Most people love lists—and I’m definitely one of those people. Lists can help you create order out of chaos, de-stress, and focus on the positive. They’re also good for remembering the good things from the past and planning a great future.
For all of these reasons, making lists is one of the things I do as part of my self-care ritual when I’m having one of those not-so-good days. I recommend you do the same.
What are the rules when writing your lists? The rules are, there are are no rules:
Make your lists as long or as short as necessary.
Add details if you like (for example, instead of just listing your favorite books, write down why you love each book).
If you’d rather, make each item on your list just one word long.
Share your lists with others or keep them to yourself.
Use a notebook and pen, or simply type your lists on your laptop.
Write in your mother tongue or try using the second language you were taught in high school.
If you’re the creative type, draw your lists.
Light a candle while you write your lists, or don’t light a candle.
58. List all the things you would like to improve about yourself (because we’re all works-in-progress).
59. List your positive habits.
60. List positive habits you would like to adopt.
I hope making the lists above lifts your mood if you’re having an off day. Live your best life by making lists.
I created a PDF of the list for you to download. Download it, print it, and put it somewhere you can grab it when you feel like making mood uplifting lists. Just fill in your name and email in the form below.
I’m going to define “awesome” as an adjective used to describe something or someone that’s worthy of respect and admiration. Something awesome makes us stop and take notice, even if it’s just for a moment. It raises our spirits and makes us feel a sense of possibility.
The word awesome can also be understood by thinking of it in relative terms. There’s good, there’s great, and then there’s awesome.
We all know awesome when we see it. Here are some examples:
The Nicholas Brothers’ Jumpin Jive dance number — awesome!
But being awesome doesn’t have to be at such a grand scale. There’s a joke about a street in New York City that had several pizza places on it. One was called, “Best Pizza In the US”; another was “Best Pizza In the World”; and yet a third had named itself, “Best Pizza In the Universe”.
However, the fourth pizza place was modestly called, “Best Pizza On the Block”. Get it? 🙂
To be awesome you just have to be you, and do your thing, but do it in a way that will push you up the awesomeness scale. How? Below you’ll find 13 things you can do to make yourself more awesome.
1. Set Big, Daring, Audacious Goals.
There’s a saying that states that you’re as awesome as your goals. Well, no there isn’t. But there should be. After all, in order to be awesome you need to do awesome things.
To increase your levels of awesomeness, set a big,daring, audacious goal–or revisit one which you’ve pretty much given up on–and start acting to make it happen. With each step you take in the direction of that big, daring, audacious goal, you’ll become more awesome.
In fact, I have something to help you get started with this. Subscribe to my free course, The One-Hour Goal Strategy. It will take you from identifying a big, daring, audacious goal, to taking that first awesome step to make it happen.
2. Get a Mojo Upgrade.
People with mojo strut their stuff, take healthy risks, and put themselves out there. They feel lucky, which makes them more aware of opportunities and of the good that surrounds them. And that’s awesome.
Here are three ways to increase your mojo:
Set yourself up for small, frequent wins.
Be true to yourself.
Feed your soul – listen to music you love, go to a museum, or fill a vase with your favorite flowers.
Gumption is a close friend of mojo. It’s the friend who keeps getting dealt hard blows, but nonetheless keeps summoning the motivation, positivity, hope, enthusiasm, and courage to get up back up and try again.
Awesome people have gumption in spades. And if they feel their gumption being depleted, they look for ways to refuel it. This includes doing things like the following:
Giving your motivation a boost by reminding yourself why you wanted to achieve something in the first place.
Engaging in creative problem-solving to get over obstacles and overcome setbacks.
Reminding yourself of all the goals you’ve already achieved to put yourself back in a go-getter frame of mind.
Gumption is the fuel that will take you to 100% awesome.
4. Don’t Give In to Self-Doubt.
Everyone has self-doubts. You know that really cool guy who looks like he’s never doubted himself for a minute in his life? Well, he has. In fact, odds are high that he feels some self-doubt on a regular basis.
However, he doesn’t give in to those self-doubts. Instead, he shakes ’em off and gets on with his cool, awesome life. The next time you feel self-doubt creeping up on you, be awesome and tell yourself: “I’ve got this”. Listen to Michael Jackson’s “Bad” if you need to.
5. Add More Skills to Your Life Resume.
Awesome people can do stuff. They can create landing pages for their awesome digital products, cook a gourmet meal from scratch, organize a closet as well as Martha Stewart, and take great photographs. Well, maybe not those skills specifically, but you get the idea.
What awesome skill have you been wanting to learn? Up your awesomeness factor by learning it.
6. Do One Thing Really Well.
Awesome people are really good at what they do, whatever that may be. They don’t just get “good enough” at their craft and then leave it at that. Instead, they practice continous improvement.
In my blog post on 10 Must-Watch TED Talks for Lifelong Learners I mention Eduardo Briceño’s talk in which he indicates that there’s a performance zone–in which you execute your job duties–and a learning zone in which you improve them.
If you want to be awesome, spend some time each week in the learning zone so you can get better at your job and do amazing things when you’re in the performance zone.
7. Know Stuff.
As I said above, awesome people have an area of an expertise that they hone in on and become great in. At the same time, they don’t live in a bubble. They also have general knowledge about a lot of other things.
On Saturday I was at the gym and the World Cup soccer match between Russia and Croatia was on the television set. A group of people–including me–were gathered around the TV watching the match. As I watched the Croatians I thought to myself: “Was Croatia part of the former Soviet Union?” I asked a gentleman standing to my right.
He explained to me that Croatia was part of the former Yugoslavia. Then he spoke a little about Tito–the Communist leader who was the Marshal of Yugoslavia from 1943 until his death in 1980–, and of his relationship with the USSR. Stalin tried to assassinate Tito several times and failed. He stopped when Tito sent him a note saying the following:
Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. (…) If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.
— Josip Broz Tito
The gentleman added that the six other present day countries which once comprised Yugoslavia are Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.
I thought it was awesome that he knew all that. And now, because I was curious and I asked–I know too. And because you read this blog, so do you! See, you’re more awesome already.
Be more awesome by learning new things. I recommend the following 8:2 ratio. For every ten books you read, read eight books about your field, and two books about something that’s completely unrelated. That way, you’ll be well-informed in your area of expertise, and also well-rounded.
8. Be Physically Active.
Awesome people run (or walk fast), they go for bike rides, they play tennis, they golf, they swim, and they’re just generally out there enjoying their bodies and being in nature doing stuff.
To be awesome, get up off the couch and shake your booty. Or at least walk around the block a few times. And do it with attitude.
9. Have a Passion.
Passion is awesome. Ideally, you should be passionate about your job/career/ calling. However, you can be passionate about anything: comic books, a certain area of the law, the US Civil War, whales, Shakespere’s sonnets, LEGOs, baseball, flags. . . the possibilities are endless.
One way to bring more passion into your life is with a passion project. A passion project is something you work on–usually outside of your chosen career path–which makes you happy and puts you in the state of flow. Here are some ideas:
Start a blog about a topic that you’re really interested in.
Put together a weekend workshop on something you would like to teach others.
Invent something — invent a board game, come up with a prototype for a product you wish existed, or create an app.
Be awesome by adding more passion to your life.
10. Be Kind to Others.
When have you seen someone being rude to someone else–either through action or omission–and you’ve thought to yourself: “That person is really awesome”? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the answer to that question is “Never”.
On the other hand, the other day I witnessed a young man go out of his way to patiently help an elderly gentleman climb up the staircase of an elevated pedestrian bridge, walk across the bridge, and then go back down on the other side. I immediately thought: “This guy is just plain awesome”.
If you want to be awesome, be kind to others.
11. Be Playful.
Playful people are fun. They enjoy themselves, and they share that joy with others. And that’s awesome.
In his book, On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck, philosopher Nick Riggle defines being awesome as creating social openings. It’s finding ways to express yourself, thereby giving others an opening to express themselves as well. Being this way creates good vibes all around.
One example Riggle gives in his book is from a Celtics baskeball game. The Bon Jovi song “Living On a Prayer” was playing during halftime, and the fan cam was going around projecting people’s faces onto the jumbo screen.
One person stood up and started enacting the role of Bon Jovi in a music video. He roamed around the audience inviting others to join him in the pretense, and many did. Most of the stadium was cheering and clapping. It was awesome.
Being playful is awesome.
12. Hang Out with Other Awesome People.
I once heard the following saying: “If you want to soar with the eagles, don’t party with the turkeys.” In the same vein, if you want to be awesome, don’t party with the dullards. Instead, do the following: stop and think of what your life would be like if you were humming on all cylinders.
What would your habits be?
How would you behave?
What would you do after work?
What would you do during the weekends?
Then, identify a group of people who are already doing those things and join them. But be cool about it.
13. Gradually Become More Awesome.
I have an eleven year-old nephew who’s naturally awesome. Other kids–and even adults–are drawn to him like moths to a flame. Some people are born under an awesomeness star.
But most aren’t. Most people have to work at being awesome. But that’s OK. I just gave you several ways to work on becoming more awesome. Be awesome by working at it and gradually becoming more awesome.
How awesome are you right now? Whatever your awesomeness factor may be at the moment, you can become more awesome. Do it for yourself, and for others. Live your best life by increasing your awesomeness factor.
A life balance sheet will give you a snapshot of how you’re doing in life.
We all know what a financial balance sheet looks like. You have two columns, one containing your assets and the other containing your liabilities. Assets are items that can provide a future value or benefit. Liabilities, on the other hand, are those things which will create an obligation in the future.
Financial assets include items such as the following:
Cash on Hand
Here are some examples of financial liabilities:
Credit Card Debt
If you subtract liabilities from assets, you get your financial net worth. When your assets are equal to your liabilities, you have a net worth of zero. If your assets are less than your liabilities, you have a negative net worth. Lastly, if your assets are greater than your liabilities, you have a positive net worth.
You can follow a similar model to create a life balance sheet in order to determine your life’s net worth. In this post you’ll discover how to create your life balance sheet, calculate your life net worth, and then increase your life net worth.
Life Balance Sheet – Assets
Your life assets include all those things which add value to your life and which will allow you to build a brighter future for yourself and your loved ones. The categories which I recommend you use for the “Life Assets” column of your life balance sheet include the following:
Positive Habits –positive habits are those actions which you’ve put on automatic which allow you to move toward the achievement of your goals; e.g. exercising, meditating, and planning your day the night before.
Credentials – the degrees, licenses, permits, or memberships in professional associations which you need in order to achieve your work and business goals.
Knowledge – knowledge gained from books, online courses, experience, talking to others, and so on, is a huge asset.
Positive Relationships – friendships, positive familial relationships, a strong professional network, and other life affirming relationships are assets.
Skills – everything that you have the ability to do well—whether it be public speaking, creating videos, writing persuasively, etc.–is an asset.
Positive Character Traits – positive character traits–such as grit, confidence, and integrity—are highly valuable assets.
Positive Emotions – positive emotions such as gratitude, cheerfulness, and serenity can be added to your life balance sheet as wealth.
Good Health – good health will result in high ability to focus, physical stamina, and endurance, all of which will allow you to build the kind of life you want for yourself.
Purpose – setting empowering goals, having work that you find meaningful, and giving back to society will increase the “Assets” column of your life balance sheet.
Life Balance Sheet – Liabilities
On the right-hand column of your life balance sheet you’re going to list your life liabilities. Your life liabilities are all those things which decrease your ability to lead a good life and can potentially have a negative impact on your future.
The categories that I recommend you use for your “Life Liabilities” column are the following:
Negative Habits – negative habits are those actions which you’ve put on automatic which prevent you from moving toward the achievement of your goals; e.g. smoking, overeating, and going to bed late.
Lack of Credentials – not having the degrees, licenses, or permits which you need in order to achieve your goals, and not belonging to the necessary professional or trade associations, are big liabilities.
Lack of Knowledge – lacking the knowledge that you need to achieve your goals is a liability; e.g. not having read important books, failing to invest in ongoing education, and not having the necessary experience.
Negative Relationships – frenemies, toxic familial relations, bad relationships with co-workers, and strained relationships with neighbors should all be included in the right-hand column of your life balance sheet.
Lack of Skills –each skill that you need to succeed, but which you lack, counts as a liability. This can include language skills, technological skills, communication skills, and so on.
Negative Character Traits – negative character traits such as greed, envy, and negativity can prevent you from achieving what you want in life and they should be counted as liabilities.
Negative Emotions – if you feel negative emotions on a regular basis–for example, anger, frustration, sorrow, and fear–these should be included as liabilities.
Health Problems – poor health can result in a lack of ability to focus, illness, and lethargy, all of which should be listed as liabilities in your life balance sheet.
Lack of Purpose – having disempowering goals, working at a job which you find meaningless, and failing to give back to society are all liabilities.
Life Balance Sheet – Net Worth
Just like with your financial balance sheet, if you subtract your life liabilities from your life assets you’ll get your net worth. In this case, a life net worth.
Going back to the financial balance sheet example, if your financial net worth isn’t what you would like for it to be, then you would look for ways to increase your assets and decrease your liabilities. But what if you’re not happy with your life net worth? What can you do to increase it?
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to increase your life net worth. Here are some ideas:
Adopt a new positive habit, such as drinking eight glasses of water a day or doing some Tai Chi in the morning.
Drop a negative habit, such as procrastinating or having a donut for breakfast every morning.
Learn a new skill—pick a skill that will allow you to achieve your goals and learn it. This can include learning how to code, picking up conflict resolution skills, or learning photography.
Practice an existing skill to become better at it.
Read a book that will increase your knowledge in a life area that’s important to you (each book you read can be added as an asset).
Take steps to become healthier and increase your energy levels.
Look for ways to strengthen your positive relationships.
Cut ties with people who are having a negative impact on your life (if they’re really mean you can go ahead and let them know that they’re a liability).
Go back to school and get a degree.
Get any necessary licenses or permits.
Take a few online courses and share your certificates of completion on LinkedIn.
Look for ways to increase the amount of time that you spend feeling positive emotions.
Look for ways to reduce—or maybe even completely release–negative emotions.
Work on strengthening your positive character traits.
Look for ways to overcome your negative character traits.
Make a list of all the things you’re going to do to increase your life net worth. Act. Then, four, five, or six months from now, create a new life balance sheet. Did your life assets increase? Did your life liabilities decrease? Is your life net worth higher?
Continue doing this until your life net worth is off the charts.
Benefits of Having a High Life Net Worth
Having a high financial net worth means that you have more money to spend on the things you want. It also means you have more security, and that you can take advantage of more investment opportunities.
A high life net worth, likewise, comes with many benefits. Here are some of them:
You’ll be happier.
You’ll be in a better position to achieve your goals.
Your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being will be higher.
You’ll be in a better position to help others, specially your loved ones.
Your life journey will be a lot more pleasant with a high life net worth than with a low one.
As you can see, there are many reasons to get to work on your life net worth right away.
What’s your life net worth? How do you plan to increase it? Live your best life by creating your life balance sheet and making sure that your life net worth grows higher and higher with each passing year.
A zen-like day is intentional, full of tranquility, and joyful.
When you’re feeling harried and overwhelmed because you have a million things to do, and it seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done, it’s likely that you’ll conclude that the solution is to go faster. In addition, you’ll probably start looking for strategies and hacks you can apply that will allow you to get more done.
However, the solution to overwhelm is just the opposite: you should go slower and do less. In other words, what you need to do is look for ways to make your day more zen.
Zen is a form of Buddhism, and its essence is experiencing life directly. In the West, Zen is often synonymous with simplicity, mindfulness, and calm. I think these are things we can could all use more of, don’t you? If so, below you’ll find 10 ways to make your day more zen.
Take a deep breath and read on.
1. Prepare the Night Before.
You should prepare for your zen-like day the night before. Although sometimes it’s difficult to identify what is zen, it’s easy to notice what is not zen. Here are some things that are definitely not zen:
Waking up late and then rushing to get ready so you can run out the door (holding a bagel and coffee in one hand, and a crumpled jacket and your briefcase in the other).
A schedule that is filled to the brim with tasks and commitments.
A disorganized and cluttered desk.
If you get things ready the night before, you can do the following:
Get up early enough to get ready for your zen day in a calm and leisurely way.
Go through the items on your schedule and make sure that you’re not crowding your day (there’s more on this below).
Take some time to declutter and organize your desk, so that it’s clean and tidy when you sit down to work the next day.
In addition, before going to sleep, set the intent that the next day will be peaceful and calm. You can make your day more zen by setting things up the night before.
2. Don’t Crowd Your Day.
As I stated in the previous point, a crowded day is not zen. In order to make your day zen, take out your schedule for the day, grab a pen, and do the following:
Identify the most important thing that needs to get done that day.
Decide what other two or three important items you’ll work on once you’re done with the most important one.
Set aside some time in the afternoon to get smaller stuff done.
Cancel any meetings, appointments and commitments that are nonessential.
Delegate all tasks that someone else should be doing.
After doing this you’ll find that you have more time to do the things that are really important to you, including spending more time with those you love. In addition, you’ll have time to do things for yourself such as exercising and finding time each day to spend in quiet contemplation.
Keep sight of the most important things each day. Make your day more zen by getting the important things done, and discarding the rest.
3. Practice Zazen.
Zazen is the form of meditation practice at the heart of Zen. I’ve already written previously about the many benefits of meditation, as well as how to do it. Now, there’s an additional reason to meditate: to add zen to your life.
“When talking about zazen, I like to use the metaphor of the moon on the lake. Our thoughts and emotions are like the ripples and waves that disturb the reflective surface of the lake, so that we can’t see the moon. Of course, the moon is always there, even if we can’t see it, and it’s also important to see the ripples. But we also need to see the moon clearly to know it’s there. So, in meditation, when we let the ripples of our thoughts and the waves of our emotions settle, it’s as if we have cleared the lake so that the moon can appear.”
Starting your day with even a few minutes of meditation will go a long way toward making your day run more smoothly.
4. Slow Down Your Mind.
Eknath Easwaran was one of the 20th century’s great spiritual teachers. His translations of the Indian spiritual classics–The Bhagavad Gita, The Upanishads, and The Dhammapada— are the best-selling editions in the United States.
In the same way, when your mind is racing you can’t pay proper attention to what is going on around you, heed warning signs, and make the right judgment calls. Easwaran adds that there is nothing more disobedient than an untrained mind, and there is nothing more obedient than a trained mind.
We can train our minds to slow down by doing all of the following:
Listening to our thoughts.
Slowing down our pace of life.
Doing one thing at a time.
Adopting reflective practices such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong.
As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh once put it: “Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” Make your day more zen by stepping on the brakes instead of the accelerator.
5. Master the Art of Concentration.
Easwaran–who was mentioned in the point above–advises that we give our attention to one thing at a time. He indicates that complete concentration is genius. Again, Easwaran uses the analogy of a car.
Imagine that you get into your car and you start driving north toward your house. Then, all of a sudden, you do the following:
You turn left and start heading toward the supermarket.
Then, you make another sudden turn and start heading toward your sister’s house.
Mid-way to your sister’s house, you remember that you need to pick up the dry cleaning. You take a sharp right and start driving toward the dry cleaners.
Then . . . you get the picture.
When it comes to our attention, we often behave as if we were driving the car above. Take control of the car–that is, of your mind–by mastering the art of concentration. You do this by doing one thing at a time and by becoming more mindful. There’s more on mindfulness below.
“I remember a short conversation between the Buddha and a philosopher of his time.
‘I have heard that Buddhism is a doctrine of enlightenment. What is your method? What do you practice every day?’
‘We walk, we eat, we wash ourselves, we sit down.’
‘What is so special about that? Everyone walks, eats, washes, sits down. . .’
‘Sir, when we walk, we are aware that we are walking; when we eat, we are aware that we are eating. . . When others walk, eat, wash, or sit down, they are generally not aware of what they are doing.’
In Buddhism, mindfulness is the key. Mindfulness is the energy that sheds light on all things and all activities, producing the power of concentration, bringing forth deep insight and awakening. Mindfulness is at the base of all Buddhist practice.”
Social contagion refers to the propensity for behaviors exhibited by one person to be copied by others who are in the vicinity of the original actor. If a person walks into a room full of people and starts acting in a way that shows that they’re angry and stressed, it’s highly likely that others in the room will soon start exhibiting similar behavior.
But the opposite is also true. One person slowing down, showing goodwill, and demonstrating tranquility helps everyone around them to relax. On your zen-like day, choose to be the person who remains calm when everyone else is rushing about, and set an example for others to relax as well.
8. Repeat a Mantra.
It’s already been stated that, in order to make your day more zen, you need to slow down your mind. A great way to do this is by repeating a mantra.
Your mantra can be “Ram Nam”–Mahatma Ghandi’s mantra–, “Peace”, “All is well”, or anything else that works for you. When your mind begins to race off with thoughts of worry, frustration, fear, or anger, slow it down by repeating your mantra.
In addition, your mantra can be the activity you’re currently engaged in. So, if you’re walking, your mantra would be “walking, walking, walking. . .”; if you’re cleaning up around the house your mantra would be “cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. . .”; and so on.
9. Create Space Between.
When you’re planning out your schedule for the day, make your day more zen by leaving some space between tasks and appointments. Use those spaces to do things like the following:
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Smile and think of one thing you’re grateful for.
Sit out in the sun for a little while.
Scatter spaces throughout your day and use those spaces to simply be.
10. Keep A Zen Attitude.
A zen attitude is knowing that there’s no need to rush. For this point we’re going to refer to Easwaran’s wisdom one last time.
Easwaran uses the example of Ghandi to make the point that it’s not necessary to lead a frantic life in order to accomplish great things. He points out that Ghandi accomplished more than most people in history, and yet he always looked relaxed.
What could be more ambitious than filling your schedule with the things that are most important to you, spending more time with those you love, and living life at your own pace instead of trying to keep up with others?
Look at the following:
“A slower life . . . is more effective, more artistic, much richer than a life lived as a race against the clock. It gives you time to pause, to think, to reflect, to decide, to weigh pros and cons. It gives you time for relationships.” — Eknath Easwaran
Throughout your day of zen, remember to keep a zen attitude.
Make your life more zen by prioritizing, concentrating, being more mindful, and following the other tips and strategies explained above. Live your best life by adding zen to your day.
We should all aspire to be good citizens of our country, and of the world.
The concept of citizenship was born in the city-states of Ancient Greece; specifically, in Athens. Greek education at the time was designed to instruct citizens in the values, intellectual frameworks, and habits-of-mind required to be free men. That is, to actively participate in the political system that shaped their lives and guaranteed their freedoms.
Today, being a citizen means that you’re part of a group, and that you have legal and political rights within that group. It brings with it both privileges and obligations. I would argue that we each have a duty, or an obligation, to be good citizens. After all, a nation is only as healthy as its individual citizens.
Nonetheless, in modern times, people generally aren’t educated on how to be good citizens. Therefore, I asked myself the following questions: “What does it mean to be a good citizen?”, and, “How do you become a good citizen?” In this post I’m going to share with you the answers that I came up with.
Below you’ll find 10 ways to be a good citizen.
1. A Good Citizen is Patriotic.
Patriotism is having and showing devotion for your country. It means having an attachment to certain national cultural values and showing critical loyalty to your nation. Some ways to show patriotism include the following:
Brush up on your country’s history.
Read up on social studies.
Obey the rule of law.
Pay your taxes.
Learn the national anthem.
Fly your country’s flag.
Don’t litter or engage in acts of vandalism that deface your environment.
Travel around your country and talk to your fellow citizens.
Cheer for your country’s team in sports events (World Cup, I’m looking at you).
At the same time, keep in mind that patriotism should not be confused with nationalism. Nationalism is thinking of your nation as being superior to others, and worthy of dominance. Patriots are proud of their country, but they understand that other people are also rightly proud of theirs.
Look at the words of a church hymn written in 1934 by the American Lloyd Stone to the melody of Finlandia by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius:
This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
A good citizen loves their country—a good citizen is a patriot.
2. Model the Personal Qualities of Good Citizens.
The personal qualities of a good citizen include the following:
Honesty – tell the truth.
Integrity – be morally upright.
Responsibility – be accountable for yourself and your actions.
Respectfulness – treat others how you want to be treated.
Compassion – show fellowship with your compatriots who are down on their luck by volunteering and/or making donations to charities.
Kindness – be friendly.
Tolerance – be tolerant of other races and religions.
Courtesy – be considerate of others.
Self-Discipline – have self-control and cultivate the ability to follow through on what you say you’re going to do.
Moral Courage – stand up for what you consider to be wrong and defend those who cannot defend themselves.
Love of Justice – be fair and ask that others be so as well.
Imagine what your country would be like if all its citizens strived to achieve these personal qualities. Start by adopting them yourself.
The way in which he planned to achieve this was by creating a list of 13 virtues. He also created a plan for developing those virtues. I recommend you do something similar.
In addition, in his youth George Washington captured 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior. They were rules for comporting oneself in a way that would be respectful of others, and of the self. Look through the rules and come up with your own set of rules of behavior.
3. Be a Productive Member of Society.
A good citizen contributes to their nation by being productive. They’re productive employees, business owners, artists, public servants, caregivers, and so on. Good citizens share their skills, talents, and abilities with others. They make a positive contribution to their nation.
4. Be Active In Your Community.
A good citizen is active in their community. They participate in the social life of their city or town, and they look for ways to make their communities a better place to live. That is, if they see a problem in their community they look for ways to solve it.
Here are some ways to be active in your community:
Attend community events – keep your eyes open for events that are happening in your area such as festivals, community theatre, a gallery opening, and so on.
Join a local club that’s devoted to an activity that interests you, such as running, cycling, or kayaking.
Here are some ways to better your community:
Participate in a community-driven cleanup project.
Help plant a community garden.
Organize a campaign to raise money for new playground equipment.
Help out your neighbors.
Instead of being cooped up in your home glued to a technological device, get out there and become an active member of your community. It will make you a better citizen.
5. Keep Yourself Well-Informed.
Read to educate yourself about the important issues facing your nation. In 1761, John Adams implied that one of the reasons to emphasize literacy is that it makes people better citizens. Look at the following quote:
“Every man has in politics as well as religion a right to think and speak and act for himself. I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading?”
If you’re asking yourself what you should read to keep well-informed, here are some suggestions:
Various news sources that cover local, national and global news.
Books on important world issues.
Biographies of people who have helped shape the world.
A country depends on a well-informed and civic minded population to safeguard the people’s individual freedoms and political rights. A good citizen remains vigilant in order to ascertain that the government is doing all of the following:
Meeting its obligations to its citizens;
Acting appropriately within its sphere and jurisdiction; and
Adhering to the limits of state action.
To do this, a citizen must have the basic skills necessary to be able to assess arguments logically and critically.
In addition, if a citizen believes that the government is overstepping its bounds or failing in its duties, the citizen must speak up. In the words of Thomas Jefferson:
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
7. Participate in Your Nation’s Political Life.
If you want to be a good citizen, you should be politically active. There are many ways to this. Here are some ideas:
Identify an issue you care about and pursue it.
Attend rallies and events.
Go to city council meetings.
Join a political organization.
Volunteer for a political campaign.
Vote! Do your part to elect capable, civic minded leaders.
Run for political office.
As a citizen, you have the right to have your voice heard. Exercise that right.
8. Be a Mentor.
Today’s kids are tomorrow’s citizens. Help shape the citizens of the future by mentoring kids. Some ideas on ways you can mentor kids are the following:
Talk to your own kids about civics and teach them to be good citizens.
Join a school-based mentoring program and tutor kids who aren’t doing well academically.
Get involved in an organization such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.
A while ago I published a post on how to leave a legacy. A great legacy to leave your nation is to play a part in forming good citizens who will contribute to the nation’s well-being.
9. Be Well-Rounded.
The third point in this blog post indicates that a good citizen has to be productive. That is, they need to have the knowledge necesary to produce in today’s world — technical skills, legal skills, medical skills, and so on. However, a good citizen should also be well-rounded.
A well-rounded person is better at creative problem solving and innovation than a person who is not well-rounded. In addition, they can make contributions not only to a country’s GDP, but also to the cultural wealth of their nation.
Here are some of the qualities of a well-rounded person:
They develop not only their mental faculties, but also their emotional, physical, and spiritual faculties.
10. Order Your Corner Of the World
Your home is a microcosm of your country. If you want to live in a clean, healthy, prosperous, happy nation, start by creating these circumstances at home.
The Chinese philosopher Confucius once said the following: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”
Becoming a lifelong learner is no longer optional.
To stay competitive in the 21st century, you have to constantly learn, grow, and improve yourself. That is, you have to commit to lifelong learning.
Lifelong learning is the ongoing and voluntary pursuit of knowledge, as well as the development and improvement of skills. It can be for either personal or professional reasons. In addition, it can be formal–learning in a traditional classroom setting–or informal, which is learning on your own.
Being a lifelong learner can help you with all of the following:
Keep your career skills relevant–in this day and age, skills that are cutting edge one year are outdated just a few years later.
One of the best routes to financial independence is to start a business, even if it’s just a side business. If you don’t have business skills, you can acquire them through self-learning.
You can engage in a practice called “second-skilling”: gaining a second area of expertise which compliments your primary area of knowledge. As an illustration, I took a course to get a realtor’s license a few years ago. I was working as an independent attorney, and with a realtor’s license I could help clients find and buy an apartment, and then do all of the related legal work for them.
Keeping our brains active and engaged by learning new skills can help keep them in good shape as we get older.
Explore other career opportunities–I went from being a lawyer to becoming an entrepreneur.
Keep up with your interests by pursuing new hobbies.
So, how do you become a lifelong learner? Start by reading my article on learning skills fast. Then, supplement that material with TED Talks. Which TED Talks? I’m glad you asked. Below you’ll find 10 must-watch TED Talks for lifelong learners.
1. Self-Learning: Ryan Lee
When Ryan Lee gave his TED Talk a few years ago, he was a fifteen-year-old kid who had taught himself to code and create apps and websites. He explains that the way in which he teaches himself new things is by having something very specific that he wants to accomplish with his newly acquired knowledge.
Ryan explains that if you want to learn something new, you should turn it into a project. That is, there should be a clear end result. Here’s an example:
Ryan didn’t just tell himself, “I want to learn HTML and CSS”.
Instead, he told himself, “I want to learn HTML and CSS so that I can create a cool user profile for this online game I love to play.”
Each time that Ryan embarks on a new self-learning adventure, he’s highly motivated. This is because he knows exactly what he wants to accomplish with the knowledge and skills that he’s acquiring.
Like Ryan, when you want to learn to do something new, turn it into a project.
2. The Power of Believing That You Can Improve
Carol Dweck, PhD, is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She’s best known for her research on mindset, and how it can impact a person’s ability to learn. Specifically, Dweck has coined the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset”.
Here’s the difference between the two:
People with a growth mindset believe that if there’s something they don’t understand, or a skill that they haven’t been able to learn, they just need to try harder. If they fail at learning something new, they simply tell themselves that they need to try a different approach. Then they try again.
People with a fixed mindset believe that you either have the ability to learn about a new topic, and the talent to acquire a new skill, or you don’t. If they fail at something, they conclude that they simply don’t have what it takes, and they stop trying.
Obviously, the first mindset–the growth mindset–is much more conducive to learning. You can find out more about the growth mindself by watching the TED Talk below, and by reading my post on Five Mindsets That Will Transform Your Life.
3. You Can Grow New Brain Cells. Here’s How.
When it comes to adults learning new things, there are two brain-related terms that are very important: neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Here’s how these terms are defined:
Neurogenesis — the brain’s ability to create new neurons, or brain cells.
Neuroplasticity — the malleability of the brain and its ability to create new and stronger neural connections.
Connor Grooms shares in his TED Talk that the previous year he had been in Medellín, Colombia. When he arrived, he spoke almost no Spanish. A month later, he was conversational. Groom revealed the process that he used to learn Spanish, which is the same process that he uses whenever he wants to learn something new.
His process consists of the following three steps:
Create a plan.
Execute the plan.
However, Grooms adds that no learning methodology or strategy in the world will work for you, unless achieving the learning project that you’ve set for yourself is nonnegotiable. You have to be absolutely committed.
Think of something that’s nonnegotiable in your life, like going to work. You don’t ask yourself whether or not you’re going in to work each weekday morning; you simply get up and do it. When you’re going to learn something new, you have to have this same level of commitment, or you won’t follow through.
What do you want to learn to do? How committed are you?
5. Auto-Learning Through Self-Teaching and Experimentation
The fifth talk in our list of TED Talks for lifelong learners is by Biologist/Geneticist Connor Edsall. Edsall indicates that self-learning is a combination of self-teaching and self-trying. In order to illustrate his point, Edsall refers to four individuals who changed the world although they had little or no formal education.
These four people made great achievements in their respective fields through self-learning. They are the following:
Michael Faraday – he established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field in physics. Faraday developed his theories through experimental observation.
John Hunter – he became known as the father of scientific surgery. Hunter accomplished this through observation, dissection (of dead human and animal bodies), and experimentation.
The Wright brothers – Orville and Wilbur Wright invented, built, and flew the world’s first successful airplane. They were encouraged by their parents to design and invent from a young age, and they would often cooperate on simple projects like building kites, creating replicas of a toy rubber band helicopter, and inventing a newspaper folding machine.
Edsall adds that today we have access to enormous amounts of information. However, absorbing information isn’t really learning. In order to learn, you have to get out there and apply what you learn. That is, you have to observe and carry out experiments. You have to try.
When learning something new, keep the following in mind: “Experiri est Discere.” It means: “To try is to learn.”
6. The Curious Person’s Guide to Learning Anything
Stephen Robinson decided to give himself the challenge of learning something new every week, for 52 weeks. He shares his learning adventures in his blog, 52Skillz. Here are some of the things he learned:
Doing a backflip.
Crocheting a tie.
Racing a rally car.
Stephen explains that when he was in his last year in college he grew frustrated. He had developed a routine of going to school, going to work, and then going home to consume things created by others (TV, newspapers, video games, and so on). Stephen realized that he was simply maintaining his lifestyle, and maintaining the expectations of others.
He wasn’t following up on what he wanted to do, and he wasn’t really living. That’s when he decided to learn something new every week, for 52 weeks.
Stephen then goes on to show the TED audience how they, too, can learn new skills. He uses “Learn How to Give a TED Talk” as a case study. Here’s the process:
1. Write It Down.
Whatever your learning goal is, you have to get it out of your head and unto a piece of paper.
2. Create Urgency.
Stephen received an email from the Alberta TED Talks coordinator indicating that someone had dropped out of their program, and they wanted him to take their place. This meant he had five days to come up with a TED Talk. Now that’s urgency!
3. Create Accountability.
A TED Talk can be a huge boost for your career, or it can simply get lost among the billions of things that can be found on the internet. The fact that Stephen had a looming deadline created urgency, and the fact that there was so much riding on whether he did well or poorly created accountability.
Stephen indicates that in order to learn anything new, you need to fail. When he was preparing his TED Talk he wrote several rough drafts which were really bad.
He cautions that you shouldn’t interpret failure as evidence that you’re weak, dumb, or don’t have the ability to learn the skill that you’re trying to acquire. Instead, interpret failure as growth. Anyone who has tried to learn anything new will spend a lot of time doing things wrong. That’s just the way it is.
5. Ask for Help.
When you’ve failed a few times and you aren’t sure what to do next, ask for help. Stephen called some of his friends who were keynote speakers and asked for help in writing his TED Talk. His friends gave him some great pointers which were very helpful in getting his TED Talk in good shape.
6. Follow Through.
On the day of his TED Talk, Stephen showed up, stood in front of the audience, and gave his talk. He followed through and demonstrated that he had successfully learned how to give a TED Talk.
When Kaufman and his wife had their first child, he was saddened to think that he would never have time to learn anything new. That’s when he decided to find a way to learn skills fast. His objective was to choose a few skills and go from being grossly incompetent at those things, to being reasonably good, in as little time as possible. He discovered that this took 20 hours.
Here are Kaufman’s four simple steps for rapid skill acquisition:
Deconstruct the Skill –most of the things that we think of as skills are actually bundles of skills. Take the skill that you’re trying to learn and break it down into as many sub-skills as you can. This will allow you to identify the sub-skills that you need to concentrate on in order to achieve what you want.
Learn Enough to Self-Correct. Identify three to five resources you can use. You want enough knowledge so that you can start practicing and self-correcting as fast as possible.
Remove Practice Barriers. Remove all distractions and anything that will get in the way as you try to learn the new skill.
Practice for At Least 20 Hours. Kaufman explains that most skills have what he refers to as “the frustration stage”. It’s that initial stage at which you’re grossly incompetent at your new skill, and you know it. It’s very uncomfortable to be at this stage, and you’ll probably be tempted to quit. The way to get over this stage is to pre-commit to practicing whatever it is that you’re trying to learn for at least 20 hours. That will help you to push through the frustration stage and stick with the practice long enough to reap the rewards.
Kaufman used this four-step process to teach himself, among other things, to play the ukulele. You can watch him play the ukulele in his TED Talk below.
8. Learning Styles and The Importance of Self-Reflection
You’ve probably always heard that some people are visual learners, others learn better by listening, and still others are kinesthetic learners. Well, it turns out that’s a myth. Yep. You heard here first. Tesia Marshik does a great job of debunking this myth in her TED Talk.
Marshik also points out that incorporating multiple sensory experiences into one lesson is the best way to make the lesson more meaningful and memorable. For example, if you’re teaching someone about the sound that a musical instrument makes, do the following:
Have them listen to the instrument (audiatory).
Let them watch someone play the instrument (visual).
Allow them to hold the instrument and see what sounds they can make with it (kinesthetic).
Watch Marshik explain why there’s no such thing as learning styles in her TED Talk.
9. How to Get Better at Things You Care About
If you decide to watch only one of these TED Talks for lifelong learners, I recommend you watch this one.
Eduardo Briceño explains that people reach a point at which they stop getting better at the things that are important to them. Almost everyone reaches a point of stagnation, even if they’re working really hard. However, there’s a way to fix this.
Briceño indicates that the most successful people and teams spend their lives alternating between two zones:
The Learning Zone; and
The Performance Zone.
When you’re in the learning zone, your goal is to improve. In this zone you carry out activities designed for getting better at things that are important to you. In the learning zone, you try things which you haven’t mastered yet, which means that you’re going to make mistakes. However, you look for ways to learn from those mistakes so that you can improve and grow.
When you’re in the performance zone, your goal is to do something as well as you can. In this zone, you concentrate on those things which you’ve already mastered, and you try to minimize mistakes. In this zone you execute to the best of your ability.
The key to continous improvement is to spend time in both the learning and the performance zones. A great way to see the difference between the learning and the performance zones is through examples. In his Ted Talk, Briceño uses Demosthenes and Beyoncé as examples.
Demosthenes was one of the greatest orators and lawyers of ancient Greece. When it was time to act as an orator or lawyer, he performed masterfully. However, he would also take time to improve his craft by doing things such as the following:
Since persuasion is so important in the practice of law, he would study acting;
He would practice his speeches over and over again in front of a mirror to perfect his style of presentation; and
Demosthenes would even practice by the ocean so that he would have to project his voice over the waves.
Beyoncé is one of the world’s best-selling music artists. When Beyoncé is on tour, during her concerts, she’s in her performance zone. The audience is treated to her masterful performance.
But every night, when she gets back to the hotel room, she switches to the learning zone. She watches a video of the show she just gave to identify opportunities for improvement for herself, her dancers, and the rest of her crew. The next morning, everyone receives notes on what adjustments to make. Then, they spend the day working on those adjustments so that they can improve before the next performance.
To sum things up: you build your skills in the learning zone, and then you apply those skills in the performance zone.
10. Can You Get An MIT Education for $2000?
As I wrote in post on 10 Ways Taking MOOCs Can Improve Your Life, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a great tool for lifelong learners. An example of someone who used MOOCs to teach himself valuable new skills is Scott Young.
Young decided to try to get the equivalent of a four-year degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in just 12 months. He used courses put up on the internet for free by MIT to build a computer science curriculum with 33 classes. The curriculum was almost identical to the one followed by students who actually attend MIT. The only cost was for a few textbooks which cost him about $2000.
What do you want to learn? Follow Young’s example and create a curriculum for yourself based on MOOCs.
I hope you decide to take the time to watch the 10 Ted Talks for lifelong learners which I curated for you and listed above. It will help you to take your self-learning to the next level. Live your best life by committing to lifelong learning.
The words “Carpe Diem” were popularized by Mr. Keating—an English teacher played by Robin Williams—in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. He borrowed the phrase from the Roman poet Horace, who once wrote:
“As we speak cruel time is fleeing. Seize the day, believing as little as possible in the morrow.”
Here are other ways to express that same adage:
Memento mori – remember you will die.
YOLO – You Only Live Once.
Just Do It! – Nike’s exhortation to get out there and live your life.
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying; and this same flower that smiles today tomorrow will be dying.” – Robert Herrick
“Make your lives extraordinary!” – John Keating
Dare to Live Fully (the name of this blog).
Steve Jobs reminded us that we have limited time on this planet in his famous 2005 Stanford commencement speech:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life…because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
I’m not telling you all of this to make you panic or have an anxiety attack, but simply to remind you that you won’t live forever. And this reminder is a good thing, because it can inspire you to stop living life as a spectator. Instead, get out there, step up to the plate, and swing as hard as you can.
Below I’m going to share with you 10 exercises I came up with to help you seize the day. The methodology I’m going to use is the following:
I’m going to share a quote with you.
Then, I’m going to suggest an exercise or activity inspired by that quote, so that you can stop thinking about seizing the day and start acting.
Here we go.
1. Forget Regret
“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.” – Jonathan Larson
We all have regrets about things we wish we’d done differently in the past. As an illustration, the other day I was watching a TED Talk by Lisa Bu in which she explains that she really wanted to become a Chinese opera singer.
Unfortunately, Bu’s parents did not support her dream. By the time Bu was fifteen years old, she realized that she had not gotten the early start that she would have needed to become a Chinese opera singer, and that her dream would never come true.
However, instead of resigning herself to a life of second-hand happiness, here’s the attitude that Bu chose:
“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from. Even a shattered dream can do that for you.”
Do the following:
Think of an important goal you set for yourself in the past which you failed to achieve, and which now fills you with regret.
Then, use that regret to reconnet to that place where dreams come from. Now, come up with a different dream.
Lastly, record a video in which you share your regret and your new dream, and put it up on YouTube.
Seize the day by turning your regrets into motivation to pursue a different dream.
2. Take the First Step!
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” – Lao Tzu
There’s almost certainly an important goal that you’ve been putting off because it will take a lot of effort to achieve it. That is, it’s a one-thousand-mile goal. Stop for a minute and remind yourself that if you don’t start right now, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll never achieve that goal.
The first thing you need to do is to chunk down your goal, so that you can start tackling it, one step at a time. In my post, How to Chunk Down Goals Into Manageable Pieces, I explain that there are three methods I use to chunk down goals. These three methods are the following:
Chunk Down Goals by Time
Chunk Down Goals by Quantity
Chunk Down Goals by Actionable Steps
Seize the day by deciding which of these three methods you’re going to use to chunk down your one-thousand-mile goal. Then, identify the first step. Draw a foot step like the one below and write down in the middle of it what your first step is going to be:
Lastly, take that first step.
3. Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
“Get out of your comfort zone. Wake up the sleeping giant in you.” – Dr. T. P. Chia
A sure way to allow opportunities to pass you by and to fail to make the most of your life is to remain stuck in your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is a cage in which the bars that keep you locked in consist of your current habits, rituals, practices, and beliefs. You hold the key to the cage, but you stay in it voluntarily because you feel safe in there.
You can expand your comfort zone, and still feel safe, by following an approach which I explain in my post, 8 Ways to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone. Basically, instead of breaking out of the cage, you’re just going to make it a little bit bigger by pushing the bars out slightly. Do things like the following:
Change your look to a small degree. You could try a different pant style, part your hair differently, or try a new shade of lipstick.
The next time you go out, try a new restaurant.
Start waking up five minutes earlier. Use those five minutes to meditate, do planks, or write in your journal.
Write the first sentence of your novel and post it on Twitter.
Read a book that’s slighly more difficult than the books you normally read.
By slowly, but consistently, expanding your comfort zone, you’ll begin living a fuller and more vibrant life. That is, you’ll get better and better at seizing the day.
4. Make the Call
“If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?” ~Stephen Levine
My paternal grandmother–whom I adored–passed away in March. She had been very ill for months, so we knew she didn’t have much time left. Three days before she died I went to visit her, and I made sure to tell her how much I loved her. Although I was very sad when I heard she died, at least I felt some comfort from the fact that I had gotten the chance to say goodbye.
Is there someone you need to visit or call? Who would that be? What would you say? Now call or visit them.
5. You Do You
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”– Steve Jobs
If you’ve been living the life that someone else wants for you, instead of your own, it’s time to seize the day by shutting out the voices of others and tuning in to your own inner voice. Ask yourself the following:
Are you being true to yourself?
If you were to accomplish all your current goals, would you be happy with the person you would become?
When you look in the mirror, do you like the person you see?
In the Harry Potter series by the fabulous J.K. Rowling, Harry stumbles upon a mirror which he later discovers to be the Mirror of Erised. It’s a mirror that shows the user his or her heart’s desire. The mirror has an inscription; when the inscription is reversed it reads:
ishow no tyo urfac ebu tyo urhe arts desire
Which, by changing the spacing and punctuation, reveals:
I show not your face, but your heart’s desire
Close your eyes and visualize the Mirror of Erised in front of you. What do you see? Where are you? What are you doing? How are you doing it? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Is there anyone else there? Open your eyes and write down the answers to these questions.
Then, start following your heart’s desire. Or, as the kids would say: you do you.
6. Go On an Adventure
“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” ~ William Feather
Seize the day by going on an adventure. An adventure is something that’s novel and exciting. It can have an element of peril in it, such as going bungee jumping, but that’s not essential. What matters is that it’s something that arouses enthusiasm and eagerness.
In addition, it often involves exploring unknown territory. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to visit a far-off land. You can simply take a day trip to a neighboring city, or to a part of town that you’re curious about and have never been to before.
Lastly, going on an adventure can be very expensive, or it can be very cheap. There are even some adventures that are free!
Follow these steps:
Write down six adventures–make sure that you could go on any one of them in the next two weeks.
Assign each of the adventures that you come up with a number from one to six.
Roll a die.
What number is face up? That’s the adventure you’re going on.
Go on your adventure!
6. Stop Procrastinating
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ~ Karen Lamb
Procrastination is the opposite of seizing the day. While seizing the day allows you to make things happen and get sh*t done, procrastinating is all about wasting precious minutes and hours, and allowing your days to slip by with little or nothing to show for the passage of time.
For this exercise you’re going to choose a goal that you’ve been procrastinating on. Then, you’re going to write two letters, as follows:
The first letter will be addressed to you, one year from now. In that letter you’re going to describe what your life will be like one year from now if you stop procrastinating and get the goal done.
The second letter will also be addressed to you, one year from now. However, in this letter you’re going to describe what your life will be like one year from now if you fail to overcome procrastination and you don’t achieve the goal.
Once you have your letters, go to the site futuremeorg and send both letters to yourself. You’ll be receiving both letters in one year’s time in your email box. Which one will turn out to be true? It’s entirely up to you. Seize the day by overcoming procrastination.
8. Carve Out Some Time
“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” ~Charles Buxton
As I was doing the research for this blog post I came across a device called the Tikker. It’s a watch that figures out when you’ll probably die–based on an questionnaire that you fill out–and then counts down to that date. That way you’ll constantly be aware of how much time you have left on earth.
The irony that watch reminds me of is that people claim that they don’t pursue their dreams because they don’t have the time, until one day their time really does run out. When something is really important to you, you make time for it. I never tire of saying that whatever your dream is, all you need to accomplish it is to carve out one-hour-a-day to work on it.
Right now, think of a goal that you’ve been postponing because you claim that you don’t have the time to work on it. Then, come up with at least three ways you can start carving an hour out of your day. Do the following:
Think of one task that doesn’t really need to get done, and cross it off of your to-do list.
Shorten the time you need to accomplish an important task that needs to get done by creating a system to complete said task.
“Try and leave this world a little better than you found it, and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate, you have not wasted your time but have done your best.” – Robert Baden-Powell
We all want to leave our mark on this world — that is, leave a legacy. Even if leaving a legacy is something that you’ve been putting off, as long as you’re still alive there’s something you can do about it.
The first step in leaving a legacy is to decide what your legacy will be. In my post, How to Leave a Legacy, I include questions you can ask yourself in order to help you determine what your legacy will be. In addition, I set forth 20 ways to leave a legacy to help give you some ideas.
Once you’ve decided on your legacy, don’t let another day go by without getting to work on it. Do the following:
Write down your legacy on a Post It note.
Put the Post It up in a place where you’ll be sure to see it every day.
Each day look at the Post It ask yourself: What will I do today that will help me to achieve my legacy?
Seize the day by getting to work on your legacy.
10. Add Laughter to Your Day
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” e.e. cummings
Seizing the day isn’t just about being yourself, achieving your goals, and living a meaningful life. It’s also about finding joy in every day. And one of the best ways to make life more joyful is by laughing more. Every day, find something that makes you laugh.
If you haven’t laughed so far today, I found this tweet hilarious. You can also go through Julio Torres’ tweets (a Salvadoran comedian who lives in the US, and who is absolutely hilarious). Here’s one of his tweets:
If I ever seem worried or distracted know that I’m thinking about all the extremely heavy mirrors I’ve hung with flimsy nails around my apt
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there’s a race known as the Q Continuum. This race is immortal. Their immortality has led them to live in a constant state of boredom and monotonous stagnation. Knowing that they have all the time in the world has zapped them of their motivation to get anything done in the present.
Seen from that perspective, it’s a good thing that humans don’t live forever. Knowing that one day we will die should push us to act to make the most of our lives, while we still have time. Live your best life by seizing the day. You can get started with the ten exercises above. Carpe diem!
In his essays, Michel de Montaigne—the famous 16th century French philosopher—shares three strategies for increasing self-esteem.
On February 28, 1571, Michel de Montaigne—a highly educated nobleman—marked his 38th birthday by retiring from public duty. He moved a chair, a table, and his library of a thousand books to the tower of his family castle near Bordeaux and proceeded to dedicate himself to reading, reflecting, and writing.
Montaigne marked the occasion by having the following written on the wall of a study opening onto his new library:
“Worn out with the slavery of the court and of public service, Michel de Montaigne … retires to the bosom of the learned Muses … to pass what may be left of a life already more than half spent, consecrating this ancestral dwelling and sweet retreat to his liberty, tranquility and repose.”
The subject he chose to write about was himself. He believed that if we can’t understand ourselves, then we won’t be able to understand anything else. In addition, his intent was to write about himself in order to create a mirror in which other people could recognize their own humanity.
The result of his writing was thousands of pages of something he referred to as “essais”, from the French verb essayer: “to try or attempt”. Today, these are known as The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, and they are widely read all over the world. These essays contain the answers he came up with to questions such as the following:
What does it mean to be human?
Why do I behave as I do?
Why do other people behave as they do?
How should I live?
How does a person make wise and honorable choices?
How should I treat others?
How can I acquire peace of mind?
How can people cope with fear of death?
When I play with my cat, am I playing with her, or is she playing with me?
Contrary to the other philosophers of the French Renaissance who—like the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers they so admired—thought that we could reason our way to happiness, Montaigne put little trust in reason. In fact, Montaigne believed that a lot of our problems stem from the fact that our brains are large and complex.
We often misuse our big brains and end up making our lives a lot more difficult and complicated than they need to be. That is, we reason our way to unhappiness, low confidence, and misery. Instead, Montaigne thought we should accept that we are human and limited, and allow ourselves to be imperfect.
A few days ago, I came across an interesting video by British Philosopher Alain De Botton–one of the founders of The School of Life–in which he discusses Montaigne’s solution for self-esteem problems. Namely, Botton argues that Montaigne believed that low self-esteem is a result of feelings of inadequacy in three main areas. These areas are the following:
We feel inadequate about our bodies.
We feel inadequate around other people because we feel we’re being judged by them.
We feel inadequate about our intellect.
In his essays, Montaigne offers practical solutions for overcoming these three sources of feelings of inadequacy. You’ll discover these solutions below.
Feeling Inadquate About Our Bodies
According to Montaigne, one of the problems with having such big brains is that they lead us to have grand ideas about how our bodies should look and behave. However, the reality is that our bodies sag, they pulse and ache, and sometimes they even smell.
Montaigne noticed that many people find their bodies embarrassing. Nonethless, he thought that “we should accept our bodies with good grace and a touch of humor”. He tried to make others feel more comfortable about their bodies by writing candidly about his own.
Farting and bowel movements were subjects he wrote about with complete ease. He told his readers, for example, that he liked quiet when sitting on the toilet: “Of all the natural operations, that is the one during which I least willingly tolerate being disrupted.”
Montaigne even wrote about his penis and impotence. On this subject, he had the following to say:
“We are right to note the license and disobedience of this member which thrusts itself forward so inopportunely when we do not want it to, and which so inopportunely lets us down when we most need it; it imperiously contests for authority with our will: it stubbornly and proudly refuses all our incitements, both of the mind and hand.”
He felt we should be more accepting of the reality that our bodies do all sorts of things that are outside of the purview of our reason and mental abilities. That’s just the way it is.
Also, Montaigne wrote about our tendency to compare our bodies to those of others. When we do so, he argued, we often feel that we come up short. We feel that we’re too fat, our hips are too wide, our shoulders are too narrow, and so on. Montaigne’s solution to this is to recognize that, when it comes to the body, we’re simply animals.
If we look around at other animals, we’ll notice that they don’t walk around feeling bad about themselves because their bodies are not as “beautiful” as those of other animals. Just as other animals accept their bodies unapologetically, and simply enjoy the pleasure of being alive, we should do so as well.
Lastly, we should feel gratitude for our bodies and everything that they do for us. Our bodies deserve our compassion and respect, instead of our acrimony and condemnation.
Feeling Inadequate Because We Fear We’re Being Judged
A second source of indequacy which Montaigne refers to in his essays is our fear of being judged by others. Our big brains cause us to be arrogant–we think that we know what’s right, and we try to impose it on other people.
Every society has an idea of how its members should act, what they should wear, and what can and cannot be said in polite society. Anyone who strays from these norms is criticized or made fun of. As a result of this, people tend to feel that they’re constantly being judged by others. This can make people feel inadequate.
The solution that Montaigne came up with for dealing with the prejudice of others is to go traveling. To go traveling simply means to expand your horizons and become aware that there are many different ways of thinking and of doing things. This doesn’t just broaden your mind; it also allows you to see how narrow your oppressors’ minds are.
By learning about the diversity that exists among people, we will grow more accepting of others, and of ourselves. This will make it easier to brush off the restrictive views and judgment of others.
Feeling Indequate About Our Intellect
Although Montaigne was very well-educated, he was incredibly down-to-earth and despised pedantry. He indicates in his essays that people often feel indequate because they think that others are more clever or have more knowledge than they do. To this Montaigne would say that there’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom.
Perhaps someone can read Greek and Latin, and write poetry and prose. But, look at the following:
Do they know the difference between right and wrong?
Do they have good judgement?
Are they happy?
Do they know how to live well?
Do they simply repeat the opinions of others, or do they form their own opinions?
Are they better and wiser as a result of their studies?
Do they have good character traits?
Montaigne believed that we should each design our own curriculum based not on what others think we should know, but based on what we believe would be useful to us. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do I need to know to be happier?
What skills do I need to live a better life?
Then, go out and learn those things and acquire those skills. If you do this, you’ll be much wiser than someone with fancy degrees who doesn’t know how to live a good life.
Michel de Montaigne Quotes
Before finishing this post, I wanted to share with you a few more quotes by Montaigne so that you get a better feel for this unusual philosopher.
“Stubborn and ardent clinging to one’s opinion is the best proof of stupidity.” – Michel de Montaigne
Montaigne had the following to say about his beloved friend Étienne de La Boétie with whom he had one of history’s most notable friendships: “If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I.”
“I want Death to find me planting my cabbages.” – Michel de Montaigne
“My business, my art, is to live my life.” – Michel de Montaigne
“Upon the highest throne in the world, we are seated, still, upon our arses.” – Michel de Montaigne
“Scratching is one of nature’s sweetest gratifications, and the one nearest at hand.” – Michel de Montaigne
“I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself.” – Michel de Montaigne
“In true education, anything that comes to our hand is as good as a book: the prank of a page-boy, the blunder of a servant, a bit of table talk – they are all part of the curriculum.” – Michel de Montaigne
In the closing chapter of his essays, Montaigne wrote the following:
“There is nothing so beautiful and legitimate as to play the man well and properly, no knowledge so hard to acquire as the knowledge of how to live this life well and naturally. And the most barbarous of our maladies is to despise our being.”
You can love yourself more by following the three recommendations above to bolster your self-esteem. Live your best life by following the advice Montaigne offers in his essays.
The neurotransmitter dopamine has long been associated with the pleasure we feel when we get something we want. When you do pleasurable things, like eating a brownie or having sex, dopamine levels rise. They also rise when you set and achieve a goal.
However, new scientific evidence shows that dopamine begins to act before it was previously thought. It’s not just that we get a hit of dopamine as a reward after we’ve achieved something we want.
Instead, dopamine is released when the possibility of a reward is presented, in order to encourage us to act. It’s also released to help us to act to avoid something bad that could take place. In other words, dopamine motivates us to act to achieve something we want, or to avoid something we don’t want.
Dopamine has all the following effects:
When dopamine accumulates within the nucleus acumbens of the brain, this signals to the brain that an event—good or bad–is about to happen. The rest of the brain is then triggered to develop a plan or decide to act to have an impact on that event. That is, to make it more or less likely that the event will happen.
Dopamine also helps people to persevere once they start working on a goal, and to keep going until the goal is achieved.
Dopamine helps with concentration and focus. Enhanced concentration is characterized by having the right mix of certain neurotransmitters and hormones—of which dopamine is one–within the prefrontal cortex of the brain. People who have a dopamine deficiency have trouble focusing.
Your overall mood is affected by the dopamine levels in your brain. Dopamine is one of the “happiness molecules” (along with serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, and others).
Dopamine is believed to regulate sleep-wake states and help control when we enter each. People with low levels of dopamine can have trouble waking up in the morning.
Low dopamine levels can result in low enthusiasm. As an illustration, people with depression don’t feel like doing anything because they have low levels of dopamine.
Low dopamine results in an increased tendency to procrastinate. If you want to stop putting off important goals, one strategy you can follow is to look for ways to increase dopamine levels in your brain.
Dopamine secretions help to improve your working memory. It affects the learning process and your ability to retain information.
When it comes to motivation, what you need to keep in mind is the following: high levels of dopamine lead to high motivation, while low levels of dopamine lead to low motivation. Therefore, if you want more motivation so you can get to work on an important goal, look for ways to increase dopamine levels in your brain.
I’m going to do two things in this post:
First, I’m going to share with you six ways to keep your overall levels of dopamine high to make it more likely that you’ll be motivated to act to achieve your goals in general.
And, second, I’m going to tell you what to do to get a dopamine boost when there’s a specific task that you’re trying to achieve, but you’re feeling lackadaisical about getting started with it.
Here we go.
Six Strategies to Increase Dopamine
Here are six strategies to increase dopamine levels in your brain:
1. Eat Foods Rich in Tyrosine
Dopamine is synthesized from the amino acid tyrosine. In other words, tyrosine is the building block of dopamine. We get tyrosine from food.
Foods that are good sources of tyrosine include the following:
Leefy Green Vegetables
2. Reduce Stress
Lowering stress is one of the best ways to get the dopaminergic system working efficiently. My stress reduction kit includes the following:
I also love the 4-7-8 breathing technique taught by Dr. Andrew Weill. It consists of breathing in through the nose for a count of 4; holding the breath for a count of 7; and then blowing the air out through the mouth for a count of 8. If you want to try this technique you can follow along with this video:
3. Do Cardio
Here’s yet another reason take up jogging or get a gym membership: the brain releases important neurotransmitters during cardio-intensive exercise. These include serotonin and dopamine.
A sustained program of moderate- to high-intensity exercise can boost overall levels of essential neurotransmitters and enhance mental function, brighten your mood, and improve sleep quality. So, the next time you need a dopamine hit, put on your running shoes and hit the pavement.
As with exercise, meditating has many benefits. If you want yet another reason to jump on the meditation bandwagon, here it is: meditating has been shown to raise levels of dopamine.
Fortunately, meditating doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as repeating a mantra.
5. Do Something Creative
I’ve written before that although a lot of people think that having a hobby is a waste of time, there are many ways in which engaging in a hobby can be incredibly beneficial. Some of these benefits include reducing the incidence of dementia, boosting your brain power, and reducing anxiety.
Yet another benefit of engaging in a hobby is that it can allow you to reach the flow state–that state in which time seems to stand still and you feel at one with what you’re doing. One of the reasons that reaching the flow state can be so incredibly blissful is that when you’re in the flow your brain releases the pleasure molecule, dopamine.
Not sure what hobby to take up? I recommend doodling or drawing.
6. Listen to Music
Why do people spend so much time listening to music? Because it’s highly pleasurable to do so. And now we know that one reason for this is that our brains release dopamine when we listen to music we enjoy.
I love listening to Bach and Rachmaninov. Also, right now I can’t get enough of a Spanish singer named Miguel Bosé who was popular in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. What music do you love? When you want to increase your dopamine levels, turn that music on, crank up the volume, and enjoy.
Get a Dopamine Boost to Finish a Specific Task
I’m going to share something with you. There are times when I get an idea for a blog post and I’m able to sit down, get to work, and write the post quickly and almost effortlessly.
But then there are times when I have trouble getting to work. I sit down to write, but then I’m distracted and start doing things that–as a procrastination expert–I know full well that I shouldn’t be doing. Here are some examples:
I visit the CNN homepage to see if there’s any breaking news.
I go on Twitter to see if any of my friends are hanging out there.
I watch Husky videos on YouTube (I love Huskies).
I get a sudden urge to read a few pages of whatever book I’m currently reading (right now it’s “Don Quixote”).
I decide I’m too hungry to write, so I go to the kitchen to get myself a snack.
I check my blog analytics.
And on and on.
What do all of the things above have in come? They all give me a tiny dopamine shot each time I do them. So, if I want to stop doing them, I have to find another way to get my dopamine fix. Here’s what I do (you can apply these five steps to any task or goal that you want to get to work on):
1. Set a Clear Goal
Setting a clear goal that is challenging but doable is a great way to increase dopamine levels. Whenever I sit down to write a blog post, I set a clear goal such as the following:
Write a post on motivation and dopamine that clearly allows my readers to see how dopamine influences motivation; the post will also give them easy-to-understand strategies that they can use to increase dopamine levels in their brain, thus boosting their motivation and improving their ability to achieve their goals.
2. Imagine the Joy Of Completing the Task
I then take a moment to visualize having finished the blog post. I imagine the satisfaction that I’ll feel once the post has been published on my site. This gives me another shot of dopamine.
3. Break the Task Down Into Small Bits
A while ago I created a blogging checklist for myself. I took the large task of “write a blog post” and I broke it down into many smaller subtasks. These subtasks include things like the following:
Come up with a tentative title.
Write down a tentative subtitle.
Create an outline.
Write the introductory paragraph.
Find a good image to go along with the post.
You get the picture. That way, I can tackle each subtask as an independent unit and get a small increase in dopamine each time I complete one of the subtasks and gleefully cross it off my checklist.
4. Set Micro-Deadlines
Each of the items on my checklist has a time limit next to it. That way, I have micro-deadlines for each item, which keeps me focused and turns the activity into a game.
Can I research and explain the first point which supports the thesis of the blog post in twenty minutes? Well, I’m certainly going to do my best to do so. The challenge also gets my brain to release more dopamine.
5. Sit Back and Smile
The last step is to publish the blog post. I love the feeling I get when I look at a brand new post published on my site. Then, I send out an email letting my readers know that there’s a new post, and I watch as people click over to read it (on my real-time web analytics).
Finally, I sit back and bask in the dopamine hit I get from having achieved the task of having published yet another stellar article on my blog (He, he, he).
Dopamine is often referred to as “the motivation molecule”. Put this neurotransmitter to work for you and you’ll have more motivation in no time. Live your best life by following the strategies above to increase dopamine levels in your brain.
Women have made invaluable contributions to literature.
Historically, the talent of women authors has not been recognized. As an illustration of this, a while ago I wrote about the Harvard Classics–a famous anthology of classic books from world literature compiled and edited by Harvard University president Charles W. Eliot. When it was first published in 1909, no female writers were included in the anthology.
Today is the 8th of March–International Women’s Day 2018. It’s a global day for celebrating the contributions that women have made to society. In recognition of International Women’s Day, I wanted to share with you what I consider to be 15 must-read classics by women authors. You’ll find the list below.
“When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.”
“Few creatures of horror have seized readers’ imaginations and held them for so long as the anguished monster of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The story of Victor Frankenstein’s terrible creation and the havoc it caused has enthralled generations of readers and inspired countless writers of horror and suspense.”
“Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries.
4. Jane Eyre by CharlotteBrontë (1847). Novel – England.
From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:
“Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.
She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.
However, there is great kindness and warmth in this epic love story, which is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Yorkshire moors.”
“This novel is a trenchant expose of the frequently isolated, intellectually stagnant and emotionally-starved conditions under which many governesses worked in the mid-19th century. This is a deeply personal novel written from the author’s own experience and as such Agnes Grey has a power and poignancy which mark it out as a landmark work of literature dealing with the social and moral evolution of English society during the last century.”
“Written for her husband, Robert Browning, who had affectionately nicknamed her his “little Portuguese,” the sequence is a celebration of marriage, and of one of the most famous romances of the nineteenth century. Recognized for their Victorian tradition and discipline, these are some of the most passionate and memorable love poems in the English language. There are forty-four poems in the collection, including the very beautiful sonnet, ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.'”
“Stowe’s powerful abolitionist novel fueled the fire of the human rights debate in 1852. Denouncing the institution of slavery in dramatic terms, the incendiary novel quickly draws the reader into the world of slaves and their masters.”
8. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871). Novel – England.
From the synopsis on the book’s back cover:
“Middlemarch is a complex tale of idealism, disillusion, profligacy, loyalty and frustrated love. This penetrating analysis of the life of an English provincial town during the time of social unrest prior to the Reform Bill of 1832 is told through the lives of Dorothea Brooke and Dr Tertius Lydgate and includes a host of other paradigm characters who illuminate the condition of English life in the mid-nineteenth century.”
“Though generally overlooked during her lifetime, Emily Dickinson’s poetry has achieved acclaim due to her experiments in prosody, her tragic vision and the range of her emotional and intellectual explorations.”
“At the heart of the story are three people whose entangled lives are deeply affected by the tyrannical and rigid requirements of high society. Newland Archer, a restrained young attorney, is engaged to the lovely May Welland but falls in love with May’s beautiful and unconventional cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska. Despite his fear of a dull marriage to May, Archer goes through with the ceremony — persuaded by his own sense of honor, family, and societal pressures.”
“In this vivid portrait of one day in a woman’s life, Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of a party she is to give that evening. As she readies her house she is flooded with memories and re-examines the choices she has made over the course of her life.”
“Steeped in a Southern Gothic tradition that would become synonymous with her name, these stories show O’Connor’s unique, grotesque view of life– infused with religious symbolism, haunted by apocalyptic possibility, sustained by the tragic comedy of human behavior, confronted by the necessity of salvation.”
“Alongside Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, and E. E. Cummings, Millay remains among the most celebrated poets of the early twentieth century for her uniquely lyrical explorations of love, individuality, and artistic expression.”
“With this acclaimed work and its immortal query ‘Who is John Gait?’, Ayn Rand found the perfect artistic form to express her vision of existence. This is the book that made her not only one of the most popular novelists of our century, but also one of its most influential thinkers.”
“The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it. . . Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.”
How many of the classics above have you read? I’ve read several of them, but I still have work to do. In addition, which books did I leave out which you think should have been included?
Marelisa Fabrega is a lawyer and entrepreneur. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., as well as a Juris Doctor from the Georgetown University Law Center. You can learn more about her here