Life is a constant stream of change, and as time flows, we should evolve along with it, should always striving to embrace the opportunity to become a better version of ourselves.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably pondered about becoming a better version of yourself.
Well, good news: the path to personal growth doesn’t have to be complicated.
In fact, I’ve discovered four simple steps that have helped me transform my life in meaningful ways. Let’s dive in and explore these steps together.
Step 1: Set Clear Goals
Picture this: You’re on a road trip without a map or a destination in mind. You’ll likely end up lost and frustrated.
Similarly, setting clear goals is like charting a map for your personal growth journey.
Define what you want to achieve, whether it’s landing that dream job, improving your fitness, or nurturing your relationships.
For instance, let’s say you want to improve your health. Instead of vaguely saying, “I want to get fit,” set a specific goal like, “I will jog for 30 minutes every morning and reduce sugary snacks to twice a week.”
This clarity will guide your actions and keep you motivated.
Step 2: Continuous Learning
Imagine life as a never-ending classroom, where each experience is an opportunity to learn.
Whether it’s picking up a new skill, reading a book, or simply reflecting on your day, continuous learning keeps your mind sharp and your perspective fresh.
Consider this: You’re learning to play the guitar. At first, your fingers fumble, and the chords sound off.
But with practice and patience, your skills improve.
Embrace this process in all areas of life, and soon you’ll realize how much growth comes from simply being open to learning.
Step 3: Embrace Failure as a Friend
Let’s face it, we all stumble sometimes.
But instead of letting failure discourage you, see it as a stepping stone.
Think about learning to ride a bike.
Did you master it without a few falls? Each stumble taught you balance and resilience.
In the same way, don’t let setbacks define you.
Use them to learn, adapt, and grow. Remember, failure is a sign that you’re pushing your boundaries and trying new things.
Step 4: Practice Self-Compassion
Think about how you treat your closest friend when they’re going through a tough time. Chances are, you offer them understanding, kindness, and encouragement.
Now, why not treat yourself the same way?
Being kind to yourself, especially during setbacks, is essential for personal growth. Imagine you’re struggling with a project at work.
Instead of berating yourself for not getting it right, take a moment to acknowledge your effort and remind yourself that mistakes happen.
This self-compassion not only boosts your self-esteem but also fuels your determination to keep improving.
Becoming a better version of yourself is a journey worth taking, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
By setting clear goals, embracing continuous learning, seeing failure as an opportunity, and practicing self-compassion, you’re well on your way to meaningful personal growth.
Just remember, this journey is uniquely yours.
Celebrate every small victory, learn from every stumble, and watch yourself blossom into the incredible person you’re meant to be.
Love is a connection
of the souls.
It can break down
barriers and travel
It can connect people’s
hearts and minds.
Love is a whisper of words
that comfort you at night.
Love is beautiful.
Love is hopeful.
Love is light.
I haven’t changed
I am still that strange young man
who was singing love songs to you
who was inventing Sundays for you
who was making you travel… I haven’t changed
I am still that guy a little bit mad
who used to tell you about America
but he wasn’t rich enough
to take you to Corfu (Greek Island
And you haven’t changed either
still the same light perfume
still the same little smile
I wanted to protect you
to look after you, to belong to you
I wanted to come back to you.
I haven’t changed
I haven’t changed
I am still choosing the road I please
Only one road on Earth
has succeeded to make me like it,
the one we were following together…
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?
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.
The reality is that consuming too many calories, in general, can cause you to gain weight — whether those calories are from carbohydrates, proteins or fats.
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.
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.
If taken seriously, short quotes can help us live healthier, happier, and more peaceful lives. Yet most of the time, all we do is get inspired for a few seconds and then move on with our busy lives.
Even though a spark of inspiration can be valuable, quotes only become truly powerful when we take time to reflect on their meaning and see how we can make use of them.
If used correctly, those tiny lessons can have a lasting effect on how we live, love, and make sense of life.
They can help us overcome challenges and spark hope when everything seems meaningless.
“If you resist change, you resist life. “ — Sadhguru
Most people waste their lives trying to “play it safe” because they fear changes and unexpected challenges.
Yet the truth is, you can’t run away from change because it’s a crucial part of life.
Life is an unpredictable journey and we can’t ever know what will happen tomorrow, next week, or even next year.
How to use this:
Instead of looking at change with fear, embrace it as a vital force in your life.
Things change all the time anyway — whether you like it or not. But instead of trying to resist, you can choose to welcome new opportunities with joy.
“If you’re always trying to be normal, you’ll never know how amazing you can be.” — Maya Angelou
We often hold ourselves back because we’re afraid of standing out and being different.
Instead, we try to fit in, even if that means feeling miserable deep inside.
The truth is, you were not born to “fit in.”
Yet, that’s not what society tells you. Instead, they tell you to live life a certain way: Go to school, graduate, get a “safe” job, get married, have kids, please everyone around you but yourself, retire, and die without ever fulfilling your own dreams.
According to most people, that’s the formula for a perfectly “safe” life. If you follow it, your parents and their friends might be proud of you.
But what about you?
Is that how you want to live?
Why do we normalize a certain way of living and demonize anyone who steps out of that boring pattern to live life according to their own rules?
How to use this:
Normality often seems the safest way, but it can quickly become the most dangerous path — especially if it doesn’t align with your needs.
You deserve to make your own choices based on your dreams, goals, and strengths.
Just because others are living life a certain way doesn’t mean that’s how you need to do it.
Step out of boring patterns. Do you.
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four-hour days.” — Zig Ziglar
When we say “I don’t have time,” we usually mean “It’s not a priority” or “I can’t make time for it.”
Yet the truth is, we all have enough time if we’re just careful about how we use it.
Surveys show that we spend almost 4 hours per day on our phones.
Just imagine how much more we could do if we minimized the hours spent scrolling through news feeds every day.
How to use this:
If you feel like “you don’t have time,” start to religiously plan your weeks and days.
On Sundays, plan the week ahead and set three core priorities that’ll help you achieve your long-term goals.
Each evening, set three specific goals for the upcoming day, which will help you accomplish your weekly priorities.
If you have no idea how you’re using your time, start tracking your productive hours with a simple time tracker.
“Only put off until tomorrow what you’re willing to die having left undone.” — Pablo Picasso
We often keep ourselves busy “doing things” yet procrastinate on the few tasks that would truly matter.
Most people are so afraid of facing the truths in life that they choose to keep themselves busy, so they never “have time” to do the hard things.
They don’t follow their heart, stay stuck in careers they hate, and barely show love.
Even though we all have goals and dreams, most of us never dare to fight for them and thus stay stuck in daily lives we don’t enjoy.
How to use this:
Instead of fighting through endless to-do lists, pause and ask yourself which important moments and conversations you’ve been putting off for too long.
Each week, make time for at least one such conversation or activity.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” — Gandhi
So many people believe they need to be bold and relentless to achieve anything valuable.
And quotes like “Nice guys finish last” just make our insecurities worse because we start to think we need to be mean to “win” in life.
Yet, as Gandhi preached more than 50 years ago, we can shake the world by being gentle, soft, and kind. And that’s mostly because shaking the world starts by shaking ourselves and those around us.
How to use this:
If you want to impact the world, start by first impacting your own life.
Stand up for yourself and show us what to do by doing it first.
Contrary to common belief, we can influence millions of people by being kind, compassionate, and caring.
In the 21st century, we’re all lacking love and deeper connection, so if you can show up and convince even just a few people of your good intentions, you’ll soon be able to start an entire movement that might shape more people than you ever thought possible.
“Everything we do is infused with the energy with which we do it. If we’re frantic, life will be frantic. If we’re peaceful, life will be peaceful.” — Marianne Williamson
Our energy shapes every aspect of our lives: It influences how we communicate, how we show up for ourselves, how we take care of our loved ones, how we get things done, and how we ultimately feel.
You can add energy and enthusiasm to the most mundane tasks of your life and ensure you stay on top of your game regardless of external circumstances.
How to use this:
There’s a saying that goes, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”
The truth is, the majority of our lives aren’t exciting.
Most of our days are spent with basic, boring activities like work, cooking, eating, running errands, cleaning up, and so on.
Yet regardless of what exactly we do, we can always decide to show up and infuse our desired energy into our days.
Instead of being frantic, we can choose to be peaceful and calm.
Instead of being annoyed, we can choose to be compassionate and kind.
And instead of blaming ourselves when things go wrong, we can choose love and forgiveness.
“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.” — Robert Holden
We often blame others for “not treating us right,” yet we’re usually the ones who treat ourselves worst.
We don’t take our needs seriously, prioritize others instead of ourselves, and barely take time to nourish our deepest needs.
And instead of looking within, we get mad at our partner, friends, or family for not taking care of us.
How to use this:
If you want to be treated with respect and love, you must first love yourself.
We’re teaching the world around us how we want to be treated by showing them how we treat ourselves.
Take time to explore your needs by reflecting and journaling.
Cancel appointments if you think they’ll make you feel worse instead of better.
Speak the truth and show up for your desires, even if they might sound ridiculous to others.
This is your life, and you only have one shot at creating a reality you truly enjoy. Trust yourself and give yourself the love you deserve before expecting anyone else to do it for you.
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” — Pablo Picasso
I’m an online writing coach and teach new writers how to build an audience by sharing their expertise or passion online.
One of the questions I hear a lot is: “What if it doesn’t work?”
And I usually reply by asking: “Well, what if it *does* work?”
Most of us are so used to “playing it safe” that we want to know our efforts will be “worth it” before even lifting a finger.
We don’t want to give more than we might receive. That’s also why so many people struggle with their relationships.
They expect 50/50, but the truth is, strong relationships aren’t always balanced.
Sometimes, you need to give 80 and only get back 20, while other times, it’ll be the other way around.
If you can’t deal with the fact that you’ll never know whether your hard work will pay off or not, you’ll struggle to break out of your existing patterns.
How to use this:
Big goals usually require big action and risks.
Whether that’s building your own business, getting a new job, or making fundamental changes in your relationships, you always need to do the work without knowing whether it’ll be worth it.
But instead of wondering, “What if it doesn’t work?” you can ask yourself: “Well, what if it *does* work out exactly how I want?!”
“Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.” — Dalai Lama
We want to “succeed” at all costs and ignore everything we need to give up to achieve our goals.
You can always go “the extra mile” and do a little more, but the question is: What do you need to give up?
The truth is, every decision we make comes with its own sacrifices.
Whenever you say yes to something, you’re saying no to many other things.
How to use this:
Next time you’re setting or reviewing goals, ask yourself what you’ll need to give up to achieve them and whether it’s still worth it.
If you have to give up your peace of mind, favorite hobby, and quality time with your loved ones to get a raise or build a side hustle, you might want to rethink that goal.
Each decision comes with its own effects. The earlier we consider those effects, the sooner we can avoid frustration in the future.
Be aware of your goals, but also be mindful of what you’re not willing to give up.
When we feel stuck, we usually crave huge changes. We want to make radical shifts to turn our lives upside down because we believe that’s the only way to move forward.
Yet, in reality, those massive shifts rarely lead to sustainable changes. Instead, we often feel overwhelmed and readopt our old patterns very soon, which only leads to more frustration.
The good news is, we can rely on small yet consistent changes to help us regain our power over time. This might take a little longer, but it’ll lead to a more fulfilled and peaceful life in the long run.
Stick to the 80% rule for better health
According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people worldwide are obese.
The main reasons for that shocking number are obvious: We spend most of our days seated and consume much more calories than needed.
And most of the time, we overeat because we’re so used to processed foods and huge portions — especially when eating outside.
In Okinawa, one of the five Blue Zones where people often live up to 100 years or even more, the population follows the 80% rule: They only eat until they’re about 80% full.
This is powerful because research proves it takes 15–20 minutes for our brains to realize we’re full. So if you stop when you feel like you’ve reached 80%, you’ll likely feel 100% full after a few minutes anyway.
However, you’ll avoid overeating and feeling tired after each meal.
Log out of apps you should be using less
If you want to spend less time on your phone but don’t want to delete certain apps altogether, log out.
Next time you want to use the app, you’ll be reminded of your good intentions and can consciously decide whether you really want to use it.
Don’t leave empty-handed
Whenever you leave a room, take something that doesn’t belong there with you.
E.g., When leaving the bedroom, take empty cups, bottles, or dirty laundry with you and put them in the right place. This will help keep your home tidy and organized at all times with minimal extra effort.
Keep a virtual shopping list on your phone
I started to use a virtual shopping list called Hngrya few years ago.
This simple habit has helped me save so much time: Whenever I realize we’re about to run out of something, I immediately add it to the list: soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, candles, pasta — whatever.
Next time I go shopping, I know exactly what I need to buy.
Since using the app, I’ve never run out of anything.
Plus, using a virtual shopping list has many more benefits: You have a better overview of what you need and make fewer unnecessary purchases, which helps reduce waste and save money.
By knowing what you need, you’re also less tempted to buy sweets and highly processed foods. And most importantly, it makes your shopping experience a lot easier because you spend less time thinking about what you need.
The #1 time and energy saver
While talking about groceries, let me share two more habits that helped me make a profound change: Meal planning and prepping.
Every Sunday, I create a weekly meal plan and write down what I’ll eat next week. I’m not a talented chef and don’t enjoy cooking, so I purchased meal plans full of simple and healthy recipes I like.
As I don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen, I always cook bigger batches, so I can eat the same meal at least twice.
Without meal plans, I easily opt for processed, unhealthy foods — especially if I need to make choices when I’m already hungry.
But if I’m well prepared, I can easily stick to a healthy, nutritious, and simple plan.
By eating healthily, I feel better, have more mental clarity, and am more energized overall.
Be kind (even if the other person isn’t)
Instead of taking other people and their work for granted, try to show kindness and compassion.
This isn’t always easy, but most of the time, it’ll help you engage in genuine conversations and solve problems much quicker.
Just because someone reacts rudely doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. They might be having a bad day or might’ve received bad news just recently.
Train your “kindness muscle” by reminding yourself that someone else’s behavior is barely a reaction to you but just a reflection of how they feel deep inside.
If you can get it done within 2 minutes, do it
Whenever you have an annoying task to complete that won’t take you more than 1–2 minutes, do it right away.
By procrastinating and whining about it, you’ll only get even more annoyed and waste mental energy. Once it’s done, you can happily get it out of your mind and focus on more important tasks.
Stick to water as your go-to drink
You can save loads of calories and money by drinking water instead of pretty much anything else.
There’s no harm in drinking a cup of coke or orange juice occasionally when you really crave it, but make sure you don’t pour those immense volumes of sugar into your body regularly.
Water is simple, cheap, and healthy, so train yourself to choose it more often.
Get used to complimenting other people
Cheering for others and highlighting their positive traits is a superpower.
Most people are stuck with a scarcity mindset and believe they must compete with others. Yet, the truth is, life is abundant, and we can all get what we want while being nice to each other.
Instead of looking at others with jealousy, try to share your genuine thoughts with them.
If you like how someone looks, tell them. They might’ve spent years losing weight and working out, so your compliment might make their day.
If you realize someone’s making an effort at work, tell her. She might’ve been up all night to finish a presentation, and you might be the only one to acknowledge her hard work.
Life could be much more beautiful if we all supported each other and shared more compliments instead of hate.
Sleep can be the solution to most of your problems
According to CDC, almost 40% of adult Americans don’t get enough sleep.
And while most people don’t even take sleep seriously, the truth is that we can eliminate many of our daily problems just by sleeping better and longer.
If we’re sleep-deprived, we’re more prone to gaining weight but also more irritable, anxious, and mentally exhausted.
To ensure you get a good rest, go to bed at the same time every night. In the long run, this will help you fall asleep easily because your body will get used to a specific schedule.
Also, ensure to sleep in a dark room (or use a sleep mask), avoid eating big meals at least 1–2 hours before going to bed, and don’t take your phone to the bedroom.
Also, allow yourself to slow down at least an hour before bedtime so your body can adjust.
If possible, take the stairs
As someone who’s working from home, I move very little during an average workday. So when I do get outside, I try to make the most of my time by walking most distances and taking the stairs whenever possible.
For me, it’s a simple way to get some extra steps in without much extra effort.
If you’re struggling with money, track your expenses
Most people widely underestimate how much money they spend on luxuries like eating out or new clothes every month.
They work hard for their money but don’t pay much attention to how they spend it.
If you ever feel like you have no idea where your money went, start to religiously track your expenses for at least 2 to 3 months.
I used an app called Toshl to keep track of every penny for two years. This helped me realize that eating out and making random impulse purchases were the two major expenses I could control if I wanted to save money.
Your insights might be totally different: You might be paying for subscriptions you don’t even use or spending lots of money to replace broken items in your home every month.
The problem is, you won’t know unless you document your expenses. And the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to make changes.
Keep a tiny diary
A few years ago, I came across a “One Line A Day Journal,” which is a tiny notebook to summarize your day in just a few lines.
Each page represents a day of the year: the first page is January 1st, the second is January 2nd, and so on.
In my journal, each page is divided into five sections, which means I’ll be able to use it for five years.
I started in 2021, so next year, when I open the page for January 1st, I’ll see my entries from 2021 and 2022 and then put my 2023 thoughts on the same page.
This is a great way to keep track of your life without a huge time commitment.
It literally takes you one minute to sum up how you feel and what you did on a particular day. Yet, it’s a fantastic way to reflect on the previous years and the progress you’ve made over time.
Each year, the journal reminds you of wonderful memories you’ve made and challenges you’ve overcome.
Take full control of what you see online
On average, we spend 3 to 4 hours per day staring at our phones.
And the truth is, most people allow their phones to make them feel worse instead of better.
Here’s a mantra I wish more people would be aware of: Nobody has the right to stress you out on your own phone.
If I see a post I don’t like, I’ll unfollow the author, so they don’t show up on my feed again.
If someone leaves a disrespectful comment on anything I publish, I won’t even waste a second before I block them.
I wouldn’t let a person enter my home and act rudely, so I also don’t let them do the same online.
If you think you have the right to piss me off, I’ll use my right to ensure you can’t do it in the future.
Your phone can be a powerful tool and help you live a better life, but you need to control how you use it.
What’s the point of constantly seeing posts you fundamentally disagree with?
If we spend so much time scrolling through news feeds, we can at least ensure the content we see makes us feel good instead of bad.
Building passion is also a great way to manage and reduce workplace stress. Stress is a serious drain on productivity and had a direct effect on worker health and absenteeism. Stress-related illnesses cost businesses an estimated $200 billion to $300 billion a year in lost productivity, as reported in Stress in the Workplace. A study by Health Advocate found that 1 million workers miss work each day due to stress. This absenteeism costs employers an estimated $600 per worker each year. Twelve percent of employees have called in sick because of job stress. This is not surprising because most people respond to increased stress with added caffeine and alcohol consumption, smoking, and prescription medications.
A leader’s role in reducing workplace stress
Leaders can reduce stress by helping their people better manage it. Understand that leaders don’t create stress for others. Instead, they create conditions that, taken together with whatever is going on in people’s personal lives, can increase stress levels and decrease productivity and job satisfaction.
A leader’s role, then, is to help their people by educating them about the importance of self-care (see Step 4). They should encourage people to eat properly, take regular breaks and get enough sleep. People also need to have their minds and souls “fed,” with such things as time management training, meditation, prayer and a list of personal and team values to motivate them and help them make correct, healthy decisions. Leaders can also help by pitching in; offering people opportunities to delegate; accepting excellent, even if imperfect, work; and giving people the opportunity to vent and offer constructive feedback to improve processes and systems.
Of course, leaders cannot force their people to take better care of themselves, but the very fact that they offer options and serve as a resource for stress reduction can itself be helpful. After all, who gets the blame for work-related stress if not the boss?
How leaders can reduce their own stress
In addition to the strategies listed above, leaders should consider the following tactics to manage their own increased stress levels.
Label your emotion. The simple act of labeling our emotions reduces activity in the emotional brain and increases activity in the areas of the brain associated with focus and awareness. By labeling your emotions you can better separate yourself from the experience and draft a clearer plan on how to handle it.
Record and review your leadership goals. Clarity of purpose and action is a solid defense against leadership stress.
Be selective in your work. This was discussed in Step 1. Don’t engage in tasks and efforts that unproductive or produce limited benefits. Your time and attention are extremely valuable and must be protected.
Learn to delegate. Clear your plate of all the “other” things so you can do the “right” work. We detailed how to do this in Step 2.
Seek to control only the controllable. Focus on the things you can control such as your efforts and the way you choose to react to problems.
Remain positive. Stress is part of leadership and running successful enterprises. Don’t let it poison your mindset or, more importantly, your self-perception.
Get social support. Leaders often lack social support at work. To combat this, consider joining a peer board, a mastermind group, or a leadership development group that will provide trustworthy, confidential, and ongoing social support.
Re-group on a task. When a task is stressful, look for ways to better organize and streamline what needs to be done. Take time to clearly define roles and clarify expectations.
Increase your determination. Commit to working through your challenges and to not let them gain the upper hand. This determination will push you through the most challenging moments when you may otherwise be inclined to pull back.
Keep a collection of inspirational quotes handy. Quotes can give us quick bursts of inspiration. Here are two:
“Permanence, perseverance, and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” (Thomas Carlyle)
“The obstacle is the path.” (Zen proverb)
Consider your impact. As much as you are struggling with your burden, keep in mind that you are still needed by others. Your leadership, guidance, direction and support are critical elements in your organization and folks need you to be there for them. Use such thinking to push yourself forward.
Share what’s happening. Share your situation with a few close confidants who support you and can fill in for you as needed. Just knowing that others care about you can be extremely uplifting and can keep you going during difficult moments. Having people who can step in during your absence will help alleviate the burden and make sure that things move forward as needed.
Find the silver lining. In almost every difficult situation there are silver linings, including considering how many others may have it worse. For example, if you’re struggling with a defiant child who is making poor decisions, consider how much worse off others may be in terms of their condition and disconnect.
Reflect on how others did it. Life is filled with stories of “failures” who endured challenges yet went on to achieve great successes. People like Albert Einstein (rejected from college), Thomas Edison (failed repeatedly to invent the light bulb), FDR (crippled by polio), Charles Schwab/Richard Branson (struggled in school due to dyslexia) and Oprah Winfrey (domestic abuse) all overcome personal challenges to achieve greatness.
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.