There are myriad psychology models and theories on what motivates us to do the things we do: how we respond to incentives, achievement theories, and so on.
I look at motivation as excitement. So how can you remain motivated in a simple way that works every single day? Here are 10 ways.
1. Take a break–you deserve it.
The only way we can perform at an optimal level is create time for rest. The moment you know you can’t take any time off is usually when you need it most.
So take that long delayed vacation, and return to your business with renewed enthusiasm.
2. Keep your cards close to your chest.
Finally running that marathon? Excited about your new diet? Bursting at the seams over your new project? Good. Keep it to yourself.
Announcing your intent to do these feats will backfire. Resist the urge to reap the barrage of Facebook likes, and gushing comments. The positive feedback you receive from your network will trick your brain into thinking you’ve already accomplished your goal, sabotaging your once-motivated brain to do said feat.
So keep it to yourself and share the good news once you’ve already done it.
3. Confront death, and define your legacy.
Death is a powerful motivator. We get bogged down in mindless activities. They make us feel like we’re accomplishing things, when in reality we’re just spinning in circles.
Knowing that you have finite time on this planet helps sharpen your focus. Everything we do is another step in defining our legacy. This may seem like heady posturing, but both can be powerful motivators.
4. Celebrate the little wins, no matter how small.
Little wins may seem like just that–little.
Celebrating these wins can help to create positive habits. You break the inertia of mediocrity by teaching everyone around you how to win. They get the chance to bask in that emotion.
Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of Mindvalley, has gone so far as implementing what he calls the “awesome bell.” Which he rings (you guessed it) anytime something awesome happens.
5. Slash your to-do list in half.
Slashing your aggressive to-do list in half will allow room for success. Knowing that it’s realistic for you to complete the list is empowering.
6. Be gentle with yourself.
Stop comparing the accomplishments in your life with those of your neighbor. The story you create in your head will never be as good, and the reality will never be as bad.
There are many people who are smarter than you. The moment you can embrace this notion, you’re free. Free to explore. Free to follow what excites you. Free to ignore what they do, or how they do it, and focus on you.
7. Hack the way your brain perceives your new habits.
Recently, I began waking up two hours earlier than usual during the week. Instead of viewing it as two hours less I get to sleep, I view it as two extra hours to my day, allowing me to add a full workday per week.
8. Embrace vulnerability.
We live in a culture where we horde Instagram followers, and Facebook likes. The perception of our lives being anything less than perfect is a daunting notion. The glossy Facebookification of our lives can create a dangerous facade of success.
Sharing defeats and admitting failure is a powerful cultivator of motivation, allowing you to move past the failure. Work through the emotion instead of taking it out on someone else. Then move on to something more constructive.
Sharing these vulnerable moments also cultivates deeper connection with peers.
9. Do what you love (sort of).
Find what it is you love to do and get proficient at it. Success dwells at the fulcrum of passion and excellence.
But be careful. Make sure that you can make a living from your passion. I’m passionate about a lot of things that I know I’m not so amazing at and that I definitely can’t make a living at. I love playing guitar. My daughter loves when I play songs from the movie Frozen. It’s fun. I’m never going to be a rock star.
There is a an anecdote I’ve heard about Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Gates’s father at a dinner party. A guest asked them what the most important quality for success was today and all three responded “Focus” at the same exact time. They all smiled and laughed to each other because they hadn’t really prepared the answer.
We are all inundated with texts and emails. These are no longer just work interruptions. Because of the mini-computers we carry around in our pockets, the flood of information distracts us wherever we happen to be, 24/7.
So turn off your iPhone, stop trolling your ex-lover’s Facebook page, and get to work.
One of those days again: Your alarm goes off, you open your eyes, and all you want is snuggling back into your sheets and sleep a few more minutes.
But duty calls, so you get up, wash your face, and grab your first cup of coffee to compensate for the lack of recovery from the night. What follows are hours of operating in automatic mode just to get through the morning before you actually feel awake.
While we all know how this daunting scenario feels, a lack of sleep doesn’t only come with short-term sacrifices. In the long run, sleep deprivation significantly harms your health and productivity.
According to Shawn Stevenson, there’s no facet of your mental, emotional, or physical performance that’s not affected by the quality of your sleep.
Contrary to what you might think, sleep is an active process. During the night, our brain processes everything we saw, heard, and learned throughout the day. Additionally, our immune system gets strengthened, our metabolism gets regulated, and our damaged cells are being repaired.
That’s why high-quality sleep boosts your entire day’s output and ultimately increases the quality of your life.
Even though great days start the night before, the majority of today’s population is chronically sleeping deprived and suffering from low quality sleep.
Yet, besides a balanced diet and sports, sleep is the ultimate key to creating mental and physical balance.
According to studies, a lack of sleep leads to less creativity, more stress, and underperformance. This lack of rest leads to millions of people not living up to their full potential because they’re tired.
While many young people get trapped in a hustle mentality, thinking they’d accomplish more if they cut down on their sleep, the reality is the contrary: If done correctly, sleep can be the ultimate performance hack.
Minimizing your sleep to have more hours to work will backfire rather sooner than later.
Yet, also lots of sleep will barely lead to an energized body and a clear mind. Instead, it’s the qualityof your sleep that impacts your recovery.
And while being awake is a state of using energy, sleeping is anabolic, it builds us up and fuels us with the needed energy to get through the next day.
“You will factually work better, be more efficient, and get more stuff done when you’re properly rested.”
— Shawn Stevenson
Even though sleep optimization might sound complicated, it can be quite simple. A few uncomplicated habits can already lead to improved recovery and more energy throughout your days.
Understand Sleep Patterns and Build Routines
Even though many successful people and books preach waking up early, getting up at 5 AM is certainly not the holy grail to a successful day or life.
For many people, mornings are the only time when they can focus on side projects or their personal growth. Yet, when you wake up and when you go to bed, don’t matter as much as you might think. The only thing that matters in terms of productivity is how you spend the hours in between.
So instead of focusing on when to wake up, aim to maximize your energy and make the most of your time awake.
Our bodies love routines; that’s why going to bed and waking up at the same time massively affects your recovery.
Abnormalities might happen every now and then, but sticking to regular sleep patterns and going to bed at the same time will help you to fall asleep faster and wake up more refreshed.
Be Aware of Sleep Phases
While sleeping, we pass five different stages of sleep. These different stages of light and deep sleep form so-called sleep cycles, and each stage has different characteristics.
Stage 1 & 2: These are the light sleep phases. During these stages, our body temperature, and blood pressure drop, and we slowly fall asleep. Stage 1 is a transition phase between being awake and sleeping and only makes up to 5% of each night. During this time, we wake up easily.
Stage 2 is accountable for up to 55% of our sleep time. That’s when our brain activity slows down, and waking up becomes harder.
Stage 3 & 4: These stages are considered deep sleep. Our brain activity drops to a minimum, and recovery processes are at a high. Thus, these stages are the most important for getting the ultimate rest and recovery.
Stage 5: The last stage is also called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase. During this phase, our eyes move, we dream, and our brain activity is at its high.
After completing these five stages, a new sleep cycle starts.
Each cycle lasts for around 90 minutes, which means we usually repeat these cycles four to six times per night.
Four such sleep cycles would lead to six hours of sleep while six cycles account for nine hours.
Okay, but why does that matter?!
Well, understanding sleep cycles matters because when you wake up influences your energy levels. Waking up in the middle of a deep sleep stage will make you feel worse for wear, waking up during a light sleep period will lead to an energized morning.
In short: Being ripped out of deep sleep will cause you to feel less energized than waking up during a light sleep period.
How to do it:
As you know that each sleep cycle takes around 90 minutes, you can set your alarm accordingly. Instead of waking up in the middle of a cycle, ensure that your alarm rings when a cycle is fully completed.
Rather than aiming for the standard eight hours of sleep, make sure you complete your sleep cycle and don’t get ripped off of a deep sleep phase.
The easiest and most effective way to understand and take control over your sleep cycle is by using smart devices such as a watch or ring to track your sleep. Yet, even most smartphones can track your sleep if you place them close to your pillow.
If you, however, don’t want to make use of devices, work with the 90-minute rule and calculate when your alarm should ring based on getting a full sleep cycle rather than waking up in the middle of a deep sleep phase.
So, if you go to bed at 10.30 PM, rather set your alarm for 6 AM, instead of 6.30.
Soak Up Sunlight
Studies show that getting more sunlight throughout the day can help to sleep better at night.
We have a built-in 24-hour clock, the so-called “circadian timing system” inside our bodies that helps us to regulate day and night time.
Sunlight signals alertness to our brain and triggers the production of daytime hormones, which are responsible for regulating our biological clock. Thus, too little light during the day and excessive light exposure (e.g., through screens) at night influence the quality of your sleep negatively.
How to do it:
Whenever possible, get your body out and soak up some sunlight early in the morning. This will help to regulate your inner clock and differentiate between daytime and nighttime more easily.
You can, for instance, get to work a little earlier and walk the last mile, take your breaks outside or at least close to a window, or implement a short walk as your new morning routine.
Avoid Blue Light
The artificial blue light emitted by our screens has a negative influence on our sleep patterns as it harms the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us to fall asleep with ease and sleep well.
Due to the exposure to artificial lighting, our bodies can barely differentiate between day and night. Thus, falling asleep is more difficult after staring at our screens late at night.
Engaging with our devices late at night keeps our brains alert and harms the quality of our rest. And even though watching your favorite movie or typing a few messages might not seem like a big deal, it is.
Browsing through the web is keeping your brain active while all you need after a busy day is to disconnect and unwind.
“Disconnecting from our technology to reconnect with ourselves is absolutely essential.”
— Arianna Huffington
How to do it:
Whenever possible, avoid screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Experts even recommend avoiding artificial light through screens 90 minutes before bedtime.
Instead, practice activities that help you calm down, such as reading, stretching exercises, meditation, or any other calming hobby.
If you really can’t stop using your devices, install a blue light blocker on your screens (e.g., f.lux). By doing so, the blue light of your screens will turn into a red light, which is less harmful to your body and sleep. Most phones already have a “night feature”, which also reduces the blue light that is emitted.
Alternatively, you can also grab a pair of blue light blocking glasses.
Darken Your Bedroom
In addition to avoiding screens, dimming the lights of your bedroom will also improve the quality of your sleep.
If exposed to too much bright light, your body doesn’t know if it’s day or night. Thus, sleeping becomes harder, and the quality of the rest drops. Sleeping in an utterly dark room, however, will help you to fall asleep faster and wake up fully recovered.
How to do it:
If possible, completely darken your room through (roll-up) curtains. If that isn’t possible, grab a pair of sleeping masks. These are cheap and effective, plus, you can take them wherever you go, which makes them a great companion during travels.
In addition to light, also minimize noises in your bedroom. If you have any digital devices in your bedroom, unplug them and ensure silence during the night.
How to do it:
Close all doors and windows that might lead to unnecessary noises during the night. Additionally, make sure to mute or unplug all devices that might be noisy.
If avoiding noises isn’t possible, get used to earplugs: Just like sleeping masks, these are cheap and effective, plus, you can take them wherever you go, which makes high-quality sleep during travels easier.
Similar to light and sounds, our body temperature has a significant influence on the quality of our sleep.
When we go to bed, our body temperature usually drops so that we can fall asleep easier. If the temperature in the bedroom, however, is too high, falling asleep becomes challenging.
According to studies, the ideal room temperature for high-quality sleep is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius.
However, in addition to the temperature of your bedroom, you should be cool too, meaning you should let go of all negativity and tension in your mind and body.
We all face negative experiences throughout our days. Even if you are an unbroken optimist, you’ll come across annoying people. And it can be hard to control our emotions throughout the day. Yet, at the latest, before going to bed, let go of all the negativity you faced during the day.
How to do it:
Make sure to cool your bedroom down before going to bed. Also, don’t wear thick clothing for sleep. Instead, let your skin breathe.
Additionally, do things that help you cool down mentally before bedtime.
Activities such as meditation or journaling can help you to let go of negative experiences and focus on the positive, even if you had a tough day.
If you want to take it one step further, you can write all your anger down on a piece of paper and burn it down. Literally, burn the piece of paper, but be cautious (e.g., do it in the sink). By doing so, you physically let go of the problem.
Other activities to calm down before bedtime are reading or listening to audiobooks.
Sleep at the Right Hours
One of the least known “sleep hacks” is the fact that our bodies recover most by sleeping between 10 PM and 2 AM.
Sleeping during this time will amplify the quality of your rest and help you feel more energized in the morning.
According to Shawn Stevenson, that’s based on the fact that we are part of nature. We are simply designed to sleep when it gets dark.
How to do it:
The 10 PM to 2 AM recommendation might vary depending on time zones, the time of the year, and other influences. Yet, the core idea is simple: Get to bed within a few hours of it getting dark outside.
“Timing your sleep is like timing an investment in the stock market — it doesn’t matter how much you invest, it matters when you invest.”
— Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary
Avoid Excessive Exercising
Heavy exercising before bedtime isn’t favorable as it boosts your metabolism, pumps your heart rate, and makes it difficult to calm down right before bedtime.
While an excessive workout in the evening might harm the quality of your sleep, a massage, and some stretching can be priceless.
Stretching and massaging your body with a foam roller will not only improve the quality of your sleep, but also help to calm down, connect with your intuition, and let go of tension.
Particularly if you have an office job and spend most of your days sitting, your body will thank you for releasing muscle tightness at the end of your day.
Besides the benefits of typical stretching exercises, a foam roller helps ease muscle pain, increase flexibility and blood flow, and help you relax.
How to do it:
If you want to do something good for your body right before going to bed, choose yoga or stretching exercises. Turn on some calming music and help your body to let go of tension. Not only your body, but also your mind will calm down, which is highly beneficial to have a night of high-quality sleep.
Avoid Big Meals and Caffeine Before Bedtime
Eating late can lead to inflammation and impairments in blood sugar regulation. Thus, whenever possible, avoid eating late at night. Your sleep, your body, and your performance will undoubtedly reward you.
However, if you should need to eat close to bedtime, make sure to consume protein-rich foods instead of carb-loaded, fatty meals.
In addition, avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon so that your body can get rid of the caffeine until bedtime.
Overconsumption of caffeine often leads to sleep problems, which leaves you tired, which again leads to more caffeine consumption, and soon you find yourself in a doom loop between coffee and bad sleep.
How to do it:
Instead of a late-night snack, you can drink herbal teas that help to sleep better. Chamomile tea, for instance, is known for its antidepressant qualities, and lavender tea reduces stress and anxiety.
Additionally, ensure to have some high-protein snacks at home in case you get hungry and want to eat something close to bedtime.
Depending on your body and what precisely you consume, caffeine usually has a half-life of around 5–8 hours. This means that half of the substance will be removed from your body in 5–8 hours. That’s why you should stop drinking coffee at noon or in the early afternoon to ensure your body gets rid of the caffeine until bedtime.
Preparing for high-quality sleep doesn’t need to be complex, long, or exhausting.
On the contrary: It can be short and fun. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all these ideas about what you could do to improve your sleep, have fun experimenting with them at your own speed. Keep what works for you and screw the rest.
What to avoid:
Avoid or reduce blue lights that are emitted by screens.
Avoid excessive exercising shortly before bedtime, choose yoga or stretching instead.
Avoid big meals for at least two hours before bedtime.
Avoid caffeine in the (late) afternoon.
Avoid waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle and being ripped off of a deep sleep phase.
What to do:
Understand your sleep patterns and build a consistent sleep schedule.
Get some sunlight early in the morning.
Darken your room and minimize all noises.
Cooldown the temperature in your bedroom.
Calm your mind and let go of negativity, for example, through meditation, reading, or journaling.
Get to bed within a few hours of it getting dark outside.
Take your time to experiment with different rituals until you find one that fits your needs and helps you to live a happier, more joyful life.
Choose one or two new routines and try different combinations until you find a pattern that helps you maximize your wellbeing and performance throughout your days.
On July 4th, the United States of America will celebrate its Independence Day. If you were born in America or live there now, this is the perfect occasion to celebrate the country in all its glory. Not sure what the holiday means and how to celebrate? Western Union has got you covered! Take a look below to learn everything you need to know about the Fourth of July.
All the way back in the year 1776 on July 4th, the United States was formed. Back then there were not 50 states, but thirteen colonies that claimed their independence from Great Britain. One of the country’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, drafted the Declaration of Independence and the rest is history. The country grew and grew to where it is today and Jefferson would go on to be America’s third President!
The historic meaning behind this amazing holiday is one of freedom and independence. It is a special time for Americans to recognize how fortunate they are to live in “the land of the free,” as it is sung in the Star Spangled Banner, the United States’ national anthem.
How To Celebrate
The Fourth of July is quite an exciting and spirited time in the United States! One of the biggest ways to celebrate is by watching a colorful firework display at your local park or stadium. These beautiful fireworks light up the sky with colors of red, white and blue and help make the Fourth of July celebrations memorable for the entire family.
Before the firework display however, the real fun begins! Many families will take a stroll to the beach or head to the park for a mid-day barbeque. Others might find themselves entering a watermelon-eating contest or visiting a local Fourth of July parade, full of live music, cyclists and fun!
What to Eat
We mentioned that many families celebrate with a big barbecue and it is a feast you will surely remember! Some typical dishes you might find at a Fourth of July barbecue are hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, with a side of corn on the cob and Coleslaw!
For dessert, this is a great opportunity to flex your creative muscles and cook up something fun and festive! Many will bake fruit cakes in the shape of the American flag, while another fun idea is to enjoy red, white and blue popsicles that are fun to look at and even better to taste!
No matter how you celebrate today, the Fourth of July is all about spending time with family, friends and loved ones. It’s important to celebrate your country’s Independence Day and recognize the significance of your culture and its history. If you are recognizing the Fourth of July, make sure it’s full of family, fun and fireworks, too! How does your country celebrate its Independence Day?
Did you ever scroll through social media profiles of influencers sharing their picture-perfect lives full of glamour and success and wondered how they got there?
If you’re anything like me, you later looked at your own life full of struggles, fears, and unaccomplished goals and felt frustrated about your own progress.
You might think of all the things you still need to take care of and wonder why your life feels so miserable while others seem so happy.
And most importantly, you feel like you’re massively behind in life.
You start to feel a little anxious. You believe you’ve made wrong choices and start to feel like a “failure.”
Sadly, wondering whether we’re “enough” is a common thought because comparing ourselves to others is now easier than ever before.
Social media and societal expectations make it hard to acknowledge our own progress because we’re so focused on what others are doing and achieving.
Yet the truth is, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, even if it might seem so at first sight.
We usually think that others are doing better because we only see the bright sides of their lives. And that’s partly because our perception of what a “good life” should look like is so screwed due to unrealistic expectations.
You might see someone’s big house and their fancy vacation photos, but you have no idea how peaceful or miserable they actually feel in that house or during that vacation.
Ultimately, “good” and “better” are based on your perspective. You can be happy with very little or own anything yet feel miserable.
The good news is, whether we’re doing well in life is mostly defined by small elements of our daily life:
You know what you *don’t* want
Most people will tell you, “you need to know what you want in life,” but the truth is, knowing what you don’t want is equally powerful.
If you know that you don’t want a typical office job, you’re a huge step ahead — even if you don’t know exactly what kind of job you want instead.
You might not know what your ideal relationship would look like, but you might know exactly what you don’t want based on your previous experiences. This information alone will help you make the right decisions too.
You can celebrate the wins of others
If you have a pure heart, you’ll be able to wish good for others and celebrate with them instead of feeling bad about their success.
So many people believe they need to constantly compete with their colleagues and friends while the truth is that we all can win.
We’re living in an abundant world full of options and opportunities for everyone, and it’s possible that we all do well in life.
You’re not hyped about every new trend
Here’s a truth most people will never accept: You don’t need to be up to date on every trend, and you can say no to materialism.
So many people’s purchasing decisions are based on what society and random ads tell them to buy. Similarly, their big life decisions are also shaped by those trends.
Escaping that cycle isn’t always easy, but it’s possible: You can live your life according to your own needs without following every new trend.
I used my last phone (a Samsung Galaxy S8) for almost five years until it broke down.
Phones are useful devices, but they can also be our greatest enemies. Most people spend way too much time staring at their screens anyway, so I consciously decide not to prioritize having the newest devices.
And I never understood why I should pay thousands of dollars for a new phone if I could get an older model for almost no money.
Once my old phone broke down, I extended my contract and got a new phone for free. It’s not the latest model but is a lot better than the previous one and does everything it should do. I’ll use it until it doesn’t get the job done anymore, and then I’ll get the next one.
The same is true for any other device I use in my daily life.
Most people live paycheck to paycheck because they’re drowning in small monthly payments for items they purchased to prove their social status.
If you can ignore those stupid games and make more thoughtful (and sustainable) choices, you’ll be able to detach yourself from that pressure to constantly buy things you don’t even care about and instead use your money to create a life you enjoy.
So many people think their material possessions will help them be happier or feel “more successful,” yet what truly happens is that they end up feeling miserable and drowning in consumer debt.
Luckily, genuine happiness isn’t rooted in “things” but in relationships and our inner emotions.
You’re a little skeptical
A healthy dose of skepticism helps you seek truth instead of shallow information.
Questioning life helps you look beyond the surface and find new paths you’ve never thought about before.
Most people do whatever they’re told to do without ever asking why. They act like puppets because they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions.
By doing the opposite, you’re stepping up for yourself and showing the world that you want more than the ordinary.
You feel connected
Research proves that meaningful connections are one of the most important elements of happiness. Plus, they even influence our health.
The good news is, you don’t need dozens of friends. In fact, the number of relationships we can nourish at a given time is finite anyway, and it makes more sense to maintain a small number of meaningful relationships instead of having shallow conversations with hundreds of people.
And if you don’t feel that sense of connection yet, you can now start to consciously build your circle with like-minded people. You could, for instance, join local events and clubs to meet people with similar interests.
If that feels too hard, you could even just start by joining online communities, which might later lead to real-life friendships as well.
You know how to step back to enjoy life
Even though a good life isn’t necessarily defined by what you accomplish, having certain goals and a vision of the future helps you stay energized and motivated.
Researchers even found that having a purpose can prolong our lives.
Having a strong purpose is also one of the common attributes of blue zones, which are five specific regions of the world where a great percentage of the population lives up to age 100 or more.
Yet, in Blue Zones, purpose isn’t necessarily defined by your work.
Their definitions are loosely translated as what makes life worth living. And if we’re honest, for most of us, our work isn’t what makes our lives more meaningful.
It’s our relationships, the voluntary work we do, or our hobbies that add meaning to our lives.
Yet more than half of America’s employees report that they lack proper work-life balance and work more hours than they feel comfortable with.
Working less and spending more time on other activities isn’t always easy because most of us grew up being told that we need to be hardworking to be worthy, yet it’s crucial.
And even just being aware of this fundamental truth is a step toward living a better life.
You’re not afraid of asking for help
Life can be so simple and good if we put our egos aside and ask for help whenever we need it.
We’re all good at certain things, yet we suck at others, and there’s no shame in being bad at something.
Whether it’s asking a friend or getting professional help — allowing yourself to get supported is the ultimate lifehack because it helps you save time and do things correctly instead of struggling on your own.
You can admit your mistakes
Peacefully accepting your mistakes and taking responsibility for your actions instead of blaming others shows that you can let go of the past. Plus, it also proves that you don’t let your ego dictate your future.
Blaming others is always easier and more comfortable, yet, it’s also what keeps us stuck.
If you can accept that it’s mostly your own choices and actions that have led you to your current life, you’re more self-aware and emotionally mature than most people will ever be.
You may not be where you want to be yet, but if you can stay patient and allow yourself to slowly discover new opportunities for growth, you’ll eventually end up exactly where you want to.
Even though we’d all like to have a little more stability and certainty in our lives, the truth is that we’ll never have it.
We’re all living for the first time, and each challenge we face just teaches us new lessons about ourselves and the world we’re surrounded by.
And even if we constantly want to improve ourselves and be happier, healthier, and wealthier, we need to stop sometimes and appreciate the progress we’ve already made.
At the end of the day, life is finite. So what’s the point of constantly chasing new goals if we never sit down and relax, never watch sunsets, or never dance until our feet hurt?
We all wish we had a little more inner peace in our lives.
After all, it’s hard enough to cope with the stress of workplace politics or family drama when your mind is clear and still. But when you’re trying to do it with a mind that’s buzzing with worries and insecurities, regrets and ruminations, frustrations and irritations, well… it can be overwhelming, if not completely debilitating.
But here’s the thing about true peace of mind:
Peace of mind is not something you do or find immediately. It’s something that’s cultivated slowly and intentionally.
In other words, peace of mind comes from good habits formed deliberately over time.
If you want to cultivate a calmer, gentler, and more peaceful mind, these four habits are a good place to start.
1. Talk About How You Feel
Because painful emotions feel bad, our natural instinct is to avoid them… Naturally!
The only trouble is…
When you constantly run away from your emotions, you teach your brain that emotions are bad.
But painful emotions are bad, right?
Think about it:
When you touch a hot pan on the stove, is the pain bad? Nope, not at all. Even though pain feels bad, it’s actually good! Pain is a messenger telling you to move your hand so you avoid the real danger — tissue damage resulting from third-degree burns.
Well, emotions work the same way.
Emotions themselves are not bad or dangerous. They’re just messengers trying to communicate something to you.
Just because your emotions feel bad doesn’t mean they are bad.
But if you treat your painful emotions like enemies by running away from them or trying to eliminate them, you train your brain to see them that way in the future — and this only makes you more reactive to them and keeps your mind constantly stressed out and worried.
Luckily, you can counteract this effect by doing the opposite:
By welcoming and expressing your emotions, instead of running away from them, you teach your brain to be calmer in the face of difficult feelings.
“Feelings are something you have; not something you are.
We go from on top of the world to grumpy and irritable in just a few minutes.
We feel sad and just can’t seem to shake it.
Painful emotions are unavoidable. But here’s the thing…
Life goes on whether you feel good or not.
Time passes, opportunities come and go, and our lives march forward whether we’re feeling good or feeling miserable:
If you wait to work on that novel you’ve been wanting to write until you feel “truly inspired,” it’s never going to happen (and you’re gonna feel bad about yourself in the meantime).
If you wait to start that new business you’ve dreamed of until you’re feeling confident enough, it’s never going to happen (and you’re gonna feel bad about yourself in the meantime).
If you wait to tell your kids you love them until it feels more natural, it’s never gonna happen (and you’re gonna feel bad about yourself in the meantime).
Many people can’t find inner peace because their minds are flooded with regrets about all the things they didn’t do.
The antidote, painful as it may sound, is to learn how to do what matters regardless of how you feel. This is the only way to stop the constant stream of regrets and disappointments.
Easier said than done of course. Obviously, it’s easier to go to the gym if you’re feeling energized, just like it’s easier to ask out that cute guy when you’re feeling confident.
And while hard things will always be hard, you can make them a lot less hard with practice. Specifically, you can practice doing things despite not wanting to.
Like an athlete building up endurance and strength, the more you practice feeling bad emotionally, the more tolerance to it you will build.
To free your mind from the constant stress of regret, practice doing important things no matter how you feel.
The next time you want to work toward a goal but don’t feel like it, ask yourself this question:
Should I look at feeling bad as an obstacle or as an opportunity to train?
“The only whole heart is the broken one because it lets the light in.”
— David Wolpe
3. Update Your Expectations
I think most of us know that overly-high expectations of people aren’t a great idea:
Expecting that your spouse will always be in a good mood is a set-up for excessive irritability and resentment.
Expecting that your employees will always act in the company’s best interest is a set up for excessive frustration and disappointment.
Expecting that your plans will always go well is a set up for excessive anxiety and stress.
Because here’s the thing about expectations….
The world and most of the people in it are surprisingly indifferent to your expectations.
This means that much of the time your expectations are going to be violated. And when that happens, you’re going to be chronically surprised — and not in a good way!
The issue is that surprise is like an emotional amplifier:
Seeing your spouse in a bad mood may be mildly disappointing. But seeing your spouse in a bad mood when you expected them to be in a good one is majorly disappointing.
Having your plans not work out is frustrating. But having them not work out after convincing yourself that they would is going to be majorly frustrating.
If you want more peace of mind, you must let go of unrealistic expectations for people.
Of course, you can’t just eradicate your expectations entirely. They have their uses now and then. The trick is to get in the habit of examining your expectations regularly and, if needed, updating them.
Life and other people will always disappoint you. But you’ll be a lot less disappointed if you stop expecting the world of them.
Make time to update your expectations regularly and you’ll be far more calm and peaceful for it.
“We have to be willing to confront the world as it is, not as we want it to be if we’re going to be successful.”
— Barry McCarthy
4. Enforce Healthy Boundaries
When I first drafted this article, the title of this section as “Set and Enforce Healthy Boundaries”
But let’s be honest, setting healthy boundaries isn’t really the problem…
It’s not that hard to ask your boss to stop emailing you on the weekends.
It’s not that hard to tell your adult child to get a job and move out.
It’s not that hard to tell yourself to go to the gym after work.
Sure, setting healthy boundaries can be a little uncomfortable. But the real issue here is enforcing the healthy boundaries you do set.
Because here’s the deal…
Setting a boundary and not enforcing it is worse than not setting it in the first place.
Think about it:
What are you teaching your boss if you tell her you don’t want to be emailed on the weekends but then go ahead and respond to her weekend emails anyway? You’re teaching her to not take your requests seriously.
What are you teaching your adult child if you tell them they need to get a job and move out but keep letting them live for free in your house and subsidizing their video game addiction? You’re teaching him that your requests aren’t actually all that important.
What are you teaching your own brain if you keep committing to starting a new workout regimen but then never following through on it? You’re teaching yourself that your goals don’t really matter to you and that you’re not a very reliable person.
Setting boundaries without enforcing them is just another form of self-sabotage.
The next time you think about making a serious request of someone or setting a new boundary, think carefully about what it will really take to enforce that boundary.
Because if you don’t, you’re training the people in your life not to respect you. And worse, you’re destroying your own self-respect. Both of which will lead to a lot of unnecessary emotional pain and mental stress.
“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
Think about the last time you had a really productive day—when you made a number of important decisions, crossed off key to-dos, and reached out to a few new connections. That felt good, right? Now think about a day when you felt as if you got nothing meaningful done. Maybe you sent out next steps after a series of back-to-back meetings, spent half a day listening to your coworkers vent, or researched Slack icebreakers instead of industry trends. At the end of that day, you weren’t sure what you’d accomplished, but you certainly felt very busy doing it.
You had the same amount of hours on both of those days, but in one scenario, you were in control and crossed off tasks that had a bigger impact on your company or career. In the other, unexpected distractions and assignments that don’t clearly ladder up to larger goals took up much of your attention. The latter are what I call distractors and fillers: the extraneous tasks and time sucks that prevent you from doing work that matters.
There are three phases to taking back control of your time: assessing how you’re spending it, deciding what you should keep doing, and learning to say no to everything else while still being a team player. The last part is often the trickiest because being helpful at work and nurturing relationships with your coworkers are both vital to your career growth. The key is to be mindful and kind about the choices you make.
Here’s a simple roadmap to help you reprioritize your time while still being a good colleague:
Phase 1: Assess your time.
Before you do anything else, you’ll need to take notice of your distractors and identify your most common time fillers.
Distractors are tasks indirectly related to your work that prevent you from focusing on your priorities. They’re inevitable but not always proportionate. Women, for example, are often loaded with the additional roles of emotional therapist, culture builder, and conflict resolver. And distractors tend to revolve around people and culture—like getting stuck in never-ending conversations or recognizing that an employee needs a pick-me-up. In a silo, these tasks can serve an important purpose in helping people feel connected, but they become a problem when they take over your to-do list. Write your distractors down.
Fillers are tasks that are directly related to work but often aren’t highly valued and don’t help you advance your career. In other words, they’re not the kinds of projects that lead to recognition, raises, or promotions. Instead, they include “office housework” items like scheduling the follow-up meeting, taking the notes, or otherwise being the memory keeper, organizer, or person who keeps the trains on track but goes unnoticed. List these fillers out, too.
Phase 2: Decide what to keep doing and what to stop.
Look at your list of fillers and distractors and start to evaluate how essential these items are to realizing your career goals. As you look at each task, ask yourself these questions:
Does this support one of my personal or professional goals?
Is this a fundamental part of my job description?
Does this give me access to a valuable connection or a different part of the business?
Does it bring me joy?
If you answer “yes” to at least one of the questions, then there’s room for that item on your to-do list and it’s worth making time for it. If not, add it to your “to-don’t” list.
Now, I wish you could just add stuff to your to-don’t list and—poof!—it disappears. Some things you might be able to just stop doing. Others may require buy-in from your manager or delegation to someone else. For each item on your to-don’t list, add the first thing you need to do to get it off your plate. For instance, next steps could include: call the head of a task force to discuss stepping down from a committee role or set up a conversation with your manager to discuss your goals and priorities.
Phase 3: Get comfortable with saying no—and learn to do it kindly.
Saying no—and doing it with kindness—is the most important skill you can learn to keep time sucks like the ones you identified in the previous steps off your plate in the future.
When one of those distractors or fillers pops ups, decline with confidence. Start with, “Thank you,” instead of, “I’m sorry,” because you don’t need to apologize for turning down a request. Say, “Thank you for the opportunity,” or, “Thank you for thinking of me,” and then add that you’re at full capacity right now.
If the request is coming from a client or your boss, you might not be able to say no outright, but you can still be intentional about your workload and say, “Yes, I can do that, but it will take the place of X. Are you OK with that?” If this is coming from a close colleague, you may want to be specific about why you can’t do it. If you’re feeling generous, you can always offer a different timeline (“I will be free in July”) or a smaller assist, such as sharing research on a smaller piece of a project that needs to be done. This keeps you focused on your goals while still coming across as a team player.
It’s too easy for last-minute requests, distractions, and fillers to take control of your time and to-do list, leaving little room for high-impact work. But when you start to pay attention to these hidden time sucks, you can prioritize the things that matter most to you and your career.
1. A weekend in which you have no plans, no responsibilities, and nowhere at all to be, ranks as one of the best weekends you’ll ever have.
2. Sometimes friends will try to make plans with you and you have no reason to decline except for the fact that you just want to be alone that day. (Your plan is to have no plans, people need to understand that by now, right?)
3. A good album, book, or television show can keep your attention far longer than any party, club, or bar could.
4. Going away to a remote cabin in the middle of the woods to just exist for a period of time sounds like the best idea for a vacation that you can think of.
5. There is nothing more exciting than planning a long, solo road trip, because you know you’re going to be able to think your thoughts, listen to your music, and play your audiobooks for hours and hours on end. Is there anything better?
6. When people say they can’t eat alone at a restaurant, you’re like, really? That’s one of life’s simple pleasures! Food? Good. A book? Good. No conversation whatsoever? Perfect.
7. The worst trait any potential lover could have is “clingy.” You need your space like you need air to breathe. It’s essential. If they need to be around you all the time? Dealbreaker.
8. Even if you are attached, you carve out hours of alone time just to keep your sanity (and to keep your relationship healthy and happy, too).
9. The only person you’d ever consider marrying would be someone that also loves spending time alone, otherwise that thing’s never going to last.
10. If anyone that knew you were to describe you, one of the words they’d use emphatically to do so is: independent.
11. Your intuition is on point because you spend an insane amount of time alone and cultivating it.
12. While people around you hate being single, you consider it such a joy to be able to be at the whim of your aloneness and this feeling is especially better if you live alone, because you have so much time to do all your little things that you do when nobody is around.
13. You’re always working on a project –usually something artistic– and you start to get antsy if you haven’t been able to work on it for a few days.
14. When you do hang out with people, you prefer seeing them one on one or in a small group. The more intimate and deep the conversation, the better.
15. You are an observer –watching and studying people’s behavior– and, funny enough, are usually quite well-liked, which can serve to be a problem considering how much time you want to spend by yourself.
16. A full day by yourself makes you feel more you than anything at all.
17. You tend to enjoy cold, rainy weather, as it gives you even more of an excuse to hibernate in your home and read, sit by the fire, think, curl up, write in your journal.
18. If you are not thinking about life’s big questions, you must be dead.
19. Because you put a premium on spending time alone, you are more present and attentive when you do spend time with people, because you don’t feel as though you’re missing out on time by yourself.
20. You would much rather go on a hike or go to the beach by yourself than with anyone, which isn’t to say you dislike going with people, it’s just a more engaging experience when you do it alone.
21. Sure, it’s fun to drink wine with friends, but having a bottle of wine to yourself at the end of a long day? 100% perfect paradise heaven.
22. Traveling to a new place by yourself (even if the new place is only ten miles away) is your idea of a great time. You are always either planning a solo adventure, going on a solo adventure, or coming back from one. Experiencing the world through your own eyes without anybody else’s opinion is not just a desire, it’s an essential need of yours.
23. There is absolutely nothing that can touch the feeling of when someone cancels plans on you and you are suddenly left with surprise alone time. You’re all, “Oh good, more time to be with me!” and it’s truly an untouchable feeling of happiness.
Last fall, I had a person reach out to me who was in charge of a huge change initiative in his company. He asked if I would identify a number of behaviors that leaders should avoid at all costs.
I asked him if it wouldn’t be better to identify behaviors that would positively impact every leader’s effectiveness. He asked me why he should make the distinction. I explained that when we tell people what not to do, they usually end up doing the very things we told them to avoid.
He asked me how I knew that. When I was being trained as a ski instructor in my college days, we were told not to say, “If you get out of control, don’t look at the trees.” Rather, they asked us to tell people, “If you get out of control, look downhill where you want to go.”
When we tell our brain what not to do, it may do what we don’t want in absence of clear directions of the correct course of action. In the end, my client pressed me for my “don’t” list rather than a list of effective behaviors.
Here are 12 behaviors that leaders should avoid, along with ideas for what to do instead.
1. Don’t communicate clearly
Give your directions and let that be that. People should know what you mean when you tell them what to do. Also, don’t allow questions, expression of concerns, or ideas for improvements along the way.
What to do instead: You should do all you can to communicate clearly and distinctly. If you have any doubts, ask questions to clarify and check your understanding and theirs.
2. Don’t invite input
People should just do their jobs. You shouldn’t ask them if there is a better way of doing what they should already know how to do.
What to do instead: Ask for input. People who actually perform the tasks may have ideas of what works well and what doesn’t. Allowing people to make contributions will enhance performance and results.
3. Don’t invite people to identify what they need
If you are always asking people to identify what they need (time, people, equipment, or more money), you run the risk of giving them an inch and them taking a mile.
What to do instead: Offer support along the way. Identify what is working and where people are getting bogged down. Make any needed adjustments that will help with the completion of a project.
4. Don’t express appreciation
After all, you pay people for doing their jobs; why should you verbally recognize them and express appreciation for what they are supposed to do?
What to do instead: Smart leaders go out of their way to observe people and catch them doing the right things. They step up and express appreciation for the work people do and the value and contributions that they make.
5. Don’t take the time to get to know your people personally
Getting to know someone on a personal level is not necessary. You are better off keeping to yourself than wasting time talking with people about non-work topics.
What to do instead: People want to connect and know their leaders. Getting to know each person on your team, their history, their goals, and their aspirations will help you establish rapport and make personal connections. People generally want to know that co-workers care about them and respect them for their contributions to the team’s success.
6. Don’t jump in and assist when things don’t go as planned
You don’t have time to worry about how people are doing at their work; they’ll figure it out. If they don’t get good results, you can always blame them. Stay out of the way, and let them work things out on their own.
What to do instead: Being involved when assistance is needed demonstrates commitment and teamwork toward a team goal. You should never be afraid to offer suggestions, share your expertise or backfill when there are not enough hands to do the work. Offering support when it is needed will demonstrate your commitment to people’s success.
7. Don’t trust people to do their jobs
No one can do as good of a job as you can. Why take the chance that your team can do the work to your satisfaction if you don’t manage every step of the process? Constant supervision will ensure that even your poorest performers will turn in good results.
What to do instead: Demonstrate that you are willing to give complete autonomy to people to do their jobs. You can offer training, support and assistance during the entire life of a project. Until people clearly seek your help, assume their best intentions and allow people to do their work. If results are less than expected, you can work with the individuals as needed to strengthen the outcome.
8. Don’t offer feedback, especially when the desired results aren’t achieved
The negative consequences of poor results should be enough to motivate and help people course-correct their behavior.
What to do instead: People love feedback. They want to know when they did the right thing, and they want to know how to improve. Never underestimate the power of giving others feedback. Things won’t change or improve without the benefit of useful and specific feedback. Providing feedback should become a regular function of assessing the quality of your results.
9. Don’t worry about throwing people under the bus
If people are not performing and are to blame for poor results, then they deserve what they get. If you are the leader, it isn’t your fault when others don’t perform. People should take the blame if they are to blame.
What to do instead: Blaming others does not solve a problem. If people don’t get the results that you expect, the first person you should look at is yourself, the quality of your communication, and the clarity of your directions. Then you should hold a conversation to identify what went awry and what should be done to address the current challenge.
If you are the kind of leader who cannot take responsibility, then people will quickly learn that they don’t need to take responsibility, either.
10. Don’t take time to celebrate successes
Taking time and money to celebrate team or individual success is wasted effort. Usually, people are only interested being rewarded with something of monetary value. If you can’t give them that, why bother?
What to do instead: Any time your team meets a milestone, you should take the time to celebrate their success. There are many inexpensive ways to recognize people and their efforts. Taking the time to celebrate in some way sends the message that people are important and that their efforts are recognized and appreciated.
11. Don’t worry about developmental opportunities
You don’t have the budget to send people to training, and it’s a waste of resources. You don’t want people to get distracted from their job. People can worry about that on their own time.
What to do instead: People want to grow and develop. They also want to expand their skills and capabilities so they can do their job better. If you don’t know what each of your people wants in terms of personal growth opportunities and support them in their efforts, they will find an organization that will offer them what they want and need to develop.
12. Don’t worry about saying one thing and doing another
Things change and you have the right to change your mind. People should just fall in line and go with the flow. Sometimes keeping your commitments is impossible and people need to be adaptable.
What to do instead: Things change, and when they do, you should be the first one to alert people and explain why it will occur. If you can’t keep your commitments, you need to apologize, explain why, and reaffirm the importance of your commitment to them. Failure to do so will result in a lack of respect, trust, and loyalty.
Hopefully, you recognize the many false assumptions that I offered above as behaviors that leaders should avoid. Your success as a leader depends upon your ability to do the right things for the right reasons.
I’ve made a few suggestions of things effective leaders do; there are many others. Taking time to assess your personal effectiveness and making needed changes will boost your success as a leader and as a team.
‘Happy Holidays’ is meant to be inclusive, but knowing when Hanukkah was (a month ago) would be far more so; this ‘holiday season’ really means Christmastime
Before Omicron directed my social life, I went to a Christmas party. a.k.a. “holiday party,” at which everyone was boosted and outside. It was brisk, but not cold enough to keep friends from being together. The hosts greeted me with, “Happy Holidays,” to which I said, “Merry Christmas,” and held them hostage to my lecture on why I hate the greeting, “Happy Holidays.” I was the only invited Jew. Their flustered faces and stutter conveyed that “Happy Holidays” was to help me feel included. I apologized too late. I had ruined their greeting. How should they greet me? Better yet, if one doesn’t know I’m Jewish, is it offensive to wish me a Merry Christmas? Yes and no. It’s complicated. Here’s what is going on for me.
“Happy Holidays” confuse inclusion with equality. The idea behind replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” is that there are minority groups in America, e.g., Jews, who are not included. “Happy Holidays” makes Hanukkah the Christmas-equivalent. But this is a false equivalence, and it not only does a disservice to Jews, in wrongly elevating Hanukkah to the sacred, but also by diminishing Christmas, robbing Christians of something that is valuable to them.
The argument for the “Happy Holidays” greeting is that because Christians have been imperialistic, and have erased everyone else (including Jews) from American culture, they now need to include us. But does including us demand that Christians must be punished by not being allowed to have anything Christian in the culture anymore? If we want Christians to stop erasing us Jews, Muslims, Hindus among others, does the greeting “Happy Holidays” erase the Christians themselves? Is the general wishing of Merry Christmas an assault against Americans of other traditions or no traditions?
Many Jews in my world wish to hear “Happy Holidays.” Greeting them should have nothing to do with Christmas. They want no association with a tradition celebrating the robbing and distorting of Judaism’s face. For example, a colleague’s dog received Merry Christmas wishes on Facebook. My colleague responded: “My doggies don’t celebrate Christmas, but they would like to wish you a happy belated Hanukkah!” At another spot on the December-Jewish-greeting spectrum, Jews with trees seem fine with Merry Christmas. Like Halloween, they explain, Christmas is a secular holiday. One might say that their celebration of Christmas is old school. It has nothing to do with Christianity.
Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are not similar holidays. Conflating Kwanzaa with Christmas in the US seems misguided. Southern enslavers justified enslaving black people through the story of biblical Ham violating his father, Noah; antebellum southern whites argued it destined black people to be enslaved as descendants of Ham. Crazy, right!?! They justified white Christian genocide in the name of a Jew, brown Jesus of Judah. Ham was also brown, but not Jewish. Sarah and Abraham spark the origin of the Israelites. Hanukkah comes over a thousand years later. It celebrates the re-creation of the fourth Jewish state in 166 BCE, when Jewish rebels killed a lot of assimilated Jews. We don’t mention that when we light our hanukkiahs to bring light into the world. Furthermore, it’s not a religious holiday. Jews do not make religious/sacred holidays out of military victories. Jews thus do not desist from ordinary activities and work on Hanukkah. So, what we should say at this time of year to Jews?
The party hosts said, “Happy Holidays” to be inclusive. However, more inclusive inclusion knows the holidays at the time those around us celebrate. Hanukkah has been over for a month. It is Christmastime in the states, not Diwali, not EID, not Rosh Hashanah, not Bodhi day. It’s Christmas, a US federal holiday. A great majority of Americans from differing ethnicities celebrate it.
Ironically, Jews are now included as a December holiday player, just as I was greeted at a Christmas party with “Happy Holidays.” Chabad (a Hasidic sect) lights an annual hanukkiah on the White House lawn, some Jews have trees, a Fox News host recently said a Christmas tree is also a Hanukkah bush, etc. Is it any wonder Christians and non-Jews think Hanukkah is the Jewish Christmas? Let’s stop pretending it is. Let’s wish Christians and atheists who descend from Christianity a Merry Christmas. As for Jews with trees? If you want them, Tu Bi Shvat is coming. And for Jews like me, “Hi!”