by Benjamin P. Hardy, Author, husband, father
According to the British philosopher, Alain de Botton, “Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.” How different is your life, right now, from where you were 12 months ago? If it’s quite similar, then you haven’t been learning very much.
To learn, by nature, is to change and evolve. In order to change and evolve, you need to regularly create peak experiences — those moments which create deep awe, gratitude, and a shift in how you see yourself and the world. When was your last peak experience? What was the last time you flexed your courage muscles? When was the last time you tried something that might not work?
If you’re ready to make wild progress during 2019, you need to make some tweaks. This isn’t anything to be upset, distraught, or frustrated about. Life is, inherently, a learning experience. Life is beautiful. You get to have fun with it. One thing that is really beautiful about moving forward intensely in your future is that, simultaneously, you change your memory about the past. The past, regardless of what it has been — great or disappointing — will change in meaning as you make new decisions in your future. Your future is flexible. Your past is also flexible. What you have is now. You get to decide what you’re going to do. You get to decide how you’re going to live. Look around… No one is stopping you. Want to make a shift? Here are 30 behaviors to get you started:
1. Wake Up Earlier
“You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling, than feeling yourself into action.” — Dr. Jerome Bruner
Dr. Stephen Covey once presided over hundreds of service missionaries as their leader. One of them was struggling intensely in his relationship with others. Rather than having the missionary focus on his relationships, Covey told the missionary to start waking up earlier, consistently. “Private victory always precedes public victory,” Covey told the missionary. If he could just start waking up a little earlier, and put first things first, then his interactions with others would change. But the missionary lacked the confidence that he could wake up early, consistently, for 30 days. Like most people, this young man was really good at lying to himself and hadn’t witnessed himself living in alignment with his own goals and words. “Start with seven days,” Covey told him. “Can you do that?” “Yes, I can do seven days.” Seven days later, the missionary looked like a different person. Confidence is the byproduct of prior performance. It doesn’t take much to reset how you feel about yourself. Start waking up a little earlier. Then do this:
2. Drink More Water
As soon as you wake up in the morning, drink a HUGE glass of water. Drinking water first thing in the morning actually makes you more alert and wakes you up. So, if you wake up and immediately drink like 20+ ounces of water, your morning sleepiness won’t last long. Having water on an empty stomach helps to cleanse the colon, which in turn increases the efficiency of the intestine to absorb nutrients. It also helps in flushing out toxins from your body. As we drink healthy amounts of water, we have smaller waistlines, healthier skin, and better functioning brains.
3. Write Your Goals Down, Every Single Morning
“Assume the feeling of your wish fulfilled and observe the route that your attention follows.” — Neville Goddard
After you pull yourself out of bed and drink a huge glass of water, find a spot to pull open your journal. Write your goals down. Do this every day. Do this first thing in the morning, every single day, and your life will change. How so? Your orientation toward your day reflects how you approach your day. Most people allow their environment and bodily addictions to trigger themselves into unhealthy subconscious patterns, which are then played-out every single day. First thing in the morning, they are sucked back into their smartphone. Then they go through their day, and not much different happens from the day before. This isn’t very creative, nor is it imaginative.
But what happens when you start your day by writing down your goals and dreams for the future? How do you think this behavior would influence your imagination and creativity? Former United States President, Abraham Lincoln, once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” The best way to CREATE your day is to start in a creative mode. In order to wake up in a creative mode, you must give yourself space for reflection. Writing your goals down on paper doesn’t need to take more than 2 minutes. If you’re serious about your future, it could and should take longer (like 10+). As you write your goals down, you shift your subconscious patterns. You train your brain to begin LOOKING for what you want. As Dan Sullivan has said, “Your eyes can only see what your brain is looking for.” Most people’s brains have been trained to be lazy. They haven’t proactively set their brain on a search for what they want. As a result, incredible opportunities pass them by every day unawares.
But there’s more. When you visualize your future in the form of writing goals, you literally re-wire your brain and memory. While writing your goals, get yourself into an aroused emotional state. Imagine and feel what it would be like to have those goals. The more emotional the writing, the more subconsciously shifting the experience. The more emotionally arousing, the more your brain will create new neural connections. As your brain makes new neural connections, your memories, and perspective of the world changes. This is how you create a “peak-state” every morning. A peak-state is simply feeling incredibly good about where you currently are, and having complete confidence and clarity in where you’re going. A peak-state is similar to a “peak experience,” wherein you feel immense awe and gratitude for life. Your mind and brain are expanded and changed, daily.
What would happen if your mind and brain changed, daily, to reflect the person you intend to become and the future you intend to inhabit? It’d be pretty amazing, right? Well, then get yourself some peak-states and experiences every morning. Within a short period of time, you’ll begin to see the world from the perspective of your goals. You won’t see the world from the perspective of your current circumstances. You’ll only see your goals and possibilities. They’ll be more real to you than your present circumstances. Your brain will see the world differently. Your behavior will be different. Your mindset and emotions will be different. You’ll feel far greater gratitude and awe for life. You’ll feel a deeper connection to yourself, God, and others. You’ll love other people more. You’ll love yourself more. You’ll love life more. Because you feel a greater connection, you’ll feel safer about life. Because you feel safer, you’ll be more imaginative and creative — and thus more willing to take risks and embrace adventure. You’ll learn stuff that is outside your comfort zone. You’ll be willing to set wildly “unrealistic” goals.
Every morning, you’ll have 15–30 minutes of complete creative fun in the cave of your journal. Your morning journal then becomes the doorway to a new universe where anything is possible. You’ll write with greater and greater intensity and joy. You stop inhibiting yourself with your conscious mind and allow your subconscious mind to take-over — stream-of-consciousness writing. You stop editing yourself. You just write. And as you write, you’ll see CRAZY and AMAZING things go from your hand to your pen to your paper to your head… all from your heart. “Wow! Did I really just write that?” says your conscious mind. “Absolutely,” echoes your increasingly confident subconscious.
4. Put Your Phone On Airplane Mode More Often
“Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.” — Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Time is the ultimate currency in life. But in a world of constant connection to screens, a more accurate currency is time spent not looking at screens. The amount of time you spend not looking at a screen reflects the quality of your actual life. You can use screens to entertain yourself and produce amazing work. But that work, although interesting and important, should produce a better quality of life in the real world for you. How much time do you spend away from screens on a daily basis? Perhaps more importantly, how much time do you spend staring at screens during prime-time, which is in the evenings and morning? How present are you to the world and those around you? How much time and genuine attention do you give your loved ones? How much do they feel your love?
As someone who is the parent of children from a rough background, I have learned that children need to know you love them. They need to feel protected, like they matter. Research shows that parent’s habits around cellphones directly influences the emotional well-being and future habits of their children. Which means that given most people’s habits around technology, the rising generation is basically doomed to digital addiction and distraction. It doesn’t need to be this way. Children need to be taught how to control their emotions and impulses. They need to know they matter. They need to feel your love. This isn’t just true of children. It’s true of spouses and, really, all relationships. How good is your relationship with others? The answer to that question is a pretty accurate indicator of your level of happiness and purpose in life.
Thomas Monson said, “Never let a goal to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” Sadly, in the case of the world today, people not only put their goals above their loved ones, but they put mindless time-wasters and screen scrolling above their loved ones. Put your phone on airplane mode and watch as your life improves. The more present you can be in life, the more creative you’ll be, the better your mind will function, the more you’ll be able to concentrate and focus. If you give yourself space away from your notifications and distractions at night, you’ll have a far more meaningful, deep, and enjoyable life. You’ll EXPERIENCE more of the world — rather than your screen. As you give yourself space away from your notifications and distractions in the morning, you’ll have the rare but available privilege of putting yourself into a peak-state every morning, wherein you prime your mindset, emotions, and brain to operate from your ideal future. That brain priming will create peak experiences, which will allow you to feel deep awe, gratitude, and inspiration on a daily basis.
Those emotions will change how you see and act in the world. You’ll live more powerfully. You’ll be less apathetic. You’ll begin taking on bigger challenges, and thus, your life will become less predictive of the past. You’ll be able to engage your mind in creative and imaginative thinking — which will change how you view yourself and the future. Your life may look and feel pretty average now. But in 365 days, you may just be embarrassed by who you are right now. Your life may start looking wildly creative, imaginative, and non-conventional. You yourself may become a unique and peculiar person — one with skills and abilities to attract amazing mentors, business partners, and friends.
5. Go On Walks A.M.A.P (as much as possible)
Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, was known for his walking meetings. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has also been seen holding meetings on foot. A recent study by Stanford researchers further explains why walking enhances creativity and insights. The study found that walking indoors or outdoors similarly boosted creative inspiration. Across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting. “Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking. We finally may be taking a step, or two, toward discovering why,” Dr. Oppezzo and Dr. Schwartz wrote in the study published this week in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.
Whether you walk in the morning, afternoon, or evening, you’ll be stunned by the creative insights and clarity that come as you give yourself space to walk.
Lately, I’ve been walking between 3 and 6 miles per day in the mornings while listening to audiobooks. Wow! The amount of inspiration and insights I get during these walks often leads me to start running, so I can get back to my car and start putting all of the inspiration to work. Start walking. Your life will change, as will your health. The potent combination of writing your goals down daily and giving yourself SPACE to think will change your life. It will help you clarify your goals. It will give you the insights and ideas you need to achieve your goals. It will help you know what you need to do, right now, to make needed adjustments in your relationships and daily tasks to move forward.
Not only is walking good for creativity, it’s one of the best things you can do for your longevity. In the book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, Dan Buettner studied the cultures that produce the most healthy 100-year-olds. A common theme he found among these populations is that those who reach 100 years and older often have a daily habit of walking. Go on daily walks and live to be 100.
6. Clearly Prioritize Your Life
“If you have more than three priorities in your life, you have none.” — Jim Collins
Your priorities are more important than your values and goals because quite literally, your priorities are where these things become real. Your priorities reflect your priorities and goals. If you are not doing something in your life, like exercise, for example, it’s not because you don’t have time. Rather, it’s because it is not a priority to you. Anything you are not currently doing on a regular basis IS NOT A PRIORITY TO YOU. If you say spirituality is a priority to you, but you rarely engage in it, then you are lying to yourself. If you say investing in your future is a priority to you, but you spend most of your time distracted on the internet, then you are lying to yourself.
Your daily behaviors are a mirror — an honest assessment of your priorities in life. Your priorities reflect to both yourself and the world what you value and what you aspire towards. If you can get your priorities right, then you can generally get everything else right. So, what are your priorities? What are the things that matter more than anything to you? What do you believe in? What do you stand for? What do you want for your life? If you can’t answer these questions, then you can’t prioritize your time and your life. And as a result, you won’t have the clarity, confidence, or motivation to focus your time and attention toward building the future you desire. Get clear on your priorities and productivity becomes easy.
7. Eliminate All Non-Priorities (your life is a product of your standards)
Writing your goals in your journal every morning helps your brain create the outcomes you’re striving to create. Writing your priorities in your journal regularly helps ensure you’re pursuing the right goals. As you hone and clarify your priorities, have the courage to eliminate all the things in your life that don’t match. No one is perfect at this. For all of us, there is a mismatch between our daily behaviors and what we want our priorities to be. It is your responsibility to spend the majority of your time on your core priorities. Only then will they actually be priorities. If you don’t think you can do this, then your subconscious hasn’t been expanded enough yet. Once you expand your subconscious, your life will reflect your priorities (more on this below). The first step is courageously eliminating everything that isn’t what you believe in or want for yourself. This act, in itself, is a profound message to yourself and others that you are serious about something. Spend all of your time on those things you value most — on those things which you believe go beyond the here-and-now. The more time you can spend on things you believe to be of infinite worth, the more powerful your daily life and behavior will be. As a rule, I only invest my time in things that add to my present experience and my future. Thus, I invest time in relationships that I plan to have forever, like with my family and friends. I invest time in my education and growth. I invest time on work I believe in. I invest in experiences that create profound memories. What do you invest time in? Is this investment making your future better than your past?
8. Become More Playful And Imaginative
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” — Albert Einstein
Life is meant to be a joy, not a grind. You get to be creative and playful about how you design and live your life. In fact, you are a creator. If man is made in the “image of god,” then man is, by nature, a creator. Even if you don’t believe in God, research clearly shows that imagination is linked to learning and emotional wellbeing. Moreover, the opposite is also true: the less emotionally mature a person is, the less likely they are to be imaginative and creative about themselves and their lives.
Dr. Carol Dweck has produced some of the most important research in psychology in the past 50 years. The essence of her work is that many people have a “fixed” mindset about themselves, wherein they believe they can’t learn, change, and develop. Others have a “growth” mindset, wherein they believe they can change, grow, and evolve. If you have a fixed mindset, then imagination probably isn’t a big part of your life. Having imagination means you’re mentally and emotionally flexible. In order to be mentally and emotionally flexible, you need to feel protected in your relationships — particularly with your parents, your higher power if you have one, and other key people in your life.
In order to be imaginative, you have to see beyond what is currently in front of you. You need to be willing to see things that may or may not be “real” or “true,” but could be. Imagination is about playing and creating — without respect to the outcome. Being imaginative about your future means you believe you can do and be things that others can’t see. You’re not interested in odds or statistics. Instead, you’re driven by curiosity and play. You’re motivated by your WHY and what’s possible. You don’t care if other people can’t see the future you can see. You’re a creator. You know you can learn and transform. You’ve done it in the past, and you’ll do it again. Like Einstein, you emphasize imagination over knowledge.
9. Create More Peak Experiences
“Peak experiences as rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter.” — Abraham Maslow
Maslow said that, in order to become self-actualized as a person, you need to have a multitude of “peak-experiences.” Peak experiences are those moments where your soul is stretched such that it cannot go back to its prior dimensions. Peak experiences, by nature, are novel and new. They involve experiencing or seeing the world in a new way. In order for you to have a peak experience, you need to be open to new experiences. You need to be humble. Peak experiences are more likely to happen outside of your comfort zone. They generally involve “experiential” learning.
Last week, my wife gave birth to two beautiful twin girls. They have my heart. They are gorgeous. Last week was a peak experience for me. I’m now a new person. My motivation has changed. My priorities have honed and clarified. My vision for my future has expanded. Creating peak experiences is how you change the trajectory of your life. They are those pivotal moments that are so meaningful that they serve as check-points — core memories — directing your future path.
Peak experiences don’t need to be rare. They are only as rare as your courage is exercised. If you begin being courageous daily, you’ll start having more peak experiences. As you have more peak experiences, your emotional wellbeing will increase, and thus, your imagination and ability to direct and create your future will expand. But even more — through having peak experiences, your memory will change. A healthy memory is a changing memory. As you have new and powerful experiences, you’ll create new associations with your past, and thus, change the very fabric of your memories and identity. Put simply, you can and must create experiences that change your identity. As your identity changes, your future will change. Einstein wisely said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Change can only happen by imagining a different world, and then courageously seeking new and expansive experiences. Change happens as you learn and expand your world.
10. Deepen Your Relationship With Your Parents
“The parent-child connection is the most powerful mental health intervention known to mankind.” — Bessel van der Kolk
In the important book, The Body Keeps The Score, Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. explains that suppressed emotions and trauma lead people to unhealthy and addictive cycles. One of the most fundamental components of making a positive change in your life is developing a healthy relationship with your parents — whether they are alive or not. Your relationship with your parents is a powerful indicator of your emotional well-being as a person. It doesn’t matter how “successful” you appear on the outside, if you don’t have this key relationship established, then chances are you are an emotional wreck. Oftentimes, people have “toxic” or unhealthy parents. These parents should be viewed and treated with love and forgiveness, not spite and disdain. As you improve your own life and deepen the relationship with your parents, you often give them permission to expand and evolve themselves. They need you just as much as you need them.
11. Develop Other “Protection” Relationships
In a recent interview, Kobe Bryant told the story of his first year playing basketball at age 11. He scored zero points. He was terrible. After that season, his dad looked him in the eyes and said, “I don’t care if you scored 60 points or 0 points. I will love you no matter what.” That was exactly what Kobe needed to hear. He knew that regardless of his behavior — he was safe. His father would love him. This protection gave Kobe permission to fail. It gave him permission to take risks. The buffer of his father’s love allowed Kobe to step outside of his comfort zone — to the only place high performance can exist.
If you don’t feel protected in your relationships, it can be hard to push your own boundaries. It can be hard to be free because you’re actually a slave to the relationship. This is living in an unhealthy dependent state where everything you do is based on trying to please other people. But when you feel loved and protected regardless of outcomes, then you can rise to independence and attempt things that will likely fail, often. The next season, Kobe began failing intensely and as a result, he began learning intensely. He left his comfort zone behind and began playing in the realms of creativity and imagination — where no limits were placed upon him. All he had to do was step beyond the boundaries of who he had been in the past, and step into the new role and identity emblazoned in his own imagination and fortified by his father’s love. He embraced the unknown over and over because he was willing to be free — free to see what was possible, to fail, to explore, to create. Free to become legendary.
Do you have powerful protection relationships in your life? Do you feel stabilized and safe? Do you have a firm foundation that allows you the flexibility to jump way outside of your comfort zone, and yet be safe?
12. Less “Avoidance-Behaviors”
In psychology, there are two core forms of behavior — avoidance or approach. Avoidance-behaviors are where you’re putting energy toward avoiding something from happening. Avoidance-behaviors are generally focused on risks, rather than the potential for growth. Avoidance-behaviors often happen when you don’t have protection and emotional-safety in your life. For example, Kobe Bryant’s first year playing summer basketball reflected avoidance-playing. He didn’t feel free to fail, so he avoided failure. He was worried about his dad’s love and opinion. Therefore, he wasn’t free to be imaginative and creative. He was playing life on emotional defense because he wasn’t protected.
When you feel safe and secure emotionally and spiritually, you are empowered to play life on offense — approach behavior. And approach-orientation toward life doesn’t mean you’re a reckless risk-taker. What it means is that you are willing to courageously face risks to accomplish meaningful and important goals. When the WHY is strong enough, you’ll be willing to endure any how. You’re less worried about the risks or difficulty involved because your focus is on your goals and dreams. Your priorities are clear. You’re moving forward. Nothing is going to stop you.
13. More “Subconscious-Enhancing” Behaviors/Experiences
Every behavior and experience you have in your life either elevates or downgrades your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind reflects what you perceive and experience as “normal” in the world. As Dr. David Hawkins explains in his book, Letting Go: “Our unconscious will allow us to have only what we believe we deserve. If we have a small view of ourselves, then what we deserve is poverty. And our unconscious will see to it that we have that actuality.”
Every behavior signals to your subconscious what you think you deserve and what you believe about the world. When you sit and stare at your cellphone mindlessly, your subconscious structures your world around that reality. You see that behavior as “normal,” and your life then formulates itself around the quality of that behavior. But you can create “subconscious enhancing experiences.” You can have experiences that radically expand your subconscious perception of normal. You can regularly “reset” what normal life is for you. You can create a “new normal” regularly. You do this by having powerful experiences and by behaving in powerful ways. You can create experiences on a daily basis that “reset” your perception of normal.
I recently decided to treat myself to a “fine-dining” experience as an experiment in subconscious resetting. I went to a really great restaurant in a different country, and just soaked-up and absorbed the experience. This is “normal,” I felt. Being surrounded by brilliant and interesting people can become normal. Engaging in powerful and important daily behaviors can become normal. Feeling inspired and living in a peak-state can be normal. Not worrying about money every day can be normal. Having transformational experiences daily can be normal. What’s crazy is that, over time, your life really will change. It may be imperceptible and subtle. But your daily life and daily experiences will be radically different than they were 2 to 3 years ago. You’ll have reset your normal world. This should happen regularly.
14. Become More Emotionally Flexible
Your emotional flexibility represents your ability to regulate your emotions in challenging situations. How flexible are you? How adaptive are you? Do you control your emotions or do your emotions control you? Everything you want in your life is on the other side of fear. However, in order to get there, you must courageously cross that threshold and then successfully navigate the unknown of being outside of your comfort zone.
Emotional flexibility, then, represents your ability to 1) step outside of your comfort zone, and 2) successfully navigate the emotional craziness of the unknown. The only way to become more emotionally flexible is to practice. To regularly expose yourself directly to what you fear and avoid. To move forward. You must be more courageous. You must try stuff that might not work. You must be bolder. Then, as you experience the emotional shock of the unknown, you need to get better at moving forward toward your goals — regardless of how you feel in the moment.
This doesn’t mean you suppress your emotions. Nor does it mean you ignore them. Instead, you appreciate and acknowledge your emotions as a real factor in your situation. Then you allow those emotions to be a part of your experience and you continue to direct your focus on your goals, not the perceived risks or threats you think may happen. This is being approach-oriented. This is being courageous. This is how you shatter unhealthy emotional patterns. This is how you shatter subconscious blocks. This is how you re-write your memories and heal your past traumas and blocks. By proactively creating your future, you simultaneously heal your past. You need to shock your system. To quote Napoleon Hill, “A good shock often helps the brain that has been atrophied by habit.”
15. Focus On 90-Day Sprints Rather Than New Years Resolutions
New Years’ Resolutions don’t work. Think we know that by now. So what’s a better method? A better method is setting 90-day sprint goals. Every 90 days, you review the previous 90 days, then you set new goals for the next 90 days. Every 90 days, you reset and re-assess. Some epic questions you could ask yourself every 90 days come from Dan Sullivan, who has coached more successful entrepreneurs than anyone on the planet: “Winning Achievements? Looking back over the past quarter, what are the things that make you the proudest about what you have achieved?” “What’s Hot? When you look at everything that’s going on today, which areas of focus and progress are making you the most confident?” “Bigger and Better? Now, looking ahead at the next quarter, what new things are giving you the greatest sense of excitement?” “What are the five new ‘jumps’ you can now achieve that will make your next 90 days a great quarter regardless of what else happens?”
Every 90 days, you should have a celebration for the progress you’ve made. You should focus on results rather than time spent. Every 90 days, you should see clear and tangible progress toward your goals. Every 90 days, you should be able to observe changes in your environment, income, and life. Every 90 days, your life should increasingly reflect your highest priorities. You can do this. Forget New Years’ Resolutions. 90-day sprints, then recovery breaks, are much better. They’re more sustainable. They’re more action-oriented. They allow you quicker feedback and more energy, results, and excitement.
16. Rest More
“Recovery never stops.” — Mike Mancias, LeBron James’ performance coach
Recovery is productivity. Sleep is for geniuses. Rest isn’t just sleeping. It’s taking breaks. It’s focusing on short spurts of intense activity, followed by long breaks filled with fun and engaging experiences.
How imaginative are you about the design of your life? In the TED talk referenced above, Stefan Sagmeister shares his unique story of how he focuses on “recovery.” He’s a famous designer in New York. Every seventh year, he closes his studio and spends a full year traveling the world and “not working.” Yet, during this recovery time, he gets more creative insights and inspiration to fill the next six years. If you apply this principle to your daily life, you can have far more creativity and inspiration in your life. Proactively give yourself quality time away from your work. The better quality your life is away from work, the more effective and creative you’ll be while you’re at work.
This concept is known as “psychological detachment from work.” Research has found that people who psychologically detach from work experience: Less work-related fatigue and procrastination Far greater engagement at work, which is defined as vigor, dedication, and absorption (i.e., “flow”) Greater work-life balance, which directly relates to quality of life Greater marital satisfaction Greater mental health.
17. Think More
“I’m talking about deliberately setting aside distraction-free time in a distraction-free space to do absolutely nothing other than think.” — Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
One of the reasons you need to give yourself time in the morning and evening is simply to allow yourself the space to think. How much time do you spend just thinking daily? Another reason to walk regularly is to provide time to think. The more time you have to think deeply about your life, your goals, and your priorities, the better decisions you’ll make regarding those things. While I’m walking — even if I’m listening to audiobooks — I’m also thinking about my life and goals. In fact, I’m often getting so many ideas that I need to carry a notepad with me to capture the ideas. In large measure, the quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life.
Most people have the same recurring thoughts, every single day. In fact, 95% of a person’s thoughts each day are the same thoughts as yesterday. This is a horribly ineffective use of the creative brain. If you’re constantly upgrading your life and learning new things, then your thoughts will continually be changing, expanding, and connecting. You’ll become a creative genius. You’ll more fully enjoy life. You’ll achieve your goals more quickly because you’ll learn how to turn your thoughts into reality. You won’t get stuck for years in the same repetitive thought patterns. Give yourself time to think. Record your thoughts. Get better at training the garden of your mind. What you plant, you will reap.
18. Give More
“Life gives to the giver and takes from the taker.” — Joe Polish
One of the most powerful mental transitions a person can make is going from taker to giver. As a parent of five children, I can attest that, primarily, these children are focused on getting. Without question, they give a lot of love. But for the most part, they are interested in their own survival and needs. Becoming self-actualized as a person means you’ve developed the inner and outer confidence to have your own needs met. You can then dedicate the rest of your life to contributing to the world at large and transforming lives.
Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Effect, has said, “A person’s life can generally be measured by the size of the problems they are trying to solve.” What size of problems are you solving in the world? How much do you really want to contribute? Are you still primarily focused on what you can get out of life, or what you can give? When it comes to powerful relationships, you will not be able to develop them from a transactional-approach, wherein you’re trying to get everything you can from the relationship.
Joe Polish is the founder of GENIUS NETWORK, considered by many to be the top-tier of entrepreneurial masterminds. He has a list of “rules” that he expects of those whom he interacts with. He calls it his “Magic Rapport Formula.” The principles of his formula are the following: Focus on how you will help them reduce their suffering. Invest time, money, and energy on relationships. Be the type of person they would always answer the phone for. Be useful, grateful, and valuable. Treat others how you would love to be treated. Avoid formalities, be fun and memorable, not boring. Appreciate people. Give value on the spot. Get as close to in-person as you can. You must evolve beyond your small-mindedness to a transformational-relationship approach, wherein you are entirely focused on giving, gratitude, and growth.
19. Invest More In Yourself
Although a religious example, this next story is incredibly instructive and fascinating. George Q. Cannon was a leader of the Latter-Day Saint Church some time ago. As a young and impoverished man, he approached his tithing practice in a unique way. Tithing, in that faith, is Biblical and encourages members to pay 10% of their income. But George was highly imaginative in how he paid his tithing. Rather than paying retroactively, wherein he paid 10% of what he earned, he decided to pay 10% of what he intended to earn in his future.
In a talk, Dr. Wendy Watson further expounded on this story: When his bishop commented on the large amount of tithing poor young George was paying, George said something like: “Oh bishop, I’m not paying tithing on what I make. I’m paying tithing on what I want to make.” And the very next year George earned exactly the amount of money he had paid tithing on the year before! George Q. Cannon was not transactional in his religious approach to tithing. He was transformational. He didn’t see tithing as a cost, but an investment in himself and his relationship with his faith.
Whether you are spiritually-minded or not, the implications of this story are psychologically instructive. How was he able to turn his financial investments into upgraded skills and mindsets? Rather than acting from your present circumstances, you act from your future circumstances. Rather than living from the present or past, you can “assume the feeling of your wish fulfilled.” This is one of the reasons to write down your goals daily — it allows you to live as though your desired future is already a concrete fact. But this is also another reason to invest money in yourself, your relationships, your priorities, and your future. When you invest in something, you upgrade your subconscious mindset around that thing. Essentially, you’re saying to yourself — I can be, do, and have more than I currently am. This is why imagination is so key. In George Cannon’s case, he invested in his relationship with his God, which led to a 10X transformation. Investment is always a more powerful mindset than seeing things as a cost.
20. Invest More In Others
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” — Margaret Mead
You love what you invest yourself in. You love who you invest yourself in. Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love.” Love comes after investment — emotional, time, financial, etc. — when it comes to relationships. Love is a powerful force, but it is not so much a feeling as it is a “verb.” Love is an action. The ensuing feelings we often call “love” is really connection — something which is quite rare these days.
The more you invest of yourself in others, the more connected you’ll be to them. The more you invest yourself in humanity, the more you’ll care about this entire planet. And the more you’ll see that people are important, every single person.
21. Invest More In Organizations/Causes You Believe In
“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.” — Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
What are you deeply committed to? What do you truly believe in? Do you even know? Success and happiness are unintended “side-effects” that come from being dedicated to something you truly believe in. Success and happiness are unintended “side-effects” that come from being intensely invested in someone else’s success and happiness.
If you’re still trying to find happiness for yourself, you’ll be searching for a long time, and likely in all the wrong places. Hence, for most people, happiness is an elusive illusion leaving them chasing. As the Indian author and educator Ruskin Bond said, “Happiness is an elusive state of mind not to be gained by clumsy pursuit. It is given to those who do not sue for it: to be unconcerned about the desired good is probably the only way to possess it.”
22. Focus On Progress Over “Time”
“The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live.” — Peter H. Diamandis
Time, as we understand it, is an arbitrary construct. In physics, time is not the passing of minutes on a clock. Rather, time is the velocity and distance traveled by a particular object. Light travels at approximately 186,282 miles per second (299,792 km per second). Therefore, a light-year is 5.88 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km). The earth is 238,900 miles from the Moon. Therefore, the Moon is about 1.3 light-seconds away. The earth is 92.96 million miles from the Sun. Therefore, the Sun is a little over 8 light-minutes away. The earth is 33.9 million miles (54.6 million kilometers) from Mars. Therefore, Mars is 187 light-seconds, or 3.11 light-minutes away.
Each of these are a measure of “distance.” Recent research in the science journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics,” shows that our Milky Way galaxy may be bigger than we previously imagined. Specifically, our spiral galaxy’s vast rotating disk of stars spans at least 170,000 light-years, and possibly up to 200,000 light-years. If you could drive across at an averaged 60 miles an hour, it would take more than 2 trillion years — which is around 150 times greater than the age of the universe, estimated to be about 13.8 billion years. NASA
The point of all of this is to say, “time” is not time as we understand it. Time is actually a measurement of distance. According to Einstein’s relativity theory, the faster an object moves through space, the slower time goes. At the speed of light, time stops altogether. In the Christopher Nolan film, Interstellar, there is a beautiful scene that depicts the reality of “time dilation” — the stretching and constricting of time. The astronauts enter the orbit of a planet in a different galaxy moving enormously faster than the orbit of our earth. In fact, the planet is moving so fast that for every hour they spend on that planet, seven years pass by on earth. As a result, they need to move quickly, because if they lose a few hours, then everyone they know back home will be history. The “experience” of time is the same for everyone — regardless of how fast you’re traveling. But the reality of time is based on distance traveled.
Why are we talking about this? Because you shouldn’t measure your life based on how long something takes. Instead, you should measure your life based on how far you go. Time is a distance. From this perspective, you could travel the same distance in a single day that many people travel in their entire lives. And without question, most people are simply trying to pass away the time. Because they aren’t making tangible progress toward any meaningful goals, time flies by. They are simply “working for the weekend,” because the rest of their week is almost too painful to endure. Why is it too painful to endure? Because they aren’t actually making any meaningful progress.
But if you start being courageous and powerfully honest with yourself, you can move farther as a person in a day than you have in potentially years or decades. If you make acting courageously a way of life, you can start traveling so fast that — as a few hours pass by for you, years or decades have occurred for those around you. The faster you move in the desired direction, the slower time will move for you.
23. Focus On Purpose Over Process
“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” — Marilyn Strathern
Time relativity is a reason to focus on results over “process.” Many people argue that you should focus solely on the “process” and ignore the results you get in life. But the world doesn’t really work this way. The world works based on outcomes and results. At the end of the month, you’re still going to have to pay your rent — regardless of how masterful your “process” is.
According to Dan Sullivan, there are two types of people: those who get results and those who have reasons for not getting results. Don’t be a person with reasons. Ironically, one of the most common “reasons” people say they aren’t getting results is because they don’t care about them, but instead, only care about the “process.” Even though Alabama Football says their only focus is “the process,” you better believe Nick Saban is upset if they don’t win. The process is a means to an end — the goal you’re trying to accomplish. The goal determines the process, not the other way around.
In the book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, Dr. Cal Newport explains that many young people mistakenly seek a life of “passion.” According to Newport, people seek a job they are “passionate” about because they are self-absorbed. They’re only thinking of themselves.
Instead of seeking “passion,” Newport recommends you go through the laborious process of developing rare skills and abilities for the purpose of helping other people. In other words, become incredibly useful to others and society at large. Rather than seeking passion directly, passion is an unintended byproduct of doing something well. When you’ve invested yourself into something, you love that thing. But most people want instant gratification. They want cheap love. They don’t want to earn something.
An obsession and focus on “process” is equivalent to an obsession and focus on “passion.” It’s entirely focused on the self. Instead, you should have something important and meaningful you’re attempting to accomplish. As the saying goes, “When the WHY is strong enough, you’ll figure out the HOW.” The process should be fluid. As Tony Robbins said, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” Pinterest
If you’re truly committed to something, then you’ll do whatever it takes to get that thing — regardless of whether or not you “enjoy” the process. For you, the work is too important not to do. You’re not committed to any specific approach — you’re only committed to achieving what you believe needs to be done. According to Albert Einstein, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” If you’re not currently successful at what you’re doing, then you’re probably going to have to change your process. Unless of course, you really don’t care about the results. Then you can keep doing what you’re doing. But don’t get mad if things don’t change.
24. Focus On Skills Over Passion
“Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.” — Cal Newport
Rather than looking for your passion or looking for that perfect “process,” decide what you either want to do, or believe you should do, and then go about getting that thing. The steeper the learning curve, the better.
In the book, The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence, Josh Waitzkin tells the story of how he become a world champion in Tai Chi. When given unsupervised practice time, Waizkin observed that most others in his Tai Chi class would naturally practice with those at their same skill-level or slightly worse. This was done in many ways out of ego, because who wants to lose? It’s more fun to beat someone when given the opportunity. Waitzkin took the opposite approach, and applied a principle he termed, “investing in failure.” He would purposefully practice with people far more skilled than he was. In so doing, he would get the crap kicked out of him, over and over. However, this process — rooted in his desire to advance himself — compressed and quickened Waitzkin’s skill development. He could experience first-hand the abilities of those often years ahead of him. The mirror neurons in his brain allowed him to quickly mimic, match, and counter his superior competitors. Thus, he progressed much faster than others in his class.
How steep is your current learning curve? How fast are you learning? How much are you failing? Are you avoiding failure and loss? If so, what does that say about your imagination for yourself? If you’re avoiding failure and loss, what does that say about the depth of your WHY? It’s been said that you do not “rise to the occasion,” but instead, “fall to the level of your preparation.” But how do you effectively “prepare” yourself? How could I properly “prepare” myself to immediately go from zero to three kids when my wife and I became foster parents? I could have spent years reading books, going to seminars, and learning everything I could to “prepare” myself for parenting. And I’m sure a lot of that stuff would have been helpful. But instead, we simply threw ourselves into the fire of learning. Did we fall flat on our face several times? Absolutely! We still do, especially now that we have five kids! But experiential learning is far more powerful than abstract learning. The best form of “preparation” is by rising to an occasion. The fastest way to learn something is when the stakes are high. When the situation is set up so that you’re getting immediate feedback on your performance. When it really matters that you adjust and figure stuff out.
According to “The Pygmalion Effect” in psychology, human beings actually do rise or fall according to the demands and expectations of the situation. Therefore, if you really want to develop skills and abilities, don’t wait until you’re ready to start. Those who become successful always start long before they feel ready. They live in an approach-manner, rather than an avoidance-manner. Rather than trying to accumulate an enormous amount of information BEFORE acting, they take action first, and then based on the intensity of the feedback they receive, they THEN have the clarity to acquire the right information to properly move forward. Put simply, you are never pre-qualified to do something great. It is the act of doing the thing that qualifies and transforms you.
25. Focus On Relationships Over Money
“It pays to be nice to the people you meet on the way up, for they are the same people you meet on the way down.” — Wilson Mizner
When you decide you really want to be successful, then you realize that you must develop meaningful and important relationships. Life is about “who” you know, more than “what” you know. In other words, you could have all the skills and abilities in the world, but if you can’t work well with people, your chances of success are far diminished. However, if you have skills and learn how to use those skills to help the right people, your success will skyrocket.
26. Focus On Family Over Surface-Level Friendships
“You leave home to seek your fortune and, when you get it, you go home and share it with your family.” — Anita Baker
“Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.” — Brad Henry
“No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” — J.E. McCulloch
There is some wild research on how children develop emotional maturity and flexibility in life — and it depends very much on the care they get from their parents. In the book, Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, Gabor Maté M.D. explains the negative psychological consequences that happen when children emotionally attach to peers, rather than parents. When children and adolescents build their deepest emotional attachments with their peers, then they become obsessed with that attachment. This attachment can lead them to become less creative, imaginative, and flexible in their lives.
Put simply, you need deep and healthy bonds with family. If you don’t have a family, then build one. Said bestselling author, Ryan Holiday: For all the productivity and success advice I’ve read, shaped and marketed for dozens of authors in the last decade, I’ve never really seen someone come out and say: Find yourself a spouse who complements and supports you and makes you better. Instead, we’re supposed to believe that relationships tie people down, that they are the death knell for creativity and ambition.”
27. Focus On Creativity Over Consumption
“When you can do a common thing in an uncommon way; you will command the attention of the world.” — George Washington Carver
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
“If it doesn’t sell; it isn’t creative.” — David Ogilvy
“The principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.” — Arthur Koestler
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” — Brené Brown
True creativity takes courage. It takes courage because creativity in it’s most honest and pure form is what Seth Godin calls, “Emotional labor.” Creativity is transformational because it involves imagination and attempting something that could fail. It involves unveiling a certain side of yourself to others in attempts of creating a connection.
Creativity heals and transforms former wounds, making you a far more capable and powerful person. It’s fascinating, but research has shown that creativity can help people overcome addictions. Addiction is an unhealthy attempt to resolve suppressed trauma and pain. The only way out of suppressed emotion is through courageously moving forward in life. When you create something, you go deep into an emotional place and release it in a new form. This creative act can shift your memories and emotions, allowing them to become healthy and changed.
Creativity not only transforms your emotional life, but it can also transform your financial life. Professionals create, while the masses consume. Everything you’ve ever bought or used was created by someone else. What are you creating?
28. Focus On Growth Over Status
Most people, if they are honest with themselves, want “success” because of some form of status it will give them. They won’t admit this to you, but deep down, the status is what matters. It is for this reason that success is generally short-lived for most people. Once they achieve a certain degree of status, their motivation for doing the work goes away. When your focus is on status, your job becomes to create and maintain that status.
This is particularly common in today’s social media world where everyone is attempting to be famous for one thing or another. Growth often comes at the expense of status. In order to keep growing, you’ll need to risk the status and success of your past for something new and better. The reason most writers will never succeed is that ultimately, what they really want is status. Yet, deep down, they also feel this strange belief that they need to be “pure” to their art, so they don’t want to do it for money.
People who go on to become successful at something are not afraid of success. They aren’t afraid of making money. But money inherently isn’t interesting to them. They are fascinated by growth and pushing their own boundaries. They can never actually quantify “success” because, for them, that very idea is continuously changing. They’ve never arrived, and they never intend to arrive. They don’t care about their previous achievements. They don’t care about their status. Do they have a status? Of course! When growth is your focus, status generally comes. But that status doesn’t matter. There’s no attachment to it. And there’s certainly no fear about losing that status.
People seeking growth are willing to embrace the unknown. They’re willing to fail. They’re willing to attempt stuff that may not work. Actually, when true growth — seeing how far you can actually go — is your only true measure of success, then you’re willing to risk everything you’ve previously built to attempt what you want or believe you should do.
29. Focus On Learning Over Entertainment
“Change is the end result of all true learning.” — Leo Buscaglia
“While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.” — Leonardo da Vinci “
If you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” — Neil Gaiman
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” — Richard Branson
I started this article by saying that you could change your whole life in a single year. 2019 could be your year to transform your life. But you cannot change your life without learning something new. Because the process of change forces you to adapt. If you strive to make big leaps in your life, you’ll be forced out of your shell of comfort. By very nature of being out of that shell, you’ll experience a great deal of stress.
If you acquire emotional flexibility by properly handling those emotions, then you’ll transform yourself You’ll change your relationship with your emotions. You’ll change your memories and your past. You’ll also transform your brain and your very biology. If you’re not embarrassed by the person you were 12 months ago, then you didn’t learn much. Rather than asking yourself “How long could this take?,” a more interesting question is, “How far could you go?” How far could you go in a single year? The faster you move, the slower time passes.
In the next 12 months, you could learn and do more than many people do in their entire lives. According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “The person who has lived the most is not the one with the most years but the one with the richest experiences.” Transformational experiences are those “peak experiences” that alter your life. How many peak experiences have you had in the past 12 months? How many peak experiences are you going to have in the next 12 months? How many mornings are you going to wake up and immediately put yourself into a peak state?
30. Focus On Investment Over Cost
“The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” — Oscar Wilde
Nothing is a cost. Everything is an investment. And the more you look at life as an investment, the more you’ll focus on what you can give rather than what you can get. This is what blows my mind about most people: they aren’t willing to invest in themselves. They see things like education, mentorships, mastermind groups, and other similar things as a “cost.” In other words, they don’t believe they are worth it.
However, when your mindset shifts from “cost,” to “investment,” then you start investing big time in yourself, your skills, your relationships, your environment, and the other things that are important to you. When you come from the perspective of investment, you are totally open. When you come from the perspective of cost, you are closed off. Investment is how George Q. Cannon saw his tithing. Perhaps most people see it as a cost. Investment transforms. Cost doesn’t.
Do you see yourself as a cost or an investment? Do you see your relationships as a cost or an investment? Do you see your work as a cost or an investment? When you shift to investment, you begin to experience 10X thinking. You begin to stretch your subconscious mindset about what you can have and be and do. You come to realize that you as a person are incredibly flexible and fluid. In other words, you can change and transform.
Investing in yourself shatters unhealthy subconscious patterns and courageously places yourself in a higher and more elevated plane, wherein you can rise to new occasions. Are you going to invest big in yourself in 2019? Are you going to focus on giving, gratitude, and growth? Are you going to be transformational? Are you going to go 10X in 2019? Have you ever gone 10X before? You can do this when you start investing in yourself. When you stop seeing yourself as a cost.
This article originally appeared on Medium.
Old habits can be hard to break. New ones are created by taking small steps. It takes practice and repetition, but can be done.
Self-Help Book / Personal Development