:

  • Make $1,000 by January 31st.
  • Make $2,000 by February 28th.
  • Make $3,000 by March 31st.

Those are your third-level branches. Your 4th level branches can be the action steps that you’re going to take in order to make that money.


Mind maps are a fantastic tool for generating ides, organizing your life, planning, and so on. The 14 uses for mind maps explained above are just the beginning. Live your best life by engaging your whole mind with mind maps.


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Happiness begins at home.

Here’s a great quote which I found on Gretchen Rubin’s blog, The Happiness Project:

“To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends.” – Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No.68

What makes a home? Here are some definitions:

  • Home is a comfortable refuge for the people who live in it.
  • Home is the place that makes you feel relieved when you walk in through the door.
  • Home is the place where you live and where you feel that you belong.
  • Home is where your loved ones live; where the people who love you are.
  • Home is where you’re treated well.
  • Home is the place where you feel at peace.
  • Home is a lawn that needs mowing, a floor that need to be swepted, a warm meal on the table, and a soft bed to crawl into at the end of the day.

As someone once said, home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling. We all want to feel happy at home. To that end, below you’ll find 10 ways to be happier at home.

1. Declutter Your Living Space. Cutter has a mental cost. It bombards us with excessive stimuli, it signals to our brain that work is never done, and it makes us anxious and creates feelings of guilt. None of this is conducive to happiness. Increase your happiness at home by decluttering.

In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Japanese organizational expert Marie Kondo recommends that you declutter your home by picking up each item and asking the following question: Does this bring me joy? She recommends that you only keep in your home those items that spark joy.

She adds that you should tackle decluttering by subject– for example: books, then clothes, then photos and mementos, and so on. Once you’re done decluttering, store everything that’s left in drawers, arranging all the items in such a way that everything can be seen at a glance. Kondo says the following:

“The inside of a house or apartment after decluttering has much in common with a Shinto shrine . . . a place where there are no unnecessary things, and our thoughts become clear.”

2. Display Items That Bring Back Happy Memories. In my post on Five Ways to Buy Happiness I explain that research has shown that experiences make us happier than material goods. One of the reasons for this is that experiences provide a cycle of enjoyment. This cycle includes the following:

  • Planning the experience;
  • Anticipating the experience;
  • Enjoying the experience and sharing it with others; and
  • Remembering the experience.

By displaying items around your home that bring back happy memories, you’ll be stretching out the happiness cycle of your experiences. Each time that you catch a glimpse of that photo of your family at Disney, or that African mask you picked up on your honeymoon, you’ll get a little jolt of happiness from the memory of those happy times.

3. Spend Money on Things To Cultivate Family Experiences at Home. As was mentioned in the previous point, one way to be happier at home is to turn your home into a gallery of positive memories. In addition, spend your money on things that will allow to create positive family experiences at home.

One of the best ways to do this is to turn your family room into a space for relaxation and entetainment. Here are three examples of things you can do:

  • Get a ping-pong table for the family room so that your kids will gather there to have ping-pong tournaments.
  • Get a game table and a few board games and institute family game night once a week.
  • Invest in a comfortable sofa and get the entire collection of several movie sagas on DVD–such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Lord of The Rings–and gather the family together for movie marathons with popcorn.

One of the best ways to be happy at home is to create positive, bonding experiences for your family.

4. Fill Your Home With Plants. As I explained in my post, 8 Reasons Why You Need to Spend More Time In Nature, research shows that being out in nature boosts happiness levels. In addition, bringing nature indoors also increases our sense of well-being.  Houseplants eliminate stuffy air in the home, reduce stress, help deter illness, and boost your mood.

To increase your happiness at home, visit a nursery and pick out plants that suit your home and lifestyle.

5. Give Warm Greetings and Farewells. In her book Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life, Gretchen Rubin indicates that as part of her quest to increase the happiness of her home, she wanted her family members to feel acknowledged and welcome every time they walked in through the door.

With this in mind, she proposed the following to her family:

“I want us to have the rule that when any one of us comes home, or is leaving, we all have to pay attention to that person for a minute. Let’s give warm greetings and farewells.”

Gretchen shares that her family began to follow this resolution. She adds that this has created moments of real connection among her family members. In addition, this small thing has helped to improve the atmosphere in her home.

6. Turn Your Bedroom Into a Sleep Haven. Sleep has been linked to happiness. A survey of more than 7,000 adults in the US showed that people who get more sleep have a higher sense of well-being than those who get less sleep. You can boost your happiness at home by turning your bedroom into a sleep haven. Do the following:

  • Install a good set of blinds or curtains, and consider getting black shades.
  • Get the best matress you can afford and high quality bedding (think of it as an investment in your health and well-being).
  • Consider sound-proofing your room, or at least get a white noise machine to block out noises that could disturb your slumber.

Everyone is happier in the morning after they’ve gotten a good night’s sleep, so be happier at home by making sure that the bedrooms are conducive to good sleep.

7. Have Mood-Boosting Snacks Handy. If you want your entire household to be happier, fill your kitchen with easy to access mood-enhancing snacks. These include the following:

  • Dark chocolate — Dark chocolate stimulates endorphins,the pleasure hormone. It also contains serotonin, which is a chemical that acts as an anti-depressant.
  • Fruit — Fruits such as grapes and strawberries have mood-boosting effects. Stock up on these, wash them, and store them in see-through containers in the fridge.
  • Nuts — Eating a handful of nuts has been found to increase levels of serotonin, which translates into a better mood.

In addition, have tea at hand. Theanine, which is an amino acid present in black and green tea, reduces anxiety and calms us. This is because it increases the number of inhibitory neurotransmitters, which balance our moods out. In addition, theanine modulates serotonin and dopamine, which are feel-good hormones.

8. Get Fitness Games for Wii. The happiness boosting benefits of exercise have been well documented. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that are associated with relaxation and improved mood. However, most people can’t get themselves to walk on a treadmill or hop on an exercise bike in order to get the recommended 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise.

That’s where your family’s addiction to video games comes in. Get your family members’ hearts pumping, and raise their happiness levels, with Wii dance games, such as Just Dance, ABBA You Can Dance, and Zumba Fitness World Party – Nintendo Wii. It’s a sneaky way to get everyone to exercise more.

9. Build a Home Library. Research has shown that reading increases mental well-being and reduces stress levels. In addition, reading makes you happier. Specifically, reading makes us happy by fulfilling our need for competence. After all, when we read we gain knowledge, and gaining knowledge satisfies competence.

Increase happiness levels at home by setting aside an area of your home and making it conducive to reading. Make sure that the area has chairs where your family members can get comfortable, that there’s good lighting, and that you have lots of good books to choose from. You can find ideas for what books to include in your home library in my post, How to Be Well Read.

10. Get a Fire Pit. As Shawn Achor, Ph.D., explains in his book, The Happiness Advantage, our social support network is one of the greatest predictors of our happiness. Get yourself a fire pit for your backyard and create a gathering place for your friends and neighbors. You can roast marshmallows, have drinks, or just shoot the breeze.

Of course, your gathering place doesn’t have to be a fire pit. Simply design an area of your home in a way that encourages socializing so that your friends will want to drop by. Be happier at home by making it a place in which you can connect with others.


It’s a great feeling when you know that whatever happens during the day, you have a happy home to go to at night. Live your best life by being happier at home. Start with the 10 ways to be happier at home explained above.

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one hour fast track

You can achieve all of your goals in just one-hour-a-day.

John Updike—the American novelist, poet, short story writer, and literary critic—, when asked what advice he had for writers just starting out, had the following to say: “Reserve an hour a day”. Here’s Updike in his own words:

“To the young writers, I would merely say, ‘Try to develop actual work habits, and even though you have a busy life, try to reserve an hour, say—or more—a day to write’. Some very good things have been written on an hour a day. Henry Green, one of my pets, was an industrialist actually. He was running a company, and he would come home and write for just an hour in an armchair, and wonderful books were created in this way. So, take it seriously, you know, set a quota.”

Updike’s advice doesn’t just apply to writers. It applies to everyone, regardless of the life goal that they’re trying to achieve. Whatever goal or dream you have, make it a reality by reserving one-hour-a-day to work on your goal. Here are ten reasons why you can fast track your goals with just one-hour-a-day:

1. An hour a day is enough time to start seeing results in a few weeks. A few years ago I gained some weight (more than I would like to admit), so I went to a nutritionist who prepared a diet plan for me. In addition, she indicated that I had to exercise for an hour a day, six days a weeks. I followed her advice and did the following:

  • I started going to the gym six days a week.
  • As soon as I walked into the gym I would hop on the treadmill and walk for an hour.

Within a month I could already see that I was losing weight and looking more fit, and that motivated me to keep going. I persisted–and it took me four months–but I lost all of the weight that I had gained. If you set aside one-hour-a-day to work on your goals, you’ll start to see results within a few weeks, and those “wins” will inspire you to keep working on your goal.

2. An hour a day is small enough to fit into your schedule. Right now you may be thinking:

“I can’t even squeeze fifteen minutes into my schedule”.

However, once you’re crystal clear on an important goal that you want to achieve, you’ll find that setting aside an hour a day to achieve that goal is doable. Just as you find ways to save money when you want to buy something that’s important to you, you can find ways to save sixty minutes a day so that you can achieve your goals.

3. It gets you focused. When you have a one-hour chunk to work on something, it’s enough time to hit your stride. You know that you won’t have to stop after ten minutes to go work on something else, and that you won’t be interrupted every five minutes. You have an entire hour.

Even if you need a few minutes to warm up, once you get going, a one-hour block of time is enough to allow you to enter your productivity zone—that is, achieve a state of flow–and really get things done.

4. An hour a day allows you to ease into your goal. Your goal might be to make a full-time living by starting your own business, becoming a full-time blogger, writing a best-selling novel, and so on. However, if you don’t have a good amount of money set aside, it’s very risky to quit your job and jump into these activities full-time.

Nonetheless, by devoting an hour-a-day to your goal, you can ease into it. Then, you can quit your job once your hour-a-day has shown you that you can succeed at the activity that you want to take up, and that you can make enough money from that activity to cover all of your living expenses.

5. Since an hour-a-day is a small amount of time, you can lower your expectations. If you’re devoting three, four, or five hours a day to a project, there’s a lot of pressure to do something epic. And the pressure to do something great is often paralyzing. When you set your standards too high it often happens that you can’t get started because of the fear of failing.

However, when you’re setting aside just one-hour-a-day to work on a given project, or goal, you can lower your expectations. After all, it’s just one hour. Once you’re no longer paralyzed by the fear of doing something epic, it’s a lot easier to get started.

6. Setting a time limit can make you more creative. A lot of people think that limitations are bad; these people tell themselves that if they only had more time and more money, they could finally get started on making their dreams come true. However, the reality is exactly the opposite: limits are a good thing. Limits make you more creative, and more productive.

When you tell your brain that it has all the time in the world to come up with a new idea, or with a way to solve a problem, or with a plot twist for your novel, your brain will take you at your word. That is, it will take all the time in the world. However, tell your brain that it has one hour to do the following:

  • Come up with a table of contents for an eBook that you’re writing.
  • Create a marketing plan for your small business.
  • Write a blog post.
  • Brainstorm a solution to a problem that you’re having.

What does your brain do? It goes into overdrive, and it delivers. An hour of focused attention will get you better results than an entire day of meandering.

7. You’ll have low sunk costs, so you can quit if you want to. Within 30 days of devoting an hour-a-day to learning a new skill you’ll have enough information to decide whether it’s something that you really want to continue working on, or if it’s best to quit. If you do decide to quit, then at least you’ll be moving one thing out of your “I wish I could do this list” and into your “tried it but didn’t like it list”.

One-hour-a-day for 30 days is a small enough investment that it won’t be too painful for you if you do decide to quit.

8. It gets you started. The hardest part of any endeavor is starting. This applies to everything: getting fit, writing a book, taking up meditation, learning to paint, and so on. The first step always offers the most resistance and takes the most effort. However, once you’ve taken the first step, taking the second step is a little bit easier. Then, each successive step gets easier until you’re well on your way.

If you keep telling yourself, “Well, I’ll get to work on this dream someday, when I have the time”, this prevents you from ever getting started. However, if you tell yourself that you’re going to start simply by devoting an hour-a-day to your goal, this allows you to take that vital first step. And, as Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

9. You can create momentum. Sir Isaac Newton once said that an object in motion will remain in motion. When it comes to achieving your life goals, your goal will stay in motion as long as you do something to push it forward a little bit each day. Once you’ve taken the first step toward the achievement of your goal, keep your goal in motion by working on it for one-hour-a-day.

10. An hour-a-day has a cumulative effect. One way to think of your one-hour-a-day is as follows: one-hour-a-day comes to 365 hours a year. That’s nine 40-hour work weeks. That is, by setting aside an hour a day to work on your goal, in one year you’ll have devoted nine weeks —or two months–to your goal. Not bad!


Stop telling yourself that you simply don’t have enough time to achieve your goals and go after your dreams. Instead, carve out one-hour-a-day and start crossing your life goals off of your bucket list, one by one.

“The One-Hour-A-Day Formula: How to Achieve Your Dreams in Just One Hour a Day” is a step-by-step plan for making all of your dreams come true by using the odds and ends of time. You can download the introduction to “The One-Hour-A-Day Formula” here.

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tame your monkey brain

Zen Buddhists refer to the constant chatter of the mind as monkey mind.

The Buddha held that the human mind is filled with drunken monkeys flinging themselves from tree branches, jumping around, and chattering nonstop. He meant that our minds are in constant motion. Typical mind chatter sounds like the following:

  • Your mind reading off a laundry list of to-do items.
  • Your mind listing its fears, both real and imaginary.
  • Your mind recalling hurtful things that have happened in the past.
  • Your mind judging the present.
  • Your mind creating catastrophic “what-if” scenarios of the future.

As a result of this monkey mind, it’s nearly impossible to slow down and enjoy the present. In addition, all that negativity affects our mood—making us unhappy, angry, restless, and anxious; it hampers our ability to concentrate; it has a negative impact on our behavior; and it interferes with our ability to have positive interactions with others. It’s also very stressful to have a barrel of monkeys screeching in our head all day long. The good news is that there are ways to get the monkey mind to calm down.

Taming your monkey mind will do all of the following for you:

  • It will give you clarity of mind.
  • It will allow you to focus on the present and on the task at hand.
  • It will improve the quality of your sleep.
  • It will increase your sense of calm and of well-being.
  • It will make you happier.

So, let’s get to it! Below you’ll discover 10 ways to tame your monkey mind and stop mental chatter.

1. Know that Your Monkey Mind Can Be Tamed. The first step in your quest to calm your monkey mind is to know that it’s possible to do so. It’s very likely that up until this point you’ve allowed your monkey mind to run wild. But now you’re going to put an end to that. After all, your thoughts don’t rule you. You rule your thoughts.

2. Talk to Your Monkey Mind. When your monkey mind is in full swing, calm it down by having a conversation with it. Stop for a moment and listen to what your monkey mind is saying. Why is it upset? What’s all the raucous about? Then, do the following:

  • Is your monkey mind trying to remind you of something that needs to be done? Make a note of it and schedule the item so that your monkey mind doesn’t need to worry about it any longer.
  • Is your monkey mind anxious about something in the future? Reassure your monkey mind that everything is going to be fine. Conduct a worst-case scenario with your monkey mind, and come up with a contingency plan.
  • Is your monkey mind voicing resentment over something that happened in the past?  Realize that you need to create an action plan for dealing with your past so that your monkey mind stops bringing it up.

Sometimes your monkey mind just needs to be heard. Once it feels that it’s been allowed to voice its grievances and concerns, it will settle down.

3. Establish a Journaling Practice. This is similar to the point above, but it’s more deliberate. By establishing a regular journaling practice, you’ll be setting aside a window of time each day specifically to address your monkey mind’s concerns. Do the following:

  • Let your monkey mind know that every morning you’re going to give it 15 to 20 minutes to run amok.
  • During this time, write down what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, and anything that you’re worried about.
  • Do this for the amount of time that you’ve allotted to journaling, and then stop.

Once the time is up, let your monkey know that it’s had it’s say for the day, and that you will not pay attention to anything else it says until the next day’s journaling session. Then, keep your word. If your monkey mind starts screeching at any other time of the day, refuse to place your attention on whatever thoughts the monkey mind is generating.

Tell your monkey mind the following: “Your session for today is over. Wait until tomorrow’s session. I’ll listen to you then.” Soon, your monkey mind will realize that it’s completely futile to make a fuss at any time other than during your journaling sessions.

4. Meditate. Meditating is the most effective technique you can use to calm your monkey mind. By meditating you’ll be training your mind to become still, and you’ll be regaining power and control over your thoughts. If you create a daily practice of meditation you’ll become skilled at quieting your mind and at silencing the monkey mind at will.

5. Practice the A-B-C Technique. A lot of the time, monkey mind is caused by your thoughts disagreeing with what’s going on. That is, there’s a contrast between your thoughts and your surroundings. When the present moment doesn’t align with what your monkey mind wants, your monkey mind begins to spit and howl.

The A-B-C technique can help you deal with the disparity between what your monkey mind thinks should be happening, and what is actually happening. Here’s how it works:

  • A is for “activating event”. That is, something happens.
  • B is for “beliefs”. Your monkey mind starts interpreting what’s happening based on your beliefs.
  • C is for “consequences”. As a consequence of the thoughts that you’re having about what just happened, you feel certain emotions.

The key to taming the monkey mind by applying the A-B-C technique is to question the beliefs that the monkey mind is relying on in order to reach the conclusions that its communicating to you. Here are three examples of questioning your beliefs:

  • Are people really obligated to act at all times in the way in which I want them to act?
  • Is it realistic to believe that things must always go my way?
  • Is it true that I have to perform well all the time?

If you reject the beliefs that your monkey mind is relying on to justify its temper tantrum, the monkey mind will no longer have a place to hang its hat on. And it will have no choice but to quiet down. You can read more about this technique in my post, A Powerful Tool for Your Happiness Arsenal: REBT.

6. Stop Assigning Meaning. The Spanish abstract artist Pablo Picasso once said the following: “If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes.” Although that’s a rather grotesque image, pause for a moment and reflect on the quote’s meaning.

What Picasso is saying is that you should simply allow your senses to take in what’s going around you, and then stop. Skip the step in which your monkey mind jumps in and starts judging, critiquing, and assigning meaning. Once you start doing this on a regular basis, you’ll notice that you begin to see things more clearly. In addition, you’ll be able to see much more than you did before.

7. Recite a Mantra. Interrupt your monkey mind mid-sentence and distract it by reciting a mantra. When you recite a mantra you draw in your scattered attention and focus it on a word, phrase, or sound. A mantra that I like to use is “Peace” (but you can use whatever mantra you want).

Although you can recite your mantra silently, it’s more effective if you it say out loud. That way, you’re also listening to the word, phrase, or sound, which engages your sense of hearing. The more senses you can stimulate, the easier it will be to distract your monkey mind.

In addition, by repeating a positive phrase–either to yourself or out loud–you’ll be listening to something positive, instead of listening to the negativity being spewed by your monkey mind.

8. Play a Game of Fives. The moment in which you hear the first monkey howling in your mind, you’ll know that it’s very likely that your mind has wandered off and that it’s no longer in the present moment. You can get the tribe of monkeys in your mind to quiet down by bringing your mind back to the present.

One way to bring your mind back to the present is by playing the Game of Fives. Pause your train of thought and notice five things in your environment. It can be five things you see, hear, or smell. Then, fully experience the sight, sound, or smell. You can do this by pretending that it’s the first time you’ve ever experienced that sight, sound, or smell, and by adopting a sense of awe.

The moment in which you do this all of your attention will be placed on the present moment, and your monkey mind will be silenced.

9. Engage Your Mind. I’m sure that you’ve experienced moments when your mind was completely still. Perhaps you were so involved in a book, or in a movie, or in your writing, that the monkey mind went silent. You just experienced directly what was going on, without your mind chatter giving you a running commentary of events, as they occurred.

This is because one way to silence your monkey mind is by engaging your mind. The next time your monkey mind is driving you nuts, look for an activity that draws you in completely, so that all of your attention is placed on what you’re doing, and there’s no attention left over to listen to the monkey mind.

10. Try Piko-Piko Breathing. Piko-Piko breathing is one of the basic practices of the ancient Hawaiian Huna philosophy. “Piko” means “navel” or “center”. The technique involves doing the following:

  • Breathe in deeply. As you inhale, place your attention on the crown of your head.
  • As you exhale, center your attention on your navel.
  • Keep breathing in and out as you switch your attention from the crown of your head to your navel.
  • Do this a few times.

The act of breathing deeply, centering the attention on one spot, and then automatically moving the attention to another spot will help you to calm your restless mind.


As was stated in this post’s introduction, taming your monkey mind has many benefits. Although calming your mind will take some practice, it can be done. The 10 strategies and techniques explained above are a great place to start. Live your best life by taming your monkey mind.

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How to Be Well Read

how to be well read

Everyone who is serious about self-improvement wishes to be well read.

A while ago I pondered the question of what it means to be well educated. Now I’ve asked myself the following: “What does it mean to be well read?”

According to Google, 129,864,880 books have been published in modern history. Needless to say, that’s a lot of books. Upon the myriad titles available, which ones should you read? Should you go out and get yourself a copy of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, Don Quixote, The Odyssey, The Decameron, War and Peace, Papá Goriot, and a collection of Emily Dickenson’s poems?

  • What else should be on your reading list?
  • Should you have a lifelong reading list at all, or should you simply read at whim?
  • Should you stick to the classics or should you add both fiction and nonfiction across a variety of topics and genres?
  • Do you need to include a multicultural array of authors?
  • Do the books on your list have to be challenging and difficult to read? Can you include popular fiction?

In addition, how should you read the books that you select so that you can get the most out of them, reflect on what you’ve read, and have better retention? I’ve attempted to answer all of these questions in this post, and hope to have succeeded.

Below you’ll discover how to be well read.

What to Read to Be Well Read

The first question people usually ask themselves once they’ve decided that they wish to become well read is the following: What should I read?

Fortunately, this is a question that several bibliophiles have attempted to answer, so you can look through their recommendations in order to reach your own conclusions. Here are ten suggestions on how to develop a list of books to read:

1. Thomas Jefferson’s Recommended Reading. Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States, and was incredibly well read. When the British burned down the Library of Congress during the War of 1812, Jefferson—who had the largest personal collection of books in the US—offered his library to Congress as a replacement.

Throughout his life, several people wrote to Jefferson asking him to recommend a list of books that they should read. Jefferson would respond to those letters. In those letters, Jefferson provided a lengthy list of books that he found to be uplifting. Here’s a list of Jefferson’s recommend reading.

2. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. This literary reference book was compiled by over 100 literary critics and was edited by Peter Boxall. It includes both novels and short stories and each title is accompanied by a synopsis and an explanation of why it was chosen.

You can get 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die on Amazon, or you can take a look at the list of the 1001 books here.

3. The Harvard Classics. I’ve written about the Harvard Classics on this blog before. Charles W. Eliot—the president of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909 —once said that anyone could get a Harvard quality liberal arts education by reading for 15 minutes, every day, for a year.

Eliot identified exactly what one must read to accomplish his claim in a collection titled the Harvard Classics. The collection contains works from literature, religion, philosophy, science, education, and history.

You can get “The Harvard Classics in a Year: A Liberal Education in 365 Days”, for your Kindle, for just $2.50.

4. Great Books of the Western World. This is another collection of books which is designed to give the reader a liberal arts education, along the lines of the Harvard Classics. It was the brainchild of Robert Maynard Hutchins –president of the University of Chicago—and Mortimer Adler, a philosopher and educator. It contains what is widely known as the Western canon.

The Great Books were marketed door-to-door through the 1960s with the message that anyone could become well-read. You can get the Great Books of the Western World on Amazon, or you can get them here as free eBooks.

5. Great Books. David Denby—an American journalist best known for working as the film critic for The New Yorker Magazine for 16 years—got a B.A. from Columbia University in 1965. Then, in 1991–at the age of 48—Denby returned to Columbia and re-enrolled in two core courses in Western civilization:

  • Literature Humanities
  • Contemporary Civilization

Denby retook these courses in order to reacquaint himself with the major Western literary, historical, political, and philosophical works. That is, Denby exposed himself once again to “the great books”, beginning with the Greeks and the Bible and ending with the most influential political thinkers of the 20th century. In his Great Books, Denby takes the reader through his personal odyssey of these works.

6. The New Lifetime Reading Plan. The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classical Guide to World Literature by Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major was first published in 1960. However, it’s been revised and modernized. This reading plan provides an introduction to great literature from around the globe, including writers and works from Confucius to Charlotte Bronte, and from Gabriel García Márquez to the Koran.

The authors give you a synopsis of each of the books that they recommend, as well as recommendations on how to read and think about them. You can take a look at the list of books included in the lifetime reading plan here.

7. How to Be Well Read. In How to Be Well Read: A Guide to 500 Great Novels and a Handful of Literary Curiosities, John Sutherland—a British academic who has taught English literature for over 50 years—argues that if you want to be well read, just reading the classics won’t cut it.

In fact, his list includes everything from imposing Victorian novels to more eclectic picks, such as Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, E.L. James’ erotic romance Fifty Shades of Grey, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

8. Classics For Pleasure. In Classics for Pleasure, Pulitzer Prize winner and book critic for The Washington Post Michael Dirda recommends ninety of the world’s most entertaining books and offers a brief essay on each one. Although the word “classics” is in the title of the book, Dirda wanted to go beyond the “obvious classics”.

In his “Classics for Pleasure”, Dirda includes Icelandic sagas, the Tao Te Ching, Dracula, and other books he has enjoyed across several genres which he felt have helped to shape literature, even if they’re not considered “classics” in the traditional sense of the word. Dirda indicates that instead of thinking of a book as being either high literature or popular literature, the only question that really matters is whether the book is well written or not.

Here’s a YouTube video of a talk that Dirda gave at the Library of Congress in which he reveals why he wrote “Classics for Pleasure”, as well as the titles that he recommends in said book.

9. Stephen King’s Recommended Reading. Stephen King—the beloved author of horror, fantasy, and the supernatural whose books have sold over 350 million copies–explains in his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, that if you want to be a writer, you have to read. In addition, he goes on to recommend 96 titles that all aspiring writers should read.

You can take a look at King’s list of “96 Books For Aspiring Writers to Read” here.

10. The Little Guide to Your Well Read Life. In The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, Steve Leveen advises the following: “Do not set out to live a well-read life but rather your well-read life.” That is, instead of blindly adhering to someone else’s reading list, seek out those books that seem to have been written for you. He recommends that you choose books that thrill you, move you, and transport you.

Leveen writes that in mid-life he concluded that he wasn’t well read. He then decided to change that by making reading a priority. In his guide he shares that the result of reading more books was the following: “my life has become electrified and zestful –like living in color rather than black and white”.

In his guide Leveen recommends that you create a list of books that you want to read by doing the following:

  • List the books that you already know that you want to read.
  • Divide your list into categories and genres that make sense to you.
  • If there are a few business books that you want to include or books on how to advance in your career, include them.
  • Ask friends and people whom you admire to recommend books to you and–if you’re intrigued by their suggestions–add them to your list.
  • If there’s an author you’ve enjoyed reading in the past, look for more books by that author and include those books on your list as well.
  • Is there a subject that you enjoyed in school that you want to know more about? Look for books on that subject and write down their titles.
  • What else interests you? What are the best books in those areas? Those books should also go on your list.

Ten General Principles on Becoming Well Read

As stated in the introduction, in order to be well read it’s not enough that you read a lot. In addition to reading lots of good books, you have to read well. Here are ten general principles on how to read so that you can become well read:

1. Read Deliberately. As was stated in the section above, instead of simply picking up books at whim, create a lifetime plan for reading. Choose your reading carefully and deliberately. After all, as Henry Thoreau once said, “Read the good books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”

2. Read For Pleasure. You will never make time to read if you don’t choose books that you think you’ll enjoy reading. That is, read for pleasure and not out of obligation. Life is too short to force yourself to read books that you don’t want to read.

3. Block Out Time In Your Calendar. In order to read more, you have to block out reading time in your calendar. When are you going to read? First thing in the morning? Last thing before going to bed? Give your reading a time slot in your schedule.

4. Shut Off All Distractions. Treat your reading time as sacred. Find a quiet spot, close the door, turn off your phone, and do whatever else you need to do in order to focus completely on your reading.

5. Be Patient. At first, your internet brain won’t want to stay still during the time that you’ve allotted for reading books. Instead, it will crave the constant stimulation that it gets from the internet. However, if you stick to it, you’ll discover that after a while you’ll regain the ability to become completely engrossed in what you’re reading.

6. Alternate Between Different Levels of Difficulty. While it’s true that shouldn’t try to force yourself to read books that fill you with dread, you should add books to your reading list that are currently above your level of comprehension. After all, that’s how you grow as a person and expand your mind.

A great way to get yourself to read difficult books is to alternate between different levels of reading difficulty. Do the following:

  • Take a look at your reading list and choose a book that’s easy to read to tackle first.
  • Once you’re done reading the first book you’ve selected, look for something that’s more challenging.
  • When you’re done with the challenging book, choose another easy book.
  • Continue alternating the books that you read depending on their level of difficulty.

7. Think About What You Read. As Denis Parsons Burkitt once said, “It is better to read a little and ponder a lot than to read a lot and ponder a little.” At the end of each paragraph, each page, or each chapter of the book that you’re reading, stop for a moment and think about what you’ve just read.

Think back to when you were in school and your teacher would ask you to read a passage out loud and then explain to the class what the passage was about. Do that for yourself now.

8. Write In the Margins. Make the book your own by scribbling your thoughts on the margins and highlighting passages that you consider to be particularly important. In addition, hold a conversation with the author as you read and write down where you agree with the author and where you disagree.

As Mortimer Adler once said, “ . . . writing in a book indicates intellectual ownership”.

9. Learn How to Read Well. Of course, you already know how to read. However, there’s a difference between reading at an elementary level—which is the level at which most people read–and reading well. That is, reading at a level in which you digest and absorb what you’re reading and are able to incorporate it into your knowledge base.

In order to read well there are a few additional steps that you need to add to your current reading process. The two best resources that I’ve found for learning how to read well are the following:

10. Start a Reading Journal. One of the best ways to retain what you read is to write a summary of it in your own words. Here’s a format you can use:

  • Write the title of the work and the author at the top.
  • Rate the work from 1 to 10, depending on how much you enjoyed reading it.
  • Copy quotes and passages from the book that you highlighted.
  • Write a 400 word summary of the book.
  • Write a few sentences on how the book changed you, or how it has helped you to gain a better understanding of the human experience.

You can simply use a Moleskine or any other notebook, or you can get yourself a book journal such as Reading Journal: For Book Lovers by Potter Style.


Take control of your reading by creating a lifelong reading plan. Then, find a comfortable chair, make sure that you have good lighting, and get to it. Live your best life by being well read.

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