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mantra meditation

Meditate for five minutes a day by focusing on five beautiful mantras.

The 5-Word Mantra Meditation is a five-minute meditation that I came up with and which I use every morning to help me start the day off right. I find it’s very effective, and I wanted to share it with you.

Meditation is bringing all of your awareness to the present moment. One way to achieve this is by repeating a mantra over-and-over again and placing all of your attention on the mantra as you say it. A mantra is simply a word or phrase that has meaning for you.

This meditation consists of five mantras—or five words—each of which you repeat for one minute. The five words are the following: Release; Peace; Tranquility; Love; and Joy. I’m going to say each of these words for one minute, and you just silently repeat each word as you hear it.

The meditation is accompanied by a beautiful piece of music which is called Ofelia’s Dream, and it’s from www.bensound.com. Here’s the meditation:

I hope you enjoyed it!

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self-care

Self-care is care given for you, by you.

If you fall and cut yourself, what do you do? You clean the cut, put some Neosporin on it, and then cover it with a Band Aid. That is, when you suffer bodily injury you act quickly so that you heal properly.

But what about mental injuries? You suffer mental injuries all the time. In fact, almost everyone suffers mental injuries much more often than they suffer physical injuries. Here are some examples:

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  • You overhear someone say something negative about your looks as they walk by.
  • Your boss asks for several corrections on a report you worked hard on.
  • You’re rejected by a love interest.
  • You fail to meet your monthly sales quota.
  • You’re publicly shamed by your professor when he calls on you and you don’t know the answer.
  • You get into an argument with a co-worker and she starts spreading lies about you.

At the same time, it’s very likely that you just try to ignore those mental injuries. But if you ignore them, they don’t heal properly. And that leads to all sorts of problems: you become convinced that you can’t succeed; you begin to suffer from low self-esteem; you start to lose perspective; and so on.

Self-care is the mental equivalent of washing a wound, putting an antibiotic ointment on it, and covering it up. It’s important to practice self-care on a regular basis so that your mental wounds heal properly and you can stay mentally healthy. This will make you more self-confident, resilient, and optimistic.

Below you’ll find 15 self-care practices for well-being (for both women and men).

1. Get a Massage.

There’s a shopping center across the street from my building, and they have a kiosk that offers chair massages. Last Friday I got one for the first time ($10 for 15 minutes). I lift weights and the lady got all the knots out of my back–which was heavenly–and I’m thinking of making it a weekly thing.

2. Meditate.

When you meditate you’re taking a break from the rest of the world and you’re redirecting your focus toward yourself. It’s a mental break from the deluge of information that you’re constantly being subjected to. This is indispensable for the brain.

You can also practice self-care with active meditation, which includes yoga, Tai chi, and–my personal favorite– Spring Forest Qigong.

3. Journal.

While keeping a diary is primarily a way of recording the events happening around you, journaling focuses on your interpretation  and reaction to those events. It offers you a glimpse into the workings of your mind, and it helps you to deal with whatever is worrying you or making you anxious.

4. Fika.

Fika? What’s that? It’s a Swedish coffee break. But it’s more than that. It’s making sure that you build some downtime into each day. Here’s a quote from the book Fika: The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break, with Recipes for Pastries, Breads, and Other Treats:

“Functioning as both a verb and a noun, the concept of fika is simple. It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it. You can do it alone, you can do it with friends. You can do it at home, in a park or at work. But the essential thing is that you do it, that you make time to take a break: that’s what fika is all about.”

Fika is about self-care.

5. Read a Good Book

Reading a good book can give your mind a break from what’s going on around you, so you can come back to the “real world” refreshed. For me, this year, it’s the Russians (Tolstoy, Pushkin, Nabokov, Chekov, Dostoevsky, and so on). For you it might be a book by Elena Ferrante, a suspense thriller, or science fiction.

Choose a genre you enjoy–there’s nothing quite like getting lost in a good book, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

6. Take a Long Shower or Bath.

Water has restorative powers. For millennia, people have sought physical relief, emotional healing, and spiritual renewal by immersing themselves in water. If you choose to take a bath, you can enhance it by adding a bath bomb. Bonus: turn on some ambient sounds and light a candle.

7. Soak Your Feet.

Soaking your feet is one of the most relaxing things you can do. After all, you have over 72,000 nerve endings in your feet, and each one corresponds to a different area of the body. Get a basin and add some hot water (not too hot), Epsom salts, and your favorite essential oils. Then, slide your feet into the water.

When you’re done, dry your feet, get some lotion, and give yourself a foot massage.  Bliss!

8. Go Out In Nature.

As I wrote in my post on 8 Reasons Why You Need To Spend More Time in Nature,  studies show that spending just 20 minutes in vegetation-rich nature improves vitality. Vitality is defined as emotional strength in the face of internal and external oppositions, and living life with enthusiasm.

I sit outside and put my bare feet on the grass for fifteen minutes, at least three times a week. I find that this direct contact with nature is beneficial to my physical health and psychological well-being.

9. Take a Nap.

In her book Take a Nap! Change Your Life, Dr. Sara Mednick explains that taking a nap does all of the following for you:

  • Increases alertness;
  • Boosts creativity;
  • Reduces stress;
  • Improves perception, stamina, motor skills, and accuracy;
  • Enhances your sex life;
  • Helps you make better decisions;
  • Keeps you looking younger;
  • Aids in weight loss;
  • Reduces the risk of heart attack,
  • Elevates your mood; and
  • Strengthens memory.

Excuse me. I’m going to take a short nap now. 🙂


10. Listen to Music.

I’ve written about easy ways to bring more music into your life on this blog. When you listen to music, your brain releases the “pleasure chemical” dopamine. This is one of the reasons why music has played such an important role in societies throughout history.

In addition, research shows that people who combine music with a healthy diet and exercise get better results in achieving wellness.

If you’d like, you can dance and sing along.

11. Play.

I have an adult coloring book and a Play-Doh set (Playful Pies). And I take play breaks throughout the day, guilt-free. Playing is fun, it relaxes me, and it keeps my inner kid happy. Practice self-care by playing more.

12. Move.

Moving is vital to our well-being. It’s like taking a happy pill with no side effects. Go rollerblading, go for a bike ride, go for a hike, walk your dog, or find a buddy to join you for a friendly game of tennis.

13. Practice A Hobby .

Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, doodling, or filling out puzzles, practicing a self-absorbing activity that promotes your health is a great way to take good care of yourself. Practicing a hobby isn’t just a way to pass the time, it’s also a way to promote mental and emotional balance.

14. Listen/Watch/Read Something Inspirational.

I’ve already mentioned reading fiction as a method of self-care, but you can also read personal development books for inspiration. YouTube videos, inspirational movies, and motivational podcasts are also a great choice.

Another fantastic option is to peruse the articles on this blog.

15. Use Acupressure.

Acupressure is placing pressure over specific points along the body to improve blood flow, release tension, and enhance or unblock the life-energy, or chi. This release allows energy to flow more freely, promoting relaxation and healing.

The most popular acupressure point is the meaty part of the hand between the thumb and the index finger. Here’s how to locate the specific point.

Another option is to get yourself an acupressure mat and lie on it for twenty minutes or so while you watch TV, meditate, or before you fall asleep.

Bonus — Here are seven self-care affirmations that will foster self-nurturing:

self-care

Conclusion

Use the 15 ideas above to create your own list of self-care alternatives for when you need them. Live your best life by taking good care of yourself.

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curate your life

Imagine a life in which everything that’s in it has been carefully curated by you.

I love to read. I’ve been an avid reader my whole life. However, up until about two years ago, my reading was very haphazard. I would choose what book to read next on things like the following:

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  • A friend would mention that they were reading a book and that it was good, so I would go out and get myself a copy.
  • I would walk into a bookstore, browse around, and pick something.
  • I would happen upon a book review while perusing a magazine or newspaper, and I would order the book.
  • A neighbor would leave a book that they had finished reading in the building’s lobby, for anyone to take (that someone was invariably me).

That made for a lot of random reading—some good, and some not so good.

However, my reading is no longer determined by chance. Instead, I now have a reading plan. I’ve created a list of the 365 most important books–from the time of the ancients until around 1975–, in various fields, including literature, philosophy, and political science.

I am now making my way through that list. That is, I’ve curated my reading. This has helped me to ensure that I spend my reading time on the best books in existence (at least the best books according to me), instead of simply grabbing whatever book I happen to chance on next.

It recently occurred to me that I could apply this same concept to other areas of my life, with the purpose of making my life richer, and to live more on-purpose.

To illustrate further, think of what a museum curator does to build a museum exhibit:

  • They select the artwork or artifacts that best represent the story that they’re trying to convey.
  • The curator strategically excludes those pieces that detract from the overall beauty of the exhibit.
  • They organize a layout for flow and clarity.

Doesn’t that sound like a great approach to life? By curating your life you’ll be more intentional with the things that you do, the relationships you enter into or cultivate, and your general environment.

In addition to your reading list, below you’ll find seven more areas you can curate in order to live a better life.

1. Curate Your Closet.

Curate your closet so that your wardrobe consists only of those pieces you would want in your fashion story. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What colors do I most love to wear?
  • Which styles suit me best?
  • If I could only own 40 pieces of clothing what would they be?

Imagine opening your closet in the morning to get ready for work, and finding it contains only high quality pieces that you love, that look good on you, and that mix and match well. Keep your closet neat and organized and filled only with those things that make you feel great.

By curating your closet you’ll be wearing your favorite clothes every day.

2. Curate Your Belongings.

Curate your home with quality pieces over time. For each and every room in your house, ask yourself these two questions:

  • What function does this room serve?
  • How do I want this room to “feel”?

Then, buy quality pieces one at a time. Carefully consider how each piece will serve in your home. If the piece is expensive, save for it. If you’ve thought carefully about your choice, it won’t have gone out of style by the time you can afford it.

When you curate your life you should always keep in mind that quality is infinitely more important than quantity.

3. Curate Your Relationships.

Life’s too short to spend it with people you don’t really like, or people who bring you down. Curate your social circle so that it includes only people you love spending time with—people who add to the joy in your life, instead of subtracting from it.

Ask yourself questions  like the following:

  • What kind of people do I want to be surrounded by?
  • Who do I want in my social circle?
  • What do I want my friendships/personal relationships to be like?

4. Curate Your TV Watching.

I’m not one of those productivity bloggers who tries to get people to stop watching TV. Instead, I encourage people to limit their TV time. You do this by being picky about what you watch. Don’t just watch what’s on.  Watch only what you love.

For those times when none of your favorite TV shows are on, have a list of documentaries or YouTube videos to choose from. Curate your life by curating your entertainment.

5. Curate Your Goals.

Curate your goals by looking for projects—whether it’s writing a novel or running a 5K—that will allow you to create the future that you want for yourself. When you’re curating your goals, ask yourself questions like the following:

  • Do I find this goal meaningful?
  • Is this goal in line with my values, purpose, and life mission?
  • Does this goal make me feel joy, or stress and frustration?

Curate your life by pursuing only those goals that will help you build the vision that you have for your life.

6. Curate Your Time.

Tumblr is a micro-blogging tool where people can publish short posts of text, images, quotes, links, video, audio and chats. Most people who have a Tumblr invest a lot of time in curating it. They carefully comb through content and then re-blog only the best material that they can find.

Follow a similar approach when it comes to your time. Instead of adding tasks to your schedule willy-nilly, carefully consider each task before penciling it in. Do the following:

  • Like they would ask, “Is this worthy of my Tumblr?”, you should ask: “Is this worthy of my time?”
  • Like they would ask, “Will this add to the usefulness and beauty of my Tumblr?”, you should ask: “Will this add to the usefulness and beauty of this day?”
  • Like they would ask, “Is this image consistent with my brand?”, you should ask: “Does this task help me create the kind of life I want for myself?”

Curate your life by curating your time.

7. Curate Your Thoughts.

I recently wrote a post on following a 7-day mental detox. In that post I explain that, while you can’t choose the first thought that enters your head, you can choose the second. That is, whenever you start thinking about anything, you can choose to tell yourself: “I’m not going to think about this.”

Instead of passively allowing your inner voice to prattle on about anything it wants, actively choose which thoughts you’re going to allow to blossom in your mind, and which thoughts you’re going to pull out and toss out like weeds. That is, carefully curate your thoughts.

Conclusion

Curate your life carefully. It’s your masterpiece, after all. Live your best life by selecting only the best for yourself, excluding anything that does not contribute to the beauty of the whole, and arranging the pieces into a glorious work of art.

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how to become an expert

If you want more power, money, success, and life satisfaction, become an expert.

At midnight on December 31st, 1999, the Panama Canal was transferred from the United States of America to the Republic of Panama. At that moment, the Panama Canal Commission (PCC) seized to exist, and the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) came into being.

onehouradayformula banner longSimultaneously, the labor laws of the US federal government seized to apply, and a new labor regime—the PCA’s special labor regime—was made applicable to the 8,000 PCA employees. This was a unique labor regime which applied in just one place in the world: the PCA. I was a labor attorney at the PCC, and then at the PCA. When I left the PCA in 2004, no one knew the special labor regime better than I did. At the age of 32, I was the world’s foremost expert on the PCA’s special labor regime. It took me about three years to reach that level.

As you can see from the story above, “expert” is a very relative term. If it’s a niche topic that hasn’t been in existence for long, you can become an expert in that topic in a relatively short amount of time.

For other topics, it’s much more difficult to become an expert. As an illustration, if you want to become an expert in a legal field such as admiralty law, bankruptcy law, family law, and so on, you would have to devote many years to your work in that field in order to be recognized as an expert.

This blog post is divided into the following six sections:

  • What is An Expert?
  • Why Become an Expert?
  • The Tim Ferriss Approach to Becoming an Expert
  • The 10,000 Hours Approach
  • Using Expertise or Proficiency Scales
  • My Proposal – How to Become An Expert

By the time you’re done reading this blog post you should have a good idea of what you need to do in order to become an expert.

What is An Expert?

“Expert” is one of those words that can be defined narrowly or expansively. Here are some possible definitions:

  • Having a deep understanding of a topic.
  • Someone who can confidently help others in a given area. They can solve problems and offer solutions.
  • A person who has or displays lots of knowledge in a specific area.
  • A person recognized by others as having lots of knowledge in an area, based on decisions made and actions taken.
  • An expert must produce consistent, concrete, successful results.
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson defines “expert” as follows: “[Being] on the frontier, making discoveries, thinking thoughts never before dreamed of.”

For the purpose of this post, we’re going to go with the second definition: “Someone who can confidently help others in a given area. They can solve problems and offer solutions.”

Why Become An Expert?

Here are four reasons why you should consider becoming an expert:

  1. Become More Powerful – As I wrote in my post on “50 Ways to Increase Your Personal Power”, one of the sources of power is knowledge. Since experts have a lot of knowledge in their given area, they’re more powerful–at least when it comes to their area of expertise–than non-experts.
  2. People Trust Experts — People are more likely to believe your opinion when you know more. Everyone wants to work with or buy from the person who has the reputation, credibility and knowledge of an expert.
  3. Make More Money – The more people perceive that you’re the “it” person when it comes to finding a solution to a problem that they’re having, the higher the fees you can charge for your products and/or services.
  4. Gain More Life Satisfaction: The more you know about a topic, the greater your ability will be to help others solve problems in that area. In addition, you’ll be in a better position to make valuable contributions to a topic if you become an expert in that topic.

Become an Expert – The Tim Ferriss Approach

In his book, “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich”, Tim Ferriss–author, entrepreneur, and public speaker–proposes the following process for becoming an expert in four weeks:

  • Join two or three related trade organizations.
  • Read the three top selling books on your topic.
  • Give one free one-to-three-hour seminar at the closest well-known university.
  • Give two free seminars at branches of well-known companies.
  • Offer to write one or two articles for trade magazines.
  • Join ProfNet — a service that journalists use to find experts to quote for articles.

The approach above is more about appearing to be an expert to others, than about actually being an expert, so take it with a grain of salt. That being said, Ferriss argues that it’s not about pretending to be something that you’re not, but about presenting yourself in the best possible light.

The 10,000-Hour Rule

In his book, “Outliers: The Story of Success”, journalist Malcolm Gladwell argues that—according to research done in the area of expertise—to be an expert you need to follow the 10,000-hour rule. Here’s Gladwell:

“. .. [it’s]an extraordinarily consistent answer in an incredible number of fields … you need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good.”

In other words, becoming an expert is about putting in the time. It takes about ten years to become an expert.

The 10-000 hour rule has been widely criticized. Many people have argued that it’s not the number of hours that you devote to an endeavor that mattes, but the quality of your effort during the hours that you put in. Repeating a task over and over mindlessly is not the same thing as doing so with focused attention and with the specific goal of improving performance.

Use Expertise or Proficiency Scales

If you want to know whether you’re approaching–or have reached–expert status in any given field, you can consult an Expertise or Proficiency Scale. I’m going to share three of these scales with you. They are as follows:

  • The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition
  • The Competencies Proficiency Scale
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

Let’s take a look at these, one by one.

The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

This model was developed by the Dreyfus brothers—Stuart and Hubert–in 1980. It breaks down the journey to mastery into five discrete stages, outlining what’s necessary to improve at each of them.

Here are the five stages:

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

The second scale we’re going to refer to is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. Bloom argued that there are six steps that need to be followed to learn anything. These steps are the following:

  • Step 1: Knowledge – You’re able to identify what is being said or what you’re reading–the topic, the issue, the thesis, and the main points.
  • Step 2: Comprehension — Comprehension means understanding the material read, heard or seen. In comprehending, you make the new knowledge that you have acquired your own by relating it to what you already know.
  • Step 3: Application – Application requires that you carry out some task to apply what you comprehend to an actual situation.
  • Step 4: Analysis – Analysis is being able to break down what you have read or heard into its component parts in order to make clear how the ideas are ordered, related, or connected to other ideas.
  • Step 5: Synthesis – Synthesis involves the ability to put together the parts you analyzed with other information to create something original.
  • Step 6: Evaluation – Evaluation is concerned with making judgments about the value of materials and methods for given purposes.

I would posit that an expert is someone who has reached the evaluation stage.

Competencies Proficiency Scale

The third scale I’m going to refer to in this post is the “Competencies Proficiency Scale” created by the Office of Human Resources at the National Institute of Health. It looks as follows:

My Proposal – How to Become an Expert

I came up with a ten-level process for becoming an expert. It’s based on actions that you take, and the results that you get, not on time. The levels are as follows:

  • Level One. You hear about the topic, but you know nothing about it.
  • Level Two. You’re curious about the topic, so you Google it and read the first three articles from reputable sources that come up.
  • Level Three. You identify the top three to five experts on the topic and you find lectures they’ve given on the topic that are up on YouTube. You watch between five and ten of these YouTube videos, preferably TED Talks, Talks at Google, or interviews they’ve given to well-recognized figures/organizations.
  • Level Four. Find a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that will allow you to understand the theory of the topic. Read the corresponding, or related, book (a lot of MOOC instructors base their lectures on a book they’ve written). If the instructor hasn’t written a book, read the book that they recommend, or the one they keep referring to throughout the MOOC.
  • Level Five. Once you’re familiar with the theory, gain understanding of the practical application of the topic by taking a Udemy course on the topic, and by reading three to five books written by the experts you identified previously.
  • Level Six. Start a blog on the topic and publish at least 25 articles for your blog (this will require that you do additional research on your topic). In addition, publish 3 articles on well-known blogs about your topic. This will allow you to promote on your blog that you’ve been featured on these blogs.
  • Level Seven. Create a project that will allow you to demonstrate to yourself and others that you can apply the knowledge that you’ve gained about the topic to real world situations. That is, you don’t just have book knowledge on the topic, you also have actionable knowledge. In addition, get your project to the fourth iteration. Put your project out there, get feedback, and make modifications. Do this three times.
  • Level Eight. Give a lecture at a local college, a company, or a trade organization on your topic.
  • Level Nine. Create a Udemy course and/or an info product to sell from your blog teaching others about the topic (now you’re making money from your expertise). Get at least five testimonials from people who have been helped by your product.
  • Level Ten. Get featured by three media/news organizations as an expert in your chosen topic.

Devote one-hour-a-day to following the process above, and you’ll become an expert in the topic you’ve selected sooner than you think.

how to become an expert

Conclusion

What do you want to become an expert on? Choose your topic and follow the process I explained above. Live your best life by becoming an expert.

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comfort zone

It’s time to break out of your comfort zone and get more out of life.

Most of us spend a lot of time in our comfort zone. After all, when we’re in our comfort zone we know what to do and what to expect. Here are some descriptions of “comfort zone”:

  • Your “comfort zone” is a psychological, emotional, and behavioral construct.
  • It’s what’s familiar to you and what feels safe—your regular habits and routines.
  • When you’re in your comfort zone, you experience low levels of stress and anxiety.
  • In your comfort zone, there’s little to no risk.

There’s nothing wrong with spending some time in your comfort zone. After all, we all need to take time to relax and just “be” every now and then.

The problem starts when you get too comfortable in your comfortable zone. When this happens, you stop striving to achieve your goals, you stop challenging yourself, you let opportunities slip by, and you become overly complacent.

The only way to grow, build your capabilities, and reach your full potential is by stepping outside of your comfort zone. As Neale Donald Walsh once said, “Life begins outside of your comfort zone.”

Here are some examples of things which may currently be outside of your comfort zone:

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  • Speaking up in class or business meetings.
  • Meeting new people.
  • Speaking in public and giving speeches.
  • Learning new skills.
  • Traveling to new places.
  • Starting a new business venture.
  • Taking advantage of new opportunities.
  • Making changes simply to spice up your life.

In order to achieve any of these things, you need to start taking steps to break out of your comfort zone. Below I’ll share with you eight ways to escape from your comfort zone and make things happen.

1. Use Onboarding.

One way I recently stretched outside of my comfort zone was by taking a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on gamification. Although I’m not a video game player, I love board games. The idea of applying game elements—those elements that make games so engaging and fun—to any life area caught my attention.

I’m glad that I took the course— I learned a lot of interesting things. One of the things I liked about gamification is the concept of onboarding. Onboarding is about getting the player to take the first steps toward playing a new game. Here are some of the guidelines for the onboarding stage:

  • It has to be very simple—the onboarding task has to be easy to complete.
  • You want to make the player feel smart and competent.
  • When a player takes the small steps necessary for onboarding, reward them.

Apply these same principles when you’re trying to step out of your comfort zone:

  • Make the first step you have to take as easy as possible. As an illustration, if you want to start going to the gym, the first step you can take is simply making a list of gyms that are near your house or workplace.
  • Acknowledge yourself for taking the initial step, no matter how small that step may be.
  • Give yourself a reward for venturing even slightly outside of your comfort zone. This can range from giving yourself a pat on the back, to stopping by a coffee house and getting yourself a victory cappuccino.

2. Use Design Thinking.

In my post on “How to Apply Design Thinking to Your Life“, I explain that the essence of design thinking is to focus on building prototypes. That is, your goal is never to build the end-product from the get-go.

Instead, your objective is to build a prototype knowing that it’s very rudimentary. Then, get feedback; improve the product based on the feedback; and create another prototype. You continue in this way until you have something you can be proud of.

In much the same way, when you want to do something that’s outside of your comfort zone, think in terms of prototypes. As an illustration, if you want to start blogging, do the following:

  • Launch a blog and write the first blog post. Publish it.
  • Share the post on social media and get some feedback.
  • Write another blog post incorporating some of the feedback you received.
  • Get more feedback.
  • Continue improving your blog posts in this way until, eventually, you have a successful blog.

3. Get Comfortable with Discomfort.

As I explained in my blog post on how to become a runner, when I was in middle school the gym teacher would make us run around the soccer field twice before each class to warm up. I would get tired and feel winded after a few minutes of running. Since I assumed that this discomfort meant that I simply wasn’t a runner, I would slow down to a walk.

Today I run 7.5 km, three times a week. How did I manage to build up to this? Because I finally understood that pushing through discomfort is how you build endurance in running. And that’s true for anything.

By definition, anything that’s not within your comfort zone is located in your discomfort zone. Every time that you step into that discomfort zone, what should you expect to feel? That’s right: you’re going to feel discomfort.

Understand that discomfort isn’t a sign that there’s something wrong. It’s a sign that you’re trying something new and different.

4. Use Progressive Loops.

In gamification, there’s something called a “boss fight”. A boss fight is an epic challenge which usually signals the end of one journey and the beginning of another one. When it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone, the final goal that you’re trying to achieve is your boss fight.

A game never starts out with a boss fight. Instead, as I said at the beginning of this post, players start out with onboarding. They then move toward the boss fight in something called progressive loops.

Progressive loops are made up of a series of small quests, each one a little more difficult than the one before. After each small quest, there’s an opportunity to rest before taking on the next small quest. Then, after the player gets progressively more skilled at playing the game by completing these small quests, they’re presented with a boss fight.

Progressive loops look as follows:

comfort zone

Take the same approach when it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone. Instead of tackling a huge challenge all at once, move toward it slowly by completing small challenges, each one a bit more difficult than the one before.

5. Build Your Self-Efficacy.

One of the reasons that people stay stuck in their comfort zones is because they feel that they don’t have the ability to be successful in situations outside of their comfort zone. That is, they lack the necessary self-efficacy.

As I explain in my post, How to Increase Your Self-Efficacy and Do Better in Life, there are four things you can do to boost your self-efficacy. Here are the four things you need to do in order to increase your self-efficacy so that you can break out of your comfort zone:

  • Think of a time in the past when you’ve done something that was outside your comfort zone. Remind yourself that stepping outside of your comfort zone is something you’ve done successfully before.
  • Look for examples of people who are similar to you who have moved beyond their comfort zones in order to accomplish their goals.
  • Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone.
  • Talk yourself into escaping your comfort zone by using affirmations and reassuring, positive self-talk.

6. Create an Alter-Ego.

If even after building up your self-efficacy you still have trouble getting yourself to take those first steps outside the current boundary of your comfort zone, you may need the help of an alter-ego.

In my post, “How to Create an Alter-Ego and Why You Should”, I explain that having an alter-ego can help you to bring forth certain aspects of your personality that you normally don’t give voice to, but which can serve you well in specific situations.

Create an alter-ego. Then, allow your alter-ego to take you by the hand and lead you out of your comfort zone.

7. Draw a New Square.

Moira Geary recommends that you empower yourself to step out of your comfort zone by drawing a new square. Start by visualizing yourself inside your comfort zone, as follows:

comfort zone

Now, if you’re told to step out of your comfort zone, you may be hesitant to do so because you’ll basically be stepping out into an abyss. That sounds really scary. No one wants to do that.

Instead of trying to force yourself to step out into empty space, draw a new, bigger square. Like so:

comfort zone

Then, tell yourself that all you have to do is to step out into the slightly bigger square. Clearly identify what the new, larger square consists of. This works because, psychologically, it’s a lot easier to get yourself to step out into another clearly defined space then it is to step out into a space with no preset boundaries.

Once the bigger square becomes your new comfort zone, draw an even bigger square around that. Then, step out into the bigger square. Continue in this way and your comfort zone will grow bigger and bigger.

8. Use the 3 C’s.

Andy Molinsky, PhD, is a professor of psychology and organizational behavior at Brandeis University’s International Business School. He’s the author of Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge and Build Confidence.

Molinsky explains that in his research, he’s found three tools that people use to step outside of their comfort zones successfully. He refers to these tools as the three C’s. They are as follows:

  • Conviction
  • Customization
  • Clarity

Here’s an explanation of each one:

Conviction

Conviction is having a deep sense that taking the action that’s going to lead you out of your comfort zone is worth doing the hard work that stepping outside of your comfort zone entails. This includes knowing why taking this action is important to you.

As an example, Andy explains that doing the promotional work that’s involved with publishing a book—making public appearances, giving interviews, and so on—is outside of his comfort zone. However, he does it because he really believes that his book can help people to lead better lives.

Customization

Customizing consists of tweaking, or adjusting, how you perform a task–even if it’s just slightly– to make it feel more comfortable and natural.

As an illustration, I recently wrote a post on 7 Science-Backed Ways to Get a Quick Self-Confidence Boost. The next time you want to push yourself to speak up at a meeting, you can follow some of the tips that I wrote about in that post to feel more confident. Here are some examples:

  • Wear a power suit.
  • Hold a power pose before the meeting.
  • Carry your lucky charm in your pocket.

That way, you’ll show up at the meeting in a way that makes you feel powerful and confident (and nobody else has to know about it).

Part of the reason that it’s scary to step out of our comfort zones is because we feel a sense of helplessness and of not being in control. You can regain some sense of control by customizing the action that you take in a way that you find empowering.

Clarity

When we have to take action that will make us step outside of our comfort zone, we can have a tendency to allow irrational thoughts to take over. You may find yourself thinking thoughts like the following:

  • “This is going to be a disaster.”
  • “I’m going to fall flat on my face and I’ll never hear the end of it.”
  • “I’m not going to do this unless I’m sure I can do it perfectly.”

You can see how those kinds of thoughts are likely to paralyze you and keep you stuck in your comfort zone. What you need to do is to recognize that you’re having irrational thoughts, and then gain some clarity.

Clarity is developing an even-handed, reasonable perspective on the challenges you face. In other words, it’s stopping yourself from succumbing to the distorted and exaggerated thinking so many of us fall prey to in very stressful situations. Try saying things like the following to yourself:

  • “Everything is going to be fine.”
  • “Even if things go wrong, it’s not the end of the world.”
  • “I’m not aiming for perfection. I’m just going to do the best I can.”

Conclusion

What would you do if you stopped hesitating and managed to break out of your comfort zone? Use the eight strategies I gave you above to take the first step. Live your best life by stepping out of your comfort zone.

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Leave a legacy

We all want to leave our mark on this world—to know that our life mattered.

What does it mean to leave a legacy? It means putting a stamp on the future, and making a contribution to future generations. People want to leave a legacy because they want to feel that their life mattered.

Deciding what your legacy will be can help you with all the following:

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  • Once you know what you want your legacy to be, you can start building it.
  • You can start living in the way you want to be remembered.
  • It will allow you to start doing what matters, now.
  • Knowing what you want your legacy to be will allow you to make better use of your time and other resources.
  • It will influence your day-to-day decisions in a positive way.
  • Gaining clarity on what you want your legacy to be can give your life meaning and purpose.
  • It will enable you to allow the legacy that you’re building to determine how you show up in the world each day.
  • You will live your life as if you matter.

Below you’ll find seven ways to identify the legacy that you want to leave behind after you’re no longer here.

What Will Your Verse Be?

Dead Poets Society is an American film set in 1959 at a fictional elite conservative boarding school located in Vermont. The film stars Robin Williams as John Keating, an English teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry.

In one scene, Keating talks to his students about the meaning of life. Keating quotes from Walt Whitman’s poem, Oh Me Oh Life, as follows:

“Oh life! of the questions of these recurring, Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

The poem explains that life is like a play, in which everyone who has ever lived gets to contribute a verse. Keating then asks the students: “What will your verse be?” The verse that you contribute to the play of life is your legacy.

See Yourself As a Relay Runner

In a relay race, members of a team take turns running while they hold a baton in their fist. Each team member runs a portion of the race, and then they hand the baton over to the next runner. One way to think of your life is to see it as a relay race. That’s how President Barack Obama thinks of his life.

On May 25th of this year, Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin for a discussion on democracy. Here’s what Obama said about leaving a legacy:

“I saw myself as a relay runner. I would take the baton and I would run my leg of the race. And then I’d pass the baton to someone else. . . Each generation tries to make progress knowing that what we do is not going to be perfect. . . But, hopefully, we’ve run our leg of the race effectively – and the world’s gotten a little bit better.”

How are you doing on your leg of the race? Are you advancing the baton? What are you doing to advance the baton?

Picture Your 80th Party

Most of us are familiar with Stephen Covey’s obituary exercise. Covey indicates that you should imagine your funeral. Then, you should ask yourself questions like the following:

  • Who would give a eulogy at your funeral?
  • What will they miss about you?
  • What positive attributes will they associate you with?
  • How are they describing you?

Imagining your funeral is a little macabre, so a variation of this exercise is to picture your 80th birthday party. Everyone you’ve had an impact on, or have influenced in some way, is there. As they get up to toast you on your birthday, what would you like them to say about you? That’s what you want your life to stand for.

What Words Do You Want Etched On Your Tombstone?

Before his death, Thomas Jefferson–the third president of the United States–gave instructions on what he wanted on his grave site. Jefferson wanted an obelisk with the following engraved on it:

Here was buried Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
Of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia.
Most of us won’t have anything nearly as grand as Jefferson to put on our tombstones. Nonetheless, an ordinary life lived well and lived with grace can make an important difference in the lives of others. What words do you want etched on your tombstone?

Leave a Legacy – Questions to Ask Yourself

These 10 questions will help you to identify the legacy that you wish you leave:

  • What do you want your life to stand for?
  • How do you want to be remembered by your family and friends?
  • What will those beyond your circle of family and friends remember you for?
  • What kind of an impact do you want to have on your community?
  • How will the world be a better place because you were in it?
  • What contributions do you want to make to your field?
  • Whose lives will you have touched?
  • What lessons would you like to pass on to future generations?
  • What do you want to leave behind?
  • How can you serve?

20 Ways to Leave a Legacy

Brainstorm ways in which you can leave a legacy by using the following ideas as a jumping off point:

  1. Add knowledge to your field.
  2. Leave a legacy through your body of work.
  3. Write a book.
  4. Leave money for your descendants that serves as a foundation on which they can build their financial futures.
  5. Bequeath money to charities that are near and dear to your heart.
  6. Write down family recipes and family traditions.
  7. Serve as a good role model.
  8. Pass down a heirloom.
  9. Be a mentor.
  10. Volunteer.
  11. Start a business or a non-profit organization.
  12. Write your memoir. You can also record video messages for your loved ones, create a scrapbook for them, or create a web site dedicated to your legacy.
  13. Endow a scholarship to your alma mater for future students.
  14. Write a legacy letter — write down everything you’d want to tell your loved ones if you knew you didn’t have long to live. Be sure to capture the essence of who you are by writing about your life lessons, values, accomplishments and hopes. Think of it as an emotional heirloom.
  15. Start a blog.
  16. Pass down handmade items, such as quilts, cedar hope chests, or wooden crafts.
  17. Start a new program in your community, such as starting a recycling program; planting a community garden; or constructing a playground.
  18. Pass down skills and know-how.
  19. Right a wrong.
  20. Identify your strengths, develop your skills, and be true to who you are.

Leave a Legacy Quotes

Here are 10 legacy quotes for further inspiration:

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” —Benjamin Franklin

“Immortality is to live your life doing good things, and leaving your mark behind.” —Brandon Lee

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way. . . and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.” ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.” ― Bill Graham

“The little bit you and me might change the world,” Malloy smiled, “it wouldn’t show up until a hundred years after we were dead. We’d never see it. But it’d be there.” ― James Jones, From Here to Eternity

“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

“To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A writer doesn’t dream of riches and fame, though those things are nice. A true writer longs to leave behind a piece of themselves, something that withstands the test of time and is passed down for generations.” ~ C.K. Webb

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

“While it is well enough to leave footprints on the sands of time, it is even more important to make sure they point in a commendable direction.” ~ James Cabell

Conclusion

What will you legacy be? What will live on after you’re gone? Live your best life by creating a legacy you can be proud of.

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quick self-confidence

An extra dose of self-confidence can go a long way.

Building self-confidence takes time. You can’t change your belief system; increase your feelings of self-efficacy; become fully aware of your true value; and gain new skills and knowledge overnight.

Everyone who feels that they need more self-confidence should create a self-development plan for increasing their self-confidence over time.

However, there are times in life when you need a jolt of confidence, and you need it right away. Here are some examples:

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  • You have to give an important presentation at work.
  • You have a job interview.
  • You’re going to attend a meeting at which you’re expected to contribute ideas and suggestions.
  • You’re going out on a date with someone you really like.
  • You’re making a sales pitch to a prospective client.
  • You’re going to the bank to ask for a business loan.
  • You’re going to compete in a sporting event.
  • You’re going to have lunch with your boss to negotiate a raise.

Of course, for all these examples the more you prepare and practice ahead of time, the better off you’ll be. Nonetheless, right before an important event there are things you can do to create a self-confidence boost that will help you reach your peak confidence level and perform at your best.

Below you’ll find seven science-backed ways to get a quick self-confidence boost, which just might make the difference between getting what you want or falling short of the mark.

7 Ways to Get a Quick Self-Confidence Boost

When you need to impress, give yourself an edge with these quick self-confidence boosters.

1. Strike a Power Pose.

For a quick self-confidence boost, strike a power pose.  In my post, Seven Ways Your Body Language Can Positively Influence Your Life, I refer to Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy.

In a TED Talk she gave in 2012 which has been watched over 40 million times, Cuddy explains that studies show that power poses increase confidence and make you feel more powerful. Here’s what to do:

  • Stand up straight;
  • Push your shoulders back;
  • Widen your stance;
  • Hold your head high; and
  • Raise your arms up in a “V” shape.

Instead of raising your arms you can also stand akimbo–with your hands on your hips and your elbows turned outward–like Wonder Woman does.

Take a moment to hold the power pose for one or two minutes before an important event in order to increase your self-confidence and make a powerful impression when you walk in through the door.

In addition, if the event requires standing, make sure that you stand tall. If the event requires sitting, make sure that you sit up straight.

2. Listen to Heavy Bass.

When you want to feel empowered, listen to empowering music. A study led by Adam Galinsky and Dennis Y. Hsu from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University shows that bass-heavy music can make you feel more confident.

Study participants were divided into two groups. Researchers played music with high-levels of bass for half the participants, while the other half listened to low-bass music. While they listened to the music, both groups were administered a series of tests involving filling in the blanks and rolling dice.

Researchers found that the group that listened to the high-bass music was more likely to fill in the blanks with power-related words. They also preferred to take charge of the dice rolling instead of letting someone else do it. Even after the music stopped, the high-bass music participants continued to act in a more powerful and authoritative way than the other students.

These were the most powerful songs from the study:

  1. “We Will Rock You” by Queen
  2. “Get Ready for This” by 2 Unlimited
  3. “In Da Club” by 50 Cent

Have your high-bass music ready for when you need some quick self-confidence.

3. Dress for Success.

You’ve probably heard the adage, “dress for success”. It turns out that there are studies that suggest that what you wear can have a direct effect on how secure and powerful you feel.

Researchers from the Kellogg School of Management–which was mentioned above–found that clothes can have symbolic meaning for people, which impacts how you feel. Here are two examples:

  • When research subjects wore a scientist’s or medical doctor’s white coat, they made half as many mistakes on a test requiring care and attentiveness than those who wore street clothes.
  • If you associate suits and ties with power and confidence, it’s going to have a huge impact on how powerful and confident you feel when you wear those articles of clothing.

Ask yourself the following: “What clothes do I associate with power and confidence?” When you want a quick self-confidence boost, make sure to wear those clothes.

4. Spritz on Some Perfume or Cologne.

According to science, wearing fragrance can make you more confident. Here’s what two studies found:

  • A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Sciences found that men who used cologne exhibited an increase in both self-confidence and self-perceived attractiveness.
  • In another study, 90% of all women tested as part of a fragrance study reported feeling more confident when they wore fragrance than when they did not.

The bottom line here is the following: find a fragrance you love the smell of, and wear it whenever you want to bring your A-game. It will be your very own quick self-confidence boosting fragrance.

5. Think Powerful Thoughts.

When you need some confidence in a jiffy, think of a time when you acted in a powerful way.

According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, channeling a moment when you were genuinely captivating can make you feel–and, therefore, act–more confidently. For those times when you need to do your best, power-prime yourself with thoughts of previous successes.

Looking at your resume may also do the trick. When you need to feel good about yourself at a moment’s notice, University of Chicago psychology professor Sian Beilock recommends that you remind yourself of how talented you are by looking at your credentials and accomplishments.

6. Charm  It!

Basketball superstar Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls shorts in every game. They were his lucky shorts. It turns out that those shorts may have helped him with his winning game.

Research has found that lucky charms actually work. In a 2010 study, researchers from the University of Cologne found that the “activation of a superstition” can result in performance-enhancing effects. Here’s what they did:

  • They told half the golfers on a putting green that they were playing with a lucky ball.
  • They told the other half that their ball was normal.

Those with the lucky ball sank 6.4 putts out of 10, nearly two more putts on average than the others.

Thinking that you’re using or carrying an object that is “lucky” will positively affect your performance. What’s your lucky charm? A special necklace? A pebble you found when you were six years-old? The watch your grandfather gave you when you graduated from high school?

Whatever it is, make sure you carry it with you when you need some extra confidence.

7. Follow a Ritual.

Rituals–even simple ones–can be extremely effective in boosting performance and reducing anxiety. Recent research from Harvard professors Michael Norton and Francesca Gino shows that rituals have the power to make you more confident. Here’s Gino:

“What we find is that if you engage in a ritual prior to a potentially high-anxiety task, like singing in public or solving difficult math problems, you end up being calmer by the time you approach the task and more confident in what you’re about to do. As a result of that, you actually perform better.”

Following a “power ritual” when you need a quick confidence boost can increase your ability to perform well in a stressful situation. It can be something short and sweet, like drinking a cup of coffee while you read some positive affirmations to yourself, and then taking a few calming breaths.

Conclusion

We could all use some extra confidence now and then. Fortunately, science has found ways to give ourselves a quick confidence boost right before an important event. Live your best life by being ready to increase your self-confidence on-the-spot with the tips and tricks explained above.

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self-awareness

Self-awareness is the first step to self improvement.

Self-awareness is knowing what makes you tick. It’s understanding your own needs and desires, knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are, and being able to accurately assess your emotions. People who are self-aware know who they are at their core.

The way in which researchers determine whether babies and animals are self-aware is by putting a red dot on their forehead while they’re asleep or under anesthesia. They then place the animal or baby next to a mirror.  The researchers then wait to see what happens when the subject that they’re studying wakes up and looks in the mirror.

If they touch the dot on their forehead—instead of touching the dot on the face in the mirror—then it’s determined that they’re self-aware. This is because the action of touching the dot on their face suggests that they understand that they’re looking at an image of themselves.

Clearly, you would instantly recognize yourself if you were to look in a mirror. But how well do you really know the person who’s reflected back to you? For instance, could you answer all the following:

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  • How does this person think?
  • What does this person find meaningful?
  • What is this person passionate about?
  • What are their interests? What do they love to do?
  • What are their beliefs (both empowering beliefs and limiting beliefs)?
  • What are their values?
  • What were they put on this earth to do?
  • What emotions do they feel most of the time?
  • What are they feeling right now?
  • Why do they behave the way they do?
  • Who are they underneath the socially constructed self that they’ve created in order to fit it?
  • What impression do they create on others?

Chances are, you can’t answer most of these questions. After all, most people can’t. If you would like to become more self-aware, a great way to do this is by completing self-awareness exercises.

Below you’ll find 12 self-awareness exercises to help you to get to know yourself better.

1. Apply Feedback Analysis.

The Jesuits are a religious order of men within the Catholic Church. I wrote about the founder of this order– St. Ignatius of Loyola–in my post, What A 16th Century Priest Can Teach You About Self-Improvement.

Whenever a Jesuit makes an important decision, he writes down how he reached his decision, and what he expects will happen. Then, nine months later, he compares the actual results to what he had anticipated. This method allows the Jesuit to do the following:

  • Notice what worked and what didn’t.
  • Evaluate his decision making process.
  • Notice any flaws in his cause-and-effect analysis and in how he’s reaching his conclusions.
  • Apply the feedback and make better decisions in the future.
  • The feedback analysis can also highlight  competencies that the Jesuit need to develop further.

Warren Buffet also applies feedback analysis. According to the Harvard Business Review, when Warren Buffet makes an investment decision he carefully articulates the reasons why he’s making the investment. His journal entries serve as a historical record that helps him assess the accuracy of his investment decisions.

You can start applying feedback analysis in your own life in order to become more aware of how you’re making decisions, and how you can improve your decision making process. Start codifying your rational and motivations whenever you make an important decision, and then–about nine months later–reflect and assess the outcomes.

Increase your self-awareness by applying feedback analysis in your life.

2. Take Psychometric Tests.

Psychometric tests can help measure a person’s skills, numerical or verbal aptitude, or their personality type. Although the results of these tests shouldn’t be taken as gospel, they are a good way to start learning more about yourself and increase your self-awareness.

Here are three (free) psychometric tests you can get started with:

  • The Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment – a science-based assessment that provides an accurate depiction, or pattern, of your core drives, and therefore insight into your needs and behaviors.
  • The 16 Personalities Test – like the classic Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), your answers determine where you fall on four spectrums: extroverted/introverted, sensing/intuitive, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving.
  • The Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test – this test helps you determine if you have what it takes to start a business.

3. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses.

One of the most important things you need to know about yourself is what your strengths are, and what your weaknesses are. This will allow you to focus on the first, and manage around the second.

Take a moment right now and write down the answer to the following question: “What are your strengths?” If you have trouble answering this question, you can find out by taking a strengths test. One option is the VIA Character Strengths Survey (free), or the StrengthsFinder test (not free).

In terms of your weaknesses, here are three tips for identifying the areas that need shoring up:

  • Ask yourself which tasks you keep avoiding.
  • Think back to your failures. Is there a common pattern to those failures? What weakness are those failures pointing to?
  • Think back to every evaluation you’ve received, whether at school or work. Is there something that people keep telling you that you need to work on?

4. Ask People You Trust for Feedback.

When I was a kid in school, a popular prank was to tape a note to another student’s back. The trick was to do it subtlety so that the other kid didn’t notice that something was being taped to their back. The note usually said something like, “I’m stupid” or “Kick me”.

The joke was that the kid didn’t know that they had a note stuck to their back, but everyone else did. Our personalities are a little bit like this. We all have a blind spot: things about ourselves that we can’t see, but others can.

In addition, you can never be sure of how you’re coming across to others until you ask them. Therefore, if you want to become more self-aware, ask a few people you trust for feedback on your personality. Ask for both positive and negative feedback, as well as for any advise they may have on how you can improve.

5. Listen to Your Self-Talk.

Think of your thoughts as a river that you’re swimming in. Every once in a while, climb out of the river and sit on the river bank. Then, observe the river. Listen to it.

Write down what you hear the river saying. Try to copy what you hear word for word. If you do this two or three times a day for a few days, you’ll be creating a record of what your self-talk really sounds like. Then, read through your notes and you’ll become more aware of what you say to yourself all day long.

6. Keep Morning Pages.

If you want to become more self-aware, add Morning Pages to your morning routine. Morning Pages is an exercise introduced by Julia Cameron in her book, “The Artist’s Way” .

It involves three pages of long-hand stream-of-consciousness writing which is done first thing in the morning. For fifteen to twenty minutes, you simply write about whatever is on your mind.

As an added bonus, the psychological benefits of externalising thoughts via journalling are well-established. By keeping Morning Pages you’ll get to know yourself better, and give your immune system a boost.

7. Label Your Emotions.

Part of being self-aware is understanding your emotions. How do you feel right now? How many emotions have you felt in the last 24 hours? What is the most prevalent emotion in your life at the moment?

A lot of people have a very limited vocabulary when it comes to expressing what emotions they’re feeling, and this limits their ability to be fully aware of, and to fully comprehend, what they’re feeling.

If you get better at labeling your emotions, not only will you lead an emotionally richer life, but you’ll also be able to respond more appropriately to what’s happening around you.

One way to get better at labeling your emotions is by becoming familiar with the Plutchik Wheel of Emotions.

self-awareness

8. Have a Life Vision and Mission.

Are you just surviving, or are you living on purpose and working to create the kind of life that you want? People without self-awareness usually fall into the first group, while self-aware people fall into the second. A great way to start living your life on purpose is to create a vision and a mission statement.

A vision statement answers questions like the following:

  • What will your legacy be?
  • What will your life look like 20, 15, 10, and 5 years from now?
  • What’s your North Star? What are you working to achieve over the long term?

A mission statement answers the following questions:

  • What do I do?
  • Who do I do it for?
  • How do I do it?

Increase your self-awareness by creating a life vision and a mission statement.

9. Create a Personal Manifesto.

In my post, How to Write a Personal Manifesto, I define “personal manifesto” as follows:

“A personal manifesto is a declaration of your core values and beliefs, what you stand for, and how you intend to live your life.”

Become aware of–or identify– your core values and beliefs, and then describe how you intend to live in a way that honors those values and those beliefs. That’s your personal manifesto.

10. Fill Out Self-Exploration Questionnaires.

One way to become more self-aware is to ask yourself questions about yourself. You can get started with the Proust Questionnaire which will help you to uncover your life outlook and give you some insights into your inner workings. In addition, here are four more questionnaires you can try:

11. Question Your Automatic Thoughts.

Oftentimes, our automatic thoughts are negative and irrational. People who lack self-awareness will often accept these thoughts as true, which distorts their perception of reality.

A self-aware person, on the other hand, is aware of the cognitive distortions that they have a tendency to fall prey to. This allows them to dispute irrational thoughts and replace them with better thoughts which more accurately reflect reality.

As an illustration, here are three cognitive distortions to watch out for:

  • All-Or-Nothing Thinking: Seeing things in black-and-white. If your performance falls short of perfection, you see yourself as a total failure.
  • Mental Filter: You pick out a single negative defeat and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of reality becomes distorted.
  • Disqualifying the Positive: You dismiss positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other.

Here’s a list of 20 cognitive distortions you can refer to in order to become aware of your irrational thoughts.

12. Create a Bucket List.

What on earth does a bucket list have to do with self-awareness? Simple! Creating a bucket list can help you to identify what you want to be, do, experience, and have in life. And knowing all that will make you more self-aware.

Bonus: Take your bucket list and turn it into long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals.

Conclusion

People who are self-aware really know themselves. They know who they are, what they want, and why they act as they do. This allows them to intentionally create the life that is best suited for them. Live your best life by increasing your self-awareness.

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alter ego

An alter ego is a second-self created by the individual–usually to live out a better version of the self.

In comic books, Bruce Wayne runs his business during the day, and Peter Parker works as a photographer for the Daily Bugle. However, they each have a crime-fighting alter-ego who makes an appearance when needed. Wayne has Batman and Parker has Spider-man.

Pop artists are also known for their alter-egos. After all, apart from their talent, they’re just regular people. But when they’re on stage they need to appear to be larger than life. Many times, they do this by creating elaborate personas for themselves. Here are two examples:

  • British singer and songwriter David Bowie had several alter egos, but the most famous was Ziggy Stardust—a humanoid alien. Ziggy allowed Bowie to distance himself from the boy from Beckenham and become fearless.
  • A few years back, American singer and songwriter Beyoncé Knowles created an alter ego which she named Sasha Fierce. She described Sasha as being fun, sensual, glamorous, and aggressive. Beyoncé let Sasha out when she was on stage. This alter ego protected Beyoncé’s self-identify as someone who was reserved and very ladylike.

onehouradayformula banner longThere are many more examples of people—both real and imaginary—who have famous alter egos. But if you’re not a pop star, and you’ve never been bitten by a radioactive spider, why would you want an alter ego? The answer is that having an alter ego can help you in many ways.

Here are some of the benefits of having an alter ego:

  • It can help you to step out of your comfort zone.
  • Having an alter ego can be very empowering.
  • You can channel your genius through your alter ego.
  • An alter ego can give you some distance from yourself.
  • Having an alter ego can make life more fun.

First we’ll take a look at these benefits one by one, and then you’ll discover how to create your alter ego.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

I encourage people to step out of their comfort zone on this blog all the time. Nonetheless, I know that it can be scary to leave the safety of what you know and step out into the unknown. After all, every time that you’re about to try something new, the little voice in your head—also known as your ego—begins with its whining:

  • What are you doing? Stop! Why would you take any risks?
  • What if you look stupid?
  • What will people think?
  • What if people laugh at you?
  • Who do you think you are? You’re not brave/smart/strong enough to do that!

That’s when an alter ego can come to the rescue. Your alter ego can be a way for you to step out of your comfort zone. It can come to the rescue when you’re facing a new challenge which fills you with doubt or fear. Look at the following:

  • The ego says: “That’s too scary. I better not do that.” The alter-ego says: “That sounds exciting! When can I get started?”
  • The ego says: “But what will they say?”. The alter-ego says: “Don’t those people have anything better to do than gossip about others? Let them think what they want. Their opinions aren’t going to get in the way of my living my best life.”
  • The ego says: “What if I fail?” The alter-ego says: “If I fail, at least I’ll know I gave it a shot.”

By switching from your ego to your alter-ego, you’ll be switching characters. You’ll have a window of opportunity during which you can be brave and let go of your hang-ups. Use that window of opportunity to push against your comfort zone and try something new.

Your Alter-Ego Can Empower You

Your alter-ego isn’t somebody else—it’s you. But it’s a part of you that you don’t normally allow yourself access to.

Maybe as a kid you were told that girls shouldn’t be so aggressive. Or maybe you were told that boys who took too many risks always got into trouble. Therefore, you buried those aspects of yourself so deep, you forgot they were there. But they are still there.

Look at the following quote by life coach and author Iyanla Vanzant:  “There is a force within you that is ruthless, fearless, and powerful. And you have every right to tap into that force and use it to your own advantage.”

A well thought out alter ego can help you bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. It can allow you to step out of the box that you’ve created for yourself and do something that’s totally out of character for you.

Your alter ego can help you get out of your own way. It can show you who you could be.

Channel Your Genius

In “Becoming A Writer”, Dorothea Brande—an American author, lecturer and magazine editor–writes the following:

“But there is no scandal and no danger in recognizing that you have more than one side to your character. The journals and letters of men of genius are full of admissions of their sense of being dual or multiple in their nature: there is always the workaday man who walks, and the genius who flies. The idea of the alter ego, the other self, or higher self, recurs wherever genius becomes conscious of its own processes, and we have testimony for it in age after age.”

As I explain in “The One-Hour-A-Day Formula”, during the day you can be an average, ordinary person: you go to a job that pays the bills, clean up around the house, and cook dinner. However, for one hour a day—in the morning before anyone else has woken up, or at night after they’ve all gone to bed—you perform your Sacred Dance.

  • You play a musical instrument.
  • You work on your novel.
  • You learn to code so that you can build that app you can’t stop thinking about.
  • You dance.
  • You paint.
  • You do whatever it is that you were put on this earth to do.

During that hour, you allow your alter ego to take over, and you channel your genius.

Create Distance from Yourself

Jane McGonigal, PhD, explains in her book SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully that alter egos can help give us distance from ourselves. This can help us deal better with the past, the present, and the future.

In terms of the past, McGonigal explains that if you’re dealing with painful memories or traumatic experiences, you’ll experience less stress and anxiety if you tell yourself that they happened to somebody else. That is, tell yourself that they happened to your alter-ego.

This will allow you to work through the issues that arise because of the traumatic event without being overwhelmed by negative emotions.

When it comes to the present, McGonigal informs us that distancing helps willpower. As an illustration, suppose that you’re trying to cut back on pastries. Then you see a bakery while you’re running errands, and you’re tempted to go in and get yourself a donut. Do the following:

  • Don’t ask, “Do I want a donut?”
  • Instead, ask: “Does my alter ego want a donut?”

This works because when you think of yourself in the first person you’re more likely to get caught up in your momentary feelings and cravings.

But when you think of your alter ego you’re more likely to make good decisions on their behalf. The self-distance that you create when you think in terms of what your alter ego should do allows you to focus on the bigger picture and on your long-term goals.

Lastly, when it comes to the future, you’ll be more willing to take on challenges if you think of your alter ego taking on the challenge, instead of yourself. After all, it won’t be you having to face obstacles and risking failure. It will be your alter ego.

Make Life More Fun

Steve Kamb is the owner of the blog Nerd Fitness and author of Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story. He explains that he loves video games and was inspired by them to gamify his life. That is, to take game elements and apply them to non-game contexts, such as exercise.

In video games, players have avatars, and avatars are basically alter egos. Therefore, as part of his gamification strategy, Kamb created a superhero alter ego.

As an example of how he would use his alter ego to make life more fun, Kamb would “turn into” his alter ego when it was time to go to the gym. Then, it wasn’t Steve going to the gym to exercise and cross one more chore off his to-do list.

Instead, it was his alter ego creating a superhero body so that he would have the strength and stamina necessary to complete missions and go on epic quests. Here’s Steve:

“By day, I’m Steve Kamb, a full-time blogger and all-around goofball who smiles way too much and spends too much time at his computer.  Every afternoon though, I transform into the rebel version of myself: a Vibram-wearing, ripped t-shirt-uniformed machine of a rebel that will exercise anywhere and everywhere in a city.  I wear a permanent scowl on my face. . .”

A good reason to create an alter ego is to make life more fun.

How to Create Your Alter Ego

There are six steps you can follow in order to create an alter ego. These steps are the following:

1. Determine Why You Want an Alter Ego.

What do you hope to achieve by creating an alter ego? Do you want to be more outgoing, confident, or unique? Do you want to create a persona that will get you more blog readers or YouTube subscribers? Do you need someone to stand up for you? Give your alter ego a task, purpose, or mission.

2. Figure Out Your Alter Ego’s Personality.

What kind of person does your alter ego need to be in order to achieve the goal for which it was created? How do they think? What’s their mindset? What are their thinking models? Your alter ego’s personality could even be a reflection of your ideal self—the personality that you would like to have.

3. Create a Distinct Image.

Maybe you’re a jeans and t-shirt kind of person, but your alter ego is high fashion all the way. Or maybe your alter ego only wears black, or favors hooded sweatshirts.

Does your alter ego have any mannerisms? How do they walk? What does their voice sound like? How does she wear her hair? Does he wear hats? The more details you can provide for your alter ego, the easier it will be for you to inhabit their character.

4. Pick a Name.

Try to come up with a name that is significant for you and has meaning. You can base it on the name of someone you admire, or the name of your favorite superhero. In addition, you can simply add an adjective to your name (like “the Great”), or use your own name spelled backwards.

5. Adopt a Mantra or a Call to Action.

A call to action can help you invoke your alter ego when they’re needed. In the 1970’s there was a TV show called “The Secrets of Isis”. In the series, the Egyptian goddess Isis is the alter ego of Andrea Thomas, a seemingly normal schoolteacher.

When facing a crisis, Andrea would transform into Isis by exposing an amulet –which she found during an archaeological dig– to the sun, and saying “Oh mighty Isis”. You can call on your alter ego with a similar phrase.

6. Act Like They Would Act.

You’re not just creating an alter ego to escape into a Walter Mitty fantasy world. Instead, you’re creating an alter ego to help you act in a way that will allow you to achieve your goals. Once you’ve created your alter ego, you need to ask yourself how they would act when it comes to achieving the goal that you created them for. Then, proceed to act in that way.

Conclusion

Can you see all the possibilities that will become available to you if you create an alter ego? Live your best life by creating an alter ego.

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self-efficacy

Self-Efficacy is your belief that you’ll be able to accomplish a specific task.

Albert Bandura is widely regarded as one of the most influential psychologists of all time. One of the things he’s best known for is his theory of self-efficacy. Bandura defines self-efficacy as follows:

“[T]he belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.”

That definition is a bit convoluted, but it can be summed up as the following quote by Henry Ford:

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, youre right.”

Your self-efficacy will determine all of the following:

  • How motivated you are to take on a task.
  • The amount of effort that you’re willing to put into the achievement of a task.
  • For how long you’ll persist in the face of adversity.
  • Whether you’ll ultimately succeed at achieving the task.

After all, if you don’t believe you can do something, how likely are you to try? Not likely at all. And if you do try, how much effort will you be willing to exert? How likely are you to keep trying when you come across an obstacle or suffer a setback? You know the answers to these last two questions:

  • You won’t put much effort into it.
  • You’ll give up at the first sign of trouble.

onehouradayformula banner longThe opposite is also true. If you believe that you can do something you’ll be eager to get started, you’ll put in a lot of effort, and it’s highly likely that you’ll persist until you succeed.

Keep in mind that self-efficacy is task and situation-specific. As an illustration, you may have high levels of self-efficacy when it comes to solving math problems; medium levels of self-efficacy when it comes to giving presentations at work; and low levels of self-efficacy when it comes to doing anything athletic.

So, what can you do if you’ve set goals for yourself in an area of your life in which you have low self-efficacy? The answer is simple: you need to work on increasing your self-efficacy. You’ll discover how, below.

How to Increase Your Self-Efficacy

Bandura sets forth that you develop your self-efficacy beliefs based on how you interpret input that you receive from four sources:

  1. Mastery
  2. Modeling
  3. Persuasion
  4. Physiological Factors

This means that if you want to increase your self-efficacy in any area, you need to find a way to work with these four sources. These sources are discussed in the sections that follow.

1st Source of Self-Efficacy – Mastery

The first source of self-efficacy is mastery. If you’ve done well performing a certain type of task in the past, you’re likely to have a strong belief that you can accomplish that type of task again in the future.

In order to increase this source of self-efficacy, do the following:

  • Remember your past successes. Ideally, you’ll have past successes with goals that are similar to the goal that you’re currently working on. However, just remembering how you achieved something that you at first thought was difficult can be helpful.
  • Set goals that have an element of challenge in them but that are also realistic and attainable.
  • If you’ve failed at a certain type of task in the past, when it comes time to working on that sort of task again, set smaller goals for yourself and work your way up slowly, making sure to recognize even small successes.
  • As you work on your goal keep reminding yourself that having some stumbles and setbacks along the way is normal.

2nd Source of Self-Efficacy – Modeling

The second source of self-efficacy is the vicarious experience of observing others perform the task that you want to succeed at. You’re influenced by what you observe others doing.

The caveat here is that—to believe that “if they can do it, I can do it” –you need to perceive that the people whom you see succeeding in achieving the goal that you’re after are similar to you.

Ideally, you’ll be able to find role models—people who have succeeded with the goal that you’re currently pursuing—within your circle of friends or acquaintances. However, you don’t have to know someone—or even be near them—to model them. You can model people by watching them on YouTube, or by reading about their accomplishments on the internet.

The idea is to find someone who will make you think the following: “This person is a lot like me, and they were able to do it. Hey, I bet I can do it too!”

3rd Source of Self-Efficacy – Social Persuasion

Social persuasion is the third source of self-efficacy. What others tell you about your ability to achieve a certain task matters. Look for people who will encourage you to go after your dreams and who will cheer you on as you strive to achieve your goals.

At the same time, stay away from those who try to rain on your parade. People who try to convince you that you don’t have what it takes to achieve your goals will have a negative impact on your self-efficacy.

If you don’t currently have a supportive network, then try daily affirmations and journaling to remind yourself that you can succeed.

4th Source of Self-Efficacy – Physiological Factors

The emotional state that you’re in when it’s time to act on your goals will affect your self-efficacy. But what’s also important is what you tell yourself about you’re feeling.

As an illustration, everyone gets a little nervous when they’re about to try something new. You can interpret this nervousness in the following two ways:

  • You can interpret it as a sign of excitement at the prospect of stepping outside of your comfort zone. This excitement will encourage to keep moving forward.
  • However, if you interpret the nervousness as anxiety and fear, it’s likely that you’ll conclude that it’s best not to proceed.

Positive moods increase feelings of self-efficacy, while negative moods reduce it. Strive to put yourself in moods that will boost your self-efficacy by managing stress, and by talking yourself through any discomfort you may feel as you strive to achieve your goals.

An Illustration of Self-Efficacy

A high school coach wanted his track team to improve their running times. However, they were having a lot of trouble achieving this goal and they had grown discouraged. They started to believe that no matter how hard they tried, they wouldn’t be able to run faster than they already were.

Then, one day, the coach had an idea. During the night, he moved the finish line by a few yards.

The next day the students were surprised to discover that their running times had gotten worse (because-unbeknownst to them– the distance they were running was now longer). The coach told them: “Come on, guys! You’ve been doing better than this for weeks. What’s going on?”

Each of the team members thought to himself: “Of course I can do better this. I must be having a slow day. I’ll do better tomorrow.”

At the next practice they all pushed themselves really hard. In fact, they tried so hard that they managed to improve their time slightly from the previous day. However, they still weren’t achieving their “best time”. The coach encouraged them to try harder.

In the locker room, all of the team members were telling each other: “We can do better than that. We’ve done it before!”

After a few more practices—in which everyone was giving it their all— they improved their time even more. The coach then confessed to the students what he had done. At first, they were a little upset, but he explained that he had been trying to increase their self-efficacy and they understood that he wanted to help them.

The coach wanted his team to run even faster, so he showed the team a video of the track team from another high school nearby. The other track team was achieving the running time that the coach wanted his team’s members to achieve.

“Look at them,” the coach said. “They’re not bigger than you are, and they don’t have any advantages that you don’t have. If they can do it, so can you!”

A short time later one of the guys on the team managed to achieve the running time that the coach wanted. This inspired the others to try even harder.

The team started taking a few minutes before their runs to take deep breaths and visualize their success. By the end of that month everyone on the team was achieving the running time set by the coach.

They had succeeded in achieving the goal of improving their running times. And how did they succeed in doing this? By increasing their self-efficacy. Look at the following:

  • First, they thought that running faster was within their reach because they had done it before (they didn’t realize they were now running a longer distance because the coach had moved the finish line).
  • Second, they all encouraged each other to try harder and the coach kept telling them that they could do it.
  • Third, they saw a video of students from another high school who were just like them achieving better running times.
  • Fourth, they started putting themselves in a positive state of mind before their runs.

Increased self-efficacy goes a long way!

Conclusion

We’ve all read the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could”, in which a little engine succeeds in pulling a long train over a mountain by constantly repeating: “I think I can, I think I can”. Believe that you can achieve your goals. Live your best life by increasing your self-efficacy.

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