food bucket listOne category of items that should definitely be on your bucket list is the food and drinks you would like to try before you die. After all, eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. In addition, one of the best ways to experience the culture of a country is through its food. Finally, there’s no better way to spend time with others than to share a meal.

The 16 ideas below were taken from my eBook, “Idea Book – 300 Ideas For Your Food Bucket List”.

escargots1. Escargot. Escargot is a dish of cooked land snails associated with French cuisine.  They’re usually served as an appetizer. The most common way to prepare escargot is to cook them with butter, garlic, and parsley.

Escargot is served in a snail dish with snail tongs and a slender two-pronged snail fork. Use the tongs to grip and hold the the shell in place with one hand. Then, with your other hand, use the snail fork to pull out the meat.

oysters2. Raw Oysters. Oysters range from very salty to mild, and from firm to soft. It depends on where they come from. They can be eaten as is–without adding a thing–, or you can add lemon, cocktail sauce, or even a few drops of hot sauce.

Take the oyster fork and make sure that the oyster is detached from the shell. Then put down your fork, pick up the shell, and slurp down the oyster from the wide end. Chew it once or twice before you swallow it.

gumbo3. Gumbo. Gumbo is a type of spicy stew typical of the state of Louisiana in the US. It originated with the Louisiana Creole people in the 18th century.

Gumbo consists basically of broth, a thickener, and seafood, chicken, red meats (including sausages), or pork. Seasoning vegetables are also added. It’s traditionally served over rice.

black truffle4. Black Truffle: Black truffles are mushrooms that grow underground and must be hunted (by pigs or trained dogs). They grow on the roots of truffle oaks and, to date, no one has been able to cultivate them.

Black Truffles are incredibly expensive and are generally used in goose liver pates, in sauces, omelets, scrambled eggs, compound butters, and baked in puff pastry.

Ethiopian Food5. Ethiopian Cuisine: Ethiopian cuisine characteristically consists of spicy vegetables, pastes, and meat dishes served atop an injera–a large sourdough flatbread which is about 20 inches in diameter. Ethiopians eat with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of food.

Stuffed Grape Leaves6. Stuffed Grape Leaves: Stuffed grape leaves–or dolmades–are a Mediterranean tradition. Tender grape leaves are hand selected, and then stuffed with a mixture of rice, onions, oil, mint and spices. They’re served cold or at room temperature.

peking duck7. Peking Duck: Peking duck is a delicacy from Beijing, China. Ducks are bred specifically for this dish. One of the most important aspects of Peking Duck is the skin, which has to be thin, crispy, and deep brown.

The duck is served with thin pancakes. To eat, spread a little hoisin sauce on each pancake, add some duck and sprinkle with shredded spring onions.

ceviche8. Ceviche. Ceviche is raw fish marinated in a citrus-based mixture. Sliced onions, chili, salt and pepper are added to the fish. Corvina or Cebo (sea bass) is the fish traditionally used. It’s a popular dish in Central and South America.

Dim Sum9. Dim Sum: Dim Sum is a Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, which are usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate.

Dim Sum includes various types of steamed buns which contain a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, pork, prawns, and vegetables. It’s usually served for breakfast.

tapas10. Tapas: Tapas are a wide variety of Spanish appetizers, canapés, or finger food. They are served in bars and cafés in Spain in miniature clay dishes. These appetizers can be olives, meatballs, battered squid, sausage, and so on.

When in Spain, hop from tapas bar to tapas bar, enjoying glasses of wine and these tiny snacks.

poutine11. Poutine. Eat poutine in Quebec, Canada. Poutine can roughly be translated as “mushy mess”. It’s a dish that consists of French fries, topped with brown gravy and curd cheese. Poutine is so popular in Canada that even McDonald’s has added it to its menu.

Macaroons12. Macarons: Macarons are baked confections made from ground almonds—although other nuts are sometimes used–, egg whites, and sugar. Food coloring is added.

Each macaron is commonly filled with ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two biscuits. Although macarons are available worldwide, the best place to have them is at Ladurée, the French luxury bakery located at the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, France.

churros13. Churros. Churros are fried pastries sprinkled with sugar that originated in Spain and are very popular in Latin American countries. Churros are sometimes filled with “cajeta”—caramel—and they can be dipped in a chocolate sauce.

cronut14. Cronut. The Cronut is a croissant-doughnut hybrid created by Chef Dominique Ansel in his New York City pastry shop. It has the shape of a doughnut, but the dough is similar to the dough of a croissant. You’ll have to stand in a long line  at the legendary bakery in order to taste them.

Kopi Luwak15. Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee. Civet coffee refers to the seeds of coffee berries once they have been eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. These animals live in the plantations of Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi. They eat only the ripest coffee cherries. Unable to digest the coffee beans, these are defecated and picked up by locals to make coffee. Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee on earth.

cognac16. Cognac. While all Cognac is Brandy—a spirit made by distilling wine, and then aging the resulting eau-de-vie in wood barrels—not all Brandy is Cognac. Cognac can only originate from the town of Cognac, France, and its six surrounding viticultural areas.

It’s unique because of its renowned quality, which is in turn a result of centuries-old techniques that have preserved the identity of the spirit. Even the type of wood used for the storage barrels is predetermined and controlled. In addition, each Cognac house has preserved its family secrets for generations.

300 Ideas For Your Food Bucket List

Use my eBook,  “Idea Book – 300 Ideas For Your Food  Bucket List” to create your ultimate food bucket list. “Idea Book – 300 Ideas For Your Food Bucket List” has ideas from all regions of the world. Inside you’ll find the following:

ideabook-food

 

  • 300Ideas For Your Food Bucket List
  • Divided Into Three Main Categories (Food and Desserts; Fruits and Vegetables; Drinks)
  • 55-Page PDF
  • 150 Images
  • Practical Descriptions for Each Idea
  • Over 10,000 Words

 

Here are two sample pages:

food sample

Get “Idea Book -300 Ideas For Your Food Bucket List” for just $9.95. It’s a digital product, so you’ll receive it immediately upon purchase.

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goal quotesWe all have goals that we’re striving to achieve — getting into better shape; achieving financial freedom; traveling to a dream destination; and so on.

Often, we have trouble getting started with our goals, or we discover that achieving them is going to take more time and effort than we thought it would, and we start to lose our motivation. That’s where goal quotes come in. There’s nothing like a good quote to rekindle your enthusiasm and have you raring to go once again.

Below you’ll find 50 goal quotes that will inspire and motivate you to get started on your goals and to keep going even when you feel like you’re ready to throw in the towel.

1. “Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” — Fitzhugh Dodson

2. “People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” — Earl Nightingale

3. “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ― Henry David Thoreau

4. “I have a motto on my bedroom wall: ‘Obstacles are what you see when you take your eye off the goal.’ Giving up is not my style. I just want to do something that’s worthwhile.” — Chris Burke

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

6. “When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.” ― Napoleon Hill

7. “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” ― Diana Scharf

8. “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” ― Jordan Belfort

9. “The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.” — Thomas Henry Huxley

10. “Life’s problems wouldn’t be called “hurdles” if there wasn’t a way to get over them.” — Author Unknown

11. “I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.” — Zig Ziglar

12. “One of the secrets of life is to make stepping stones out of stumbling blocks.” — Jack Penn

13. “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” — Jimmy Dean

14. “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” — Stephen A. Brennan

15. “You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” – Stephen King

16. “If a goal is worth having, it’s worth blocking out the time in your day-to-day life necessary to achieve it.” — Jill Koenig

17. “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things – to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” — Edmund Hillary

18. “If you’re bored with life — you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things — you don’t have enough goals.” — Lou Holtz

19. “You can’t hit a home run unless you step up to the plate. You can’t catch a fish unless you put your line in the water. You can’t reach your goals if you don’t try.” — Kathy Seligman

20. “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” — Napoleon Hill

21. “Obstacles can’t stop you. Problems can’t stop you. Most of all, other people can’t stop you. Only you can stop you.” — Jeffrey Gitomer

22. “Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.” — Mario Andretti

23. “Winners are losers who got up and gave it one more try.” — Dennis DeYoung

24. “You can conquer almost any fear if you will make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.” — Dale Carnegie

25. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.” –Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

26. “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.” –Mark Victor Hansen

27. “Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.” — Elbert Hubbard

28. “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” — Andrew Carnegie

29. “A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward its achievement.” — Bo Bennett

30. “Focused, hard work is the real key to success. Keep your eyes on the goal, and just keep taking the next step towards completing it. If you aren’t sure which way to do something, do it both ways and see which works better.” — John Carmack

31. “God gives us dreams a size too big so that we can grow into them.” — Author Unknown

32. “Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer to your goal.” — Elbert Hubbard

33. “Any unforeseen challenges that crop up are only there to test your resolve on your way to ultimate success in reaching your goal.” — Byron Pulsifer

34. “One part at a time, one day at a time, we can accomplish any goal we set for ourselves.” — Karen Casey

35. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” — Earl Nightingale

36. “You can set a direct course for your future by defining your goals, or, you can take the opposite position and just let the future haphazardly unfold by itself.” — Catherine Pulsifer

37. “”It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going.” — Brian Tracy

38. “We do not develop anything with one giant step. No matter who you are, or what you do, each one of us had had to take a lot of individual steps to accomplish a task, a job, a career, or even a hobby.” — Catherine Pulsifer

39. “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

40. “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn

41. “Begin with the end in mind.” — Stephen Covey

42. “Don’t let the opinions of the average man sway you. Dream, and he thinks you’re crazy. Succeed, and he thinks you’re lucky. Acquire wealth, and he thinks you’re greedy. Pay no attention. He simply doesn’t understand.” — Robert G Allen

43. ““You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretsky

44. “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” — Theodore Roosevelt

45. “Your complaints, your drama, your victim mentality, your whining, your blaming, and all of your excuses have never gotten you even a single step closer to your goals or dreams. Let go of your nonsense. Let go of the delusion that you deserve better and go earn it!” – Steve Maraboli

46. “When you know what you want and you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.” — Jim Rohn

47. “If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life that you want, you’re going to spend a lot of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” — Kevin Ngo

48. “Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.” – Amelia Earhart

49. “You haven’t failed until you quit trying.” — Anonymous

50. “Anyone can be remarkable, if they have something truly remarkable to do. Set remarkable goals for yourself and get to work on achieving them. Then, watch in amazement as you become remarkable.” — Marelisa Fábrega, owner of Daring to Live Fully

Conclusion

Live your best life by deciding what you want, writing down those desires as goals, creating a plan for achieving them, and refusing to stop until you reach your intended destination. Use the goal quotes above to help get you there.

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fitness and healthThe cornerstone of a good life is fitness and health. Although eating healthy foods and leading an active lifestyle can be a challenge, making continuous healthy choices will make your life better now and in the future. Below you’ll discover 17 ideas for your fitness bucket list.

The ideas were taken from my eBook, “Idea Book – 500 Ideas For Your Fitness Bucket List”.

 

10. lose-weight-fast1. Lose fifteen pounds by losing one pound a week. Start by determining how many calories you need in order to keep your weight constant, which is called your calories maintenance level.

Then, create a 500 calorie deficit each day by eating 500 fewer calories, burning 500 more calories through exercise, or a doing a combination of the two which equals 500 calories.

male waist2. Focus on your abdomen. Lose weight from your abdomen so that you have a healthy waist circumference. Carrying weight on your abdomen is much worse for your health than carrying weight on your hips and thighs.

The former puts you at risk for premature cardiovascular disease and death. This is because the fat surrounding the abdominal organs releases fatty acids, inflammatory agents, and hormones that ultimately lead to higher LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure.

For your health’s sake, you want your waist size to be less than 35 inches if you’re a woman and less than 40 inches if you’re a man.

pedometer3. Take those steps. Get a pedometer and make sure that you’re taking 10,000 walking steps every day. You want a pedometer that counts steps accurately. There are some that you don’t even need to clip on your belt: you just drop it in your pocket or purse and forget about it.

 

active lifestyle4. Do some form of exercise every day for at least thirty minutes. This includes things such as raking the yard, shooting hoops with your kids, and so on. According to the Harvard Medical School, “As long as you’re doing some form of aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, and you include two days of strength training a week, you can consider yourself an ‘active’ person.”

standard push ups5. Learn how to do a perfect push up. Push-ups are considered by many to be the ultimate barometer of fitness. Done properly, push-ups use muscles in the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, abs and even the legs.

Push-ups are performed in a prone position, lying horizontal and face down, raising and lowering the body using the arms. You can get very strong just using your own body weight for resistance. In addition, determine the number of push-ups you should be able to do based on your age and gender.

plank (2)6. Be able to hold a plank for a minute. The plank tightens the deepest core muscles. It’s a static exercise in which  you use your arms to raise yourself off the floor and hold the whole body straight and rigid, like a plank of wood .

To do a plank, start in a push-up position, palms under the shoulders, feet hip-width apart, and toes tucked. Push up so that your arms are straight and you back is flat. Hold that position for one minute.

rope (2)7. Follow a circuit workout. Do an at-home cardio circuit which includes jumping jacks. Other moves you can incorporate include burpees, marching in place, push-ups, wall squats, and even jumping rope. You can also add speed skaters.

zombies8. Turn your workout into a game. Get Zombies, Run! It’s an eight-week training app that gets you ready for a 5K race or just improves your overall physical activity. But it’s also a game featuring various story lines in which you need to run away from zombies.

CrossFit}9. Try CrossFit. CrossFit is a mix of aerobic exercise, body weight exercises, gymnastics, and weight lifting. It’s along the lines of circuit training. Brad Pitt reportedly uses this interval training to get in shape for movie roles. Other celebrities who stay in shape with CrossFit include Jessica Biel and Vanessa Hudgens.

sun salutations10. Try yoga. Do 5 sun salutations each morning. Sun salutation is a series of 12 yoga asanas, or poses, which is traditionally done in the morning in order to greet the sun. Sun salutation is regarded as the core of yoga practice.

bike to work11. Swap biking to work for driving. Instead of driving to work each morning—when the weather is nice—try biking to work instead. You’ll save on gas and get a nice work out. In addition, you’ll even be doing your bit to combat global warming.

processed meats12. Don’t go into the deli. Stop eating processed meats, or at least reduce the amount that you eat. Processed meats include any meat that has been salted or endured a chemical process – such as hot dogs and lunch meats.

Ham, salami, pastrami, bacon, and other processed meats are high in calories, fat and sodium. Diets that are high in processed meats have been linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and early deaths. Healthier alternatives for sandwiches and wraps include tuna, salmon, hummus and veggies, or fresh cooked poultry.

matcha13. Start drinking green tea on a regular basis. Studies have found an association between consuming green tea and a reduced risk for several cancers, including, skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder.

In addition, there are many health benefits to drinking matcha, which is the finely ground green tea used in Japanese tea ceremonies. Matcha has been found to prevent cancer and heart disease, and to slow down aging. It also provides an energy boost, so it’s a good substitute for your afternoon coffee.

quiche14. Add vegetables to your breakfast. Vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that help you to stay healthy and energized. Start getting the recommended daily servings of vegetables with your very first meal of the day.

For example, you could add spinach and roasted tomatoes to a quiche. Another idea is to mix watercress into your scrambled eggs.

flax seeds15. Eat one to two tablespoons of flax seeds a day. The oil in flaxseeds is the richest plant source of healthy omega-3 fats which do all of the following:

  • They help reduce inflammation;
  • They balance hormones;
  • They protect against mood swings and depression.

In addition, omega-3 fats help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases like arthritis. One way to eat flax seeds is to start adding them to your salads.

portion control16. Use portion control for weight loss. Portion control is understanding how much a serving size of food is and how many servings of each type of food—carbohydrates, protein, fats, and so on—you should have each day.

Portion sizes can be estimated by using objects as a point of reference. For example, (cooked) meat the size of a deck of cards is equivalent to 25g of protein. Adult men need about 56 grams of protein a day, and adult women need about 46 grams of protein a day.

nutrition facts17. Know what you’re putting into your mouth. Learn to read food nutrition labels. Note the size of a single serving and how many servings are in the package. Then, check the total calories per serving. In addition, check the total fat, cholesterol, and sodium; you want to limit these. Lastly, look at the nutrients section. Obviously, the more nutrients it has, the better.

500 Ideas for Your Fitness Bucket List

Use my eBook,  “Idea Book – 500 Ideas For Your Fitness Bucket List” to create your ultimate fitness bucket list. “Idea Book – 500 Ideas For Your Fitness Bucket List” has ideas to cover every aspect of your fitness and health. Inside you’ll find the following:

  • 500 Ideas for Your Fitness Bucket List
  • Divided Into 3 Main Categories (Fitness, Healthy Eating, and Longevity)
  • Further Divided Into 50 Subcategories
  • 104 Page PDF
  • 250 Images
  • Practical Descriptions For Each Idea
  • Over 20,000 Words
  • 220 Links to Videos and Helpful Websites

 

Here are two sample pages:

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Get “Idea Book -500 Ideas For Your Fitness Bucket List” for just $9.95. It’s a digital product, so you’ll receive it immediately upon purchase.

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thinking habitsWhat if I were to tell you that there are 16 thinking habits that will make you smarter?

After all, there are money habits that will make you richer, eating habits that will make you healthier, and working habits that will make you more productive. Why not thinking habits that will make you smarter?

The habits you’ll discover below are known as “the 16 habits of mind”; they were identified by Arthur L. Costa, Ed. D. and Bena Kallick, Ph.D. These thinking habits are attributes that people exhibit when they’re behaving intelligently.

The 16 habits of mind, or the 16 thinking habits that will make you smarter, are the following:

1. Persistence. Persistence is the ability to remain focused on a task, and to follow through to completion. It’s sticking to a problem and refusing to give up easily. People who persist have a strategy for attacking problems. They try different approaches systematically, they gather feedback and analyze what’s working and what’s not, and they change their approach accordingly.

Persistence requires being comfortable with ambiguity and being able to persevere through disappointment. People who persist keep looking for ways to achieve their goals even when they feel stuck.

2. Managing Impulsivity. Managing impulsivity is about being able to deny impulses in favor of achieving an important goal. Effective thinkers think before they act. Instead of simply reacting to external stimuli, they reflect on the different options available and choose the one that they consider to be the most likely to get them what they want.

Managing impulsivity is closely related to self-discipline. It’s about taking your time, and remaining calm, thoughtful, and deliberate.

3. Listening With Understanding and Empathy. Listening with understanding and empathy is paying close attention to what is being said beneath the words. It’s about devoting mental energy to other people’s thoughts and ideas, respecting the point of view of others, and trying to understand where they’re coming from—or putting yourself in their shoes.

4. Thinking Flexibility. Thinking flexibly is having the ability to look at a problem from several different angles and perspectives. People who are mentally flexible have the ability to consider multiple points of view. In addition, they can change their minds when they receive additional data or reasoning which is contrary to their original conclusion.

5. Thinking About Thinking (Metacognition). Thinking about thinking is having the ability to stand outside of yourself and observe your own thoughts. It’s being able to see how what you think affects what you do and the outcomes that you get. In addition, it’s noticing how others are affected by your actions.

Intelligent people evaluate the quality of their thinking skills. If they conclude that they’re making thinking errors, they look for strategies to remedy those errors.

Lastly, metacognition is being aware of your feelings and emotions.

6. Striving for Accuracy. Striving for accuracy is to “measure twice before you cut”” in order to minimize your chances of making a mistake. It’s learning the rules, checking for errors, and paying attention to detail. In addition, it’s taking pride in your work and striving for excellence.

People who strive for accuracy set high standards and they’re always looking for ways to master their craft.

7. Questioning and Posing Problems. Questioning and posing problems means to constantly challenge yourself with questions such as the following:

  • “What evidence do I have that this is true?”
  • “What assumptions am I making?”
  • “What if . . . ?“
  • “How can I?”
  • “What other alternative are there?”

It’s having a questioning attitude and looking for problems to solve.

8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations. Applying past knowledge to new situations is basically learning from experience. In addition, it’s being able to make analogies and having the ability to apply knowledge outside of the situation in which it was learned, that is, in another context.

9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision. Language and thinking are closely entwined, and language refinement plays a critical role in enhancing a person’s ability to think. Intelligent people strive to be clear when speaking and writing; they take care to use precise language and use correct names and labels.

People who think and communicate with clarity avoid generalizations and distortions.

10. Gathering Data Through All Senses. Information is taken in through the senses. The more acute your senses are, the higher the quality of the information that you’re taking in.

In addition, when you’re trying to learn something new, try to use as many of your senses as you can. For example, if you’re learning about music, listen to the piece you’re learning about, observe a musician playing it, touch the musical instrument, and feel the vibrations the music makes. In addition, you can even try to play it yourself.

Intelligent people pay attention to the world they live in, and they engage with it using all their senses.

11. Creating: Imagining; Innovating. Everyone has the ability to be creative, but a lot of people discredit their creativity. Intelligent people have the ability to generate ideas, depart from the norm, and be original. Being creative is noticing new connections, being willing to try new things, looking for novel solutions to problems, and pushing the boundaries of what was previously thought possible.

12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe. The brightest people have a passion for what they do. Their primary focus isn’t to receive external rewards, but to feel the thrill of creating and problem solving, and the exhilaration of learning new things. When solving problems, intelligent people are intrigued by the possibilities and they have fun with it!

13. Taking Responsible Risks. Taking responsible risks is about being willing to try new things, and not being afraid of failure. It’s about constantly stepping outside of your comfort zone and living on the edge of your competence. Intelligent people take on challenges and see risk-taking as an adventure.

However, they only take educated risks: that is, those risks which experience suggests are worth taking.

14. Finding Humor. Finding humor is about being able to laugh at yourself and recognizing the whimsical, the incongruous, and the ironic. People with a good sense of humor have the ability to look at things from an original vantage point. They enjoy the unexpected.

In addition, laughter fosters creativity and problem solving, it has health benefits, and it helps to create bonds with others.

15. Thinking Interdependently. No man, or woman, is an island. In order to achieve your full potential, you have to have the ability to get along with and work with others. No one has access to all of the data available, no one knows it all, and no one has the ability to consider all points of view.

Thinking interdependently is having the ability to do all of the following: cooperate with others; build on the ideas of others; accept constructive criticism of your ideas by other people; and make concessions to achieve results.

16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning. Intelligent people are always in learning mode. They’re constantly looking for new ways of doing things and striving for self-improvement. Their quest for knowledge is never-ending.

Intelligent people resist complacency and they can admit when they don’t know something.

Conclusion

The 16 thinking habits, or habits of mind, allow you to do the smart thing even when you’re not sure what to do. Start applying these habits and watch yourself getting smarter. And the smarter you are, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to create and live your best life.

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GibbsI used to watch a show called NCIS. It’s a television drama about special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Services. They investigate crimes committed within the Department of the Navy of the United States. The show focuses on a team of special agents led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Gibbs has a set of rules that he lives by. In addition, he considers it to be part of his duty to teach these rules to his team. The rules are guidelines or rules of thumb that Gibbs was taught by mentors, as well as things he’s learned from experience. The purpose of the rules is to help Gibbs, and his team, make good split-second decisions while solving crimes.

Here are some of Gibbs’s rules (he has about 50 of them):

  • Rule 1: “Never let suspects stay together.”
  • Rule 2: “Always wear gloves at a crime scene.”
  • Rule 3: “Don’t believe what you’re told. Double check.”

I was thinking about Gibbs’s rules the other day, and how I could set rules for myself in order to help me achieve my goals. Then, today, I came across an article on money habits, and one of the habits that the author recommended was creating financial rules.

The article referred to these financial rules as “heuristics”. Heuristics is using general knowledge gained by experience. For example, chess players use a heuristic approach. Heuristics work for two main reasons:

  1. First, because heuristics make decision making easier. Instead of having to make decisions on the spot, you simply apply rules that you’ve set beforehand. In addition, they’re rules that are designed to help you achieve what you want.
  2. And, second, because psychologists have found that we feel bad about ourselves when we break rules, even rules we’ve set ourselves.

Therefore, for every goal that you have–whether it’s to start getting thirty minutes of exercise a day, to stop smoking, and so on–you should set heuristics for it.

Examples of Rules of Thumb or Heuristics

You can set rules of thumb, or heuristics, for any life area. Below you’ll discover fifteen examples.

Finances

If you’re trying to save money you can set rules such as the following:

  • Rule 1: “Never spend more than $75 on a pair of shoes.”
  • Rule 2. “Never make the decision to buy something that costs more than $100 without sleeping on it first.”
  • Rule 3: “Don’t eat out more than twice a week.”

Fitness and Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight you could set rules such as the following:

  • Rule 1: “Never bring junk food into the house.”
  • Rule 2: “Never skip breakfast.”
  • Rule 3: “If you’re still hungry after a meal, wait twenty minutes before deciding whether to have seconds.”

Productivity

If you’re trying to be more productive, you could set rules such as the following:

  • Rule 1: “Never open your email before planning your day.”
  • Rule 2. “Write 1,000 words a day, every day, before lunch.”
  • Rule 3. “Never watch more than one hour of television a day.”

Becoming an Early Riser

If you’re trying to become an early riser, you could set rules such as the following:

  • Rule 1: “Don’t drink caffeine after 1:00 p.m.”
  • Rule 2: “Never hit the snooze button.”
  • Rule 3. “Turn off the computer at 11:00 p.m.”

Life in General

And here are some general life rules you could consider applying:

  • Rule 1: “If you feel pressured to make a decision, say ‘no’”.
  • Rule 2. “If you don’t want something to turn into a habit, don’t do it three times in a row.”
  • Rule 3. “If someone says something that upsets you, take a deep breath and count to three before you respond.”

Action Plan

In order to start applying rules of thumb that will help you to achieve your goals, do the following:

  1. Get a piece of paper and a pen and write down an important goal that you have at the top of the sheet of paper.
  2. Create at least three rules that you think will help you to achieve your goal and write them down. Don’t come up with too many rules or you’ll get overwhelmed and probably end up breaking all of them.
  3. Start applying your new rules in order to make decisions that will help you to achieve what you want.
  4. Look at your rules on a regular basis to make sure that they stay fresh in your mind.

It may be difficult for you to follow your rules at first, but if you stick to it soon you’ll be following your rules without having to give them a second thought. And that will help you to achieve your goals.

Conclusion

Just as Gibbs uses rules of thumb to solve crimes, use heuristics to achieve your goals and live your best life. What are some rules of thumb that have helped you to achieve your goals? What are some of the heuristics that you’re going to apply going forward?

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simple ways to celebrate lifeMake it a goal to celebrate life in some way, however small, every day. Below you’ll find a list of 50 simple joys to help remind you to slow down, celebrate life, and enjoy the moment!

The ideas were taken from my eBook, “500 Simple Ways to Celebrate and Enjoy Life“.

1. Have afternoon tea “alfresco”. Find a small coffee shop with tables set up outside; or pack a picnic basket—filled with iced tea, chicken salad from the deli, scones, and a warm, crusty loaf of French bread–and head out to the park.

2. Go for a bike ride. Like John F. Kennedy once said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride”. Better yet, ride your bike to a swimming hole and take a swimsuit and towel along.

3. Plant pots of brightly colored flowers; you can choose to plant camellias, violets, and geraniums. For fragrant blossoms plant jasmines.

4. Find George Carlin videos on YouTube (Carlin is hilarious).  Here’s a great one to get you started: George Carlin Talks About “Stuff”.

5. Renew a relationship with someone you’ve lost touch with.

6. Create a collage of pictures of your loved ones, frame it, and hang it up in a visible spot in your home.

7. Blow bubbles.

8. Get a delicious, gooey brownie and savor every morsel.

9. Arranging beautiful flowers in a vase is a simple, exquisite pleasure.

10. Give someone you love a gift “just-because”. Better yet, make it a care package or a gift basket filled with their favorite things: flavored coffee, a great coffee mug, and the book they’ve been wanting to read; microwave popcorn and all of the “Indiana Jones” movies on DVD; their favorite scented bath products; and so on.

11. Get your picture taken by a professional photographer.

12. Create a butterfly garden in your yard by choosing butterfly-friendly plants.

13. Stretch out on your couch with a compendium of your favorite comic strip, read it through from beginning to end, and laugh until your stomach hurts. If you don’t have a favorite comic strip, I recommend Calvin & Hobbes.

14. Plan your fantasy vacation. Do online research, cut out pictures from magazines, collect brochures from travel agencies, and plan your vacation to the last detail. Don’t censor yourself by thinking about the cost or when you’ll have the time to go. To paraphrase Goethe, first you move and then Providence moves too.

15. Start putting together your Christmas list, both what you plan to give others and what you would like to receive. (Thinking about Christmas always lifts my spirits, no matter what month of the year it is.)

16. Learn to bake peach cobbler.

17. Go to a body of water near your home and skip rocks.

18. Hunt for bird nests. When you find one, don’t touch it, just look.

19. Go to an arboretum or a botanical garden. Take a sketch pad and pencil and capture anything that inspires you.

20. Make a donation: donate your time at a food shelter; invest in a third world country entrepreneur through www.kiva.com; donate blood; donate clothes you no longer use to a battered women’s shelter; donate children’s books to a hospital nearby; celebrate life by paying it forward.

21. Listen to Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”.

22. Sing in the shower.

23. Do something that gives you a sense of luxury. You can get a leather notebook to jot down your thoughts, or a beautiful fountain pen. Start collecting fanciful note cards so that you have them on hand when you want to send a hand-written “thank you”.

24. If you love reading, join a book club. Sharing your love of literature with others is a great way to celebrate life.

25. Watch the sunset.

26. Watch the sunrise.

27. Get a yo-yo. Learn the “Walk-the-Dog” trick and the “Drop in the Bucket” trick.

28. Wear audacious underwear. Nobody has to know.

29. Buy a bird feeder—or even better, build one—and hang it in a place where you can see it often.

30. Go outside at night—or climb up to your building’s rooftop—and look at the stars.

31. Stop and really listen to a street musician.

32. Go to a pet shop and “ooh” and “aah” at the puppies and kittens.

33. Simmer apple cider, cinnamon, and cloves in water on your stove.

34. Play a game you loved as a child: play with marbles or jacks; jump rope; play hopscotch; draw with colored chalk on the sidewalk; get some Play-Doh; or go to a park and climb on the swings.

35. Whenever you take on a task at work ask yourself: “Is there any way to make this task more fun?”

36. Read poetry.

37. Get yourself a big book of sudokus or crossword puzzles and sit back for an afternoon of fun mind stimulation.

38. Sit down with a large art book filled with Impressionist paintings by artists such as Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pisarro, Degas . . .

39. Find a shampoo and conditioner that smell like watermelon.

40. Walk barefoot in the grass.

41. Go out for a walk in the rain. Deliberately step in puddles.

42. Visit antique stores and flea markets until you find the perfect brass knocker for your front door, one that makes you smile every time you’re about to enter your home.

43. Buy the softest terry cloth robe you can find and put it in the drier just before taking a shower, so that it’s nice and warm when you get out of the shower and put it on.

44. Get a bright red umbrella.

45. Go out for a walk and take your camera along; take photographs of interesting faces.

46. Listen to Louis Armstrong singing, “What a Wonderful World“. Here’s the best line from the song: “Trees of green. Red roses too. Skies of blue. Clouds of white. The brightest day. The dark sacred night. What a wonderful world.  ”

47. Eat your favorite cereal from when you were a child: Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, Honey Nut Cheerios, Cap’n Crunch, etc.

48. Listen to your favorite “Beatles” songs.

49. Go out and play Frisbee with a friend. If you have a dog, better yet.

50. Have an ice cream cone!

Conclusion

In the words of Fannie Fern, “There are no little things. Little things are the hinges of the universe.” Live your best life by celebrating the little things every day.

Get 500 Simple Ways to Celebrate and Enjoy Life

500 Simple Ways to Celebrate and Enjoy LifeIf you enjoyed this post, you’ll love my eBook, “500 Simple Ways to Celebrate and Enjoy Life“. It sells for only $4.95. It’s a 55-Page PDF with over 10,000 words and it’s chock-full of easy ways to savor every morsel of life.

Here are some of the sections you’ll find inside:

  • Celebrate Life With Family
  • Celebrate Life With Friends
  • Celebrate Mornings
  • Celebrate Life by Pampering Yourself
  • Celebrate Life by Doing Something Creative

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P:S. You can also get “500 Simple Ways to Celebrate and Enjoy Life”, for free, with your purchase of “Idea Book: 10,000 Ideas For Your Bucket List”.

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30-day challengeI believe in the power of challenges to make changes in your life. In particular, I like challenges that can be taken in a short amount of time, such as 30 days. After all, we all want to see quick results.

Below you’ll find 30 small challenges, covering several different life areas, to jump-start the best version of your life in the next 30 days. Of course, the idea isn’t to do all of them, but to pick the ones that you feel will have the greatest impact on your life.

One option is to pick the 12 challenges that you like best and do one-a-month over the course of a year. Another option is to set aside one-hour-a-day for 30 days and devote that hour to completing the three or four challenges that you feel would be most helpful to you. It’s up to you.

Here are the challenges:

Finances

finances1. Track your spending for 30 days to discover your money weaknesses. A lot of people don’t realize how much money they’re spending wastefully. Keeping track of how you spend your money for 30 days will allow you to become aware of your money weaknesses so that you can get them under control.

2.  Save $1000 in 30 days. Ramit Sethi created a “Save $1000 in 30 Days Challenge” on his blog, “I Will Teach You to Be Rich”. Sethi offers one tip a day, for 30 days. His challenge follows the C.E.O. approach, which stands for the following:

  • C- – Cut Costs
  • E – Earn More
  • O – Optimize Your Bills

3. Take a “create a money jar” in 30-days challenge. For the next 30 days pay for everything with cash. Then, at the end of the day put all of your lose change–and any $1 bills that you have–in a jar. You can use the money that you accumulate in the jar during the 30 days to jump-start your emergency fund; begin paying off debt; or start saving for something you really want — for example, one my eBooks. :-)

4. Take a “create a passive source of income” in 30-days challenge. Set aside one-hour-a-day, every day, for 30 days to brainstorm ideas on how to  create an additional source of income. Use your hour to research the different options available, analyze your skills and interests to choose the option that’s right for you, and start drawing up a plan on how to proceed with the option that you choose.

5. Take the 30-steps to financial wellness challenge. In honor of financial literacy month, the experts at Money Management International (MMI) created a 30-step path to financial wellness. Take one step a day, for 30 days, to begin improving your overall financial health.

Home

clean and organized6. Take a 30-day house cleaning challenge. If you need to get your house clean, take a 30-day house cleaning challenge.  Give yourself one cleaning project a day, every day, for 30 days. Here are some ideas:

  • Day 1: Surface Clean the Kitchen
  • Day 2: Deep Clean the Kitchen
  • Day 3: Surface Clean the Bathrooms
  • Day 4: Deep Clean the Bathrooms
  • Day 5: Clean Out the Closet

Here’s a 30-day house cleaning challenge you can use as a guideline.

7. Take the 30-day declutter challenge. Having a clean home is a good step in the right direction. However, if your home is cluttered you’ll feel stressed and disorganized, and you’ll waste time cleaning, storing, and repairing stuff you don’t really need.

One idea for a 30-day declutter challenge is is to do the following:

  • Declutter one item on day one;
  • Declutter two items on day two,
  • Declutter three items on day three; and so on until you declutter 30 items on day 30.

You can also do it the other way around: declutter 30 items on day one; declutter 29 items on day two; declutter 28 items on day three; and so on until you declutter one item on day 30.

Another idea is to find a declutter challenge online and just follow along. Here’s one you can use: 30 Days of De-cluttering!

8. Take a 30-day organization challenge. The three pillars of a welcoming home are a home that’s clean, clear of clutter, and organized. Once you’ve taken a cleaning challenge and a decluttering  challenge, it’s time to take an organizational challenge.  Organize your home in 30 days with a home organization 30-day challenge.

9. Take a 30-day DIY projects challenge. There are probably plenty of things that need to get done around the house, such as changing burnt light bulbs, putting up a shelf to store the pile of books that’s currently piled up on the floor next to your reading chair (I’m looking at my book pile right now), fixing the bathroom cabinet door, and so on.

Make a list of 30 things that need to get done around the house and do one a day, for the next 30 days.

10. Take a 20-minute home maintenance 30-day challenge. Once your home is clean, decluttered, and organized, you’ll be in maintenance-mode. Keep your home in tip-top shape for the next 30-days by taking a 20-minute pick up challenge. Each day, set a timer  for twenty minutes and tackle as many house cleaning shores as you can in those 20 minutes.

Here are some ideas:

  • Day One: Sweep for 20 minutes.
  • Day Two: Mop for 20 minutes.
  • Day Three: Dust for 20 minutes.

Fitness

yoga challenge11. Take a 30-day ten-thousand steps challenge. Most people take from 5,000 to 7,000 steps a day as they go through their regular daily routines. Walking helps reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. Therefore, it’s a good idea to increase the number of steps you take each day.

Ten thousand is a good number to aim for; after all, it’s not that much more than the number of steps you would normally take over the course of the day. In order to take 10,000 steps a day, you just have to push yourself a little bit more. The good news that this extra push will allow you to burn an additional 375 calories.

12. Take a 30-day cardio challenge. As a general rule, you should aim for getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day if you want to lose weight, improve your mood, reduce your chances of getting certain diseases, and even live longer. Physical activity includes activities such as going for a brisk walk, taking a spinning class, or even mowing the lawn.

Every day, for 30 days, participate for half an hour in an activity that elevates your heart rate and makes you sweat. Pick something that you love to do, and have fun with it!

13. Take a 30-day CrossFit challenge. You’ve almost undoubtedly heard of CrossFit: it’s a high-intensity workout that combines cardio, plyometrics, strength training, and other exercises for maximum results.  Basic CrossFit exercises include squats, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings.  Here’s a 30-day CrossFit challenge you can try.

14. Take a 30-day Yoga challenge. A 30-day yoga challenge is exactly what the name implies: do yoga every day for 30 days. Here’s Day One of a 30-day yoga challenge I found on YouTube. All you have to do is follow along with the video for each of the thirties days.

15. Take a 30-day upper-body challenge. There are many exercises you can do to tone and firm up your biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest and back. Start building your ultimate upper body with a 30-day upper body challenge.

Relationship

lovers16. Read a book on how to improve your relationship in 30 days. Find a great book on how to improve your relationship with your significant other and read it from cover to cover in 30 days. You can even read it out loud to your partner.

17. Take a 30-day kiss hello and goodbye challenge. For the next 30 days, kiss your partner hello and goodbye. No exceptions! Make sure each kiss lasts for at least 5 seconds.

18. Take a 30-day appreciation challenge. Every day for the next 30 days actively look for something that you can praise or compliment your partner for. They’ll feel appreciated and–after spending 30 days recognizing your partner’s good qualities–you’ll feel proud you managed to snag such a hottie!

19. Take a 30-days of surprises challenge. Have a small surprise ready for your significant other every day for 30-days. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Surprises can include the following:

  • Write a short love note on a post-it and leave it in their briefcase.
  • Make a reservation at their favorite restaurant.
  • Get a pint of that Ben & Jerry’s flavor that they love.

20. Take a 30-days of questions challenge. Enhance communication in your relationship by putting together thirty questions you can ask each other to initiate interesting conversations. Here are some sample questions:

  • What do you remember the most about our first date?
  • What do you want for me to do differently when we argue?
  • Let’s plan a make-believe vacation: where would we go and what would we do?

You can find ideas for questions here.

Happiness

happiness21. Take the 30 minutes in nature for 30-days challenge. This is a challenge that I wrote about in my post, “8 Reasons Why You Need To Spend More Time In Nature“.  The challenge is as follows: spend 30 minutes in nature, every day, for 30 days. People who have taken this challenge report that after the 30 days they felt increased well-being and happier.

22. Take the “simple pleasures” 30-day challenge. You may have heard the saying that every day you should do something that makes you wealthy, something that makes you healthy, and something that makes you happy. For this challenge you’re going to focus on the last one of these: do something that makes you happy every day for 30 days.

It doesn’t have to be something big; you can choose things such as the following: read a great novel for 20 minutes; call up your favorite nephew just to hear his great laugh; or buy yourself some flowers and put them in a colorful vase on your desk.

23. Take a 30-day random acts of kindness challenge. Research done in the area of positive psychology shows that performing random acts of kindness can make one feel happier. Your random acts of kindness can include things such as the following:

  • Giving an elderly person your seat on the bus.
  • Leaving spare change in a vending machine so that someone else can get a free snack.
  • When you’re done reading a good book, leave it at a coffee shop for someone else to read; and so on.

24. Take the 30-days of inspiration challenge. Every morning for 30 days read or listen to something inspirational. You can choose from any of the following: watch inspirational YouTube videos; read a collection of inspirational quotes; or read from the Bible (or any spiritual book).

Learning/Personal Development

mangosteen25. Take a 30-day random acts of courage challenge. Every day for 30 days, take a risk or do something new. This can include things such as the following:

  • Try a new fruit (the fruit in the picture is mangosteen; I tried it for the first time a little while ago and it’s delicious).
  • Cook a meal you’ve never made before.
  • Go to a store to buy something you need and ask for a discount (I asked for and got a 15% discount the last time I bought running shoes).
  • Visit a museum you’ve never been to before.
  • Walk into a high-end boutique and try something on.

26. Take a 30-day journaling challenge. Judging from the success of my blog post on journaling prompts and “18 Things to Do With a Moleskine, or Any Notebook”, lots of people are interested in journaling. However, they sometimes have trouble getting started. Taking a 30-day journaling challenge–that is, making a commitment to journaling every day for 30 days–is a great way to get started.

27. Take the “start a new habit in 30-days challenge. Steve Pavlina–owner of the blog “Personal Development for Smart People”–argues that the best way to start a new habit is to commit to it for 30 days. After all, it’s really hard to commit to something that you tell yourself you have to do for the rest of your life. On the other hand, telling yourself that you’re going to do something for 30 days is much more doable.

What habit would you like to adopt? Waking up early? Meditating for 20 minutes a day? Writing down five things that you’re grateful for each day? Give it a 30-day dry run.

28.  Take the no-TV for 30-days challenge. How much time do you usually spend watching TV each day? For 30 days, quit watching TV and use that extra time to work on a project that’s important to you or read a non-fiction book.

If there are certain TV shows that you absolutely must watch, then for 30 days practice temptation bundling. That is, you can’t watch TV unless you’re doing something productive at the same time, such as walking on the treadmill or folding laundry.

29. Take the” increase your productivity by one percent-a-day” for 30 days challenge. Increase your productivity by 1% every day for 30 days. This challenge consists of identifying 30 ways in which you can be 1% more productive each day, and then applying one-a-day for the next 30 days. I got the idea for this challenge from my blog post, “How to Increase Your Productivity by 1000%“.

Here are three ideas to help you get started:

  • Day One: Get up five minutes earlier in the morning.
  • Day Two: Don’t check Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media until you’ve completed your most important task for the day.
  • Day Three: Start working in time blocks: block out X amount of time for each task that you need to accomplish, set a timer for that amount of time, and work on nothing bu that task until the timer goes off.

30. Take the “learn something new every day” 30-day challenge. Make it a point to learn something new every day for the next thirty days. Here are some examples: learn the name of a flower that grows in your backyard; learn the capital of a far-off country; or learn the name of the leader of a neighboring country.

Here’s Day One for you: Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia. (Don’t you just love saying that? “Addis Ababa”.)

Conclusion

Thirty-day challenges are a powerful tool for making changes in your life. Choose a challenge from those listed above and jump-start the best version of your life, today!

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stopWe all want to be happy. Yet, at the same time, we’re constantly doing things that stand in the way of our own happiness. That is, in many ways, we’re our own happiness saboteurs.

The good news is that once you become aware of the actions that you’re taking on a regular basis which get in the way of your happiness, you can make the choice to stop doing them. Below you’ll discover 12 things to stop doing if you want to be happy.

victim1. Stop Being a Victim. In order to be happy, you have to stop acting like a victim. Victims blame others for the predicaments that they find themselves in, they feel powerless to change their circumstances, and they’re constantly waiting for someone or something to come rescue them.

Move from seeing yourself as a victim to seeing yourself as a creator, and then start creating the life that you want. Here are three blog posts that I wrote which will help you to shift your mindset from that of a victim to that of a creator:

waiting2. Stop If-Then Thinking. Srikumar S. Rao, Ph.D., is a former business school professor and the author of several books, including “Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful No Matter What”.

Dr. Rao explains that most people have a long list of things that they believe have to happen before they can be happy. He calls this “if-then” thinking. Here are some examples:

  • If I get a promotion, then I’ll be happy.
  • If I lose weight, then I’ll be happy.
  • If I find someone to share my life with, then I’ll be happy.

He argues that you need to stop insisting that things go a certain way before you can be happy. Dr. Rao adds that happiness is something that’s innately within you. Your happiness is not contingent on anything else.

silver lining3. Stop Being a Pessimist. In her book, “The How of Happiness”, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.–professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside–, lays out 12 happiness enhancing strategies. One of these is cultivating optimism.

Dr. Lyubomirsky recommends that you keep a journal in which you imagine and write about your best possible future. In addition, she indicates that you should get into the habit of looking for the bright side to every situation.

Happy people don’t pretend that everything is fine even when it isn’t. However, instead of dwelling on what they lost or on what went wrong they quickly realize that things could have been worse, and they start looking for the silver lining to whatever situation they find themselves in.

In addition, instead of telling themselves that nothing will ever change, happy people are hopeful about the future and that things will get better.

washing the dishes4. Stop Multitasking. When you multitask you’re trying to do several things at once, which means that your attention is divided and you’re not fully focused on anything that you’re doing. However, in order to be happy you have to place all of your attention on the task you’re involved in. That is, whatever you’re doing–even if it’s just washing the dishes–you should be fully involved with the act.

Harvard researchers conducted a study involving 2,200 people. Participants in the study were asked at random times how they were feeling.  The researchers found that what mattered in determining how happy the participants felt at any given moment in time was not what they were doing, but rather the degree of attention that they were bringing to the task at hand.

barbie5. Stop Chasing Perfection. Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., once taught the most popular course at Harvard University. It was a course on happiness. In his book, “The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life”, Dr. Ben-Shahar explains that chasing perfection may be the number one internal obstacle to finding happiness.

Dr. Ben-Shahar argues that instead of being a perfectionist, you should aim for being an optimilist. Here’s the difference between the two:

  • Perfectionism is the neurotic belief that everything about you and your environment has to be perfect.
  • On the other hand, Optimilism is setting high standards which are grounded in reality; accepting that failure is a natural part of the process of achieving goals; and knowing how to find value and satisfaction in an imperfect performance.

While perfection is a destination at which you’ll never arrive, optimilism is about focusing on the journey and being happy with doing your best as you strive to achieve your goals.

goodbye6. Stop Dwelling on the Past. Feeling haunted by the past, and focusing on personal experiences that were aversive or unpleasant is toxic.

Rehearsing old dissatisfactions leads to feelings of anger, shame, and regret. These emotions, in turn, can prevent you from taking the steps necessary to create joy in the present. Release the ghosts of the past so that you can stop robbing yourself of present opportunities.

zumba (2)7. Stop Living in the Future. While thinking of the future is fundamental to well-being and positive functioning, focusing on future goals and rewards at the expense of the present is not conducive to happiness. People who have an excessive future orientation have a tendency to do the following:

  • They tend to be workaholics;
  • They tend to neglect their friends and family:
  • They refuse to take time for the occasional self-indulgence;
  • They tend to put their happiness “on hold” while they strive for something which they think will make them happy in the future; and so on.

The best approach is to balance enjoying the here-and-now with working toward building a good future for yourself. The activities which are most conducive to happiness are those which combine present and future gains.

As an illustration, going to a dance-based exercise class which you enjoy provides the present gain of the pleasure that you get from taking the class, with the future gain of fitness and health.

the scream8. Stop Holding Grudges. You’ve probably heard all of the sayings related to holding grudges. Here are two of my favorites:

  • “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” – William Shakespeare
  • “Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.” — Ann Landers

Letting go of grudges—or forgiving—doesn’t mean that what the other person did was OK. It just means that you’ve decided that you will no longer allow it to interfere with your happiness.

happy at work9. Stop Focusing On Your Weaknesses. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, play to your strengths. Research done in the area of positive psychology has shown that in order to be happy you need to identify your strengths–the things that you love to do and that you’re naturally good at–, and then put them into practice as often as you can. Here are the benefits of focusing on your strengths:

  • People who focus on their strengths are happier;
  • They’re more confident and have higher levels of self-esteem;
  • They have more energy;
  • They are more resilient;
  • They are more engaged; and
  • They are more likely to achieve their goals.

Although you shouldn’t ignore your weaknesses, especially those weaknesses which could hold you back, it’s a question of emphasis. Manage your weakness but focus on your strengths.

start10. Stop Waiting for the Right Time. When are you going back to school to get that degree you’ve always wanted? When are you going to take that writer’s workshop you’re always talking about? When are you going to start your own business? When are you going to take some time off to travel?

A lot of people would answer the questions above with the following: “Well, now’s not the right time.” People who are always waiting for the right time are stuck in a perpetual limbo of believing that the “right time” will come. And limbo is not a happy place.

The reality is that there is no such thing as “the right time”. The only time that you have is now. Beginning makes it the right time.

violin recital11. Stop Living Mindlessly. Ellen Langer, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and author of the book “Mindfulness”. Dr. Langer’s research shows that mindfulness is one of the main keys to happiness. She defines mindfulness as “the simple act of actively noticing new things and drawing new distinctions.”

Dr. Langer explains that the process of drawing new distinctions produces a feeling of engagement. She adds that “research has shown that mindfulness is figuratively and literally enlivening. It’s the way you feel when you’re feeling passionate.”

One way to be  more mindful is to question procedures and regulations. Instead of simply accepting that “this is the way it’s always been done”, ask yourself if there’s a better way. Relinquish your preconceived mindsets, notice what you’re doing, and then act based on your new observations.

cappuccino heart12. Stop Holding Out for the Big Stuff. Happy people notice the small things: when the barista at the coffeehouse makes a heart shape on the cappuccino foam; the little kid in the park gleefully chasing a soccer ball; little acts of courtesy from strangers, like holding the elevator; and so on.

The big things in life–weddings, graduations, job promotions, the birth of a child–are few and far between. Life is made up of small moments. Appreciating easy-to-come-by pleasures and finding joy in the simple things is associated with a feeling of overall gladness. So stop holding out for the big stuff and start counting small blessings.

Conclusion

In order to be happy and live your best life you have to stop doing the things that get in the way of your happiness. You can start with the 12 things explained above.

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moleskine notebookMany of us have a notebook obsession. I know I do. A blank notebook is full of promise. It’s an opportunity to reflect, to create, and to express yourself.

Although any notebook will do, many people swear by Moleskine notebooks– a brand of notebook produced by Milan-based company Modo & Modo. Moleskine notebooks are high quality; they’re portable, so you can carry them around with you; and they have a pouch for storage. In addition, the pages have a nice texture—great to the touch—and there’s little bleed through if you use a pen.

Here, then, are 18 things to do with a Moleskine, or whatever notebook suits your fancy:

food log1. Keep a Food and Exercise Journal. Lots of people have life goals related to fitness and wellness. The two major pillars of fitness and wellness are what you eat, and how much exercise you get. Use your notebook to keep a food and exercise journal.

Create a template to keep track of the food that you eat. Across the top of the page write the following: Date; Time; Item; Portion Size (Amount); Nutrients; and Calories.

In addition, create another template to keep track of how much exercise you’re getting and how many calories you’re burning. Across the top of the page write the following: Date; Time, Activity, Duration; and Calories Burned.

time2. Keep Track of Your Time. You can use an empty notebook in order to start keeping track of your time. Find out once and for all where your time goes. In addition, keep track of the following:

  • How much time are you losing to procrastination?
  • How do you deal with interruptions?
  • Do you work on one thing at a time, or do you multitask?
  • How much time do you spend working on your important life goals?
  • How much time do you waste on “busy work” or unimportant tasks?

keep track of your money3. Keep Track of Your Expenses. A good use for a blank notebook is to start keeping track of where your money goes. Keep track of the following:

  • Do you spend your money on frivolous expenses?
  • What do you need to cut back on?
  • Are you investing your money—investing in your education, investing in income producing assets, and investing in creating memories you’ll always cherish—or are you wasting it?

one sentence journal4. Start a One Sentence Journal. If you’re short on time—or writing just isn’t your thing—try keeping a one sentence journal. Every day write down one sentence about that day. It can be something like the following:

  • It was a good day today.
  • A man talking on his cell phone almost hit me with his car; I saw my life flash before my eyes.
  • I finally finished my novel today!

If you do this every day for five years, at the end of that time you’ll have a five-year time capsule in your notebook

gratitude journal5. Keep a Gratitude Journal. You’ve heard this over and over again: the key to happiness is to keep your attention focused on the good in your life. And one way to make sure that you’re doing this is by keeping a gratitude journal.

Studies conducted by psychologists have traced many benefits to the practice of writing down the things that you’re grateful for on a regular basis. The simplest way to keep a gratitude journal is to sit down with your notebook each night for a few minutes and write down five things that you’re grateful for.

morning6. Write Morning Pages. Morning pages—which consist of exploratory writing–were made famous by Julia Cameron in her book, “The Artist’s Way”. The idea is to sit down each morning and write three pages in long hand. Simply write down anything that comes to mind for three pages and then stop.

Use your morning pages to work out issues that are bothering you, to plan your day, and to get in touch with your authentic desires (what you really want, as opposed to what society says you should want).

create you life story7. Record Your Life Story. Gather a list of life prompts that inspire you to reflect on your life so that you can start recording your memories. Then, use your notebook to write your life story.

Life prompts can include questions such as the following: What’s the meaning behind your family name? What are some of the stories your grandfather used to tell you when you were a kid? What are your favorite summer memories?

My eBook, “Create Your Life Story”, contains 444 memory prompts, covering several life areas, to help you get started recording your memories and writing your life story.

how to conduct a life audit8. Keep Track of Your Life Audits. In a previous blog post I encouraged you to begin auditing different areas of your life on a regular basis in order to keep improving and moving forward. You can use your notebook to keep track of your life audits.

For example, if you’re conducting an energy audit you can use your notebook to keep track of your energy levels throughout the day. Do you feel depleted after talking to certain people? Does eating an apple in the afternoon make your energy levels rise? How do you feel after taking a nap?

leonardo notebook9. Copy Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook Habit. Leonardo da Vinci developed the habit of always taking a notebook with him wherever he went. He would use his notebooks to sketch people, birds, or objects he saw during his walks, and to write down ideas and observations. The simple act of writing down his ideas allowed Leonardo to dwell on them and to improve them over time.

You can use your notebook to write down any of the following: potential names for characters in your novel; the name of a new color you just discovered; interesting conversations you overhear; capture ideas for blog posts; jot down poems you come up with; record recipes you want to try; or just to capture random thoughts and insights.

quote10. Write Down Quotes You Love. It’s great to sit back with a great collection of quotes and just soak in their wisdom. Start jotting down quotes you love and soon you’ll have a notebook filled with inspirational sayings which can serve to lift your spirits at a moment’s notice. You can get started with these quotes:

journal template11. Keep a Journal. A journal is a description of your day. It also contains your feelings and reflections about the things that happened to you throughout the day. A lot of people keep a jar filled with journal prompts to help inspire them to write in their journals. A journal jar is simply a mason jar—or any jar you have lying around—filled with little scraps of paper with a journaling prompt written on each one.

To help you get started, here are 119 Journal Prompts For Your Journal Jar.

An alternative is to create a template for yourself and simply sit down each day and fill out the template for the day. Here’s one template you can use as an example:

  • This made me smile today:
  • This made me think today:
  • This is something I wish I had done differently today:
  • This is something I learned today:
  • This is the good I did today:

art journal12. Keep an Art Journal. An art journal is similar to the journal described in the point above, but you include drawings, doodles, and embellishments. In addition, you can cut out pictures from magazines and glue them into your art journal, and include photographs and other visual elements.

stack of books13. Keep Track of the Ideas in the Books You Read. When you’re reading a book in order to acquire knowledge, it’s a great idea to write a summary of the book, and to keep track of the ideas contained in the book which you find interesting. You can do this in note form, or you can create mind maps. In essence, you’ll be turning a notebook into a knowledge reservoir.

goal14. Keep a Goals Journal. A goals journal is a great tool for helping you to achieve your goals. The benefits of keeping a goals journal include all of the following:

  • It forces you to write down your goals; committing your goals to paper is the first step in turning those goals into reality.
  • Writing about your goals is a great way to create a game plan for achieving those goals. In addition, it can help you to identify any obstacles you may encounter along the way.
  • A goals journal allows you to record your progress.
  • A goals journal keeps you accountable.

socrates15. Examine Your Life. Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. We cannot achieve personal and spiritual growth unless we take the time to examine and reflect upon our life.

One of the best ways to examine your life is by asking yourself thought-provoking questions. Then, answer these questions in your notebook. Here are some questions to get you started:

bucket list16. Create Your Bucket List. Get a blank journal and use it to create a list of everything that you want to be, do, and have in life. In other, words, use it to create your bucket list. Fill your notebook with entries like the following:

  • Visit Paris in the springtime.
  • Go to Carnival at Rio de Janeiro.
  • Go to the Super Bowl.
  • Take the family to Disney World.
  • Write a novel.

creative writing17. Use It for Writing Exercises. If you want to be a writer,–or improve your craft if you’re already a writer—you need to write, as often as you can. One way to keep your writing muscles in tip top shape is to find a collection of creative writing prompts and use them as writing exercises.

Here are two examples taken from my post, “A Plethora of Writing Prompts For Creative Writing and Journaling”.

  • Write a brief bit of fiction using the prompt, “lipstick”.
  • Your story starts when your protagonist tries speed dating.

learn spanish18. Start a Language Journal. When you’re learning a new language it’s incredibly helpful to keep track of everything that you’re learning. You can do this by using a notebook to create a language journal. Here are some of the things you can include in your language journal:

  • Keep track of every new vocabulary word that you learn.
  • Write down grammar rules.
  • Keep track of the learning strategies that you’re using, and how effective you find them.
  • Write down the errors that you make on a regular basis so that you can make sure to work on them.

Conclusion

A simple notebook can help you to live a better life. What are you going to do with your notebook?

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nature is goodI work outside. As I type away at my laptop I’m surrounded by flowers and palm trees. In addition, the ocean is about 30 meters away from my work area.

Sometimes I’ll get bitten by mosquitoes; or a couple of bees will decide that harassing me is their mission for the day; or a bird will poop on me (this last one happens more often than you’d think).

However, for the most part, I love being outside. I can hear the birds chirping, as I look out toward the ocean I can see the sun reflected on the water’s surface, and every so often a hummingbird whizzes by.

Fortunately for me, it turns out that being outdoors and spending time in nature is good for you. Below you’ll discover 8 reasons why you, too, should spend more time in nature.

1. Vegetation-Rich Nature Improves Your Vitality. In the book “Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality”, Eva M. Selhub, MD and Alan C. Logan, ND explain that scientific studies show that natural environments can have remarkable benefits for human health.

Among these benefits, Selhub and Logan explain that studies show that spending just 20 minutes in vegetation-rich nature improves vitality. They define vitality as emotional strength in the face of internal and external oppositions, and living life with enthusiasm. So, if you want to be more resilient and have more zest in your life, go outside.

2. If You Live Near Green Space You’re Less Likely to Be Depressed. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that people who lived within 1 kilometer of a park or a wooded area experienced less anxiety and depression than those who lived farther away from green space.

This means that city planners can potentially use green space as a way to improve overall mental wellness. In addition, if you’re feeling depressed, you should consider moving closer to nature.

3. Exposure to Plants and Parks Boosts Immunity. In a series of studies, scientists found that when people spend time in natural surroundings — forests, parks and other places with plenty of trees — they experience increased immune function.  One reason for this is phytoncides, the airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect themselves from rotting and from insects, and which also seem to benefit humans.

In Japan, people visit forests for a therapeutic practice which is called “Shinrin-yoku,” or “forest bathing.” A group of these “forest bathers” were divided in two and they were instructed to do the following:

  • On day one, Group 1 was instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours. Group 2 was instructed to walk through a city area.
  • On the second day the two groups switched places.

The researches found that being among plants produced lower concentrations of cortisol (a stress hormone), lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure.

4. Sunlight is Beneficial. When sunlight hits the skin, it begins a process that leads to the creation and activation of vitamin D. Studies suggest that this vitamin helps to prevent osteoporosis and cancer. In addition, one study found an increased risk of heart attacks in those with low vitamin D levels.

The amount of sunlight that you need depends on your skin tone. Light skinned individuals need about 10 minutes of sunlight a day, while darker skinned individuals may need from fifteen to twenty minutes of sunlight.

5. Spending Time in Nature Boosts Happiness. In May of 2013, more than 10,000 Canadians participated in the David Suzuki Foundation’s 30×30 Nature Challenge. The challenge was as follows: spend 30 minutes in nature, every day, for 30 days. Here’s the impact that the challenge had on the participant’s health and well-being:

  • They reported significant increases in their sense of well-being.
  • They had more energy,
  • Feelings of stress and negativity were reduced.
  • They had less sleep disturbances.
  • They felt more productive on the job.
  • They felt happier.

6. Communing with Nature Can Be a Spiritual Practice. For many people, spending time in  nature brings a feeling of serenity, peace, and calm. John P. Milton–a pioneering spiritual teacher, meditation master, vision quest leader and shaman–writes the following in his book, “Sky Above, Earth Below: Spiritual Practice in Nature”:

“Today, our modern world is filled with high-tech wonders. Our urban and suburban existence surrounds us with crowded, artificial environments of plastic, steel, concrete, and glass. Environmental toxins, high-stress lifestyles, devitalized food, loud noise, unnatural electromagnetic fields, and microwave radiation assail our cells and sensibilities. . .

When we leave these tensions for a while to cultivate our natural wholeness in the wild, we are renewed with the fresh vitality and spirit of Nature. New pathways open for living in harmony with our communities and the Earth. We discover deep inspiration to help transform our lifestyles and our culture toward harmony and balance.”

In addition, being in nature produces brain waves that are similar to those you experience while meditating. Researchers from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh attached a portable EEG (a device that measures brain waves) to the scalps of 12 healthy young adults.

The volunteers took a walk of about a mile and half through three distinctly different areas of Edinburgh:

  • A shopping district;
  • Park-like green space, and
  • A busy commercial district.

Afterwards, the scientists analyzed the volunteer’s brain wave records. The analysis showed evidence of lower engagement and arousal, and higher meditation when the volunteers were moving into the “green zone,” and higher engagement when moving out of it.

While the volunteers were in the “green zone” they were paying attention, but it was a type of attention that scientists refer to as involuntary or effortless. This effortless/involuntary attention allows us to reflect, and it refreshes the brain from the hyper-vigilance and arousal that’s required in offices and city streets.

7. Being in Nature Inspires Creativity. A study done in 2012 revealed that a group of backpackers were 50% more creative after they had spent four days on a hiking trail. Furthermore, the study shows that creativity peaks after about three days of really getting away from it all and immersing yourself in nature.

A standard creativity test was given to four groups of backpackers–totaling 60 people–before they went on hikes. The same test was given to a second group of 60 backpackers; however, this second group took the test four days into their hikes. The second group–those who had already been hiking for four days when they took the test–scored 50% higher than the first group.

The lead researcher in the study–Ruth Ann Atchley–explains that the constant distractions and stimulation of modern life are a threat, and they sap our resources. When we’re in nature our minds can drop down those threat responses, which leaves us with leftover resources which we can apply to being more creative.

8. Taking a Break in Nature Improves Memory and Cognitive Function. Taking in the sights and sounds of nature is beneficial for our brains. Research done by Doctor Marc Berman and partners at the University of Michigan shows that performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20% after study subjects took a pause for a walk through an arboretum. When they paused to take a walk down a busy street, no cognitive boost was detected.

Conclusion

Make it a habit to spend more time in nature: exercise outside instead of going to the gym; have lunch outdoors; and spend as much of your weekends as you can out in nature. At the very least, get a plant for your office. Live your best life by spending more time in nature.

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