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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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waiting place

Are you stuck in “the Waiting Place”?

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” –one of the most famous books by the beloved children’s author, Dr. Seuss– celebrates new beginnings and the possibilities ahead.

onehouradayformula banner longThe book is about a boy–who symbolizes the reader (of any age)–who is starting off on a journey to Great Places. He’s “off and away!” and can go in any direction he chooses. However—as the boy soon discovers–all journeys include perils, including too much waiting.

Here’s how the book starts:

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Dr. Seuss warns that although you may at first take the lead, and top all the rest, sooner or later a Bang-Up or Hang-up can happen to you. This can lead to a slump, and you may end up in the Waiting Place. What is the Waiting Place? I’ll let Dr. Seuss explain:

“The Waiting Place…

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

That’s not for you!”

Dr. Seuss doesn’t give instructions on how to get out of the Waiting Place, and when you’ve been stuck there for a while it can be hard to find a way out. Therefore, I’ve come up with suggestions on how to escape that most useless of places, and I’m going to share them with you.

30 Ways to Get Out of the Waiting Place

Here are 30 ways to get out of the Waiting Place:

1. Are you waiting for the phone to ring? Ask yourself who can give you what you need, and call them.

2. Are you waiting to get a promotion? Prepare some talking points explaining why you’re the most qualified candidate for the job, set up a meeting with the person who’s in charge of making the decision about the promotion you want, and ask them for it.

3. Are you waiting to write your book? Start brainstorming your outline.

4. Are you waiting to start eating healthier food? Get a Magic Bullet Mini, High Speed Blender and a smoothie recipe book, and start making green smoothies.

5. Are you waiting for it to be warm again before you start exercising? Start walking in place while you watch TV and hold a plank during the commercials.

6. Are you waiting to get a raise before you start saving money? Commit to putting aside every one-dollar bill that you come across throughout the year. Before you know it, you’ll have a nice little nest egg set aside.

7. Are you waiting for your life to improve so you can be happy? Be happy first, and then notice what happens.

8. Are you waiting to have more time before you start working on that important goal? Carve out one-hour-a-day and get started now.

9. Are you waiting to learn a new skill? Get a “how-to” book and follow along with the instructions.

10. Are you waiting to have the entire path laid out in front of you before you get started? Take the first logical step and see where that leads you.

11. Are you waiting until you’re not scared anymore? Start building your courage muscles by doing something small that scares you (talk to that cute stranger, pitch an idea during the weekly office meeting, or go to the movies alone).

12. Are you waiting for someone to give you permission? Give yourself permission.

13. Are you waiting for inspiration? Get to work and inspiration will follow (the muse has to find you working, and all that).

14. Are you waiting for someone to stop hurting or belittling you? Move away from that person. Get them out of your life.

15. Are you waiting to make new friends? Get out there and start meeting new people.

16. Are you waiting for life to calm down? Start meditating and calm yourself down. Once you’re calm, you’ll be better able to deal with the chaos.

17. Are you waiting for someone to fall in love with you? Fall in love with yourself.

18. Are you waiting for your luck to change? Take steps to make yourself lucky.

19. Are you waiting for someone to come to your rescue? Stop playing the victim role and rescue yourself. Be your own hero.

20. Are you waiting for life to get easier? Find 10 ways to simplify your life and make your life easier.

21. Are you waiting for life to get interesting? Read a book, start a blog, go for a walk, take a trip, start a new project, take a class, give yourself a 30-day challenge, pick a topic and learn more about it. . . make yourself more interesting.

22. Are you waiting for a sign? Pick up the first book you see, open it to a random page, close your eyes, point to a paragraph, open your eyes, and read the paragraph. There’s your sign (you’re welcome).

23. Are you waiting for someone to hire you? Start a business and hire yourself.

24. Are you waiting to become an expert on a subject before you start sharing your knowledge with others? Start sharing what you know now – you may not know everything about the subject, but if you’ve read one book about it you know more about that subject than most people.

25. Are you waiting to make a choice? Flip a coin.

26. Are you waiting for someone else to guess what you need? Tell them what you need.

27. Are you waiting for a second chance? Start planning your comeback.

28. Are you waiting for someone to help you? Help someone else. Remember: what goes around, comes around.

29. Are you waiting for the negativity in your life to stop? Change your mindset–adopt a positive attitude. If you carry positivity around inside of you, the negativity in the outside world can’t get to you.

30. Are you waiting until you know what to do? Ask yourself: “What would Princess Leia do?” (Even if you’re a man.) Then, go do it. And may the force be with you.

On You Will Go!

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” ends on a positive note:

“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So get on your way!”


Are you currently stuck in the Waiting Place? Break out with the 30 tips above. Live your best life by escaping from the Waiting Place.


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improve your focus

Get lots more done by improving your ability to focus.

Focus is your ability to gather and direct your attention. The more focused you are, the more successful you’ll be. This applies to academic achievement, athletic performance, work results, entrepreneurial success, skill acquisition, and so on.

onehouradayformula banner longHowever, in the modern Age of Distraction, focus and concentration seem to be in short supply. There’s even a Microsoft study which purports to show that the average person has an eight-second attention span. That’s less than a goldfish.  Now, I don’t know how reliable the goldfish study is—although it’s been cited by several major publications–but I do know that on the days in which I’m focused I’m highly productive, and I manage to cross everything off of my to-do list for the day. On the other hand, on the days in which my focus is scattered I find that I’m “busy” all day, but I get very little done.

Even if you nodded in silent agreement when you read about the goldfish study mentioned above, all is not lost. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to train your attention and strengthen your ability to focus. Below you’ll find 10 ways to improve your focus and sharpen your attention.

1.  Improve Your Focus by Doing One Thing At a Time

Dandapani is a Hindu priest, entrepreneur, speaker and former monk who teaches spiritual tools which help people lead a rewarding life. He recently gave a TED talk on how to develop unwavering focus.

At the start of his talk Dandapani explains that most people today have trouble concentrating for two reasons:

  • First, although as children we were told to concentrate, we were never taught how to concentrate.
  • Second, we don’t practice concentration.

So, how can we be expected to be able to do something which we were never taught how to do? In addition, how can we be expected to do something well, when we don’t practice it? In fact, what we tend to practice repeatedly is distraction. Therefore, we’re really good at being distracted.

Dandapani goes on to say that we tend to blame modern technology for our failure to concentrate. After all, there always seems to be something ringing or beeping and calling for our attention. But is technology to blame?

According to Dandapani, technology is not the problem. He explains that as long as we’re in charge of technology, instead of allowing technology to be in charge of us, we won’t be distracted by technology.

He goes on to say that the way to become good at concentrating is by understanding the mind. Once we know how the mind works, we can control it. And once we can control it, we can focus it. Here’s how the mind works from a monk’s perspective: there’s awareness, and there’s the mind.

Think of awareness as a glowing ball of light. Imagine your mind as a vast space, or area, with many different sections within it. There’s a section for anger, for jealousy, for food, for sex, for happiness, and so on.

Your awareness can travel around the mind, and it can go to any section of the mind that it wants to go to. When it goes to any section of the mind, it lights up that section. In turn, when a section of your mind lights up, you become conscious of it.

Keep in mind that you have the ability to take your awareness and move it to any area of the mind that you want it to go to. The art of concentration is keeping your awareness, that ball of light, on one thing for an extended period of time. As you concentrate on one thing you may feel the ball of light drifting away. When that happens, simply bring it back.

Dandapani goes on to say that throughout the day, we allow people and outside events to take our awareness from one section of our mind to another, all day long. Therefore, we spend the day distracted.  He adds that we can stop this from happening by practicing focus and concentration.

The way to practice concentration—that is, the way to practice keeping our awareness where we want it to be—is by doing one thing at a time throughout the day. Do the following:

  • When you’re talking to someone, keep your awareness on the person you’re speaking to.
  • When you’re working on a report for work, keep your awareness on writing the report.
  • When you’re walking down the street, keep your awareness on walking down the street.
  • When you’re eating, keep your awareness on the taste and texture of the food that you’re eating.

That is, keep your awareness–the ball of light–on whatever you’re doing at the time. Whenever you feel your awareness drifting, simply bring it back. That’s how you learn how to focus and concentrate.

2. Improve Your Focus by Practicing Pre-Commitment

Pre-commitment means that you’re going to decide ahead of time what task you’re going to work on, to the exclusion of everything else, and for how long you’re going to work on that task. Once you’ve decided on the task you’re going to be working on—that is, once you’ve identified your mission–, write it down on a piece of paper, an index card, or a post-it note.

For example, let’s say that you decide that you’re going to work on a blog post for 25 minutes. Grab your pen and an index card and write down the following:

Blog Post – 25 Minutes

Then, set a timer for 25 minutes and get to work on your blog post. During those 25 minutes, don’t allow anything to take your focus away from the post that you’re writing.

3. Build Your Focus Muscles Gradually

Let’s say that you decide to start going to the gym to lift weights. What do you do? You start with the lighter weights. If you try lifting the heavy weights right away you’ll probably get discouraged by your inability to do more than one or two repetitions, and you may even hurt yourself.

In much the same way, when you first start trying to build your focus muscles, you should start out small. If your focus muscles are very flabby, you may want to set your timer for five minutes. Once you’ve focused on a task for five minutes, take a two-minute break. Then, tackle another five-minute focus session, followed once again by a two-minute break.

Each day add another five minutes to your work time. In this way, you’ll be building your focus muscles gradually.

4. Identify Potential Distractions Ahead of Time

Before you sit down to work on an important project, or get started with one of your study sessions, think of all the things that could distract you. Then, come up with a plan for dealing with these distractions. Here are some examples:

  • Are you worried you may be distracted by your cell phone? Turn it off and put it in another room.
  • Are you worried other people may distract you? Find a quiet corner where others won’t be able to find you.
  • Are you worried you might find yourself checking social media sites or randomly surfing the internet? Block distracting web sites on your computer using extensions like FocalFilter.
  • Are you easily distracted by visual and auditory stimuli? Then, when you need to concentrate, stay away from high-activity areas where there’s lots of background noise and movement. You could also consider getting some noise-cancelling headphones.

Find a way to deal with distractions before they take your focus away from the task you’re working on.

5. Meditate to Improve Your Focus

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that meditators may be better equipped than non-meditators to pay attention and concentrate. The study, by Italian neuroscientist Giuseppe Pagnoni, found that meditation changes brain patterns, and confers advantages in mental focus.

Pagnoni, who has studied how meditation affects the brain for many years, recruited 12 Zen meditators for the study.  He compared the 12 meditators to a control group of 12 people who had never meditated.

The study showed that the meditators had more stability in their ventral posteromedial cortex (vPMC) than the non-meditators. The vPMC is a region of the brain linked to spontaneous thoughts and mind-wandering.

This means that meditators are better at controlling the brain regions responsible for pulling our focus away when we’re trying to concentrate on something. In order to improve your focus, start saying your OMs.

If you’re not sure how to get started meditating for improving focus, Alan Wallace, Ph.D., explores a systematic path of meditation to deepen our capacity for deep concentration in his book, “The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind”.

6. Get Into the Habit of Saying “No”

You’ve probably heard that the good is the enemy of the great. This idiom has different meanings, and one of them is that you’ll never achieve anything great if you allow yourself to be constantly distracted by the good.

As an illustration, suppose that you’re working on a video course on a topic that is near and dear to your heart. You know that people need the information that you’ll be offering in the course, and you’re certain that you’ll be able to create a top-notch product.

You’re making great progress on your video course, but then you open your email. You notice that you’ve received the following emails:

  • A request for an interview.
  • An email from another blogger asking you to write a guest post for their blog.
  • An invitation to be part of a panel.

All of these things sound good, and you’ll probably be tempted to accept. However, what happens if you do accept these requests and invitations? You’ll be taking your focus away from your video course.

In other words, you’ll stop focusing on the great in order to focus on the good. Clearly, the best strategy to follow here is to decline the invitations so that you can continue focusing on finishing your video course.

In order to improve your focus, learn to say “no”.

7.  Improve Your Focus by Taming Your Monkey Mind

Monkey mind are those thoughts that swing from limb to limb in your head. A lot of the time the distractions that weaken your focus don’t come from the outside. They come from within.

You may be working on an important project, when the voice in your head interrupts you with thoughts like the following:

  • “What if I don’t get the promotion?”
  • “Wait! Did I make that phone call?”
  • “Did my boss look angry when I passed him in the hall earlier? I think he looked a little angry. Is he angry at me? What could I have done to make him angry? I haven’t done anything. Have I?”

Does that sound familiar? To tame your monkey mind, you’ll need to take steps like the following:

  • Practice mindfulness –train your mind to simply witness the present moment without comment.
  • Start a journaling practice—this will allow you to clear your head.
  • When your mind wanders use your breath to bring your attention back to the task at hand.

You’ll find several ideas for quieting your mental chatter in my post, 10 Ways to Tame Your Monkey Mind and Stop Mental Chatter. By quieting your monkey mind you’ll boost your productivity and strengthen your ability to stay focused on the task at hand.

8. Improve Your Focus by Taking Regular Breaks

A lot of people equate taking breaks with wasting time. However, studies show that taking breaks improves our focus.

After a while of focusing on a task, our cognitive control system starts to fail. By switching our attention to something else momentarily–that is, by taking a break–we can then return to our original task and focus on it once again.

Ideally, when you take your breaks you should do the following:

So, for how long should you work before you take a break? Experiment with different work-break ratios until you find the one that works best for you.

9. Improve Your Focus by Doodling

As I explained in my post, 7 Benefits of Doodling and How to Get Started, doodling helps you to concentrate. This is because doodling requires enough cognitive effort to keep you from daydreaming, and yet not enough to prevent you from paying attention to what is going on around you.

If you’re at a meeting or attending a lecture, and you want to pay attention to what is being said, take out a pen and a piece of paper and start scribbling. The minimal attention required for doodling appears to boost focus and memory.

10. Cultivate Your Focus With Deep Work

Cal Newport is the author of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success In a Distracted World”. He explains that deep work is something that should be cultivated.

Deep work involves cognitively demanding tasks which require focused, intense concentration for long periods of time. Here are some characteristics of deep work:

  • Deep work pushes your abilities to their limit.
  • It’s work that produces value and makes a difference.
  • It allows you to learn new skills.
  • Deep work gives your life meaning.
  • It’s economically rewarding.

The opposite of deep work is shallow work. Shallow work tends to be logistical in nature, it doesn’t really leverage your skills, and it can be easily replicated by somebody else. Logistical work includes things such as answering emails, attending meetings, and updating your social profiles. These are things that need to get done, but they shouldn’t take up much of your time.

As an example, if you’re a blogger–like I am–deep work is producing high quality articles, eBooks, and video courses. For me, that’s the work that really gets the results that I’m after. Shallow work involves things such as tweaking my blog’s theme, adding new plugins, spending time on social media, and researching ways to increase my mailing list.

In order to cultivate deep work, Cal recommends that you do things like the following:

  • Create a visual scorecard of the amount of time that you spend engaged in deep work.
  • Change your default email habit to “no response,” excepting the few emails that truly matter.
  • Schedule your social media time. The rest of the day, stay away from social media.
  • If you have something very important to work on, consider a “grand gesture” approach. For example, when Carl Jung wanted to write he would leave his busy Zurich life and retreat to a tower he had  built near his rural house in the village of Bollingen. As a second illustration, when J. K. Rowling found herself struggling to complete the final book in her Harry Potter series, she booked a suite at the five-star Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh and stayed there until her book was finished.

Most of you know that I’m working on an eBook on how to learn any skill fast. Writing this eBook is deep work. Since my December 31st deadline for the eBook is fast approaching, I’m going to do the following:

Devote the days from December 26th to December 31st to finishing the eBook. During that time I’m going to devote ten hours a day, every day, to writing the eBook.

That’s my grand gesture. 🙂


Follow the ten tips above and you’ll soon be a heavyweight at focusing. Instead of wondering where your time went at the end of the day, you’ll be amazed at all the important things you’ll be getting done. Live your best life by improving your focus.


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Sunday habits

A Sunday well spent helps to set you up for a great week.

Ah, Sundays! Time moves differently on Sundays . . . like thick molasses. Sundays sound different, too–as if every Sunday the world collectively decides to turn down the volume. You can hear yourself think on Sundays.

onehouradayformula banner longSundays are for waking up slowly, bit by bit. It’s a day for making organic waffles covered in maple syrup and topped with strawberries. Sundays are for savoring your coffee and reading the funnies. In addition, Sundays can be used as a weekly reboot. On Sundays you can reflect on the week that’s ending, reconnect with loved ones, take some time for yourself, and prepare for the week that’s up ahead. And to help you with your weekly reboot, here are 10 Sunday habits that will allow you to hit the ground running on Mondays.

10 Sunday Habits

Use your Sundays to end your week on a high note and jump-start the next week.

1. Plan Your Meals for the Week.

Regardless of whether during the week you stuck to your goal of eating healthy meals, or you fell off the wagon completely, on Sundays you can resolve to eat well during the next week. Stocking up on nutritious food on Sunday will save you money, time, and calories throughout the week.

Do the following:

  • Decide what you’re going to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the upcoming week. Choose real food–whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry. Also, include some healthy snacks.
  • Look through magazines or poke around Pinterest and find simple, drool-worthy recipes you can get excited about making.
  • Make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need to make those meals and snacks.
  • Check to see which of those ingredients you already have.
  • Make a grocery list containing all of the ingredients that you don’t have.

Make a visual reminder of what you’re going to be eating each day by getting a chalkboard to hang in the kitchen. Then, fill the chalkboard with your weekly meal plan.

2. Go Grocery Shopping.

Stock your fridge, cupboards, and pantry with healthy, great tasting food for the week that’s about to start by going grocery shopping on Sunday. A great idea is to set up a grocery shopping date with a good friend. That way you can catch up, and get the food that you’ll need for the week. Chat and shop!

3. Do Some Meal Prep.

Doing a little prep work on Sundays will allow you to save time cooking meals during the week when you come home tired from work. Just think: Sunday you is making sure that Wednesday you doesn’t decide to order a pizza because cooking will just take too much time. (Kudos to Sunday you.)

Here’s how to make meal prep more fun: find a binge-worthy Neflix series you can watch as you prep. Then, make it a rule that you can only watch that series while you’re prepping meals or cooking. Booyah!

4. Pick Out Outfits for the Week.

Did you get dressed on Monday only to discover that there was a button missing on the jacket you were wearing? On Tuesday did you find yourself running around your apartment frantically trying to find the shoes that go with the outfit you were wearing?

These hectic scenes can be avoided by deciding on Sunday what you’re going to wear every day of the week. Do the following:

  • Look at the weather forecast for the week and pick out outfits accordingly.
  • Take out your chosen outfits and make sure that everything is clean and ironed, and that there are no holes, rips, or missing buttons on any piece of clothing that you selected.
  • Decide on the shoes and accessories that you’ll wear with your outfits.

Have a designated spot in the closet for your weekly clothes, or put up some wall-mounted racks. There are some great ideas for planning a week’s worth of outfits for the ladies, here. And for the men, good luck!

5. Review the Past Week.

The “weekly review” is a core component of many productivity techniques, including Getting Things Done. Basically, you’re going to ask yourself how the week went, what you accomplished, what you did right, and what went wrong. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What did I get done this week?
  • Did I stick to my schedule? If not, what went wrong? How can I prevent these things from happening going forward?
  • Was I focused when I was working?
  • What activities did I enjoy this week?
  • What frustrated me this week?
  • What did I learn this week?
  • What should I have spent less time doing?
  • How could I have made better use of my time this week?
  • What were my energy levels like this week?
  • What should I have spent more time doing?

A weekly review is a great opportunity to give yourself credit for what you did right during the week, and plan to do better where you went wrong.

6. Look at the Big Picture.

Sundays are a great time to step back and look at the big picture. Ask yourself the following:

  • Is my work life going well?
  • Is my home life going well?
  • Am I happy with the direction in which my life is headed?
  • Am I moving closer to my long-term goals?
  • Am I on track to achieve my yearly goals?
  • How am I doing on my monthly goals?
  • Are there any goals that need to be revised?

Use Sundays to make sure that you’re not missing the forest for the trees.

7. Plan and Schedule the Next Week.

Create a master to-do list for the week that’s about to start by asking yourself questions such as the following:

  • What are the 3 most important things that I need to get done this week?
  • What needs to get done this week so that I can move my goals forward?
  • What have I been avoiding that needs to get done?
  • What projects do I have in progress? What are the next steps that I need to take for these projects?
  • What appointments and meetings do I have this week?
  • What opportunities do I want to take advantage of this week?
  • Who do I need to reach out to this week?
  • How can I make this week less stressful?
  • What am I looking forward to this week?

Once you’ve completed your weekly to-do list, schedule each task throughout the week. If you find that your schedule is packed too tighly when you’re done, ask yourself which tasks you could eliminate, delegate, or postpone.

8. Review Your Budget.

Take a look at your transactions during the week. Then, ask yourself the following:

  • How much money did I spend?
  • Did I stick to my budget?
  • Why did I overspend? How can I prevent this from happening again?
  • How can I make sure that I stick to my budget this week?

If you went a little off budget, that’s OK. Just resolve to do better the next week.

9. Steal An Hour Just For You.

Set aside one hour on Sunday–more if you can–to recharge and practice some self-care. Alone. Yes, completely alone. You can do any of the following:

  • Take a long, hot bath.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Sit down with a good novel.
  • Write in your journal.
  • Do something creative: draw, play a musical instrument, do woodworking, or write a short story.
  • Listen to a guided meditation.
  • Listen to music.

It’s not just introverts who need solo time. Extroverts need to set some time aside to disconnect from the world as well. Being alone gives your brain a chance to unwind from the week that’s ending, and to reset and recharge for the week that’s about to begin.

10. Have Fun with Your Family.

Throughout the week there may lots of things that pull you away from your family. However, make it an unbreakable rule that your Sunday family time is sacred. Then, during family time, make sure that you do something fun.

Here are some ideas:

  • Take your family out to brunch.
  • Play a board game together.
  • Go outside and participate in a season-appropriate activity: go sledding, play frisbee, participate in a 5K, have a snowball fight, play football, go bike riding, and so on.
  • Volunteer together in the community.
  • Go to a museum, the zoo, or an aquarium.

Make it a habit to spend some fun, quality time with your family every Sunday.


If you follow the ten habits laid out above you’ll be ending your week on a positive note, while setting things up so that the week that’s coming up can be great. Live your best life by adopting these 10 Sunday habits.


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manage worry

Become a smart worrier by managing your worry.

Worry is a feeling of anxiety and unease that warns us that something is off. Although it’s an unpleasant emotion, it plays an important role in our lives. Look at the following:

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  • Worry can signal to us that there’s something that we need to pay attention to – there’s something that may be threatening our survival or wellbeing. This heightened awareness can prepare us to better address the potential threat that we’re facing.
  • Worry can motivate us to take positive action. For example, worrying that you may do poorly on a test can motivate you to study hard for that exam. Worrying about losing your job can motivate you to update your résumé and spend one-hour-a-day upgrading your job skills. If you’re worried about your health this can be the motivation that you need to start eating healthier meals and to start exercising.
  • Worry can help you to identify possible negative outcomes, which allows you to come up with ways to avoid those outcomes.
  • People who have a laissez faire attitude toward life—those who simply refuse to worry about anything—often live in disarray and fail to plan adequately for the future. They tend to be reckless and too cavalier.

As you can see from the points above, worrying has its benefits. However, worry can become a problem if one, or both, of the following conditions exist:

  1. You can’t turn off your worries—you can’t disengage from your worries.
  2. You keep having the same thoughts repeatedly in an endless loop, without it leading to positive problem solving.

Worry on over-drive can have lots of negative effects, including the following:

  • Worrying leads to stress, and the anxiety caused by stress can keep you up at night and interfere with the quality of your sleep.
  • Worry can speed up the aging process.
  • Worrying can cause intestinal problems and can tax your immune system.
  • People who worry constantly are more prone to depression.
  • When we’re worried our amygdala keeps directing our attention to whatever it is that’s troubling us. This means that we can’t concentrate on other things, such as our work or studies.

Therefore, it’s important to have a strategy for dealing with worry. Below you’ll find 8 healthy ways to manage worry.

1. Challenge Your Beliefs About Worry.

A lot of people think that worrying is a bad thing. However, as was explained above, worry can serve an important function in your life. As long as you manage worry properly, worry is an important part of your repertoire for dealing with the world effectively.

At the same time, worrying in and of itself doesn’t solve anything. It’s a signal that there’s a problem that needs to be solved. Therefore, keep in mind that worry that doesn’t lead to problem solving is a waste of time.

2. Determine Whether Some of Your Worries are Simply Noise.

The previous point indicated that worry is a signal that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. However, sometimes worry is simply noise –repetitive, unnecessary, unproductive negative thoughts that keep popping into your head.

To determine whether the worry that you’re feeling is a signal or simply noise, ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What am I worried will happen?
  • Is this a real problem that I’m facing, or an imaginary “what if”?
  • Is this my mind warning me that there’s something I need to do, or is my brain’s threat detection mechanism just going into overdrive?
  • Are these thoughts helping me?
  • What’s the benefit of having these thoughts?

If you conclude that the worry that you’re feeling is simply noise, then make the decision to stop having those thoughts. Tell yourself the following:

“I’m in control of my thoughts. I’ve determined that these thoughts are simply noise and that they’re not helping me in any way. I’m going to stop focusing on them.”

3. Postpone Your Worries.

A study conducted by researchers in the Netherlands found that compartmentalizing worry—setting time aside specifically for worry—and deliberately avoiding thinking about whatever it is that’s  worrying you for the rest of the day, can help to reduce worry.

Therefore, a useful strategy for managing worry is to schedule worry time. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes a day to cope with whatever is troubling you. You’re going to use that time to think about what’s troubling you and to consider a solution. Try to make it the same time each day.

This is like making a mental agreement with your worry. Here’s the agreement:

  • Except for your scheduled worry time, your day will be worry-free.
  • You’re not telling yourself to stop worrying. Instead, you’re telling yourself to postpone worrying until the scheduled time.
  • You’re not pretending that everything is going to be OK. It could very well be that your worries are warranted. In which case, you’re going to come up with a plan of action to take care of the problem that is worrying you—at the scheduled time.

4. Practice Realistic Thinking.

Sometimes worry is caused–or at least exacerbated–by the way in which you’re thinking about a problem. You want to make sure that you’re thinking realistically about whatever it is that’s worrying you. That is, think about it in a balanced way. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What am I worried will happen?
  • How likely is it that this will happen?
  • What evidence do I have that this might happen? Am I relying on facts or on how I feel?
  • Am I overestimating the probability that something bad will happen? Is my concern realistic?
  • What’s the most likely thing that will happen?
  • Is this problem as threatening as I think it is?
  • If it really did happen, would it be as catastrophic as I’m making it out to be?
  • What would I say to a friend who was worried about this?
  • What’s a more helpful way to view this?
  • What’s a more balanced way to think of this?

After thinking realistically about whatever it is that’s worrying you, you may conclude that it’s not really worth worrying about after all.

In the alternative, you may conclude that although things are not as bad as you were making them out to be, there is a problem that needs to be solved. In that case, move on to the next point.

5. Have a Problem-Solving Session.

If you determine that the worry that you’re feeling is a legitimate signal and not just noise, then you need to conduct a problem-solving session. During this problem-solving session, do the following:

  • Identify what you’re worried about. Instead of feeling generalized worry, you want to be able to pin point exactly what it is that you’re worried about. That is, define the problem that you’re having as clearly as possible. Once you’ve identified what’s worrying you, write it down.
  • Think of how to solve the problem. If you can come up with a way to solve the problem completely, great! Write it down. If not, write down ideas for the next possible step you could take. Do you need more information? Is there someone you can ask for help? Is there a skill that you need to acquire? Is there something you can do to lessen the negative impact in case things go wrong? What’s the most obvious next step that you can take?
  • Take action. Whatever you decided to do in the previous step, do it. Once you have a plan and you start acting to solve the problem, you’ll feel much better. Remember: worry sits on the fence. Jump off the fence and get to work fixing the problem that’s worrying you.

6. Accept the Things You Cannot Change.

What if you try to solve the problem that is worrying you, but you conclude that there’s nothing you can do about it? Then make a note of that. Tell yourself:

“I’ve honored my worry by trying to resolve the issue that is causing the worry, but there’s nothing I can do about it at the moment. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open to see if any possible solutions present themselves, and I’ll think about this again tomorrow at this same time.”

7. Embrace Uncertainty.

People who feel that they need certainty and predictability often use worry to try to gain some sense of control over the future. Those that fall into this category need to accept that uncertainty is a part of life, and that no amount of worrying will ensure the outcome that they want.

Here’s how to embrace uncertainty:

  • Realize that uncertainty is neutral. Something bad may happen in the future, or something great may happen. You may not get what you want, or you may get something even better. Uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of telling yourself that you’re worried about the uncertainty of the future, tell yourself that you’re feeling cautious expectation and excitement.
  • Focus on the things that you can control. Instead of staring in despair at the things that you can’t control, place your attention on the things that you can control, enjoy, or appreciate.
  • Learn to tolerate discomfort. Notice your discomfort, and then just sit with it. See? Being somewhat uncomfortable is not the end of the world.
  • Stay in the present. If you’re focused on the present rather than on the future, then the uncertainty of the future is less likely to bother you.

Manage your worry by embracing uncertainty.

8. Manage Stress

Worrying can be very stressful. When you worry, your body releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. In excess, these hormones can wreck havoc with your mental, physical, and emotional health. One way to stop worry from interfering with your quality of life is to reduce the stress that it causes you.

Here are three ways to do this:

  • Meditate. Meditation—mindfulness meditation in particular—takes your attention away from your mental chatter and places it on the present moment. The side-effect of this is inner calm and a feeling of serenity.
  • Exercise. When you exercise your body bumps up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. This translates to instant stress relief.
  • Try Deep Breathing Exercises. Breathing exercises trigger the relaxation response, a physiological change that can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, and stress hormones.

Finding ways to lower your stress is an important part of worry management.


As you can see from the discussion above, worry–if properly managed–can be a powerful ally. Use the 8 tips above to start worrying constructively and become a smart worrier. Manage your worry and live your best life.

Read Next: 10 Ways to Tame Your Monkey Mind and Stop Mental Chatter



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