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mental detox

Unclutter and detox your mind with a 7-day mental diet.

At the start of the New Year or as each season rolls around, many people follow a cleansing diet, or a detox, in order to get their bodies in tip-top shape. These diets normally limit processed, high-fat, and sugary foods, and replace them with more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.

However, few people think of following a mental detox. In essence, your thoughts are brain food. A mental detox consists of limiting thoughts that trigger negative emotions, and substituting them with thoughts that lead to feelings of peace and joy.

I came across the idea of a mental detox in a pamphlet I found online titled “The Seven Day Mental Diet”, which was written by a spiritual leader of the 20th century named Emmet Fox. Here’s Fox:

“The way our bodies work is based upon the food we put into them. The mind is no different. . . Everything in your life today is conditioned by your habitual thinking. The way you have thought in the past has led you to where you are right now.”

The diet consists of the following: for 7 consecutive days, you’re going to carefully select your thoughts. During those seven days you will not hold on to any negative thoughts. If you’re willing to take this challenge you’ll discover what to do, below.

The Three Rules of the 7-Day Mental Detox

In order to follow the 7-day mental detox you have to follow three rules. Here they are:

First Rule. For seven consecutive days you will not dwell on any unresourceful thoughts or emotions. These include the following:

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  • Thoughts that make you feel angry or frustrated.
  • Thoughts that make you feel jealous of others.
  • Thoughts that make you feel stressed or anxious.
  • Thoughts that make you feel inferior or insecure.
  • Thoughts that make you feel sorrow or despair.
  • Negative thoughts about yourself, someone else, or the circumstances you find yourself in.
  • Thoughts that fill you with regrets about the past or fear about the future.

Here’s how Emmet Fox defines negative thinking:

“Negative thinking is when you are dwelling on failure, disappointment, or trouble; any thought of criticism, or jealousy, or spite or condemnation of others or yourself, or any thought of sickness or accident. In short, any kind of limitation or pessimistic thinking. Any thought that concerns you are anyone else that is not positive or constructive.”

Notice that the rule isn’t that you can’t have any negative thoughts, but that you’re not to dwell on them. As Emmet Fox points out, you can’t control the first thought that enters your mind. However, you can control the second one, and the ones after that.

Second Rule. When you catch yourself having negative thoughts during the 7-day period, and you will, immediately snap yourself out of it and shift your focus to something else. You can do any of the following:

  • Tell yourself, “Stop!”, to interrupt the cycle.
  • Accept that you’re having negative thoughts, and then allow them to drift through your awareness like clouds drifting through the sky. Simply allow the negative thoughts to float by without placing your attention on them.
  • Distract yourself by doing something else. You can read, exercise, get to work on a mentally challenging task, call an upbeat friend, turn on some music and sing along, and so on.
  • Change your perspective. Ask yourself: “Is this really true?” and  “Is there another way to see or interpret this?”
  • Shift into problem-solving mode.  If your negative thoughts are warning you that there’s something wrong, or that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed, shift your focus to looking for a solution to the problem.
  • Keep in mind that, due to the negativity bias, your brain is always on the alert for anything that could go wrong. For  every negative thing your brain calls your attention to, come up with a list of five things that are going right.

Third Rule. If you catch yourself indulging in or dwelling on unresourceful thoughts, don’t beat yourself up. Just switch your focus to more empowering thoughts immediately. However, if you find yourself ruminating on the negative thought for more than a minute, you have to start over. Wait until the next morning and start the 7-day mental detox again from Day One.

Here’s Fox:

 “As you embark on any diet, you know that your mind plays tricks on you. You crave the old food you use to partake of. This diet is no different, you will find your mind wanting to go toward the negative, wanting to say something or gossip about someone or something. Sometimes it will be exhausting to fight the urges you have to just say one thing, much like just having one taste of that delicious cake when you are on a food diet. So if you make a false start, or fall off the wagon, you must stop and start again the next day.”

Four Tips for This Challenge

Here are four tips that will help you succeed with the 7-day mental detox challenge:

1. Set Your Intention. Begin each morning by setting the intention to manage your negative thoughts throughout the day. You can set this intention by saying the following to yourself:

  • Just for today I will carefully monitor what I’m thinking.
  • Just for today I will only think thoughts that are beneficial to me.
  • Just for today I will challenge any negative thoughts I may have and replace them with more empowering thoughts.
  • Just for today if I find myself dwelling on a problem I will immediately switch my focus to looking for a solution.

2. Meditate. Meditation will allow you to separate your attention from your thoughts. Once you’re observing your thoughts, you can ask yourself questions such as the following:

  • Who is choosing these thoughts?
  • Are these thoughts true?
  • Are these thoughts serving me well?
  • Are these the thoughts I’d choose to be thinking?
  • What thoughts would fill my mind with peace and joy?

3. Use Affirmations. Say the following to yourself:

  • I can consciously choose what I think.
  • My thoughts don’t control me; I’m in control of my thoughts.
  • I can change what I’m thinking at any time.
  • I can always choose different thoughts.
  • I choose thoughts that serve me well.
  • I’m training my brain to go in a different direction when negative thoughts pop into my head.
  • I may not be able to control the first thought that enters my mind, but I can control the second.
  • I’m slowly rewiring my brain in a positive way by choosing better thoughts.

mental detox

4. Fill Your Mind With Positivity. Another great way to set yourself up for success with the 7-day mental detox is by spending one to five minutes each morning reading or watching something inspirational or motivational. This can include things like the following:

  • Reading inspirational quotes.
  • Watching a motivational YouTube video.
  • Listening to an uplifting podcast.
  • If you’re religious, reading from the Bible or other holy book.
  • Listening to an audio program by someone you admire, such as Earl Nightingale, Jim Rohn, or Wayne Dyer.


Are you up for the challenge of following a 7-day mental detox? If so, choose a date and get started! Live your best life by detoxing your mind.

Read Next: Ten Ways to Declutter Your Mind and Free Up Mental Space


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perfect day

What does your perfect day look like?

Your life is made up of years, your years are made up of months, your months are made up of weeks, and your weeks are made up of days. If you get your days right, everything else falls into place. And how do you get your days right? By planning your perfect day.

onehouradayformula banner longThe process, or exercise, you’ll be reading about in this post will allow you to proactively create or design the day you want to have, instead of just reacting to the things, people, and events around you. Planning your perfect day will do all of the following for you:

  • Make you more productive.
  • Allow you to work steadily on your career and personal goals.
  • Enable you to make better use of your time.
  • Allow you to make sure that you stay focused on your priorities.
  • Help ensure that you’re living on purpose and maximizing your days.
  • Act as a mechanism for achieving a good life-work balance.
  • Improve your mood and well-being.
  • Help you to design your perfect life.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? You’ll discover how to plan your perfect day below.

Ten Initial Questions

Before you plan your perfect day, ask yourself these ten questions:

  1. What’s the one thing that I must accomplish today for this to be a successful day? What’s my primary goal for the day? What am I committed to making happen today?
  2. What three things do I want to get done in addition to my must-do item?
  3. What will I do for my health today?
  4. How will I grow today?
  5. How will I stimulate my mind today?
  6. How will I increase my wealth today?
  7. How will I have fun/play/laugh today?
  8. Who will I spend time with today?
  9. What am I looking forward to today?
  10. How do I want to feel today, and what do I need to do to make sure that it happens?

Then, with the answers to these ten questions in mind, head on over to the next section and plan your perfect day.

Questions for Planning Your Perfect Day

Take out a pen and a piece of paper and answer the following:

In order to have a perfect day. . .

  • At what time do you wake up?
  • What’s the first thing you do after waking up?
  • What morning routine (morning success ritual) do you follow in order to feel more centered, focused, happy and powerful? Do you do some stretching or get some exercise? Do you meditate, journal, or do some yoga? Do you spend some unhurried time with your spouse and/or children?
  • What do you have for breakfast, and where do you have your breakfast? Do you have breakfast alone or with someone else?
  • What tasks do you work on during the morning hours? Where do you work on these tasks? (Keep in mind that you probably want to get started with your must-do task for the day in the morning.)
  • Do you have a mid-morning snack? If so, what is it?
  • Is there anything else you do before lunch?
  • What do you have for lunch, and where do you have your lunch? Do you eat alone? Do you eat with friends, colleagues, or potential clients? Do you go home and have lunch with your family?
  • What do you do immediately after lunch? Do you follow a short after-lunch routine to make sure your day is on track and that you’re making the best use of your time, energy, and other resources?
  • What tasks do you work on in the afternoon? Where do you work on these tasks?
  • Do you have an afternoon snack? If so, what is it?
  • What else do you do in the afternoon?
  • At what time do you end your workday?
  • How do you end your workday? Do you organize your desk, tie up loose ends, and disconnect?
  • How do you spend your evenings?
  • What do you have for dinner, and where do you have your dinner? Who do you have dinner with?
  • What do you do after dinner? Who do you spend that time with?
  • What bedtime routine do you follow to wrap up your day on a positive note, set yourself up for success the next day, and get ready for a restful night’s sleep?
  • At what time do you go to sleep?
  • What’s the last thing you think about before you drift off to sleep?

Keep in mind that even if you plan your day it’s highly unlikely that everything will go exactly as planned. However, your odds of having a good day will be much higher with a perfect day plan than if you just let things happen and allow other people to run your day.

Review Your Results

After a week of planning your perfect day, go over how things are going. Review how successful you’re being in sticking to your perfect day plan by asking yourself questions like the ones you’ll find below:

  • Are your days going as planned?
  • If not, why not? Who or what keeps getting in the way?
  • What do you need to do so that you can better adhere to your perfect day plan?

Once you’ve answered these questions make any necessary adjustments to help you improve your ability to stick to your perfect day plan.


How you spend your days will determine what your life will be like.  Live your best life by planning your perfect day. Then, make sure that you get to work on following your plan.


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goal achievement

Follow these ten steps for guaranteed goal achievement.

At the beginning of the year I encouraged my readers to set the resolution of reading Leo Tolstoy’s magnum opus, “War and Peace”. It’s one of the goals that I set for myself this year, and I’m doing very well with it. I sat down to analyze the process that I’m using to work on this goal, and I came up with a ten-step process which can be applied to any goal.

I explain the ten-step process below in case anyone out there needs some help keeping up with their goals and resolutions. I’m also going to use this analysis to modify my approach for a couple of other goals that aren’t coming along so well.

So, without further ado, below you’ll find ten steps for guaranteed goal achievement.

1. Choose a Goal That Motivates You.

onehouradayformula banner longOne of the key elements of successful goal achievement is motivation. When you set a goal, make sure that it’s important to you, and that it has value. That is, the goal must have clearly defined benefits. In addition, the goal should be relevant to your life’s bigger picture. When you set a goal make sure that you’re highly motivated to achieve that goal by doing the following:

  • Ask yourself if you feel pushed to set the goal based on the expectations of others, or if it’s something that you feel pulled to do based on your own needs, wants, and aspirations. Obviously, you want to make sure that your goal falls into the second group.
  • Ask yourself the following: “From 1 to 10, how badly do I want this goal?”
  • If you had to explain to a friend why you’re working on this particular goal, what would you say?
  • Write down all of the benefits that you expect to receive if you achieve your goal.

Lastly, ask yourself how your goal fits into your life’s bigger picture. As an illustration, reading “War and Peace” fits into my medium-range goal of reading the most important books of Russian literature. That, in turn, fits into my long-term goal of reading the 365 most important books ever written.

Once you’re sure that you’re very motivated to pursue the goal that you’ve set for yourself, move on to the second step of the process.

2. Make It Specific.

I’m sure you’ve heard the following a million times: vague goals produce vague results. If you want positive, unambiguous results, your goals have to be specific. Below you’ll see how the goal of “Read ‘War and Peace'” goes from being extremely vague, to being incredibly precise and specific:

  • I want to improve myself.
  • I want to read more.
  • I’m going to read the classics.
  • I’m going to read the classics on my list of “365 Classics to Read Before I Die”.
  • I’m going to read the Russian Classics on my list of “365 Classics to Read Before I Die”.
  • I’m going to read Leo Tolstoy’s two greatest works: “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”.
  • I’m going to read “War and Peace”.
  • I’m going to read the Maude translation of “War and Peace”.
  • I’m going to read the Maude translation of “War and Peace” found here.
  • I’m going to read the copy of “War and Peace” I’m holding in my hand (after I had purchased and received the copy that I wanted from Amazon).

Look at your goal and ask yourself where it would fit in the above continuum in terms of specificity. Keep asking yourself, “How can I make this more specific?” until you can practically hold the goal in your hand.

3. Set a Deadline.

Deadlines are one of life’s great motivators. They’re vital for getting things done. My deadline for reading “War and Peace” is December 31st 2017. Whatever goal you’re working on, make sure it has a deadline.

If you need some additional inspiration, focus on the first four words of deadline: “dead”. Pretend that if you don’t achieve your goal by the deadline, you’ll be shot dead.

4. Set Up Milestones.

A milestone is a transition from one phase to another. When a goal is far-off in the distance, milestones act as signposts that allow you to track your progress and make sure that you’re on the right path. They also give you goals with shorter time-frames to shoot for, a reason to celebrate each time you achieve a milestone, and the motivation to keep going.

The version of “War and Peace” that I’m reading is divided into four books. Therefore, I’m using each book as a milestone. I already read Book One. Since I read Book One within the time period that I had allotted for reading it, I know that I’m on track toward the achievement of my goal.

5. Reward Yourself.

Rewards are a great incentive for getting yourself to work on your goals. Ideally, the process of achieving your goal will be the reward in of itself. In my case, I love to read. However, I also incorporate additional “fun” elements into my reading time.

Most days I’ll read at a club that I belong to — I sit next to the pool, put my feet on the grass, and have a capuccino and a papaya shake as I read.  Enjoying the process that will allow me to achieve my goal makes it much more likely that I’ll keep going until I cross the finish line at the end of the year.

In addition, I’m going to give myself a book-related reward each time I reach a milestone. When I finished reading Book One I got myself a tin of book darts which I’m using as book marks. Future rewards will include a book lover’s mug, a cushion with a literary quote on it, and a t-shirt that says:

“Yes, I’ve read War and Peace”.

6. Break the Goal Down Into Small, Achievable Steps.

One of the main reasons that people procrastinate on their goals is that they’re not sure how to proceed. In order to work toward the achievement of a goal, you have to know exactly what to do. That is, you have to break the goal down into small, achievable steps.

In the case of my goal of reading “War and Peace”, I broke it down as follows: Read one chapter of “War and Peace”—each of which is approximately 4 pages long—every day.

Any goal can be broken down into small steps. If you’re not sure how to proceed, do some research and develop a plan. Look at the following:

  • If your goal is to write a novel, write a page every day.
  • If your goal is to run a 5K, find a plan like Couch to 5k and follow along.
  • If your goal is to learn French, purchase a program with a good reputation–such as Assimil–and complete one lesson each day.
  • If your goal is to learn to code, choose a language to learn–such as C, Ruby, or Python–, find a great online course that teaches that language, and complete a lesson a day.

Once you’ve broken down your goal, set a performance goal. In other words, write it as a task. Here’s my daily performance goal or task: “Read today’s chapter of ‘War and Peace'”.

7. Schedule It.

Once you know exactly what you’re going to do each day, you have to decide when you’re going to do it. In other words, you have to schedule it. I read my chapter of “War and Peace” every day after lunch. As soon as I’m done with lunch I wash my hands, grab the book, and start reading.

Make sure that during your scheduled time you work on your goal without any distractions. When I’m going to read I sit away from my laptop, and I turn off my cell phone. That way I’m not tempted to check my email, go on Twitter, answer calls, and so on. My reading time is 100% for reading.

8. Measure Your Progress.

There are studies that show that making progress toward your goals improves well-being and increases levels of happiness. By measuring your progress as you work toward the achievement of your goals you’ll be making sure that you stay on track and you’ll be increasing your self-satisfaction.

I created and printed out a calendar that shows all of the days of the year on one page. Every day I write down on the calendar the number of the chapter of “War and Peace” that I read that day. That way I can easily see at a glance how I’m progressing on my goal.

9. If You Fall Off the Wagon, Get Back On.

It’s almost a certainty that while you’re pursuing your goal you’ll fall off the wagon (at least once). In my case, I was almost mugged in mid-January. I managed to fight off the mugger and run away, but I lost my copy of “War and Peace” in the struggle.

Since I live in Panama, I had to order another copy of the book from Amazon, and it took a couple of weeks for the new book to arrive. Therefore, I fell a couple of weeks behind on my reading. When the new book arrived I started reading two or three chapters a day until I caught up. On March 8th I finally caught up, and then I went back to reading one chapter a day.

If you do fall behind on your progress toward the achievement of your goal, get back to work as soon as you can. Then, do whatever you can to catch up. Make sure that you don’t let setbacks derail you from your objective of achieving your goal.

10. Find a Way to Hold Yourself Accountable.

Accountability is making a public commitment, and then accepting responsibility for doing what is necessary in order to achieve that obligation.

As I indicated at the top of this blog post, during the first week of January of this year I announced on this blog that I was going to read “War and Peace” this year. In addition, I am now honestly reporting that I am up-to date on that commitment.

A great strategy for keeping yourself accountable is to work on your goal with others.  I’m following along with Brian E. Denton who is writing a brief reflection of each chapter of “War and Peace” every day of this year on Medium.

Most days I leave a comment on Brian’s posts, and a lot of the time Brian responds to my comments. I also read comments left by others who are also working on this goal. This makes me feel like I’m part of a community that’s reading “War and Peace”, which helps me with my accountability.

On the subject of accountability, I wrote on this blog that Iwould finish an eBook on how to learn faster by December 31st of 2016. I did write the eBook, but I’m now applying the process that I developed in said eBook to learn new skills so that I can offer proof that it does, indeed, work.


Today it’s March 12th and I’m happy to say that I’m on track with my goal of reading “War and Peace” this year. If you need some help achieving your goals, use the ten step process explained above. Live your best life by getting really good at goal achievement.


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things money can’t buy

Money can buy lots of things, but there are some things money can’t buy.

Benjamin Franklin once said the following: “Money has never made man happy, nor will it; there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.” Studies show that he was right, to a certain extent.

To be happy we need to have enough money to cover our basic needs. Worrying about having enough money to put food on the table, or being able to pay medical bills in case a family member falls ill, is highly stressful, and can negatively affect happiness levels.

In addition, a rising salary can impact our wellbeing, up to a certain amount (about $75,000). After that amount, having more money has less and less of an impact on happiness.

But the bottom line is that money can’t but it all. In fact, there are many things which are vital to our happiness and well-being that simply can’t be bought. Below you’ll find 25 things money can’t buy.

25 Things Money Can’t Buy

onehouradayformula banner long1. Money can buy medicine, but it can’t buy health.

2. Money can buy a bigger house, but it can’t buy a home.

3. Money can buy acquaintances who will be happy to partake of your largess, but not friends who will stick by you through thick and thin.

4. Money can buy adulation but not respect.

5. Money can buy companionship (and sex), but not love.

6. Money can buy a position, but not the satisfaction of knowing that your hard work payed off, and that you’ve earned every promotion you’ve gotten.

7. Money can buy books, but it can’t buy knowledge, wisdom, and experience.

8. Money can buy a life of leisure, but it can’t buy purpose, passion, or meaning.

9. Money can buy the latest gadgets and the coolest toys for your children, but it can’t buy well-adjusted kids.

10. Money can buy someone’s services, but it can’t buy their loyalty.

11. Money can buy thrills and distractions, but it can’t buy serenity and inner peace.

12. Money can buy the trappings of high society, but it can’t buy character, integrity, morals, or class.

13. Money can buy flattery, but not self-esteem.

14. Money can buy the appearance of a happy life, but it can’t buy true happiness.

15. Money can buy material goods, but it can’t buy appreciation for the simple things.

16. Money can buy extravagant vacations to exotic places, but it can’t buy a close-knit family.

17. Money can buy designer clothes and make-up, but it can’t buy inner beauty.

18. Money can buy gifts for your significant other, but it can’t buy the intimacy that comes from getting to know someone really well, and being with someone who truly listens to you and understands you.

19. Money can buy jewelry, but it can’t buy self-love.

20. Money can buy solutions to problems, but money can’t buy the confidence that comes from mastering a new skill, or overcoming a challenge.

21. Money can buy tickets to expensive charity events, but it can’t buy the feeling that you get when you go out of your way to lend someone a helping hand, or make someone’s day a little brighter.

22. Money can buy expensive watches, but it can’t buy time.

23. Money can buy fancy $100-per-place-setting china, as well as etiquette lessons so you know which fork to use when, but it can’t buy manners, civility, and decency.

24. Money can buy experiences, but it can’t buy the mindfulness that is necessary so that you can be present, and enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing in the moment.

25. Money can buy big television sets and fast cars, but it can’t buy the well-being that comes from being able to manage and control your emotions.


George Lorimer once said the following:

“It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.”

Live your best life by making sure that in your efforts to make more money, you’re not losing sight of those precious things that money can’t buy.


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reframe your life stories

The stories you tell yourself create your life.

We all tell ourselves stories. The stories that we tell ourselves establish our self-identity, and the “kind of person” that we are.  They also give our lives meaning, help us to make sense of the world, and guide our actions.

One of the stories that I tell myself took place during Christmastime here in Panama some years ago, and it goes like this:

onehouradayformula banner longIt was three days before Christmas and “La Arrocha”—a popular pharmacy with a large toy section—had set up a gift-wrapping station right outside the store. There was a frenzy of activity as shoppers selected the gift-wrapping paper and bows that they wanted and the clerks wrapped dolls, Lego sets, snow cone machines, and so on.

I had bought some toys for my young relatives, and I was standing in line waiting for them to be wrapped. As all this was going on, there was a little beggar girl walking around excitedly watching everything that was going on. She would stare at the toys and the colorful paper they were being wrapped in, with a big smile on her face.

People were stepping around her and acting like she wasn’t there. Judging by her tattered clothing and unkempt appearance, it was abundantly clear that the little girl wasn’t getting anything for Christmas. At that moment, I thought to myself: “Every child should get a toy for Christmas”.

When my gifts had been wrapped, I walked over to the corner the girl had moved to. I handed her one of the gifts I had bought–a Barbie–and I wished her a Merry Christmas.

This story tells me that I’m kind. And when something happens that reminds me of the story, I feel good about myself. However, there are other stories that I tell myself where I don’t come out looking so good. In fact, some of my stories make me feel unhappy, uncomfortable, and even ashamed.

The stories that we tell ourselves can be limiting— such as, “I’m not a math person”–, and they can even be destructive. There are a lot of people who tell themselves stories that make them think: “I’ll never amount to anything”; “I’m a loser”; or “I ruin everything I touch”.

We need to start paying attention to the stories that we tell ourselves and to others. The key is to remember that we’re the storytellers–the narrators–and we can spin our stories in any direction we want. That is, we can reframe our stories so that they serve and support us.

After all, it’s not the objective world that influences us, but how we represent and interpret the world. In other words, what really matters is not what happens to us, but the stories that we tell ourselves about what took place.

Below you’ll find 4 ways to reframe your life stories so that you can start creating a better life for yourself.

1. Write Through a Challenging Problem

Dr. James Pennebaker– a research psychologist at the University of Texas –is the author of Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval. In his book he describes the method he developed over many years  which consists of using writing exercises to help people deal with difficult events in their lives.

To try Pennebaker’s method, do the following:

  • Think of something that happened to you more than eighteen months ago, that you just can’t seem to shake off.
  • Set aside 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the day to write about that specific problem. As you write, don’t pause or second-guess yourself—just write without stopping. Write only for yourself. Be completely open with yourself to get the full benefit of this exercise.
  • Do this for four days in a row. (You should write about the issue that’s bothering you for at least four days, but you can go on for longer if you wish.)

When people try this exercise what they write at first is often jumbled and disorganized. But then the story starts to take shape, and they’re able to make sense of the event and give it meaning. Ask yourself what you learned from the experience, and what you lost and gained. Also, examine how these events from your past will guide your thoughts and actions in the future.

Studies show that people who engage in expressive writing generally report feeling happier and less negative than before applying the writing exercise.

Please keep the “Flip Out Rule” in mind. If you feel that a topic is simply too painful for you to write about, and that you’ll “flip out” if you do, then don’t write about it. Write about something else and see if you can write about the painful topic at some future date.

Reframe your life stories by writing through challenging problems.

2. Write About the Present Chapter of Your Life

Kim Schneiderman is a psychotherapist, columnist and workshop facilitator in New York City. She’s also the author of “Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life”. She argues that there are many ways to tell the same story, and we should always try to find the best version of the story–one that makes us feel hopeful.

Here’s a quote from her book:

“Stuck in the same old story, many of us remain so entrenched in tales of victimization and martyrdom that we can scarcely imagine an alternate, positive or redemptive reading of the text of our lives. Perhaps because we have been taught to view life through one particular lens, we simply don’t see other, more inspiring versions of our tale that could liberate us.”

Think of a challenge you’re currently facing and write a story about it.  Schneiderman recommends that you write in the third person. That is, instead of using the pronouns “I” or “me”, use “he” or “she” and use your name.

Start off by defining your protagonist (you, of course). Write 5 to 7 sentences about yourself and answer questions such as the following:

  • What are the basic facts about the protagonist? Age? Gender? Marital Status? Current Residence? Job?
  • What was his or her childhood like? How has the protagonist been impacted by their childhood?
  • What are some of the protagonist’s strengths? What are some of the protagonist’s weaknesses?

Now think of a difficult situation that you’re currently facing. What do you want? What is the outcome that you’re after? What have you done so far to try to achieve that outcome?

Then, identify the antagonist (the villain). Every story has an antagonist, or an opposing force that’s creating conflict in the life of the protagonist or getting in their way. It can be a person, circumstance, or event; it can even be an aspect of the protagonist’s personality. Here are some examples:

  • A person – a boss who steals credit for your work, a lover who cheated on you, or a mother who’s constantly putting you down.
  • An illness, whether physical or mental.
  • Nature—a storm, an earthquake, or a struggle in the wild.
  • An adverse situation, such as a period of unemployment.
  • The culture – society demanding that certain people behave in certain ways.
  • Something within you that holds you back –for example, your tendency to procrastinate, give in to fear, or your indecision.

Next, identify the supporting characters. A protagonist always has people who are helping them to overcome the challenge that they’re facing. These supporting characters can be friends, family members, mentors, and so on.

Finally, think of how the conflict may be resolved. Also, ask yourself how the situation that you’re currently facing can help you to learn and grow. Then, get to work on creating the ending that you want for your story.

If you’re currently telling yourself a story in which you’re a victim, reframe the story. Remind yourself of the following:

  • You’re the protagonist of your story–the hero.
  • You’re facing an adversary, which is creating conflict in your life.
  • You’re working on defeating your adversary in order to resolve the conflict and get the result that you’re after.

And remember, until you get what you’re after, the story isn’t over.

3. Change an Unempowering Story to An Empowering One

Michael Hyatt—a popular blogger and author–explains that at the age of 29 he became vice-president of marketing for a large publishing house. It was a huge step up, especially for someone so young, and he felt that he was in over his head. Michael was convinced that the powers-that-be would soon discover that they had made a mistake by promoting him.

Whenever he had to attend a meeting, Michael would sweat profusely and his hands would get ice cold. He would do everything he could to try and hide these symptoms of his nervousness. This included doing things like the following:

  • Wearing two shirts to meetings, hoping that the first shirt would soak up the sweat.
  • Washing his hands with warm water right before entering meetings so people who shook hands with him wouldn’t notice how cold his hands were.

However, Michael soon realized that the root of his problem lay in the story he had come up with. By telling himself that he was a fake and that he would soon be found out, he was stressing himself to the point that his body was giving him away. That’s when he decided to change his story.

Michael started telling himself that his youth gave him an advantage since he was energetic and had fresh, novel ideas. In addition, he was a fast learner and a hard worker, and any mistakes he made he would simply learn from and correct along the way.

Once he started to tell himself an empowering story, instead of a disempowering one, Michael was able to relax in his new position. His bodily symptoms stopped, and he ended up doing a great job.

Ask yourself the following:

  • What disempowering stories are you telling yourself?
  • How can you turn those disempowering stories into empowering ones?

Reframe your life stories by changing disempowering stories into empowering ones.

4. Create New Stories

Your mind is always observing you. If you want your mind to start telling positive stories about you, go out and do something positive. Look at the following:

  • Do you want your mind to tell stories about what a good person you are? Go out and help someone.
  • Do you want your mind to tell stories of grit and perseverance about you? Think of a goal that you gave up because things got tough and take it up again. Stay with it until you succeed.
  • Do you want your mind to tell stories that make you sound daring and adventurous? Go on an adventure.

Always be on the lookout for opportunities to create positive stories about yourself and your life.


Reframe your life stories with the four techniques explained above. Live your best life by telling yourself better stories.


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personality chart

A personality chart can help you become the person you want to be.

A few days ago I discovered a TV show called Westworld. Westworld is a theme park populated by incredibly life-like androids—called “hosts” –who play the typical characters that existed in the American Wild West:

  • Cowboys;
  • Ranchers;
  • Saloon keepers;
  • Bandits;
  • Lawmen;
  • Prostitutes; and so on.

Humans visit this world in order to live out their cowboy fantasies (with the androids catering to their every whim).

onehouradayformula banner longGradually, the androids become more and more self-aware. Maeve Millay, a brothel madam, is one of the first hosts to realize the true nature of her reality: she’s an android who’s being controlled by humans and being used for their entertainment.  In Episode 5 of the first season, Maeve surprises one of the technicians—Felix– by “waking up” while he’s repairing her after her latest “death”. In the next episode, Felix explains to Mauve how the hosts are created, codified, and maintained.

He also explains to her how they’re given personalities to match the character that they’ll be playing in the theme park. Maeve is shown a chart with 20 different personality traits on it, with a rating from 0 to 20 for each one.

Here are the 20 personality traits on the chart:

  • Bulk Apperception
  • Candor
  • Vivacity
  • Coordination
  • Meekness
  • Humility
  • Cruelty
  • Self-Preservation
  • Patience
  • Decisiveness
  • Imagination
  • Curiosity
  • Aggression
  • Loyalty
  • Empathy
  • Tenacity
  • Courage
  • Sensuality
  • Charm
  • Humor

Here’s what Maeve’s personality chart looks like:

personality chart

And here’s Felix’s explanation of the chart:

“It’s your personality on a 20-point scale. Like, ‘coordination’: if you’ve got a 5 that means you’re clumsy as hell. But if you got a 15 that means you’re an athlete.”

Maeve is unhappy with the rating she’s been given on some of the traits on her personality chart, and she asks that they be changed.  That is, she asks for, and receives, a personality upgrade.

I was thinking about this idea of a personality chart, and how it could be applied to self-improvement (because that’s what happens when you’re a self-improvement blogger). It occurred to me that a personality chart could be a great personal development tool.

Below you’ll discover how to create your own personality chart, and how to use it to become the person you want to be—that is, to give yourself a personality upgrade.

How Is Personality Determined?

If the hosts’ personalities on Westworld are determined by their programmers, what is a human being’s personality dependent on? An individual’s personality depends on their brain structure; patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and their levels of different hormones and neurotransmitters. These are  influenced by four factors:

  • Heredity;
  • Physical environment;
  • Culture; and
  • Particular experiences.

That is, an individual’s personality is based on their genes interacting with their environment.

Can A Person Change Their Personality?

If the programmers on Westworld want to change a host’s personality, all they have to do is change the rating for the personality trait that they want to modify. So, for example, if one of the hosts isn’t interacting well with the visitors to the theme park, the programmers can choose to give that host more charm, humor, or sensuality.

But can a person change his/her personality? I would say “yes” from personal experience. In addition, there are scientific studies that back me up.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that when study participants changed their daily behavior to match the personality changes that they wanted to make, they were able to make significant personality changes over the course of the 16-week study.

In another study–from the University of Manchester and the London School of Economics–the lead researcher, Chris Boyce, had the following to say:

“We found that our personalities can and do change over time — something that was considered improbable until now — and that these personality changes are strongly related to changes in our wellbeing. Our research suggests that focusing on who we are and how we relate to the world around us has the potential to unlock vast improvements in our wellbeing.”

How to Create Your Personality Chart

Creating a personality chart is a three-step process. The three steps are explained below.

Step One. Determine the Personality Traits to Measure.

The first step in creating your personality chart is to determine the personality traits that you’re going to measure. I suggest that you measure the following 20 personality traits:

  1. Charisma – the ability to attract, charm, and influence those around you.
  2. Perseverance—the ability to keep going despite setbacks and obstacles.
  3. Confidence – belief in your ability to deal effectively with the world.
  4. Compassion – sympathy for the suffering of others (or yourself) and wanting to alleviate that suffering.
  5. Courage – acting despite fear.
  6. Humor – the ability to be amused, and be amusing to others.
  7. Agreeableness – being kind, approachable, and easy to get along with.
  8. Resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity.
  9. Extraversion – being high energy and sociable.
  10. Aggression – being forceful and assertive.
  11. Decisiveness – the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively.
  12. Integrity – being honest and having strong moral principles.
  13. Self-Discipline – the ability to stay focused and do what needs to be done.
  14. Patience – the ability to tolerate delay, difficulty, or annoyance.
  15. Curiosity – having a strong desire to learn new things and being open to new experiences.
  16. Ambition – having a strong desire to achieve.
  17. Optimism – having the disposition to look at the more favorable side of events, and having the expectation that things will work out well.
  18. Leadership – the ability to inspire, motivate, and lead other people.
  19. Conscientiousness – being responsible, having high impulse control, and being dependable.
  20. Neuroticism – being emotionally unstable and anxious, and having a tendency to overreact.

Step Two. Rate Yourself on Each Personality Trait.

The second step is to rate yourself on each personality trait on a scale from 1 to 20. There are three different approaches you can use for this.

  1. Rate yourself subjectively. Just ask yourself: “How would I rate myself on each of these personality traits?”
  2. Ask someone you know well to rate you. You can also ask several people for their input and write down the average rating that you receive from them for each of the personality traits.
  3. Find a test you can use to rate yourself on each of the 20 character traits. For example, here’s a test for rating how confident you are.

Step Three. Create Your Chart.

The third step is to create your chart. Do the following:

  • Draw a circle and divide it into 20 segments.
  • Label each segment so that each one represents one of the 20 personality traits you’re measuring.
  • Then, label each spoke of the wheel from 1 to 20, where 1 is closest to the center of the circle, and 20 is the outer edge of the circle.
  • For each personality trait, place an “x” on your score or rating for that trait. Lastly, connect all your marks.

And, there you have it: you’ve created a personality chart.

How to Change Your Personality

Once you’ve created your personality chart you can analize it and determine what changes you would like to make. As an illustration, you may decide that you need to be more resilient and courageous, and that you need to be less aggressive.

Then, create your game plan. For example, as I explain in my post on 19 Ways to Be More Conscientious, if you want to be more conscientious you should take action such as the following:

  • Specify a day, time, and place each month for paying bills.
  • Create a budget and start monitoring your spending.
  • Clean up after yourself.
  • Start planning your day the evening before.
  • Every Sunday plan your weekly menus, go grocery shopping, and do some prep work so that you can cook and eat healthy meals all week.
  • Don’t take on more commitments than you can handle.
  • Finish what you start.

I’ve also written about concrete steps you can take to be more resilient, more charismatic (and interesting), and more optimistic. For the other character traits, conduct your own online research, find a good book on Amazon, or find a self-development course that will help you to craft a game plan on how to proceed.

Three months after you’ve started taking action to modify your personality traits, create another personality chart. How have things changed? Has your score improved for the personality traits you want to change? If not, take corrective action. If so, keep going until you’ve gotten the results that you’re after.


I consider myself to be a great example of someone who has changed their personality through conscious effort. I’m much more outgoing, resilient, perseverant, positive, and confident than I used to be.

In addition, I’m currently working on being more patient and conscientious. Live your best life by creating a personality chart and using it as a self-improvement tool.

And, in case you’re wondering whether you should start watching “Westworld”, I highly recommend it (I usually don’t like sci-fi shows, but this one is terrific). Here’s a trailer:


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no regrets

We all have regrets—things we wish we’d done, or not done.

Regret is the disappointment or sorrow that we feel when we ruminate over the belief that our life today would be better or happier if we had done something differently in the past.  We can feel regret over many different things, including the following:

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  • Education opportunities that we failed to take advantage of.
  • Financial decisions we’ve made.
  • Risks we failed to take.
  • People we’ve hurt.
  • Spending too much time at the office.
  • Not going after what we really wanted because of the opinion of others.
  • Making the wrong friends.
  • Trying too hard to please others.
  • Not making happiness a priority, or failing to understand what truly makes us happy.
  • The time wasted worrying about things that never happened.

The list goes on and on. When regret turns into fruitless rumination it can have a negative effect on both the mind and the body. Obsessing over regrets can lead to depression and stress-related diseases, it can lower your self-esteem, and it can prevent you from engaging with life in a positive and productive way.

The good news is that there are ways to deal with regret so that it stops having a negative effect on your life. Below you’ll find 10 ways to live a life of no regrets.

1. Learn From Your Regrets.

A while back I wrote about worry, and how it’s often a sign that there’s something that needs your attention. In much the same way, regret is a sign. It can be a sign of any of the following:

  • There’s something wrong with your decision-making process. If making a wrong decision led you to a situation you now regret, you need to analyze your decision-making process, pin-point what went wrong, and then correct the process so that you don’t make a similar mistake again in the future.
  • You’re not trying hard enough.
  • You’re on the wrong path. Maybe you studied accounting, when what you really wanted was to go to art school. If you constantly find yourself regretting that you didn’t go to art school, this is a sign that you’re on the wrong path and you need to self-correct.
  • You need to forgive someone, or you need to forgive yourself.
  • You need to apologize to someone and, if possible, make amends.
  • You need to do some work on yourself. Maybe you need more confidence, or humility. Or perhaps you need to learn patience. It could be that you’re undisciplined. Perhaps you need more courage.

Think about the event or situation that you regret, and what caused it. Then, ask yourself what you did, or failed to do, that led to the event or situation. Lastly, ask yourself what needs to be done to remedy the situation, lessen its impact, or make sure that it doesn’t happen again.  Live a life of no regrets bylearning from your regrets.

2. Accept That Some Things Are Out of Your Control.

The point above addresses the aspects of situations that you regret which were under your control. However, not everything is within your control.

When I was studying at Georgetown I took a class on Greek mythology. The professor showed us how, at first, the Greeks believed that everything that took place was decided by the gods. That is, people had almost no control over what happened to them. Some people were simply blessed by the gods, and some weren’t.

Gradually, the Greeks came to realize that a lot of what happened to them in life wasn’t preordained. Instead, it was up to them to decide what they wanted, and then make it happen. The fate of the heroes they wrote about became less dependent on the will of the gods and the vicissitudes of fortune, and more dependent on their own free will.

Nonetheless, the gods continued to lurk behind the shadows, helping this or that person out on some occasions, and knocking people down on others. The reality is that this is what life is like. A lot of things are within your control, but a lot of things aren’t.

When things don’t go as you as planned, some of it will be due to your own actions or inactions. But almost invariably, some of it will be due to bad luck. And that’s just the way it is; so, accept it and move on. After all, the gods are a fickle lot.

3. Show Yourself Some Self-Compassion.

My last blog post was on self-compassion, and how having compassion for yourself makes you happier and more successful. In addition, self-compassion can help you to grow from your regrets, rather than wallow in them. Researchers at UC Berkeley recruited 400 adults and divided them into three groups, as follows:

  • The first group was told to identify their biggest regret, and then to write about it from a perspective or self-compassion and understanding.
  • The second group was told to write about their biggest regret from a perspective of self-esteem.
  • The third group was told to write about a hobby that they enjoyed.

In questionnaires administered afterward, participants in the first group—those who had taken a self-compassionate perspective toward their regret–reported a higher willingness than participants in the other two groups to work on self-improvement. In addition, they were more committed to learning from their mistake and not repeating it in the future.

Self-compassion plays an important role in a life of no regrets.

4. Stop Playing “What-If”.

Regret, if left unchecked, can be a source of relentless self-induced suffering. One of the ways in which people self-flagellate with thoughts of regret is by constantly playing the “what-if” game.  It goes something like the following:

  • What if I had turned left instead of right?
  • What if I had said this instead of that?
  • What if I had been more daring?
  • What if I had stood up for myself?
  • What if I had shown more self-control?

Playing “what-if” is completely useless. Think of humpty dumpty. Once he fell off that wall, there was no putting him back together again. After all, you can’t unbreak a broken egg.  Playing “what-if” will just make you feel bad, and it’s a huge waste of time.

When I find myself thinking about something I regret, and I start playing “what-if”, I recite the well-known nursery rhyme to myself:

no regrets

That interrupts my train of thought so I can stop playing “what-if”. Then, I get busy doing something more productive. Make the following your motto: “I’m too busy to play the ‘what-if’ game and dwell on regrets.”

5. Modify Your Dream.

Let’s assume you’ve had a dream for a long time, but you either failed to pursue it, or you tried and failed. If it’s the first situation, you can take the plunge now. If it’s the second, you can try again. However, sometimes you won’t have either of these options anymore because what you wanted to do or experience is no longer within reach.

For example, it may have been a once in a lifetime opportunity, or you may no longer be healthy or young enough to pursue the opportunity. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all is lost.

Even if your dream is no longer attainable as you had originally envisioned it, you can still pursue a modified version of it. Here are some examples:

  • You may no longer be able to become a world-class tennis player, but you can still play tennis regularly, participate in local competitions, and teach your kids to play.
  • You may realize that you won’t be able to visit the top 100 landmarks on your travel bucket list, but you can visit the top 5 and make those trips truly memorable.
  • You may conclude that you’ll never be promoted to the position you wanted, but you can start your own business and make yourself the boss.
  • It may too late for you to achieve fame and fortune in the way you had initially intended, but you can look for another way.

If your dream is no longer achievable in its original form, instead of living in regret, look for ways to modify the dream, make it smaller, or find a way to achieve a similar end result through different means.

6. What If You Knew You Would Die in Five Years?

Imagine that you were told you were going to die in a week. What would you most regret not having done? Now imagine that you were told that the one-week prognosis was a mistake. Instead of dying in one week, you’re going to die in five years. What would you start doing differently?

7. Tell Your Loved Ones That You Love Them.

One of the things that people most regret is failing to tell the people that they care for that they love them. This morning my sister called to tell me that her husband’s brother had died. He was in his mid-forties and he died out of the blue of natural causes. The truth is that people can die at any moment.

My grandmother turns 94 this month. I’m already making plans to take her out for lunch for her birthday, and I’m going to make sure that I let her know how much I love her.

8. Turn Failures and Mistakes Into Stepping Stones.

Moving forward, treat any failures or mistakes as stepping stones instead of building new regrets. I recently wrote about applying design thinking to your life. One of the steps of design thinking is to create prototypes—or experiments—and trying them out in the real world to see how they do.

If a prototype fails, that’s OK. Now you have more information you can use to build your next prototype. Keep telling yourself: “Alright. That prototype failed. What shall I try next?” Move forward in this way until you’ve come up with a prototype that gets you what you want.

In order to live a life of no regrets, turn your failures and mistakes into prototytpes, or stepping stones.

9. Practice Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the cure for almost anything, and that includes regret. After all, regret involves thinking about the past, and mindfulness brings your attention back to the present. When you find yourself thinking about the past and feeling regret, say the following:

  • If I’m living in the past I won’t be able to fully appreciate what I have in the present.
  • I release my regrets and bring my attention back to the present moment.
  • The present moment is all there is.
  • This moment is exactly as it should be.

10. Go Back To The Drawing Board.

In point 5 above we discussed what to do in case your dream is no longer available to you in its original form. However, instead of modifying your dream, you can choose to scrap it altogether. Come up with an entirely new dream.

There’s a theory that states that there are many different parallel universes. And there’s a version of you living in each of these universes, each one leading a different life (because each version of you has made different choices along the way). You can choose to think that right now there’s a version of you that’s living the original dream life you had envisioned.

Nonetheless, the version of you that’s living in this universe right now can choose to go down a different path. Sit down and draft a completely different life plan for yourself. Then, get to work on that life plan.


Regret can suck all the joy out life. Live your best life by living a life of no regrets. Start with the 10 tips and strategies explained above.


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Self-compassion is extending kindness, love, and understanding toward ourselves.

Having self-compassion means the following:

  • We love and accept ourselves;
  • We understand that failing and making mistakes is a normal part of the human experience;
  • We’re capable of forgiving ourselves;
  • We treat ourselves with kindness and respect;
  • We give ourselves the self-care that we need; and
  • We’re a good friend to ourselves when things go wrong.

Self-compassion has been found to have a significant positive correlation with lower levels of anxiety and depression, as well as higher levels of happiness, optimism, personal initiative and agreeableness. Fortunately, self-compassion can be developed. Below you’ll find five ways to practice self-compassion.

1. Be Kind to Yourself.

onehouradayformula banner longThe other day I was over at my sister’s house and my 9-year-old nephew was showing me some card tricks his dad had taught him. Although he pulled off one of the tricks to perfection, the other tricks he showed me didn’t go so well. (At one point, most of the cards ended up on the floor.) Nonetheless, he’s a kid and I love him, so I was very kind. Since I don’t just want him to feel good about himself, but I also want him to improve, I told him things like the following:

  • “It’s great how much you love card tricks, and I see that you have a lot of potential.”
  • “You almost got that one! If you practice that trick a few more times, I’m sure you’ll get better and better at it.”
  • “That’s a tough trick. I know your dad had to practice it a lot before he got it right.”
  • “I want you to go through those tricks a few more times, and then call me and I’ll come over to watch you again.”

When I left, he was feeling very good about himself and was hard at work perfecting his card tricks.

As my readers know, I love learning new things and am constantly improving my skills and adding to my knowledge repertoire.  However, learning something new can be incredibly frustrating. A lot of the time—when I mess up or make a mistake when I’m starting out with a new skill– my inner critic starts going ballistic:

  • “You suck at this!”
  • “Just give up already.”
  • “This is pathetic. Just pathetic.” (My inner critic loves the word “pathetic”.)

But then I remember to show myself some self-compassion and to be kind to myself. This leads me to change my inner dialogue to something along the following lines:

  • “Everyone is bad at the beginning.”
  • “Making mistakes is how you learn.”
  • “I just need to practice. Then I’ll be good at this.”

After showing myself some kindness and self-compassion, I always feel better about myself and about my ability to learn new things. If you want to start feeling more self-compassion, whenever you mess up, be as kind to yourself as you would be to a 9-year-old you really care for.


2. Use Self-Compassion As a Motivation Technique.

Think of the following two characters:

  • A gruff army drill sergeant yelling at you to push through the pain and do one more sit-up, or else.
  • An optimistic mentor who cheers you on to do your best and encourages you when you feel discouraged.

Which of these two characters do you think would be most likely to help you to achieve your goals? Most people would pick the mean, yells in-your-face drill sergeant. After all, we’re conditioned to think that this abusive-type of behavior is what gets results. Therefore, that’s how we tend to talk to ourselves when we’re pursuing a goal.

However, studies show that, in fact, the second character is more effective. Kelly McGonigal is a psychologist at Stanford University and the author of The Neuroscience of Change: A Compassion-Based Program for Personal Transformation. She refers to a study in which participants took a very difficult test which was chosen to induce a sense of struggle and frustration.

Some of the participants were given a self-compassion induction after the test, while other participants were not. Specifically, this is the self-compassion message that some of the participants heard:

“If you had difficulty with the test you just took, you’re not alone. It’s common for students to have difficulty with tests like this. If you feel bad about how you did, try not to be too hard on yourself.”

Researchers found that the participants who received the self-compassion message showed greater willingness to study in order to improve their performance on the difficult test. McGonigal adds that a self-compassionate point of view will help you recover from setbacks and motivate you to pursue positive change.

In addition, Kristin Neff, Ph.D., author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself explains that people who are self-compassionate are less afraid of failing. After all, if you lack self-compassion you know that the voice in your heard is going to insult and berate you each time you fail. Therefore, you’ll be terrified of failing.

People who are self-compassionate, on the other hand, know that if they fail the voice in their head will encourage them to learn from their mistake, shake it off, and then try again.  This makes them more willing to get out there and try new things.

3. Stop Thinking of Self-Compassion as Self-Indulgence.

Some people don’t allow themselves to feel self-compassion because they feel it’s self-indulgent. Here’s what some people think self-compassion looks like:

  • Allowing yourself to zone out in front of the TV for three or four hours because you had a tough day at work.
  • Eating that second brownie covered in vanilla ice cream because you deserve it.
  • Buying things you can’t afford because you want them.
  • Constantly letting yourself off the hook.

But that’s not what self-compassion means at all. Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, a therapist in private practice in San Francisco, explains that self-indulgence is short-sighted. It feels good in the short-term, but has negative long-term effects. Self-compassion is the opposite of this.

Shinraku adds that you should think of self-compassion in terms of a good parent. A good parent is neither too strict nor too indulgent. As an illustration, suppose that a child comes home from school feeling stressed because the problems in math class are getting more difficult. Now look at the following:

  • A strict parent would tell the child to go to their room right away and not come out until they’ve figured out how to do the math problems.
  • An overindulgent parent would allow the child to eat three servings of ice cream and veg out in front of the TV for the rest of the evening (“Poor kid, he had a tough day at school”.).
  • A good parent would let the child have a snack and play video games for a while to relax, but then they would encourage the child to take out their textbook and practice some math problems.

Self-compassion looks like the third parent. And that’s the parent who’s most likely to have the well-adjusted, happy, successful child.

Be a good “parent” to yourself. Don’t be too strict with yourself, but don’t be overindulgent. Finding the sweet spot between these two extremes—that is, the point at which you’re being self-compassionate–will take some experimentation, but it’s worth it.

As an additional tip, self-compassion is about finding the right balance between what you need in the present moment, and what’s good for you in the long-run.

4. Explore Self-Compassion Through Writing.

Kristin Neff was already mentioned above. She’s a pioneer in self-compassion research and has even developed a test that will tell you how self-compassionate you are. Furthermore, Neff has created several exercises for developing self-compassion. One of these exercises is exploring self-compassion through writing.

Neff recommends that you think about something that makes you feel bad about yourself. This can be something about your physical appearance, an issue at work, a failure from the past, and so on. Then think of an imaginary friend who is very kind and compassionate, knows everything about you, and loves you unconditionally.

Write yourself a letter about the issue that’s bothering you from the perspective of your imaginary friend. Use the following questions as guidelines:

  • How would your friend let you know that you’re human—like everyone else—and you have both strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would your friend tell you to stop letting this issue drag you down?
  • Is there any change your friend would recommend that you make? How would your friend recommend that you make these changes?
  • How would your friend communicate their desire that you be happy and that you do well in life?

After writing the letter, Neff indicates that you should put it aside for a while. Then come back to it later and read it slowly, letting the words sink in and allowing yourself to feel the compassion that your “friend” is showing you. Finally, understand that this compassion is within yourself, and you can show yourself self-compassion at any time.

5. Practice Loving Kindness Meditation.

Christopher K. Germer–author of “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions”–recommends loving kindness meditation as a tool for being compassionate toward yourself when you need it.

Loving kindness meditation uses words, phrases, images and feelings to evoke a loving kindness and friendliness toward oneself and others. Loving kindness meditation can be used to invoke a feeling of deep compassion toward oneself.

To practice loving kindness meditation, enter a meditative state as you usually do. Then, repeat phrases such as the following to yourself:

  • I accept myself as I am.
  • I am enough.
  • I am worthy of compassion and kindness.
  • I forgive myself and allow myself to feel inner peace.
  • I allow myself to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes.
  • I let go of the old and make room for the new.
  • Today I will treat myself with kindness.
  • Like any human being, I have strengths and weaknesses, and that’s OK.
  • I’m healing through self-compassion.
  • I give myself the gift of unconditional love.

As you repeat these phrases to yourself, allow yourself to be filled with self-love, self-forgiveness, and self-compassion.


In addition, here’s a meditation recommended by Kristin Neff:

This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is a part of life.
May I be kind to myself in this moment.
May I give myself the compassion I need.


Other people deserve your compassion, but so do you. Get started practicing self-compassion with the five strategies and exercises explained above. Live your best life by showing yourself self-compassion.


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design thinking

Use design thinking to build a better future for yourself.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans are the authors of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, a book based on a course of the same name that they teach at Stanford University (the school’s “most popular class,” according to Fast Company magazine).

Both the book and the course are meant to help people apply the principles of design thinking— a strategy for improving on a product or experience — to their personal and professional lives.

onehouradayformula banner longDesign thinking is a problem-solving framework that utilizes empathetic, creative, and analytical skills to solve problems. Normally, designers deal with problems such as the following:

  • A business looking for its next big idea (create a new product or service).
  • A government organization trying to get people to conserve energy or water (solve a social problem).
  • A technology company that wants a user-friendly design for one of its gadgets (meet a consumer need).

However, design thinking can also be used to solve personal problems, and to design and build your future. Below you’ll find an overview of design thinking, and then you’ll discover how to apply design thinking to your life.

An Overview of Design Thinking

The design thinking process involves five steps. These five steps are the following:

1. Empathize.

Design thinking puts people and their needs first. Therefore, the first step of the process is to understand the problem from the perspective of the end-user.

You’re trying to understand the way the consumer does things and why, their needs, and what is meaningful to them. The way to learn about the end-user is through observation and interviews (conversations and engagement). It’s a very hands-on experience.

2. Define.

With the information gathered during the “empathize” phase, the problem solver is better equipped to determine what the real problem or challenge is. During the “define” stage, the needs and the insights that were uncovered in the previous step are catalogued and inventoried and the true problem emerges.

It’s important to keep in mind that framing the right problem is the only way to create the right solution. The “define” step is concluded once a problem statement has been drafted.

3. Ideate.

In this step the problem solver uses a creative mindset to generate as many ideas as possible to solve the problem, without the constraint of existing solutions. The objective isn’t to try to find the “right” answer–which is something that doesn’t exist. Instead, many possibilities and alternatives are explored.

Some of the tools available for ideation include brainstorming, mind mapping, doodling, and so on. Nothing is off limits. After all, once you adopt the designer mindset you know that “you choose better if you choose from a lot of ideas”.

4. Prototyping.

Because design thinkers learn by doing, and they build their way forward, the best ideas from the “ideate” stage are chosen to be turned into simple prototypes (pick between three and five ideas to prototype). That is, a physical or tangible solution is created.

One of the key elements of this step is speed. The idea isn’t to come up with something perfect, but something that you can test quickly. The objective in this step is to get the ideas out there even before the problem solver might think they’re ready, and to fail quickly and cheaply.

5. Test.

Once you have your prototypes, go out into the real world and test them. Accept that failure is part of the design thinking process. In fact, your goal at the testing stage isn’t to be told that your prototypes are a success, but to get feedback so that you can make adjustments and refinements and build a better prototype.

The process of ideate, prototype, and test is repeated until the prototype meets the needs of the end user. Indeed, you can go through the entire process from the first step to the last step several times. Iteration is a fundamental part of design thinking. Here’s an image of the process:

How to Apply Design Thinking to Your Life

Now let’s get going on applying design thinking to your life. We’re going to do this by using Bill and Dave’s book, and their workshops as guides. The emphasis will be mainly on jobs and careers, because that’s what a majority of us spend most of our lives doing. However, keep in mind that design thinking can be applied to the improvement of any life area.

Here’s the question that Bill and Dave start off with: Can we apply design thinking to the “wicked problem” of designing your job, your career, and even your life? They argue that you can.

A wicked problem is a big, ambiguous problem that is poorly defined, and poorly bounded. That sounds a lot like the problem of finding work you love—that is, the problem of designing your way to the future you want to have.

When people ask for help in identifying which career path to pursue, they’re often told to identify their passion. However, Bill and Dave argue that this is the wrong approach. This is because studies show that only 20% of the population can identify a singular passion.

The other 80% of the population is either passionate about many different things, or there’s no one thing that rises to the level of “that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life”.  For that 80%, passion isn’t something that they have or find, but something that they work into.

That is, these people should try something new out, see how it’s working, tweak it, and experiment further. And that’s what design thinking is all about. Building a future with design thinking means taking an improvisational view of life, and moving forward by “wayfinding”.

Steps to Follow to Apply Design Thinking to Design Your Career

Here are the steps you should follow in order to apply design thinking to design your job or career:

1. Keep a Good Time Journal.

Let’s assume that you’re feeling unfulfilled at work. In order to determine how to improve this situation, start keeping a “Good Time Journal”. You’re going to keep track of your daily activities for a week to determine which activities you enjoy the most. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • When do you feel completely involved in the activity you’re carrying out? When are you most mindful?
  • Which activities make you happy?
  • When are you working at your peak level?
  • Which activities make you feel calm and serene?
  • When do you feel that you’re in the state of flow?
  • What are you doing when you feel the most animated and the most present?

Then, use the rest of the design thinking process to redesign your current or next gig so you do more of what you love.

2. Track Your Energy.

Some activities are energizing, while others are energy draining. Log your major activities for a few weeks and note how energized each activity makes you feel. As with the previous exercise, the purpose of this exercise is to notice how your activities affect you. Going through your log will give you ideas on how to improve your routines.

3. Create Three Odyssey Plans.

In this exercise, you’re going to think of several scenarios, or paths, for the next five years of your life. These are trajectories which you could realistically pursue. Look at the following:

  • One scenario is your current life if it simply continues as it is.
  • The second scenario is what you would do if your current life were suddenly gone.
  • For more scenarios, think of what you may want to do with your life. The truth is that most people don’t know what they want, so simply create several different scenarios involving different alternatives that sound interesting to you. Have you ever considered selling all of your possessions and traveling around the world? Did you think you may want to become a lawyer at any point in your life? Has becoming a chef ever crossed your mind?

Include not just career but also personal goals in your Odyssey Plan, such as writing a novel, traveling to South America, learning to play an instrument, and so on.

The point of this exercise is to realize that your life could go in many different directions, and you could be happy in each one. That is, there isn’t one perfect path for you, so stop thinking that if you made a wrong turn somewhere you’ll never lead your “ideal life”.

4. Define Your Problem.

The three exercises you completed in steps 1 to 3 above gave you more information about yourself and your life—who you are and what you want. Now you’re going to take that information to define your problem. Here are some ways you could define your problem:

  • How can I rework my day so I can do more of what makes me happy and less of what I dislike doing?
  • How can I do more things throughout my day that are more energy positive?
  • What does my job need more of so that I can feel more fulfilled?
  • Which skills should I learn to start moving in a new direction?
  • What do I want to do next?
  • Looking honestly at my circumstances, what room do I have to maneuver?
  • Now that I’ve examined the way things are, how can I make them better?
  • How can I create the next version of myself?
  • What do I most need to change?
  • How can I reinvent myself?

5. Ideate.

There’s a difference between navigation and wayfinding. Navigation is when you know your destination and then you plan and follow a route to get there. That is, since you know your exact destination, there are explicit directions you can follow to get there.

The problem with designing your life is that you don’t know exactly where you’re going. You may just have a general idea of “I like this kind of stuff” and “I don’t like that kind of stuff”, and the kind of things that give you energy as opposed to draining you of energy. But not much more than that.

When you know that you want to go somewhere, but you’re not exactly sure where, you use a process called wayfinding.  This is the way hunters find game in the wild. Here’s the process:

  • There’s an antelope or a deer out there, but the hunters don’t know where.
  • However, they know how to track for it.
  • So, they go around from point to point looking for clues that will direct them toward the animal.
  • Each clue that they find leads them to the next one.
  • They move forward in this way–from clue to clue–until they find the animal that they’re looking for.

When you ideate, you come up with possibilities or alternatives to begin wayfinding by using idea generation techniques such as brainstorming. Then, you choose the best ideas you come up with and begin prototyping and testing those ideas.

6. Prototype and Test.

A prototype is a quick, cheap experience that’s readily available that will allow you to learn something you don’t know in relation to the problem that you’re trying to solve.

Instead of just endlessly analyzing things in your head or on paper, you’re getting out there fast and trying something in order to learn. That is, the idea is to build your way forward by doing small experiments, or prototypes.

Think about software designers. They’re always releasing programs with minimal features in order to get feedback as fast possible. This lets them know whether what they’re building is something that the market wants. If so, they keep building prototypes until they’ve built something that sells well.

You should do the same thing: send your ideas out into the world and see how they perform. In other words, test them. Then, come back, iterate, and send something else out into the world to see how it does.

As an illustration, if you’re thinking of going to law school to become a lawyer you can do things such as the following:

  • Ask someone who’s currently going to law school out for coffee and pick their brain
  • See if you can sit in on a law school class.
  • Interview someone who’s a lawyer.
  • Go to a courthouse and observe a trial.
  • See if you can shadow a lawyer for a day.
  • Take a law-related MOOC (massive online open course).
  • Sit outside a courthouse or a large law firm and take photos of people walking in and out.

Continue prototyping, testing, and making adjustments until you’re happy with the results. That is, until you’re sure that you want to be a lawyer, or you’ve decided that the law just isn’t for you.


I was really excited when I came across the idea of applying design thinking to life design. I already know how I’m going to apply design thinking in my life. How about you? Live your best life by using design thinking to create your future.


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war and peace

Read Leo Tolstoy’s magnificient novel, “War and Peace”, in 2017.

At the beginning of each New Year many people set resolutions. However, there are those who would rather skip the resolutions, while still finding a way to commemorate the New Year. That’s why a couple of years ago I published a blog post setting forth 10 alternatives to New Year’s resolutions.

One of these alternatives was starting a 365-day project. For a 365-day project you pick something that you’re going to do every single day of the New Year.  The project can be in any life area, including fitness, creativity, family, and so on.

For example, you could decide to take a photograph every day for a year; create a sketch every day for a year; or read a bedtime story to your child every day for a year.

A good 365-day project has the following characteristics:

onehouradayformula banner long

  • It’s something that you really want to do. Your project isn’t another chore on your to-do list; it’s something that gets you excited and that you look forward to doing each day.
  • You should be very specific about the action that you’re going to take. In fact, the more specific, the better. For example, “Take a photograph every day for a year” is very broad. Something much more specific would be: “Follow along with this calendar containing 365 photo prompts.”
  • The action should be small enough that you can realistically carry it out every day for a year.
  • Decide when you’re going to carry out the action for your 365-day project. As an illustration, if you decide to walk for 20 minutes every day for a year, you could decide that you’re going to go out for a walk immediately after having lunch each day.
  • Find a way to keep track of your project and hold yourself accountable.

With all of that in mind, this year I propose that you read Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel, “War and Peace”, by reading one chapter of the novel every day of 2017. It so happens that the novel contains 361 chapters. Isn’t that convenient?

Why Read “War and Peace”?

Why should you read Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”? Here are ten reasons why:

  1. Reading has many benefits, including stress reduction, becoming more socially adept, and learning about other cultures. There’s even a Yale study that shows that people who read live longer than people who don’t.
  2. “War and Peace” is the second-best novel ever written (right after “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes).
  3. It’s an enjoyable read. Let’s face it, there are some classics that you have to plod your way through. This is not so with “War and Peace”, which is highly entertaining. This novel has remarkable characters, incredible love stories, and great explorations of life and death. Also, the writing is fantastic.
  4. Reading “War and Peace” will give you an amazing sense of accomplishment. Just like running a marathon is a status symbol for runners, reading “War and Peace” is a status symbol for book and culture lovers.
  5. You’ll learn some history—the novel chronicles the lives of five Russian aristocratic families affected by the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century.
  6. Even if you fail at every other goal that you set this year (which I’m sure you won’t), by December 31st 2017 you’ll be able to say: “I’ve read ‘War and Peace’”.
  7. It will further prove to you that you can take a very large, seemingly insurmountable goal and achieve it by breaking it down into tiny pieces and then tackling one tiny piece each day. After all, “War and Peace” is a book of prodigious length – it’s roughly 1300 pages long. However, each chapter is, on average, four pages long. Reading four pages a day is highly doable.
  8. It will strengthen your discipline muscles—by reading your daily chapter each day you’ll be flexing and strengthening your  discipline and follow-through muscles.
  9. It will make you more interesting. Just think, at the next cocktail party you attend, when people ask what you’re reading, you get to say that you’re reading one of the most important works of literature. And Russian literature, nonetheless. That’s very interesting, and very sexy.
  10. When you’re done reading the book you get to watch a great adaptation of War and Peace — the 1967 Soviet film directed by Sergei Bondarchuk (it’s in Russian with English subtitles). It took five years to make this film–which had the full backing of the Soviet government–, at a cost of $100,000,000 and with a cast of 120,000. In addition, jewelry, furniture, and clothing from the period were borrowed from museums to make everything as authentic as possible.

How to Structure Your 365-Day Project

Should you decide to take this 365-day challenge, here’s what to do:

  • Find a copy of “War and Peace” to read. You can buy this one on Amazon, or read it for free on Project Gutenberg. In addition, it’s very likely that you already have a copy of the novel somewhere in your house, or that a friend or family member has a copy that they can lend you.
  • Decide when you’re going to set aside ten to twenty minutes each day to read the day’s chapter. You can decide to read as you drink your morning coffee, read during your work commute, read right after lunch, or read before going to bed at night.
  • You can follow along with Brian E. Denton who will be writing a brief reflection of each chapter of “War and Peace” every day of this year on Medium (he’s been reading “War and Peace” every year, for the past seven years, by following the one-chapter-a-day approach).
  • Decide how you’re going to keep track of your project’s progress. You can decide to send out a tweet each day and keep all of your followers updated on your progress; you can keep a log in which you write a one-sentence summary of each chapter; or you can simply mark an “X” on your calendar for every day in which you read a chapter.


I’ve already read “War and Peace”, but I’m reading it again this year by following the process I’ve described in this post. That is, by reading one short chapter each day. I hope I’ve encouraged you to do the same.

Live your best life by launching a 365-day project and reading “War and Peace”, one chapter at a time.


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