4 Things I Got Wrong About Fitness & Health Once you stop learning you start dying.

When you’re new to the gym (or to anything for that matter), it’s not uncommon to be quite impressionable at first.

This is a whole new world, and if the nice person in the Gold’s Gym stringer tank top is taking time between their sets of hammer curls to espouse their wisdom, it must be worth listening to, right?

Well, sometimes.

Over the last 17 years, I’ve gotten some invaluable advice about nutrition, strength training, and overall longevity just by having some really intelligent and generous mentors as training partners.

I’ve also heard — and at times, listened — to advice that was quite exaggerated at best and complete BS at worst.

This is by no means an all-encompassing list (we’d be here for quite a bit longer than a “four-minute read” if it were), but these are four examples of said “advice” that immediately come to mind.

Carbs can certainly be the easiest to overindulge on; for example, it’s relatively easy to kill a 2 liter of soda in a day (or an hour .. or a few minutes) — but an equal amount of calories from a lean protein source like chicken breast would leave you feeling stuffed.

So seeing as they’re not very satiating, it’s probably a good idea to keep your refined carbohydrate intake to a minimum if fat loss if your goal. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fit a sweet treat in your diet if you’ve got room for it in your caloric “budget.”

Overall, a net caloric surplus or deficit is going to dictate your weight gain or loss — not a short-term insulin spike from a chocolate chip cookie.

2. You need to do 4+ exercises for the same muscle group in a single workout

On “chest day,” I used to train flat barbell bench, incline barbell bench, flat dumbbell bench, dumbbell flyes, and finally cable crossovers in a single workout to make sure I was hitting “all angles of the chest” as fully as possible.

This is simply unnecessary.

You don’t need to hit 10 different exercises at 10 different angles for the same muscle group — especially in a single workout. Picking 1 or 2 exercises and putting 100% effort into them will be plenty to stimulate progress in a single training session.

If you want to do four different exercises for a single muscle, split them up between two separate days. Going back to the chest as an example; you could do flat barbell bench and cable flyes on Monday, then come back and do incline dumbbell bench and a pushup variation on Thursday.

You’re still hitting four exercises — but because you’re only doing two per session, you’ll be less fatigued and, therefore able to perform much higher quality repetitions than if you were to cram all of those movements into a single workout.

3. You MUST eat every 2 hours

It used to be all the rage in bodybuilding circles that eating a standard six meals per day would “keep the metabolism stoked” and therefore burn more calories than normal. Recent evidence has shown otherwise.

“Some experts claim that if you eat 6 to 9 meals a day and stick to your daily calorie intake, your metabolism will be dramatically improved and your muscle will grow quicker.

This hypothesis was well disregarded when studies found that the rate of metabolism is still the same if you eat 9 times a day or 3 times a day.” — Fast Fuel Meals

What matters most when it comes to body composition is the total amount of calories consumed per day. To optimize muscle building, it probably is best to evenly distribute your protein intake throughout the day (to keep muscle protein synthesis elevated) as opposed to trying to eat an entire day’s worth in a single setting.

But there is no magic switch that switches your metabolism to “off” once you hit the two-hour and one-minute mark between meals.

4. Deadlifts and squats are bad for your back

My lower back feels the best it has in years. Ironically, I’m also doing more barbell squatting and deadlifting than I have in years.

These things aren’t inherently “bad for your back” — they’re actually really good at helping you build a stronger back. Doing these things with shoddy technique and/or with more weight than you can handle can be bad for your back, which is where the reputation of them being “bad for our back/knees/hips” mostly comes from to begin with.

Einstein said that once you stop learning, you start dying.

This is good news for fitness fanatics; there seems to be a never-ending supply of myths and bodybuilding lore that we learn to be gospel one day and learn to refute as hyperbole the next.

At least we’re always learning something new!

4 Subtle Reasons Your Emotions Feel Out of Control

 

 

If you’ve ever felt like your emotions were “too intense” or “out of control” you’re not alone. Many people experience emotional intensity that seems excessive or disproportionate.

But the reason emotions feel out of control often has less to do with your emotions themselves and more to do with habits that magnify them…

The habit of worry magnifies normal fear into anxiety and panic.
The habit of self-criticism magnifies normal sadness into shame and hopelessness.
The habit of rumination magnifies normal frustration into anger and rage.
Mental habits take normal levels of emotion and make them far more intense and long-lasting. Which means…

If you want to feel more in control of your emotions, you must take control of the habits that govern them.

Learn to identify and eliminate these habits and you will discover that your emotions are far more manageable than you ever thought possible.

1. Relying on other people for comfort
Nothing could be more natural than to go to other people for comfort when you’re upset or in distress.

In fact, this is how most of us learn to deal with life’s difficulties — we have a supportive parent or caregiver in our life who is empathetic and comforting when we’re upset. The way they handle our painful emotions becomes a model for how we can deal with them as we mature.

Unfortunately, sometimes this process sometimes goes awry.

For all sorts of reasons, learning to self-soothe and effectively manage our own emotional struggles can get disrupted:

Some people, for example, have early traumatic events in their lives that sabotage this process of learning to self-soothe.
For others, they might learn at a young age that they can get relief faster and more easily by simply going to other people, and as a result, their capacity to self-soothe becomes underdeveloped as they age.

In any case, the core problem is this:

While it’s good to have other people as a source of comfort, it’s risky to rely on them.

When other people become your sole means of managing your emotional distress, it erodes your self-confidence.

This means difficult emotions will be themselves painful. But more than that, you’ll also have the fear of being inadequate to handle them yourself, which effectively multiplies the intensity of every painful emotion you experience. Being afraid of feeling sad, for example, will only make you feel worse.

The solution is to practice managing difficult feelings on your own even if you could get relief and comfort from someone else. Ideally, you would start with small things and gradually work your way up.

But regardless, you must strengthen your capacity to comfort yourself.

Your emotions will always feel out of control until you develop some confidence in your own ability to manage them well.

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

2. Being judgmental of your own emotions

Just because your emotions feel bad doesn’t mean they are bad.

Unfortunately, most of us are raised to believe that this is true. We grow up being taught that painful emotions are problems — like germs we need to be rid off or problems that need to be solved:

That we’re weak if we feel sad and discouraged.
That we’re broken or malfunctioning if we get anxious and worry “too much.”
That we’re sinful or morally deficient if we feel angry toward people.
But there’s the thing:

Emotions aren’t good or bad any more than rain or snow is good or bad.

You may not like certain emotions. Some may be uncomfortable or painful. Some may make it hard to do certain things. But to place a value judgment on an emotion doesn’t make any sense.

And the reason? Because you can’t control your emotions. Not directly, anyway.

You can’t just decide to turn up your happiness meter any more than you can decide to turn down your anxiety dial.

Emotions don’t work that way!

But aside from not being realistic, there’s another problem with judging yourself for how you feel:

When you criticize yourself for feeling anxious, will you end up feeling guilty for feeling anxious.
When you worry about feeling sad, you will end up feeling anxious about feeling sad.
When you put yourself down for feeling angry, you will end up feeling angry about being angry!
When you get judgmental about your emotions, you only compound their intensity and duration.

Think about this: No one goes to jail for feeling really angry. You only get sent to jail for acting aggressively.

As a society, we don’t judge people by their emotions, only their actions.

If you want to start feeling less emotionally volatile, stop criticizing yourself for the way you feel.

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

— Joseph Campell

3. Believing your thoughts unconditionally
It’s a funny thing that we’re so trusting of our own thoughts.

Perhaps because our culture tends to glorify our capacity for thinking and problem-solving, we make the mistake of assuming our thoughts are always true and helpful.

This is especially the case when it comes to thoughts about ourselves or how we feel:

After a coworker makes a rude comment about you during a meeting, the first thought that pops into mind is “Great, now everyone thinks I’m an idiot…”
As you drive to your daughter’s soccer game, the thought pops into mind that with a single movement you could swerve off the side of the road and your whole family would die. Then you immediately think to yourself, “Oh my God, what’s wrong with me?” The assumption being that your thought about swerving off the road was somehow true or meaningful.

But here’s the thing:

Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean it’s true.

Many people’s emotions quickly start to feel out of control because they insist that everything in their mind is meaningful. As a result, they end up thinking endlessly about every little thought, feeling, mood, desire, memory, and emotion that pops into consciousness.

But for all its wonders, the human mind produces a lot of junk too.

Often a particular thought is just random mental noise. But if you insist on telling yourself a story about it and what it may or may not mean, you’re inviting in wave after wave of emotion — and often not the fun kind.

If you want to feel more in control of your emotions, practice being skeptical of your own thoughts.

If a thought seems obviously absurd or ridiculous, remind yourself that it could just be random noise — as meaningless and unworthy of your attention as an unexpected gust of wind.

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.”

― Marcus Aurelius

4. Not taking care of your body
Ever since Descartes, we’ve been fixated on the idea that it’s brain and body, or worse, brain vs body. Think of the common sayings “mind over matter” or “it’s all in your head.”

Of course, this is ridiculous…

Your brain is part of your body. And your mind doesn’t work all that well without a functioning body.

Of course, this is obvious in the extreme case — deprive the brain of oxygen via a heart attack or stroke and your mind dies along with the rest of your body. But it’s also true on a much smaller scale….

4 of the Most Important Skills of the Future

 

The future is being built now with robotics, artificial intelligence, and all kinds of automation that will take over many of the skills we perform today. But there are some skills that we will need for the future, skills that can’t be automated. If you want to excel in the years to come, make sure you’re up to speed in these areas:

Communication. If you’re in leadership, how you communicate, what you communicate and—most of all—how you listen are all supremely important. In communication, it’s the tone that inspires and the spirit that motivates. No robot or machine could ever have the same effect as a leader with great communication skills. Knowing how to communicate is all about creating and clarifying expectations. It’s important to communicate not just what you want someone to do and (without micromanaging) how they should do it but also why you want it to be done and why the person you’re asking is the best person for the job. People want meaning, so communication will always be a crucial leadership skill.

Engagement. Gone are the days of a leader sitting at their desk with the door closed. That doesn’t work (and really, it never did). For any enterprise to excel and achieve its goals leaders need to value engagement, because great leadership begins with connection. When we understand that despite the ways in which we differ we’re all alike in our desire for acceptance and connection, we can recognize those needs in ourselves—and in others. That’s when we can truly make a difference, and it requires human connection.

Influence. Many sources contribute influence in our lives. Parents, other family members, teachers, friends, books we’ve read, discussions we’ve had, life experiences—all of these influences merge together to form our core values and build our character. In the years to come it’s predicted that our biggest commodity will be ourselves—that people will follow others because of who they are and what their character represents. That’s not something you could ever get from a machine, robot or automation.

Heart. Automation can never substitute for heart, care and love. When a leader demonstrates caring, it makes a difference in everyone they touch. The world is full of people who need to be exposed to a caring heart. Great leaders care about the people they lead above their own leadership; they are close enough to show they care but far enough ahead to also motivate. The future relies on this wisdom: leadership is not about being in charge but about taking care of those in your charge.

There are doubtless numerous skills you’ll need to build a successful future, but it’s these core skills that matter most.

Managing Negativity at Work

“Between stimulus and response lies a space. In that space lie our freedom and power to choose a response. In our response lie our growth and our happiness.”

This is one of my favorite quotes, most often attributed to Viktor E. Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning. It holds an answer to managing negativity in the workplace. But first, I want to be clear about negative thoughts and emotions.

It’s okay to feel anger, worry, and sadness. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to get upset. We all experience a spectrum of feelings throughout the day. It’s normal. Besides, the more we squash negative emotions, the more they appear. But we can learn how to respond when we want to hold onto those negative emotions.

The first step is to acknowledge that we all feel big feelings, then feel compassion for yourself when you have them and, eventually, for others when they do.

Recognize Negative Tendencies

We all have natural negative tendencies and thought patterns. So don’t beat yourself up—or at least try not to. Recognize these leanings and attempt to catch yourself before you go into your habitual swirl of doom. You know what that looks like. You might be one of those who identify what’s wrong before you recognize what’s going well. Perhaps you like to vent—a lot. Or, if you are like me, you get defensive when you get feedback and see it as a criticism. These knee-jerk reactions can go completely unnoticed by us because they are ingrained habits and impulses—learned behaviors we acquired long before we were functioning adults.

The key is to acknowledge a feeling and then identify if your reaction to it will be helpful or unhelpful. We obviously don’t want to act out negatively or do something that’s hurtful. But sometimes our natural tendency does exactly that.

I’ll give you an example. Last week I was triggered by one of my colleagues who provided input on a strategy document I wrote. The comments, I felt, were not useful. Instead of dismissing them as a reflection of the person’s own issues, I was triggered and unleashed. I felt annoyed and wanted others to feel my irritation and validate my frustration. So I immediately texted and called a couple of my closest colleagues and complained. I distracted myself from the issue at hand and got wrapped up in a negative cycle of judgment and griping. And while my peers understood and empathized, I can only imagine that my rant did not put a positive spin on their day; perhaps it even impacted them later on. It was not an issue that I was triggered, but it was that I let it play out with my teammates and truly created a negative work environment. Not helpful and not fair—to myself, my peers, or that clueless colleague who was trying to give me some honest feedback.

Don’t Gossip

Here is a confession: I struggle with gossip. I want to follow the Golden Rule. If I hear someone speaking negatively about someone or something else, I don’t want to participate or share a juicy story of my own. But I usually do. I sympathize and likely continue enabling the rumor mill. Why? I also struggle with being direct, so gossip is an easier way for me to process my feelings. Great job, Brit, on being self-aware. But I need to take this a bit further.

Really, the better course of action is to either not participate or change the subject. Have more empathy and compassion for those who are at the center of the story. We are all just trying to do the best we can with the information we are presented with at the time.

Goodbye to Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity is as bad as gossiping. It can be used to gloss over any unpleasant truths in the workplace. Rarely are statements such as “it could be worse” or “don’t stress” or “look on the bright side” helpful to the individual who is having a bad day, for whatever justified or unjustified reason. Toxic positively feels a bit like gaslighting—as if the other person’s feelings don’t matter or aren’t appropriate.

As with gossip, the answer is empathy and compassion. How do you show empathy and compassion? Through listening with the intent to understand, validating those strong emotions, and offering support—even if it’s just an ear.

Flip the Negative Script

A very close friend of mine and I work together. We use a technique to manage negativity so we can help each other share strong feelings but also get some forward momentum. If this person calls wanting to air out grievances, I ask, “Do you want to talk to Work Britney or Friend Britney?” My response is different based on who this person wants to talk to. If it’s Work Britney, I’ll say something like, “Want to work out a solution together?” If she is looking for a friend, I’ll say, “Dude, that stinks. I’m here for you.”

You can use this technique with your people. Let them know you’re going to wear different hats based on their need. This way, you can either play the role of boss or lend a friendly ear. I’ve asked my leaders in the past to do this. It’s helped me be able to share my feelings and then make a plan–which often means being more direct with the object of my aggravation.

Find a Release Valve—A Healthy One

People call work a “pressure cooker” for good reason—we all need a release valve. But you need to find one that works for you. Maybe it’s journaling, or exercise, or yoga—whatever helps you process the big feelings. But watch out. Doom scrolling, gossip, toxic positivity, and other nefarious habits that cause more self-harm may seem to be effective release valves, but they clearly only perpetuate the negative cycle on yourself and others.

Set the Tone

Leaders have more influence than they realize. Just consider that a poor relationship with a leader is the top reason people leave a job. You can flip this dynamic on its head by asking people how they are doing, what problems they are facing, what’s their biggest challenge.

Just as important, you can set the tone for these conversations. Instead of focusing on the negative, you can ask people about their big wins in the past week. I recently asked my people what their best day at work was in the past six months. Smiles began appearing on every face. Their brains were working hard. Then they shared great stories—and the whole nature of the conversation changed.

You Be the Example

A leader’s job is to manage the energy in the workplace. If there is negativity everywhere, notice it, acknowledge your role in creating or perpetuating that environment, and make a conscious decision to do something different.

It’s an unrealistic attitude to think every day is going to be unicorns and rainbows. Just do your best to be more mindful of negative patterns. Craig Weber calls it “Catch It, Name It, Tame It.” Meanwhile, “Catch people doing things right,” as Ken Blanchard would say. Celebrate the small wins. Celebrate when things go well. And little by little, you’ll change the environment.

It all goes back to the Frankl quote. “Between stimulus and response lies a space. In that space lie our freedom and power to choose a response. In our response lie our growth and our happiness.”

We have a choice. Do we want to bring people down or lift them up? Do we want to share the latest gossip or simply move on with our day? Negative emotions are shared by all of us, but a negative environment doesn’t have to be. We have the power to create more shared experiences that are positive. It’s about asserting our freedom and remembering that we have a choice in our response—and then choosing the path that leads to our growth and happiness.

8 Health Benefits From Having More of Them

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” – Benjamin Franklin

“One key to success is to have lunch at the time of day most people have breakfast.” – Robert Brault

There are many famous quotes by famous and influential people about rising early in the morning.  But is there any strength to these quotes? This article talks about 8 benefits of being an early riser.

Early mornings for some can be a drag, and let’s be honest here, there will always be morning’s especially when it’s dark outside that all you will want to do is pull the covers over your head for an extra 5 minutes.

With so many benefits to waking up early, from enhancing your productivity in school or work, to being better able to stick to a diet plan to having more energy levels and better mood, it’s easy to see why many famous people swear by it attributing to their success, Richard Branson for example says he wakes at 5 am each morning.

Knowing this it is hard not to adopt this way of life to your daily routine. So let’s talk about some of these benefits and how to become an early riser.

1. Positive Outlook

According to studies early risers often tend to go to bed early as well, which means they are more likely to get the 7-9 hours recommended sleep for adults.

Sleeping the full amount regularly is said to help lead towards a healthier body and mind,  which in turn has its own benefits, so it is easy to see why early risers may be less stressed and have more positivity in their lives.

2. More Energy

More rest equals more energy, plain and simple . If you get into the routine of rising early and retiring to bed early you are more likely to have a better sleeping pattern which leads to being more energetic throughout the day, helping you accomplish your goals and tasks in a faster and more productive manner.

3. Body System Reboot

Regular sleep is important for your general health.  Not only does a full night sleep help to drop your blood pressure, helps your muscles to relax and repair, your breathing to slow and your body temperature to drop, but studies show that T-cells, which are the white blood cells that help to fight infection, tend to drop when you get a full night’s sleep. This is your immune system rebooting itself while you rest.

4. More Time to Exercise

After a busy day’s work, you can be both mentally and physically exhausted and the last thing you want to do is head to the gym or go out for a run. You make promises to yourself you’ll go tomorrow, only to have the same thing happen.  Early risers have the benefit of being able to fit their workout in, before the madness of the day takes over. This also helps to kickstart the body and mind which will energize you for the day.

5. Become more Organized

Sometimes the saying “Not enough hours in the day” springs to mind.

We fall asleep thinking about all the things we are going to get done the following day, whether that be at work or at home, or both. Then something throws us off, we sleep in, forgot something on the way to work, or get delayed in traffic and our day seems to spiral after that.

Being an early riser means you can get a head start on the day and helps to kickstart your day off to a good start.

By planning and laying out some goals and tasks to accomplish the previous day can help you be more organized and make use of that early start.

6. Healthier Eating

No time for breakfast? Grabbing something quick and easy on the go while you

run out the door? Sound familiar? Rising later doesn’t give you the much needed time to break the fast from the night before and prepare a sustainable breakfast that will set you up for the day.

Recent research has found that late sleepers generally consume approximately 248 more calories than those who rise early. They tend to only eat half as much fruit and vegetables and twice as much fast food as their early riser counterparts.

7. More Productive

Your brain tends to be the most alert in the morning, so why not use that time wisely to focus on important tasks un-interrupted while the rest of your house and world sleep.

You tend to make better decisions and think more clearly in the morning, then at any other time of day.

Starting the day early also improves your concentration which means you can accomplish those goals and tasks that you set out the night before. It also means that by the time you get to work, you are fully awake and properly acclimatized to the day meaning you will be more alert during those peak hours.

8. Helps your Skin Look Healthy

Our skin tends to look its best in the morning after a full night’s restful sleep. And being an early riser means you can take advantage and take your time to make sure your skin looks its best.

People who wake up early also tend to have regular sleeping habits which help to ensure that your skin gets the proper time to rejuvenate itself.

Getting into the Routine

Ok, so we’ve outlined some tips on how to be an early riser, but how do we start getting into the routine, while also getting enough sleep. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Start slowly.
  • Try waking just 15-30 minutes earlier than usual at the start. Get used to this for a few days, then cut back another 15 minutes. Keep doing this gradually until you get to your goal time.
  • Allow yourself to go to sleep earlier. You might be used to staying up late, but if you continue to do this while trying to get up earlier, sooner or later one is going to give. And if it is the early rising that gives, then you will crash and sleep late and have to start all over again. Try going to bed earlier, even if you don’t think you’ll sleep and read while in bed or mediate for a few minutes to help relax your mind. If you’re really tired, you just might fall asleep much sooner than you think.
  • Don’t have your alarm clock next to your bed
  • This is an important one, if it is within arms reach, the temptation is there to just reach out and hit the snooze button or worse still you could end up just turning it off.
  • By having your alarm clock far from your bed, you will have to get up out of bed to shut it off. Then, you’re up. Now you just have to stay up.
  • Open the blinds or curtains and get out of the room as soon as you turn off the alarm
  • By doing this you are less likely to talk yourself into getting back into bed, even if it is just for a few minutes.
  • Do not rationalize. If you allow your brain to talk you out of getting up early, you’ll never do it. Don’t make getting back in bed an option.
  • Have a good reason for setting that alarm:
  • Set something to do early in the morning that’s important. This will help motivate you to get up and do it. Once it is done, you’ll be awake and ready to take on the day.

Take advantage of all that extra time

Have a nice hot cup of coffee or tea. Read a book, Watch the sunrise or meditate. Don’t wake up early, to wander around and not make the most of your time. Find something that’s pleasurable for you, and allow yourself to do it as part of your morning routine.

Getting up early has many benefits for both your body and your mind. The hardest part is convincing yourself to do it, and then getting into a routine of getting up early every morning. If you start implementing these tips you will soon see that it gets easier and eventually you will find that your body starts to get used to it, and you end up waking even before your alarm goes off.

 

 

Mihran & Hasmik signing Duet Nostalgia Melody

You all enjoy the melody of Nostalgia and Natalie song…Singing duet with Hasmik from Boston was a wonderful surprise. Hope you all will enjoy the remix and duet. I miss the good old days, here are no words to express this song!!

 

Nostalgia, we’re just like one another

You’re gentle and so am I

Nostalgia, I think about her

I call to her in the night

 

She lived over there

In the land of the cold

Where the untamed wind

Gives me a look

 

It snowed in the winter

It rained in the blue

She was lovely, nostalgia

Nostalgia, we’re just like one another

 

It’s December on your lands

Nostalgia, you play the gypsy

On the range of forgetting

She wanted to…

 

To burn her life up

Under a real spring

She was twenty years old

She went out to the sea

 

Towards a clearer sky

Leaving me in the grey, nostalgia

 

A winter love

The backwards sky

It was madness, nostalgia

Sometimes on the sea

When the night is clear

Her name comes back to me

Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia…

 

How to Let Go of the Stress and Pressure That Weigh You Down

“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens, and response is something we can choose.” ~Maureen Killoran

 

I don’t know about you, but I often find advice to release stress and pressure to be great on paper but incredibly difficult to apply.

Just say no more often! Sounds good, but my twenty-month-old son still needs constant care and I need to earn money, so there’s a lot I can’t just not do.

Get out in nature! I do try, but it’s been cold and grey, and often I don’t get time to myself until night—when it’s even more frigid.

Exercise more! I have the best of intentions, but I’m pregnant, frequently exhausted, and there’s that whole time thing again. I just can’t seem to create more of it, try as I may.

I suppose this is true of most good advice: It’s far easier to make a list of great ideas than it is to actually apply them. And it’s hard not to resist all those well-intentioned suggestions as overly simplified and maybe even unrealistic.

That, I’ve realized, is my biggest problem—one that you can perhaps relate to as well: While my circumstances can be challenging and limiting, most of the stress and pressure I feel originates with some form of internal resistance. Resistance to what was, what is, what might be, what I’m doing, what I could be doing, who I am… the list goes on.

And it might look like this:

  • Rehashing the past (and pressuring myself to somehow fix my mistakes)
  • Dwelling on worst-case scenarios (and pressuring myself to find ways to avoid them)
  • Fighting my current reality (and pressuring myself to change it)
  • Worrying about what I have to do (and pressuring myself to do it perfectly)
  • Obsessing about what I should be doing (and pressuring myself to figure it out)
  • Fixating on what I can’t do right now (and pressuring myself to get around my limitations)
  • Wishing I had more time for myself (and pressuring myself to somehow create it)
  • Judging myself in comparison to others (and pressuring myself to be better than I am)
  • Agonizing about what people think of me (and pressuring myself to meet their expectations)

If you’ve done any of these things yourself, I’m sure you know they’re exhausting.

That’s not say we are the sole cause of our stress. Sometimes life demands that we do more and deal with external challenges beyond our control—job loss, health issues, financial troubles, divorce…

And it’s true that there are lots of little things we can do to relieve some of the tension. But the first thing we need to do is relieve the pressure where it’s generally the most intense: within our own minds.

How to Relieve the Mental Pressure

There are two things I’ve found to be highly effective in quieting my inner voice of resistance.

1. Allow yourself to feel the feelings under your thoughts so that you can calm and release them.

All too often we get caught in a thought loop as a way to avoid feeling our feelings, because stressful as it may be, thinking about our circumstances allows us to avoid facing our deepest wounds. But we have to face them to heal them. As they say, the only way out is through.

I’ve found that underneath my varying forms of internal resistance, there’s usually:

Shame/guilt:

About things I think I’ve done wrong, about who I am (when I mistakenly assume my poor choices define me), about expectations I failed to meet or might fail to meet (my own and other people’s). And this triggers my core childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m fundamentally bad.

When I feel it:

When I’m rehashing the past, judging myself in comparison to others, and agonizing about what people think of me.

Fear:

Of the unknown, failing, succeeding then somehow ruining it, losing control, not doing enough with my life/making the most of my time, not living up to my potential, hurting or disappointing other people. Once again, this triggers my childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m not good enough, and never will be.

When I feel it:

When I’m dwelling on worst-case scenarios, worrying about what I have to do, and obsessing about what I should be doing.

Anger:

Toward myself for what I think I did wrong, toward other people for how I think they did me wrong, toward for myself for maybe causing them to do me wrong (because I often find a way to blame myself), toward life for being unfair. This triggers my core belief that life should be fair, formed, you guessed it, in childhood, when life felt very unfair.

When I feel it:

When I’m rehashing the past and fighting my current reality.

Emptiness:

Because I’m not connecting with myself, others, my passions, the world at large, or anything that would fulfill me.

When I feel it:

When I’m fixating on what I can’t do right now and wishing I had more time for myself.

When I can get below the thoughts and identify one of these feelings, I can sit with it. I can cry it out—the ultimate release!

I can empathize with myself and tell myself what I need to hear—that I’m a good person who’s always done her best, that I will do my best in the future and can handle what’s coming, that everyone else is doing their best, and we all deserve understanding and forgiveness.

And I can also do what I really need to do to feel better:

Maybe take a warm bath if I’m feeling ashamed to remind myself that I deserve comfort even when I think I’ve messed up.

Maybe do something fun and childlike if I’m feeling afraid of the future to help me find joy in the present moment.

Maybe write a forgiveness letter if I’m feeling angry to help me empathize, accept, and let go.

Maybe call someone I love, journal, or do something creative if I’m feeling empty, to meet my need for connection.

The point is, after we feel our feelings, we can do something to address the specific root cause of our stress in a moment instead of arbitrarily choosing an activity from a one-size-fits-all list of stress-relievers.

So ask yourself: What am I thinking that’s stressing me out? What’s the feeling underneath it? What does that feeling have to teach me? What does it need to hear? And what can I do to help ease that pain?

2. Get out of your head (and perhaps into your body or a state of flow).

It’s ironic but true that two pieces of seemingly contradictory advice can be equally helpful and powerful, and such is the case when it comes to relieving stress. Or at least it has been for me.

On the one hand, it can benefit us to look closely at what’s going in our minds so we can understand it, challenge it if necessary, and calm the feelings underneath our thoughts.

On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to disengage from our mind’s stories—about our unfulfilling work, our mounting bills, our insensitive relatives, and so on. To recognize we’re getting caught up in a mental maze from which we may never escape unless we consciously choose to get out—and then make that choice.

Our brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is designed to protect us, tends toward negativity, often focused on the past, the future, and the intentions behind others’ behavior. Research has shown a link between a disproportionately active DMN and depression and anxiety—and has also shown that meditation can help influence the default network.

That’s why it’s so important that we learn to get out of our heads, either through traditional meditation or by getting into our bodies or a state of flow (when you’re so consumed in a task that you forget about everything else and lose track of time).

It’s not just about temporarily quieting our thoughts. Mindfulness can actually change patterns of brain activity over time, enabling us to more frequently get out of the default mode network—where we inevitably feel stressed!

How do we get out of our heads and into our bodies or a state of flow?

Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness through movement:

Yoga

As you sync your breathing with your movements and focus your attention on the subtle muscle shifts required to get into and hold each pose, you’ll find your mind naturally quieting. There are lots of different styles of yoga. My favorites are vinyasa and Bikram, since I find the heat particularly soothing.

You can find all kinds of yoga videos on YouTube, and odds are, when life gets closer to normal again, you can find a free or donation-based class near you. I personally find it easier to practice in a class than on my own, since the presence of other people holds me accountable, and there are fewer cookies and TVs nearby to distract me!

Tai Chi

I have less experience with Tai Chi, but I did practice for a while in college, as part of an acting class. Acting requires you to get out of your judging mind, and Tai Chi is a perfect practice to facilitate that, since it’s all about integrating mind and body through slow, low-impact, controlled movements and breathing.

Tai chi is less physically taxing than most yoga practices (aside from restorative yoga, which is incredibly relaxing), which makes it perfect for anyone who’s more physically limited. It’s particularly popular among the senior crowd, since it’s easy on the joints, but it’s a powerful and effective mindfulness practice for anyone, of any age!

Mindful hiking or walking

Any form of movement can be meditative if you focus your attention on the sensations in your body, and hiking and walking outside bring the added benefit of immersing you in nature—a natural stress-reliever!

Studies have shown that just twenty minutes in nature can significantly lower your stress hormones. And it can also stimulate all the body’s senses, as we tune in to the sound of running water trickling nearby, the scent of pine (known to lower depression and anxiety), the colors in a picturesque sunrise, the feeling of leaves crunching beneath our feet, and the taste of a freshly picked piece of fruit.

Here are a few ways to get into a mindful state of flow (suggested by flow researcher Steven Kolter):

Through social triggers

We often think of flow as something we achieve individually, but group activities bring the added benefit of facilitating deep connection as we move in sync or work toward team goals. This might mean getting into a collective state of flow as part of a sports team, dance troupe, or through synchronized swimming.

I remember one particular piece of choreography from a community theater show I did as a kid. There were at least twenty of us, seated, doing clapping motions with each other’s hands, tapping our own and each other’s legs. We all needed to move perfectly in sync to get it just right, which required intense focus, and I have to say it was deeply gratifying to move as part of a whole—to lose myself in the group and become immersed in something bigger than myself.

Through creative triggers

Any creative activity can get us into a state of flow if we enjoy it and lose ourselves in the task. Painting, playing an instrument, dancing, jewelry making, even doodling—pick whatever calls to you so deeply you can’t help but concentrate on the present, losing your sense of self-consciousness because the act itself is so fun and rewarding.

Through environmental triggers

Rock climbing is a perfect example, since you need to be fully absorbed in the moment to safely navigate the rock formation. As you push yourself to your physical limit, balancing and adapting to the changing terrain, you’ll find yourself going deeper and deeper into a state of flow.

Though I’ve never done outdoor rock climbing—which I imagine is all the more thrilling, since it’s riskier and you’re totally immersed in nature—I participated in a climbing course as an experiential therapy treatment for bulimia in my early twenties. I remember all my worries falling away as I focused on not falling off the beam, and I recall appreciating my body for what it could do instead of judging myself for everything I thought I was doing wrong.

The beauty of most of these practices is that we can adapt them to our needs and available time. You can take an hour class or just practice for ten minutes. You can work on a painting for two hours or sketch for a brief window before bed.

Easier said than done? Of course! It’s far easier to watch Netflix in our one free hour of time or mindlessly scroll in that brief window before bed. (Guilty as charged.) When I do that, all my heavy unfelt feelings fester, settling deep into my brain and my bones and suffocating me like an invisible straitjacket.

But I know when I do something that’s good for me, I feel it—and I want more of it. And my resistance to doing it naturally fades away, along with my stress.

So really, we just need to show up once—really show up. Be so present that we allow ourselves to fully live that moment so we can love that moment, and that love will bring us back. Back to the practice, back to our bodies, back to ourselves. Our deepest selves, underneath the stress and pressure. The true self who knows we don’t need to be more, we don’t have to do more, we just have to let ourselves enjoy more. Because within that enjoyment there’s peace and healing. And no matter what our negatively biased brains tell us, we absolutely deserve it.

 

4 Tips for Setting Powerful Goals

Goal setting is a fantastic skill to develop, and how you design your own future. A life best lived is a life by design. Not by accident, and not by just walking through the day careening from wall to wall and managing to survive. If you can start giving your life dimensions and design and color and objectives and purpose, the results can be absolutely staggering.

Goal setting gives you the chance to experience the power of your imagination. Think about it. Imagination builds cities. Imagination conquers disease. Imagination develops careers. Imagination sets up relationships. Imagination is where all tangible values and intangible values begin. So what you’ve got to learn to do is use this powerful resource.

Tapping this resource of imagination for goal setting involves thinking about your future, thinking about tomorrow or the rest of the day, thinking about the rest of the year or five years or 10. You can use your imagination to start prospecting for the future, for what could be possible for you.

5 Things That Affect You, Your Life and Your Goals

But before you can do that, you need to know the five primary things that affect all of us:

1. The Environment

It doesn’t hurt to make a simple contribution to the environment; a little contribution costs nothing. Pick up a piece of trash and throw it in the receptacle. If everybody did that, what a better world it would be. If everybody contributed, what a difference it would make!

2. Events

Think of any big event of local, national or global significance. There are small events and daily events and family events and community events, too. Events affect all of us—some small, some big, some personal, some national, some global.

3. Knowledge

Here’s a good phrase to jot down: Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is tragedy. Ignorance is devastation. Ignorance creates lack. Ignorance creates disease. Ignorance will shorten your life. Ignorance will empty your life and leave you with the husks, nothing to account for. No, ignorance is not bliss.

Here’s another note to make: What you don’t know will hurt you. What you don’t know will tragically affect your life. What you don’t know will leave your life empty. What you don’t know will leave you without a relationship.

We’re affected by whatever we know or don’t know.

4. Results

Whether it’s business or personal, we’re all affected by results. Disciplines undone in the future give us poor results. Disciplines managed well give us good results.

5. Our Dreams

We’re affected by our dreams—our vision of the future.

The Pull of the Future

Some people live in the past. They let their life be continually pulled and influenced by it. Although we must remember and review the past to make it useful to invest in the future, here’s the key: Make sure that the greatest pull on your life is the pull of the future.

If you’re skimpy on your dreams, or your objectives and your purposes aren’t very well planned, then that doesn’t pull very hard. You might have more of a tendency to be pulled apart by events or circumstances. So in order to save yourself from being pulled apart by distractions or pulled back to the past, you need to start designing the future.

Goals are like a magnet—they pull. And the stronger they are, the more purposeful they are, the bigger they are, the more unique they are, the stronger they pull.

High dreams pull you through all kinds of down days and down seasons. They pull you through a winter of discontent. They pull you through distraction on every side. A bad day can almost overwhelm you if you don’t have something really purposeful to go for on the other side of that day.

If you’ve got excellent goals, though, they’ll pull you through all these things and very little of it will attach itself to you. You’ll be able to get through some of the most difficult times if you have this spectacular vision ahead of you of where you’re going and what you’re going to accomplish.

Learning to Set Goals

Learning to set goals can transform your life forever. There is power in reaching out into the future, designing something to the best of your ability, refining it as you go, tearing it up periodically if you want to, setting a whole new list. It’s your life. It’s your future.

3 Components of Powerful Goals

The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes you do to accomplish it. This will always be a far greater value than what you get. That is why goals are so powerful. They are part of the fabric that makes up our lives.

Goal setting is powerful because it provides focus, shapes our dreams, and gives us the ability to home in on the exact actions we need to take in order to get everything in life we desire. Goals cause us to stretch and grow in ways we never have before. In order to reach our goals, we must become better—we must change and grow.

Powerful goals have three components:

  • They must be inspiring.
  • They must be believable.
  • They must be goals you can act on.

Life is designed in such a way that we look long term and live short term. We dream for the future and live in the present. Unfortunately, the present can produce many hard obstacles. Fortunately, the more powerful our goals (because they are inspiring and believable), the more we will be able to act on them in the short term and guarantee that they will actually come to pass.

4 Tips for Setting Powerful Goals

So, what are the key aspects to learn and remember when studying and writing our goals? Here’s a closer look at goal setting and how you can make it forceful and practical:

1. Evaluation and Reflection

The only way we can reasonably decide what we want in the future and how we will get there is to first know where we are right now and what our current level of satisfaction is. With our focus on goal setting, the first order of business is for each of us to set aside some serious time for evaluation and reflection.

2. Dreams and Goals

What are your dreams and goals? Not related to the past or what you think you can get, but what you want. Have you ever really sat down, thought through your life values and decided what you really want? This isn’t what someone else says you should have or what culture tells us successful people do or have. These are the dreams and goals born out of your own heart and mind, goals unique to you and that come from who you were created to be and gifted to become.

3. SMART Goals

SMART means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive.

  • Specific: Don’t be vague. Exactly what do you want?
  • Measurable: Quantify your goal. How will you know if you’ve achieved it or not?
  • Attainable: Be honest with yourself about what you can reasonably accomplish at this point in your life while taking into consideration your current responsibilities.
  • Realistic: It’s got to be doable, real and practical.
  • Time: Associate a time frame with each goal. When should you complete the goal?

4. Accountability

The word accountable means to give an account. When someone knows what your goals are, they help hold you accountable. Whether it is someone else trying to reach the same goal with you or just someone you can give the basic idea to, having an accountability partner will give you another added boost to accomplishing your goals.

So, evaluate and reflect. Decide what you want. Be SMART. Have accountability. When you put these four key pieces together, you put yourself in a position of power to catapult toward achieving your goals and the kind of life you desire.

Evaluation and Reflection

The basis for knowing where we want to go is knowing where we came from and where we are. It is also knowing how well we have done achieving things we have previously set our eyes on. This is the essence of evaluation and reflection. We need to understand how to look at what we have done and then use that as a platform for what we want to do next.

The process of evaluation is relatively simple but can be varied a bit. The important point is having a process. Here is the basic process for evaluation and reflection:

1. Find a quiet place.

Reflection is best done away from distraction. It gives your mind space to think.

2. Take regular time.

Whether it is once a week, every other week, once a month or quarter, be sure to set aside a regular time at regular intervals to evaluate and reflect.

3. Look back.

Look at what you have accomplished and where you are. Be specific. Be truthful. Be ruthlessly honest.

4. Write it down.

Keep a record. This gives you the chance at the next stage of evaluation to see exactly where you were last time and keeps it as objective as possible.

5. Look forward.

Set your next goal. Stretch yourself according to what works for you.

Why evaluate?

The purpose of evaluation is twofold. First, it gives you an objective way to look at your accomplishments and your pursuit of the vision you have for your life. Second, it shows you where you are so you can determine where you need to go. Evaluation gives you a baseline from which to work.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” To evaluate and reflect brings us face to face with who we are. More important, it allows us the time to dream and create a vision for what we want to become. Only when we take time out of our busy schedules can we get into the state of mind and quietness of heart we need in order to find that inner place.

Those who never take time to evaluate and reflect will blow to and fro through this life, living by the forces of culture, circumstances, societal pressures and, unfortunately, personal weaknesses.

In contrast, those who take the time to evaluate will find they are like an oak tree in a storm: They have a firm foundation, they know where they are going, they know how to get there, and, ultimately, they will get there no matter what comes their way.

Take a couple of hours this week to evaluate and reflect. See where you are and note it in your journal so that as the months progress and you continue a regular time of evaluation and reflection, you will see just how much ground you’re gaining—and that will be exciting!

 

Dreams and Goals

One of the amazing things we have been given as humans is the unquenchable desire to have dreams of a better life and the ability to establish and set goals to live out those dreams.

We can look deep within our hearts and dream of a better situation for ourselves and our families. We can dream of better financial, emotional, spiritual or physical lives. We have also been given the ability to not only dream, but pursue those dreams—and not just pursue them, but the cognitive ability to lay out a plan and strategies to achieve those dreams. Powerful!

What are your dreams and goals? This isn’t what you already have or what you have done, but what you want. Have you ever really sat down and thought through your life values and decided what you really want? Have you ever taken the time to truly reflect, to listen quietly to your heart, to see what dreams live within you? Your dreams are there. Everyone has them. They may live right on the surface, or they may be buried deep from years of others telling you they were foolish, but they are there.

You have to ask the hard questions to get excited about your dreams, and then you have to translate that excitement into strategic action to pursue all that you want. These are the disciplines that will help unleash the power of the dreams inside of you:

Listen to yourself.

How do we know what our dreams are? This is an interesting process and relates primarily to the art of listening. This is not listening to others; it is listening to yourself. If we listen to others, we hear their plans and dreams, and, at times, others will try to put their plans and dreams on us. If we listen to others, we can never be fulfilled. We will only chase elusive dreams that are not rooted deep within us.

Instead, we must listen to our own hearts to hear the dreams born out of the passions and desires we each uniquely possess. Just like when you are quiet enough to hear your own heart beating within your chest, your dreams have their own rhythm. All you have to do is get quiet enough to hear the beat.

Take time to be quiet.

Taking the time to be quiet is something we don’t do enough in this busy world. We rush, rush, rush and are constantly listening to noise all around us. We must not get faked out by just being busy. Instead, we must constantly ask ourselves the question, “Busy doing what?” In other words, are the activities you are participating in moving you toward your goals? If not, then work to eliminate those things and replace some of that time with quiet.

The human heart was meant to have times of quiet reflection, allowing us to peer deep within ourselves. It is when we do this that our hearts are set free to soar and take flight on the wings of our own dreams. Schedule some quiet “dream time” this week. No other people. No cellphone. No computer. Just you, a pad, a pen and your thoughts.

Think about what really thrills you. When you are quiet, think about those things that really get your blood moving. What would you love to do, either for fun or for a living? What would you love to accomplish? What would you try if you were guaranteed to succeed? What big thoughts move your heart into a state of excitement and joy? When you answer these questions, you’ll feel terrific because you’re in the “dream zone.” It is only when we get to this point that we can truly realize and begin to experience what our dreams are.

Make a list and prioritize.

Write down all of your dreams as you have them. Don’t think of any as too outlandish or foolish— remember, you’re dreaming! Let your thoughts and pen fly as you take careful record.

Now look at your list and prioritize those dreams. Which are most important? Which are most feasible? Which would you love to do the most? Put them in the order you will actually try to attain them. Remember, we are always moving toward action, not just dreaming.

Why am I asking you to take part in this exercise? It’s because life is too short not to pursue your dreams. At the end of your life, all you will be able to do is look backward. You can reflect with joy or regret. And we all know that joy from discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.

Those who dream, who set goals and act on them, are those who live lives of joy and have a sense of peace when they near the end of their lives. They will have finished well and possess a sense of pride and accomplishment, not only for themselves but also for their families. That feeling is priceless!

Remember: These are the dreams and goals born out of your heart and mind, goals unique to you, and they come from who you were created to be and gifted to become. Your specific goals are what you want to achieve because they will make your life joyful and bring fulfillment for both you and your family.

SMART Goals

The acronym SMART is one of the key aspects of goal setting because we want to be smart when we set our goals. We want to intelligently decide what our goals will be so that we can actually accomplish them. We want to set the goals that our heart conceives, that our mind believes and that our bodies will carry out. Let’s take an even closer look at each of the components of SMART goals:

Specific

Goals are no place to waffle. They are no place to be vague. Ambiguous goals produce ambiguous results. Incomplete goals produce incomplete futures. When we are specific, we harness the power of our dreams and set forces into action that empower us to achieve our goals. We then know exactly what it is we are shooting for—there is no question.

As we establish our priorities and manage our time, we do it for a specific goal, to achieve the results we expect. There is no wondering or guessing. The future is locked into our minds, and we see it—specifically—and that is powerful! Never underestimate just how important it is to have very specific, concrete goals. They act as magnets that draw you toward them. A SMART goal is specific.

Measurable

Always set goals that are measurable—“specifically measurable” to take into account the principle of being specific, as well. Our goals should be such that we know when we are advancing and by how much. Whether it is by hours, pounds, dollars or some other scale, we should be able to see exactly how we are measuring up as we journey through life using our goals. Imagine if you didn’t measure your goals. You would never know which way you were going, or even if you were going anywhere. A SMART goal is measurable.

Attainable

One of the detrimental things many people do—and they do it with good intentions—is to set goals that are unattainable. While it’s very important to set big goals that cause your heart to soar with excitement, it is also imperative to make sure they are attainable.

An attainable goal is one that is both realistic and doable in a shorter period of time than what you have to work with. “Attainable” doesn’t mean easy. Our goals should be set so that they are just out of our reach, so that they challenge us to grow as we reach forward to achieve them. A SMART goal is attainable.

Realistic

The root word of realistic is real. A goal has to be something that we can reasonably make “real” or a “reality” in our lives. There are some goals that are simply not realistic. You have to be able to say, even if it is a tremendously stretched goal, that it is entirely realistic—that you could make it. You may have to say that it will take X, Y and Z to do it, but if those happen, then it can be done.

This is in no way to say it shouldn’t be a big goal, but that goal must be realistic. This is, to a great degree, up to the individual. For one person, a goal may be realistic, but for another, unrealistic. Be very honest with yourself as you do your planning and evaluation. It might be good to get a friend to help you, as long as that friend is by nature an optimist and not a pessimist. This can go a long way toward helping you know what is realistic.

Knowing that perhaps you could use a bit of help differentiating between attainable and realistic, here is an example: Let’s say you are overweight and need to lose 150 pounds to get to your ideal weight. Is that goal attainable? Yes, if you also make it realistic. For example, it isn’t realistic to think you can do it in five months. Eighteen to 24 months would be more realistic (with hard work). Thus, losing 150 pounds in two years is both attainable and realistic, while losing 150 pounds in five months is neither attainable nor realistic. A SMART goal is realistic.

Time-sensitive

One of the powerful aspects of a great goal is that it has an end, a time in which you are shooting to accomplish it. You start working because you know there is an end, and as time goes by, you work because you don’t want to get behind. As the deadline approaches, you work diligently because you want to meet that deadline. It’s a good idea to break a big goal down into different parts of measurement and time frames. Set smaller goals and work them out in their own time. A SMART goal has a timeline.

Accountability

Now let’s look at how to apply the SMART test to your goals and ensure they are powerful.

As a contract with yourself or someone else, accountability is a vital key in the goal-setting process. Accountability puts some teeth into the process. If a goal is set and only one person knows it, does it really have any power? Many times it doesn’t. At the very least, it isn’t as powerful.

When someone knows what your goals are, they follow up and hold you accountable by asking you to “give an account” of where you are in the process. Human nature is such that when we know someone else is going to ask us about it, we are much more motivated to get it done—if for no other reason than we don’t want to look lazy and uncommitted. This is why having an accountability partner is so important.

 

In the basic sense, there are two kinds of accountability: internal and external.

Internal Accountability

Internal accountability is essentially the level of integrity you maintain not only throughout the evaluation process but also in life. It means that when you look at yourself, you judge yourself with honesty. This is where you hold yourself accountable to doing what you said you would do. If you’ve messed up, say, “I’ve messed up,” but if you’ve done well, then you can celebrate your progress. Let the internal accountability prod you and spur you on to greater action in pursuit of your achievements.

So, first and foremost, it is our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable. We answer to ourselves. We take charge of ourselves. How do we do that? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Write down your goals so they become “objective.” You can’t go back and say, “That wasn’t really my goal.”
  2. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself when you assess whether or not you have met the goal. Of course, if you were specific in setting your SMART goals, you won’t have much wiggle room here, anyway.
  3. If you fall short of your goal, or if you are falling short while on the way, knuckle down and hold yourself accountable to do what it takes to make up the ground so that you can hit that goal!
  4. Set a time frame in which you will evaluate your progress and hold yourself accountable.

External Accountability

Find someone else or a group of others to hold you accountable. When we commit to giving an account to someone else for our actions and goals, we take it to the next level.

The external part of accountability will not work without the internal aspect. If you are not honest with yourself, then you will probably not be honest with others. Asking someone to hold you accountable and then knowing you won’t be completely honest with them will never work.

Having an outside source of accountability is a powerful force if done right. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you set up an accountability partner:

  1. Choose someone who cares about you but can be tough and honest with you. They need to care about you—and you have to know and feel that care—because you become vulnerable by making yourself accountable to them. They need to be tough and honest, though, because you don’t want to have them shy away from telling you to get on the ball when you’re slacking, getting behind or not doing the job. The expression “tough love” would fit appropriately here. In essence, they love us enough to be honest with us about our progress.
  2. Tell them specifically what your goals are.
  3. Commit to being honest with them.
  4. Give them permission to speak words of encouragement, as well as words of challenge when the situation calls for it.
  5. Agree on a reasonable time frame in which you will allow them to evaluate your progress and hold you accountable.
  6. Follow up on their words when they challenge you or call you to action.

Accountability can be a tremendous thing. There is an old proverb that says one can put a thousand to flight, but two can put 10,000 to flight. When we have someone holding us accountable, we bring others onto our team who will make us stronger, who will make us soar higher and who will cause our lives to be much richer because of their involvement.

Take a moment and really consider who you will make yourself accountable to in the pursuit of your goals. Now, go back through the words above and begin to work this process out in your own life. You will be extraordinarily glad you did.

Goal Setting Challenges You

Let your goals challenge you to become a unique person of incredible dimensions, not necessarily in anyone else’s eyes, but in your own eyes.

It doesn’t matter whether someone thinks I’m short or tall, but it matters if I stand tall in my own eyes—because I know my disciplines, I know what I’m doing, I know whether I’m doing it or not doing it. I know that I’m paying the price and that I deserve the applause and I deserve the prize. That’s what’s exciting. That’s why this goal setting is so important. It challenges you to grow. It challenges you to become more than you are, to move up to the next level. And that’s key.

 

11 Proven Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

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While the holidays can create some of the happiest moments in your life, they can also cause a great deal of stress. On top of your typical schedule of work and managing your home and kids, there is shopping to do, menus to plan, and food to prepare. Moreover, there is the possibility of having to deal with family disagreements, schedule conflicts, and financial issues. While this all may seem overwhelming, there is good news. You can still reduce holiday stress, even with all the extra activities and preparations.

Following are proven strategies to help you decrease stress and tension. Some of these methods may be so effective that you’ll choose to use them all year, and not just during the holidays!

1. Acknowledge That Everything Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect. The holiday commercials and movies on television really do miss the mark when it comes to realistic portrayals of family gatherings.

• Accept that you can enjoy some wonderful holiday get-togethers regardless of whether the kids accidentally spill a bit of the Christmas punch or you’re having trouble locating your festive napkin rings.

• Believe me, most people will hardly notice if the pies baked a little too long or you forgot the cranberry sauce.

2. Purchase Your Gifts Early. When you get holiday shopping out of the way early on, you can prevent added last-minute pressure. You won’t be dealing with other shoppers during peak shopping times, and you won’t have to worry about making split-second decisions on gifts.

• Another way to avoid this stress altogether is to do all of your holiday shopping online so you can beat the crowds!

3. Scale Down Your Holiday Plans. Because adults can sometimes have an overly idealistic view of the holidays that springs from their childhood experiences, this strategy can be a challenge. Scaling down your plans involves being more flexible in your thinking about the holidays.

• Let go of feeling the need to plan and carry out elaborate, lavish celebrations. Maybe you’d rather have smaller, more intimate gatherings with friends spread out over a month or two, rather than a big event that makes it difficult to connect with others.

• Essentially, know that you don’t have to reproduce the special holiday memory you have in your mind to have an amazing time. You also don’t have to find the perfect gift, spend the most money, or have a room piled with presents to show your love to others.

• Try to remember—“It’s the thought that counts.” Most people will never remember the cool gift you got for them that one year. But they will have fond memories of the quality time you spent together as a family.

4. Take Shortcuts to Save Time. Figure out simpler ways to do things that will provide more time for other holiday tasks and activities.

• One good example: Rather than baking pies, order them from a nearby restaurant that’s known for its delicious baked goods.

• When shopping, it’s okay to purchase gift cards as presents. Many people actually prefer to receive a gift card so they can then choose what they want. Gift cards are easy to find at most stores, satisfy nearly everyone, and will cost you less in wrapping paper.

5. Take Some Time to Yourself. While we often take the time to think of others during the holiday season, we can also forget our own needs. Remember to schedule some time for yourself and concentrate on winding down. To care for others, you first have to take care of your own health and well being.

• One way to take some time for yourself for relaxation is by scheduling a massage.

6. Stay Calm. While it may not be an issue for every family, sometimes the togetherness causes conflicts and clashing. Before you join a family event, tell yourself that you’ll take the high road if need be. You don’t want a disagreement or any tension to ruin the opportunity to have fun during the holidays.

• If necessary, take a time out and walk around the block or go to another room to take some deep breaths to center yourself. When you’re ready, you can rejoin the festivities.

8. Watch your Nutrition. It’s not fair to yourself nor even practical to completely avoid indulging around the holidays, but at the same time, you can remain in control. Watch what you’re putting into your body, as large amounts of certain foods can affect how you feel. The two big ones to be mindful of are caffeine and sweets.

9. Buy Yourself a Present. While you’ve been spending money on everyone else, there’s no reason why you can’t buy yourself a little something. This way, you can ensure that you’ll get something you want. • Remember the massage suggestion earlier in this article? Maybe it’s something else you’d prefer. Either way, you deserve it!

10. Get Enough Rest. The holiday season is generally an exciting time. You may lose sleep due to stress or even because of the excitement. Either way, be kind to yourself by getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Getting less than eight hours of sleep per night may set you up for stress without realizing it.

• If you need a reminder, use the settings on your phone to alert you when it’s time to start settling down and getting ready for bed.

11. Learn to Delegate. If you realize that you’re in charge of too many things, don’t pile on the stress—instead, delegate the tasks. Be wise enough to recognize when you need some help and ask for it. You can even involve your children with certain holiday preparations which they may very much enjoy! This year, decide to reduce your holiday stress. By shedding the urge to be perfect, beginning holiday shopping earlier, scaling down expectations, and using shortcuts to save time, you’ll bring your tension level way down.

Think about what you truly want the holidays to mean to you and your family. Then, you can let go of expectations based on the past and enjoy your time together. Ultimately that’s what the holidays are for—creating meaningful moments and connections with those who matter most.

11 Gratitude Books To Remind You To Be Thankful Daily

In my continuous pursuit of happiness, one thing that people emphasize time and again is a feeling of gratitude. These days, the science behind gratitude and the general public are starting to get the idea that gratitude for things in life is actually a good thing. With life going by so fast, taking some time to slow down and express some gratitude is always nice.

In light of all this, I’ve gone out to look for some of the best books revolving around gratitude. These books do more than show us the benefits of gratitude. In fact, these books are able to help us bring a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and wellbeing to ourselves too.

Before diving into the list, here is the sort of criteria I looked for in books about gratitude. Considering how sizable the self-improvement industry is, you can use these criteria to determine other books beyond this list:

  • Easy to apply lifestyle – Expressing gratitude is not a difficult process, however, the benefits and day to day transformations can be hard to spot for those looking to get into it. The books we are suggesting today go to great lengths to outline the benefits and what you may experience when practicing gratitude on a regular basis.
  • Science-based – With the extensive amount of research done around gratitude at this point, many authors should be taking the time to do research.
  • Insightful – Gratitude is more than a feeling. It’s also a mindset shift. Not only will this make you a more thankful individual, but it should also give you more insight on yourself as you make changes to yourself every day.

 

1. Words of Gratitude

Written by Robert Emmons, he is one of the most influential professionals in gratitude research with several books and articles published on this topic. This book is written in sweet spots of many people, between academic areas and intimate ones as well.

If you’re looking for a book that has ample research but also explains itself in simple language, give this book a read.

Written by Robert Emmons, he is one of the most influential professionals in gratitude research with several books and articles published on this topic. This book is written in sweet spots of many people, between academic areas and intimate ones as well.

If you’re looking for a book that has ample research but also explains itself in simple language, give this book a read.

 

2. The Psychology of Gratitude

Another book that Robert Emmons worked on is The Psychology of Gratitude. He and Michael McCullough assembled this book for those looking to delve further into the theories, philosophies, and evidence surrounding gratitude overall.

This book pulls various perspectives and fields. It provides such an in-depth look into gratitude that many describe this as a necessary book if you’re ever planning to get into positive psychology. That said, you don’t need to have a background in it to understand this book.

Another book that Robert Emmons worked on is The Psychology of Gratitude. He and Michael McCullough assembled this book for those looking to delve further into the theories, philosophies, and evidence surrounding gratitude overall.

This book pulls various perspectives and fields. It provides such an in-depth look into gratitude that many describe this as a necessary book if you’re ever planning to get into positive psychology. That said, you don’t need to have a background in it to understand this book.

3. Thanks!

The last Emmons book I’ll talk about in this post is Thanks!. This calls back to the Words of Gratitude book he wrote where there is a bit of gratitude research while also giving different perspectives.

This book pulls from psychology, religion and anthropology before offering a call to action to cultivate gratitude in your life. The angle this book is taking is more along the lines of understanding how gratitude can create a life-changing addition to your life as well as tactics to use it in your life.

4. A Simple Act of Gratitude

 

Written by John Kralik, this memoir provides a personal look into gratitude and how it can change someone’s life. In this memoir, John Kralik talks about an all-time low point in his life to make it into a happy and flourishing life.

How he went about it was through the simple act of writing down thank-you notes to himself. After doing enough of those he had an epiphany:

“My life would become more manageable if I spent all my energy and focus on what I do have in my life rather than what I don’t have.”

That epiphany sent him on a journey where he devoted an entire year to writing 365 thank-you notes, once per day. Every time he did that he noticed profound changes in himself and wrote all about them in this book.

If you’re looking for a simple book to see gratitude in action, this is a great pick.

 

5. The Gratitude Diaries

A New York Times bestselling book has a mixture of the books discussed so far. The core focus of this book is revolving around one woman’s efforts to stick to her New Year’s resolution of being more grateful and optimistic – similar to John Kralik.

At the same time, the book delves into plenty of academic research and backs up findings with evidence-based findings like the Robert Emmons books.

This approach Janice Kaplan takes is nice as you’re getting the best of both worlds. All wrapped up in a book that you can casually read thanks to the informal and accessible tonne.

6. One Thousand Gifts

Many great gratitude books stem from personal exploration as these help us to better understand gratitude. Ann Voskamp’s book – One Thousand Gifts – is no different as she shares her personal transformation around her new habit of writing down specifics of what she is thankful for. In the book, she refers to these as “gifts”.

She argues that jotting these down on a regular basis will allow us to notice the smaller details in our lives. Based on her own transformation, it’s hard to argue with that logic.

7. Living Life As A Thank You

Written by authors Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons, this book drives home that whatever you’re given in life, even if it’s bad, saying thank you for these can change your life. This book provides a gratitude plan for those looking to delve into gratitude and also to help them understand how gratitude can improve the daily feelings of compassion, hope, and love.

8. The Little Book of Hygge

Pronounced as Hoo-ga, the idea of Hygge has Danish origins. It loosely translates to a feeling of community, well-being and coziness. The author – Meik Wiking – writes about Hygge as a way to introduce this concept and how people can incorporate this into your life.

And it’s not like these are very difficult to achieve. According to Hygge, things like taking breaks, and being present are easy to do. They also aren’t that much of a stretch to the ideas and benefits that we get when expressing gratitude.

9. The Gifts of Imperfection

Brené Brown has written all kinds of books over the years on a variety of topics. One in her wheelhouse focuses on gratitude. To Brown, she outlines ten guideposts that are designed to inspire people to live a wholehearted and authentic life. She argues that by living your life in this way, it’s easier to accept, show compassion, and cultivate gratitude in your life.

10. Everyday Gratitude

For those looking for quick bursts of information or something very easy to read, picking up a copy of Everyday Gratitude could be an option. The focus of this book is revolving around quotes from influential figures plus reflections and practices for viewing life as a gift. This is great for those who aren’t too keen on knowing the inner workings and want to experience gratitude first hand in a faster way.

11. Gratitude

The final book we’ll share is one written by Oliver Sacks titled Gratitude. Even though he didn’t do any research in the gratitude field, his essays and the multiple books he’s published since the early 1980s made their marks on many people.

Based on his essays and books it’s clear that Sacks was a man filled with gratitude. Even when he announced to people that he had terminal cancer in January 2015, he had this to say:

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.”

This book consists of four essays that were published in The New York Times – one of them being the essay where he announced his illness. This is complemented by his partner’s words and photographs of the last few years of his life.

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking and heart-wrenching book that looks at the entire cycle of life, this is your best option.

Final Thoughts

In our fast-paced lives, it’s easy to lose ourselves or forget about feeling grateful in our lives. These books teach us and remind us to slow down and take notice of the small things in life.

Many of these books also stress why that is so important to do in the first place. For those looking to hope into the world of gratitude, you can’t go wrong with picking up any of these books.