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.
Greece is one of those countries that you’ll never get bored of visiting. With thousands of little islands and the gorgeous mainland, it’s a place that just gets better with every trip. That’s what makes a trip to some of the most beautiful islands in Greece a necessity.
With stunning islands like Kefalonia, to the big (and gorgeous) islands like Crete – each one has its own particular charm, mountains of yummy Greek food to devour, and plenty of stunning beaches to take a dip.
Oh yeah, and if you’re looking for someone to carry your luggage whilst you’re there, just pop me a message! I’m already itching to go back. Ha! 🤣
Take a look of 19 of the very best and beautiful islands in Greece you should visit this year. You’ll love it!
Yeah, I know… I’m probably starting with the most obvious of Greek islands, but with good reason. I’m pretty sure Santorini is the most famous and possibly the most beautiful islands in Greece.
With its clifftop villages and amazing views, it’s one of the unique Greek Islands that has been massively shaped by a volcanic eruption a few thousand years ago. Legend has it that the island is actually the home of Atlantis which was devoured by the sea quite a few millennia ago.
Whatever the case, you’re going to love it. Make sure to try some of the tasty dishes on the island and explore some of the prettiest sites to see once you’ve arrived.
Mykonos is a stunner of a place, especially with all the little coves and quaint towns (that are soooo picturesque).
Make sure to wander around the cobbled streets of Mykonos Town, head over to Delos Island on a Kaiki (small boat) and visit the monastery of Panagia Tourliani. Oh yeah, don’t forget to see the island’s famous windmills too! They’re gorgeous at sunset.
For a tasty bite, head over to M-eating for some of their freshly caught sea bass. It really is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you should explore.
Perched on the west side of Greece, Corfu is one of the larger northerly islands you should definitely visit.
Now, there’s a common misconception that Corfu is all about package holidays and boozy lads nights out. This couldn’t be further from the truth for the majority of the island. Yes, there are a few areas that cater to the party crowd but the vast majority of the island is so gorgeous and the ideal spot for us travellers to explore.
Make sure to visit the dramatic Cape Drastis, visit the Vlacherna Monastery and see the stunning canal d’Amour.
Crete is, without a doubt, the largest of the beautiful islands in Greece you should visit.
The best thing about Crete is that there’s so much to see, meaning you can easily justify a week or two just on the island itself. Heck, go for a month if you want!
Whilst you’re exploring the island, head over to Spinalonga Island to see the historic fort, take a boat to the isolated Greek village of Loutro and ramble around Balos Lagoon. You’ll get some epic views.
Rhodes was the first ever Greek island I’d ever visited… and what an introduction it was. whilst you’re there, hop over to the village of Lindos, see the Acropolis and the medieval sites within the old town itself.
For some of the tastiest dishes, pop into Ta Kardasia if you’re hankering for some authentic Greek food. They make the best moussaka in all of Rhodes.
Part of the Cyclades island group, Amorgos is one of those islands that’s a little off-the-beaten-track, especially compared to places like Santorini.
The best thing about Amorgos is that you can literally spend your trip on ‘island time’, chilling out, gorging on the fresh seafood that arrives every morning and seeing the stunning sites like; Hozoviotissa, the monastery on the cliffs.
For the best appaki chicken, head over to Chora and the restaurant of TranzisToRaki. Just make sure to arrive early, or be prepared to wait for a table. This place does get busy with locals and visitors alike.
Perched within the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos is one stunning island to visit. With places like Navagio Beach, the Blue Caves and Porto Limnionas, you’ll be spoilt for choice in places to explore.
Of course, most of us travellers to the island will definitely want to see Navagio Beach, meaning there’ll be lots of boat tours to get to the beach itself.
The waters really are stunningly blue and you’ll get some of the best views you could wish for. As a popular spot, expect it to get a little crowded but it’s a must-see spot whilst you’re on the island.
Don’t forget to visit the nearby Marathonisi Island, too.
Another gorgeous spot in the Ionian Sea, Kefalonia is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you should definitely visit.
Make sure to visit the historic hilly capital of Argostoli, explore the stunning Melissani Cave and visit Myrtos Beach too.
Although you’re not allowed to swim in Melissani Cave, you can still take a boat tour of this stunning place.
It has to be seen to be believed.
Lefkada is one of only a handful of beautiful islands in Greece that is reachable from the mainland by road. Nestled just off the coast and connected by a bridge and causeway, it’s a really special island to visit especially after exploring the gorgeous spots in mainland Greece. You’ll find it’s quite a bit quieter (with visitors) than lots of the other Greek islands, too.
Spend your days taking a well-earned dip at Porto Katsiki and gorge on all the food at Basilico Restaurant (in Nidri) who cook the best-grilled calamari.
Nestled in the Aegean Sea, Paros Island is about 80 km north of Santorini. Spend some time in the Old Port of Naoussa, take a dip at Kolymbithres Beach and gorge at the Markakis Restaurant (in Piso Livadi).
You really won’t find a more authentic Greek taverna.
Andros is quite a mountainous and dramatic island you will want to visit. With a whole heap of mountain ranges and rugged coastal villages, you’ll definitely find Andros a throwback to times gone by. For a gorgeous, sandy beach, head to Agios Petros. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to explore some historical sites make sure to visit the Monastery of Panachrantos.
Also, if you want to feed your inner explorer spirit – pop down to the dramatic Cave Foros. It really is a stunner.
Pretty close to Crete, Milos is a stunning little volcanic island that really reminds me of Santorini – especially with the dramatic covers and cliffs.
One of my favourite spots, especially for a little chill time is Firopotamos. It’s a great place for a dip. For dinner with a view, pop into Ergina Restuarant. You won’t be disappointed.
Antipaxos is a tiny little island with only around 20 people living on it, so expect a warm welcome! One of the easiest ways to get to Antipaxos is from Paxos Island itself (which is about 2km away) which is a pretty easy ride as long as you can rent a boat.
Now, the island really is tiny, so you might want to consider a visit for a day trip, especially in the summer months when the beaches and scenery are just too good to miss.
Syros is a popular little island for city dwellers in Athens to head to for a little break and it’s easy to know why. This is a gorgeous island to explore. Wander around the narrow streets of Hermoupolis, see the pretty Apollon Theatre and head to Allou Yialou for some typical island food.
Inouses island is only about 3 km from mainland Turkey and is tiny in comparison to islands like Crete but that shouldn’t stop you visiting. The island is totally beautiful! You can even rent a boat and skipper and visit Pasas for a day trip too.
Just make sure to take lots of supplies like water and grub. It’s great for a little getaway.
Lesbos is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you have to make time for. I mean, where else can you explore Molivos Castle, see a petrified forest and visit an Ouzo distillery (in Plomari).
For a pretty place to eat (with tasty food), head to Tropicana (in Molyvos) where they serve the best-roasted lamb and plums. You’ll love it.
Skiathos is one of the smaller Greek islands that’s great to visit for a relaxing break. After spending your days relaxing on Lalaria Beach, pop over to Il Kastro to watch the sunset and gorge on all the delicious Greek food in one of the hundreds of little tavernas.
The Windmill Restaurant (in Skiathos Town) is stunning if you’re looking for a special dining experience.
Often forgotten by many visitors to Greece, Kea is a charming little island that’ll whisk you away to a more down-to-earth and local experience.
Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Lion of Kea. Don’t worry though, he’s made of stone! 🦁
The colourful house of Symi is as picturesque as they come and easily up there as one of the beautiful islands in Greece to visit.
Quite a bit away from the white-washed houses of Santorini, Symi is a colourful affair filled with oodles of charm that I know you’ll love.
I don’t know about you, but I often find advice to release stress and pressure to be great on paper but incredibly difficult to apply.
Just say no more often! Sounds good, but my twenty-month-old son still needs constant care and I need to earn money, so there’s a lot I can’t just not do.
Get out in nature! I do try, but it’s been cold and grey, and often I don’t get time to myself until night—when it’s even more frigid.
Exercise more! I have the best of intentions, but I’m pregnant, frequently exhausted, and there’s that whole time thing again. I just can’t seem to create more of it, try as I may.
I suppose this is true of most good advice: It’s far easier to make a list of great ideas than it is to actually apply them. And it’s hard not to resist all those well-intentioned suggestions as overly simplified and maybe even unrealistic.
That, I’ve realized, is my biggest problem—one that you can perhaps relate to as well: While my circumstances can be challenging and limiting, most of the stress and pressure I feel originates with some form of internal resistance. Resistance to what was, what is, what might be, what I’m doing, what I could be doing, who I am… the list goes on.
And it might look like this:
Rehashing the past (and pressuring myself to somehow fix my mistakes)
Dwelling on worst-case scenarios (and pressuring myself to find ways to avoid them)
Fighting my current reality (and pressuring myself to change it)
Worrying about what I have to do (and pressuring myself to do it perfectly)
Obsessing about what I should be doing (and pressuring myself to figure it out)
Fixating on what I can’t do right now (and pressuring myself to get around my limitations)
Wishing I had more time for myself (and pressuring myself to somehow create it)
Judging myself in comparison to others (and pressuring myself to be better than I am)
Agonizing about what people think of me (and pressuring myself to meet their expectations)
If you’ve done any of these things yourself, I’m sure you know they’re exhausting.
That’s not say we are the sole cause of our stress. Sometimes life demands that we do more and deal with external challenges beyond our control—job loss, health issues, financial troubles, divorce…
And it’s true that there are lots of little things we can do to relieve some of the tension. But the first thing we need to do is relieve the pressure where it’s generally the most intense: within our own minds.
How to Relieve the Mental Pressure
There are two things I’ve found to be highly effective in quieting my inner voice of resistance.
1. Allow yourself to feel the feelings under your thoughts so that you can calm and release them.
All too often we get caught in a thought loop as a way to avoid feeling our feelings, because stressful as it may be, thinking about our circumstances allows us to avoid facing our deepest wounds. But we have to face them to heal them. As they say, the only way out is through.
I’ve found that underneath my varying forms of internal resistance, there’s usually:
About things I think I’ve done wrong, about who I am (when I mistakenly assume my poor choices define me), about expectations I failed to meet or might fail to meet (my own and other people’s). And this triggers my core childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m fundamentally bad.
When I feel it:
When I’m rehashing the past, judging myself in comparison to others, and agonizing about what people think of me.
Of the unknown, failing, succeeding then somehow ruining it, losing control, not doing enough with my life/making the most of my time, not living up to my potential, hurting or disappointing other people. Once again, this triggers my childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m not good enough, and never will be.
When I feel it:
When I’m dwelling on worst-case scenarios, worrying about what I have to do, and obsessing about what I should be doing.
Toward myself for what I think I did wrong, toward other people for how I think they did me wrong, toward for myself for maybe causing them to do me wrong (because I often find a way to blame myself), toward life for being unfair. This triggers my core belief that life should be fair, formed, you guessed it, in childhood, when life felt very unfair.
When I feel it:
When I’m rehashing the past and fighting my current reality.
Because I’m not connecting with myself, others, my passions, the world at large, or anything that would fulfill me.
When I feel it:
When I’m fixating on what I can’t do right now and wishing I had more time for myself.
When I can get below the thoughts and identify one of these feelings, I can sit with it. I can cry it out—the ultimate release!
I can empathize with myself and tell myself what I need to hear—that I’m a good person who’s always done her best, that I will do my best in the future and can handle what’s coming, that everyone else is doing their best, and we all deserve understanding and forgiveness.
And I can also do what I really need to do to feel better:
Maybe take a warm bath if I’m feeling ashamed to remind myself that I deserve comfort even when I think I’ve messed up.
Maybe do something fun and childlike if I’m feeling afraid of the future to help me find joy in the present moment.
Maybe write a forgiveness letter if I’m feeling angry to help me empathize, accept, and let go.
Maybe call someone I love, journal, or do something creative if I’m feeling empty, to meet my need for connection.
The point is, after we feel our feelings, we can do something to address the specific root cause of our stress in a moment instead of arbitrarily choosing an activity from a one-size-fits-all list of stress-relievers.
So ask yourself: What am I thinking that’s stressing me out? What’s the feeling underneath it? What does that feeling have to teach me? What does it need to hear? And what can I do to help ease that pain?
2. Get out of your head (and perhaps into your body or a state of flow).
It’s ironic but true that two pieces of seemingly contradictory advice can be equally helpful and powerful, and such is the case when it comes to relieving stress. Or at least it has been for me.
On the one hand, it can benefit us to look closely at what’s going in our minds so we can understand it, challenge it if necessary, and calm the feelings underneath our thoughts.
On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to disengage from our mind’s stories—about our unfulfilling work, our mounting bills, our insensitive relatives, and so on. To recognize we’re getting caught up in a mental maze from which we may never escape unless we consciously choose to get out—and then make that choice.
Our brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is designed to protect us, tends toward negativity, often focused on the past, the future, and the intentions behind others’ behavior. Research has shown a link between a disproportionately active DMN and depression and anxiety—and has also shown that meditation can help influence the default network.
That’s why it’s so important that we learn to get out of our heads, either through traditional meditation or by getting into our bodies or a state of flow (when you’re so consumed in a task that you forget about everything else and lose track of time).
It’s not just about temporarily quieting our thoughts. Mindfulness can actually change patterns of brain activity over time, enabling us to more frequently get out of the default mode network—where we inevitably feel stressed!
How do we get out of our heads and into our bodies or a state of flow?
Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness through movement:
As you sync your breathing with your movements and focus your attention on the subtle muscle shifts required to get into and hold each pose, you’ll find your mind naturally quieting. There are lots of different styles of yoga. My favorites are vinyasa and Bikram, since I find the heat particularly soothing.
You can find all kinds of yoga videos on YouTube, and odds are, when life gets closer to normal again, you can find a free or donation-based class near you. I personally find it easier to practice in a class than on my own, since the presence of other people holds me accountable, and there are fewer cookies and TVs nearby to distract me!
I have less experience with Tai Chi, but I did practice for a while in college, as part of an acting class. Acting requires you to get out of your judging mind, and Tai Chi is a perfect practice to facilitate that, since it’s all about integrating mind and body through slow, low-impact, controlled movements and breathing.
Tai chi is less physically taxing than most yoga practices (aside from restorative yoga, which is incredibly relaxing), which makes it perfect for anyone who’s more physically limited. It’s particularly popular among the senior crowd, since it’s easy on the joints, but it’s a powerful and effective mindfulness practice for anyone, of any age!
Mindful hiking or walking
Any form of movement can be meditative if you focus your attention on the sensations in your body, and hiking and walking outside bring the added benefit of immersing you in nature—a natural stress-reliever!
Studies have shown that just twenty minutes in nature can significantly lower your stress hormones. And it can also stimulate all the body’s senses, as we tune in to the sound of running water trickling nearby, the scent of pine (known to lower depression and anxiety), the colors in a picturesque sunrise, the feeling of leaves crunching beneath our feet, and the taste of a freshly picked piece of fruit.
Here are a few ways to get into a mindful state of flow (suggested by flow researcher Steven Kolter):
Through social triggers
We often think of flow as something we achieve individually, but group activities bring the added benefit of facilitating deep connection as we move in sync or work toward team goals. This might mean getting into a collective state of flow as part of a sports team, dance troupe, or through synchronized swimming.
I remember one particular piece of choreography from a community theater show I did as a kid. There were at least twenty of us, seated, doing clapping motions with each other’s hands, tapping our own and each other’s legs. We all needed to move perfectly in sync to get it just right, which required intense focus, and I have to say it was deeply gratifying to move as part of a whole—to lose myself in the group and become immersed in something bigger than myself.
Through creative triggers
Any creative activity can get us into a state of flow if we enjoy it and lose ourselves in the task. Painting, playing an instrument, dancing, jewelry making, even doodling—pick whatever calls to you so deeply you can’t help but concentrate on the present, losing your sense of self-consciousness because the act itself is so fun and rewarding.
Through environmental triggers
Rock climbing is a perfect example, since you need to be fully absorbed in the moment to safely navigate the rock formation. As you push yourself to your physical limit, balancing and adapting to the changing terrain, you’ll find yourself going deeper and deeper into a state of flow.
Though I’ve never done outdoor rock climbing—which I imagine is all the more thrilling, since it’s riskier and you’re totally immersed in nature—I participated in a climbing course as an experiential therapy treatment for bulimia in my early twenties. I remember all my worries falling away as I focused on not falling off the beam, and I recall appreciating my body for what it could do instead of judging myself for everything I thought I was doing wrong.
The beauty of most of these practices is that we can adapt them to our needs and available time. You can take an hour class or just practice for ten minutes. You can work on a painting for two hours or sketch for a brief window before bed.
Easier said than done? Of course! It’s far easier to watch Netflix in our one free hour of time or mindlessly scroll in that brief window before bed. (Guilty as charged.) When I do that, all my heavy unfelt feelings fester, settling deep into my brain and my bones and suffocating me like an invisible straitjacket.
But I know when I do something that’s good for me, I feel it—and I want more of it. And my resistance to doing it naturally fades away, along with my stress.
So really, we just need to show up once—really show up. Be so present that we allow ourselves to fully live that moment so we can love that moment, and that love will bring us back. Back to the practice, back to our bodies, back to ourselves. Our deepest selves, underneath the stress and pressure. The true self who knows we don’t need to be more, we don’t have to do more, we just have to let ourselves enjoy more. Because within that enjoyment there’s peace and healing. And no matter what our negatively biased brains tell us, we absolutely deserve it.
Hungry for a more senior role? Eager to sink your teeth into a new challenge? Whether there are promotion opportunities on your radar or not, your habits can put the odds of getting promoted on your side — or stop your career development in its tracks.
And if you think hard work and experience alone are enough, think again. “Hard work and experience are great things to possess but it’s not the only thing that’s going to get you where you want to go,” says Joyel Crawford, CEO of Crawford Leadership Strategies and host of Career View Mirror, a career development show. “It’s up to you to put the career address into the GPS and press go.”
Wondering what kind of habits to keep in mind in order to avoid a career crash? It’s all about being visible and putting yourself in front of the right people — even in the age of remote work. And you’ll also wanna focus on cultivating a solutions-oriented, resourceful mindset.
“Having an intrapreneurial mindset can really help catapult you into visibility projects that will drive results for the business and for your professional goals as well. What solutions can you bring to the table? How can you help the organization save, make or donate more revenue?” says Crawford.
Beyond cultivating your network and adopting the right mindset, there are also actions and approaches you should absolutely avoid if you want to get a promotion anytime soon. Start by unlearning the six habits below.
1. Passive decision-making
“You have to take an active part in navigating your career,” says Crawford, who recommends building a network of professionals who can not only act as a support system but also serve as possible mentors or sponsors that help you drive your career.
And if you’re interested in a particular role or career direction, shadowing or informally interviewing someone who holds a similar position is a great move.
“This type of background research is key — you may find that the position you want isn’t at all what you saw from the outside looking in. Shadowing and informational interviews will also give you some visibility. And don’t let working remotely get in your way, you can still do this via a web-based meeting platform.”
2. Being a sore loser
Being resentful at work is a surefire way to erode your reputation. Let’s say you just got passed up for a promotion. It’s normal to feel disappointed, but it’s really important to process your disappointment in a healthy way and avoid letting it show. “If you don’t get the role the first time, how you show up afterward counts even more,” says Crawford.
So resist the temptation to lose steam or disengage. Do lick your wounds if you need to, but then focus on using the missed opportunity as motivation to improve and find an even better opportunity for you.
3. Not knowing your why
Do you know why you even want a promotion to begin with? And are you making it all about yourself? When thinking about your next step, Crawford says it’s important to keep in mind the why behind the what — not only in terms of what you value but also what your organization values.
Aligning your own interests and desires with the needs and goals of the company will help you get clarity on what to bring to the table. Better yet, the alignment will naturally encourage you to tap into your passion. “That passion will come through in your interview and your day-to-day dealings with others.”
4. Lack of consistency
Getting promoted is not the finish line. It’s only the first step. “Every day is an interview even after you nailed that next step up the career ladder or across the career lattice. Everyone matters, from the assistant to the executive. Treat everyone with kindness, dignity and respect. Get to know all of the names of the people you interact with. No one is beneath you,” says Crawford.
The good news is that if you focus on cultivating the right habits, you’ll be equipped with lifelong best practices regardless of your role or industry.
5. Neglecting relationships
Life sometimes gets in the way. But neglecting to nurture your professional relationships might be costing you your chances of getting a promotion. From thanking people who’ve helped you to keep in touch with former coworkers and bosses, small gestures go a long way when it comes to keeping career bridges intact.
Crawford recommends reaching out to mentors on a quarterly basis, getting into the habit of sending thank-you notes and booking one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders: “I’ve also found that having a one-on-one with your new clients or a new manager that you’re supporting is paramount.”
Why? To discuss expectations and deliver on them, which will get you that much closer to a promotion. “This really helps set the tone of collaboration and support. It used to blow people’s minds when I came into their office and asked them how they wanted to be supported,” says Crawford.
6. Having zero boundaries
Even if you love working, burnout won’t get you where you want to go. “Take care of yourself and create boundaries. Putting in 20+ hours a day thinking that will help you get the promotion faster is only burning you out and making you less productive,” says Crawford.
“You need to take care of yourself. There’s only one you — and we need you to keep bringing your best light and talents to the world. You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
Manage your energy in a sustainable way so you can keep crushing it once you get the job.
The benefits of goal setting are tangible and significant. If you can successfully set and achieve your personal and business goals you will experience many benefits and improvements. Setting goals gives you greater clarity on your future, increases focus, triggers new behaviours, guides your actions and gives you a clear purpose in life. Goals provide direction and a clear focus on what is most important in your life.
Setting goals transforms how you invest your time, energy and focus and provides motivation to take action on achieving your goals. Having goals provides clarity on your vision and ensures that vision is aligned with your daily goal achievement activities. The benefit of goal setting means you have a greater focus on where to invest your time and energy each day.
Setting goals that are specific and measurable is beneficial as it gives you a clear path and plan to make progress on your goals every day. This intentionality ensures you achieve a sense of personal satisfaction, momentum and motivation every day.
In this article I’m going to share the importance of goal setting and 10 benefits of goal setting.
The Importance of Goal Setting
Setting goals gives you a long-term vision to work towards and short-term targets to focus on each day. Goals create the framework to organise your time, energy and focus each day. Setting goals helps you stay motivated and excited and guides your daily action plan so it always aligns with achieving your goals.
The process of setting goals is important because it helps to clarify what’s truly important to you, and gives you a clear path and plan to pursue those goals. In addition to improving your daily performance, people who set goals are more productive, more creative, have more confidence and are less stressed.
Effective goal setting gives you clarity on what you want to achieve in life and gives you a proven framework for taking action to achieve those goals in a focused, effective and decisive way. Understanding the benefits of goal setting improves your ability to achieve your goals.
Goal setting success starts with having specific, measurable goals with a deadline. These goals are more effective in improving performance than goals that don’t have a number attached or a deadline to achieve the goal in. Choosing an effective goal that is specific and measurable means you’re committed to actually achieving the goal. Read more with my complete guide to goal setting.
Benefits of goal setting
Here are 10 benefits of goal setting.
Goals give you a direction, purpose and destination to reach. Having a clear, exciting goal inspires you to take action. Goals provide a direction and purpose and a clear destination to reach. Having clear direction gives you a sense of purpose in life and a specific focus each day to organise your time, energy and actions.
Goals provide specific measurements and achievements to work towards each day, which increases productivity. With goals you get to see the measurable progress you’re actually making.
Having monthly, quarterly and annual goals gives you a target to shoot for and a measuring stick to track your progress daily, weekly and monthly. Read more about setting measurable goals.
3. Improved prioritisation
Goals give you emotional and intellectual engagement on the outcome of your goals, ensuring you are committed to take daily action. Having specific, measurable goals guides your action steps every day. Goals help you clarify where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Goals help you visualise the future you want, and provide the framework for achieving your goals. Read more about how to achieve your goals.
4. Increased focus
Goals give you a daily focus which helps you achieve better and faster results. Without clarity on your goals it’s difficult to stay focused. Goals provide daily motivation to ensure you stay focused and take action every day to achieve the things that matter most to you.
Having goals gives you a clear plan and path to follow every day, which eliminates distraction, overwhelm and procrastination. Read more about how to stay focused.
5. Greater clarity
Goals give you clarity on what’s most important to you on life. Without goals you will waste time on countless activities that don’t move you forward in life. Having goals triggers an increased level of clarity and motivation to help you make progress in your life every day. Effective goal setting gives you control of your future and makes it easier to capture bigger opportunities. Goals enable you to prioritise your time and energy. Read more about how to prioritise.
6. Improved accountability
Goals give you greater accountability. Having goals ensures you are crystal clear on what you want to achieve and how important achieving that goal is. Goals help you visualise yourself in the future having achieved your goals, and give you the inspiration to take action every day.
This emotional engagement with achieving your goals helps you stay accountable through daily actions. Read more about the benefits of working with an accountability coach.
7. Better decision making
Goals help create better boundaries around your time, energy and focus, which improves decision making. Having goals gives you a clear framework to manage your time and energy.
When opportunities come up, having clear goals, allows you to make decisions about whether to take action or not. Goals get you clear on your purpose and ensure your daily actions align with your goals.
8. Control over your future
Goals help you take control over your future. Without goals you lack direction and give the power to other people to choose how you should spend your time and what you should focus on. Having goals gives you direction and motivation to take action to achieve your goals.
Goals help you take control over the future you want for yourself, which ensures you make better decisions in the present.
9. Increased motivation
Goals increase excitement and inspiration. Having goals gives you that added bit of motivation you may need when you don’t feel motivated or experience some setbacks.
When your goals are exciting you’ll be motivated to take action, even when you don’t feel like it, because you know the outcome of reaching your goal will be so transformational. Read more about how to get motivated.
10. Greater inspiration
Goals which are exciting and motivating inspire you to take action every day. Measurable goals give you a framework to see the progress you’re making every day towards achieving your goals. Without clear measurements you won’t have a clear destination or know when you’ve reached it.
Making progress on your goals builds momentum, motivation and excitement. When you see how far you’ve come towards your goal achievement, you’re even more motivated to carry on.
Setting goals can transform your life. The simple act of setting goals that are specific and measurable can transform your habits, your mindset, your confidence and your daily actions. The benefits of goal setting are endless.
Goals provide direction and purpose. Having goals trigger higher performance, greater productivity, greater creativity and greater focus. Set a goal today and see how far you can go.
Mihran Kalaydjian Introducing Breeze (zepur gi tarnam) Զեփյուռի նման I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times; but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers. When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.
I’ll be the gentlest breeze that Descends from the mountains to rest at your door. Like a knight seared by your love I’ll surrender my sword at your garden’s gate.
And I’ll watch for you, night and day. Only hurry back to your garden So I can see your face, put my heart to rest. Drunk with your love, I would die at your door.
Disguised as Spring I’ll enter your garden to cling to your rose like the singing nightingale. I’ll kneel by your door as a sacrifice for your life. I’m your Shahen; I’ll sing you a thousand songs.
Again I’ll watch for you, night and day Only hurry back to the garden So I can see your face, get drunk with your love. Put my heart to rest so I can die at your door.
Dismissive listening is the opposite of empathetic listening. It says “I want to fix you” or “I want to fix your problem” instead of “I hear you, what do you need?” While empathetic listeners are able to determine what a conversation partner wants or needs, dismissive listeners tend to be less charismatic in conversation and can be seriously holding back their relationships by leaning on inefficient (and generally less empathetic!) listening skills. As a result, they tend to be less effective leaders, mentors, parents and friends.
The good news: Dismissive listening isn’t a personality, it’s a practice. It can be corrected. The first step is diagnosing the situation. If you use any of these phrases, you may be engaging in dismissive listening. Keep reading to determine how you’re leading conversations down the wrong road — and what to say instead.
It’s worth noting that these critiques don’t apply to conversations that open with someone asking for advice or feedback. Instead, they apply to more subtle, open-ended conversations where empathetic listening is required.
1. “Aww! Don’t be upset!”
If someone comes to you when they’re upset about something — from missing out on promotion to experiencing a difficult life event — countering by telling them not to experience their feelings is reductive and dismissive. While you’re a kind person and want to see them happy again as soon as possible, asking them to simply not be upset may make them feel guilty for bringing it up or feel like their emotional experience isn’t valid.
What to say instead: I’m listening. That sounds hard.
This phrase reconfirms that you were a safe person to have this conversation with and validates their feelings. It also allows them the space to lead how the conversation progresses.
2. “What if you try this?”
Most of the time, people are approaching you with a conversation — especially a conversation about a problem at work or at home — to vent and have their experience validated. You’re a nice person and you want to help, but leading with unsolicited advice focuses the conversation on fixing the problem from your perspective instead of on how the problem is affecting your conversation partner. That’s dismissive of their experience and can lead them to feel frustrated and not heard.
What to say instead: I want to help. How can I show up for you moving forward?
Saying this allows you to take action and offer help without inserting your own solutions or opinions into space where someone hasn’t asked for them. If they want help, they’ll tell you how you can engage. Or, they’ll tell you they just needed you to listen.
3. “Oh! You should read/listen to this…”
Similar to the above, this well-intentioned phrase offers unsolicited advice — and shallow advice, at that. If someone is approaching you with a difficult experience — from a layoff to getting into a serious fight with a friend — they likely know where they can go to get advice. We all have Google on hand. Unless they ask, don’t offer those options up. It’s a bit deflective and insinuates their experience can be reduced to a problem that can be solved via educational podcast or inspirational memoir.
What to say instead: I want to help. How can I show up for you moving forward?
Instead, focus on their experiences and how they see you fitting into the larger conversation, if at all. Chances are, they just wanted to vent or wanted you to offer a real piece of wisdom. They’ll let you know!
4. “I totally get it. One time…”
While sometimes you really will get what your conversation partner is experiencing, most of the time, you won’t. We all live individual lives, complicated by our personal experiences, identity dimensions and personalities. While this phrase feels empathetic when you’re saying it, it may feel reductive or just plain wrong to the person on the other side. It also centers your experience over theirs. It’s best to proceed with this route only if you’re asked for similar situations or what you learned from them.
What to say instead: It sounds like you’re saying… Is that accurate?
Instead of assuming you understand what they’re experiencing, repeat back to them your impression of the situation. It centers them, reinforces that you’re listening and helps them progress the conversation in the direction they’d like it to go.
5. “You’ll be fine!”
If someone comes to you with a problem or difficult situation, telling them that it will all work out isn’t just invalidating, it’s not very helpful, either. You’re a nice person and you want to be encouraging and optimistic, but these words reduce the complicated experience someone might have and also deflects the conversation instead of allowing them space to talk through those emotions. This kills your credibility as a listener.
For example, telling a direct report that’s anxious for a presentation that they’ll be “totally fine!” is likely to kill their confidence coming to you for encouragement in the future. Similarly, telling a friend who just got laid off that they’ll be “totally fine because they’re so talented!” makes them unlikely to come to you with complicated, hard situations in the future.
What to say instead: It sounds like you’re saying… Is that accurate? How do you think it will impact you moving forward? How can I show up for you?
To avoid being reductive, reconfirm with someone how you think they’re feeling and how the experience is impacting them. Then, ask how you can help. This centers their experience without reducing it, shows interest in how they foresee the experience continuing to impact them and allows you to expertly diagnose what they’re expecting from the conversation.
1. Consider the mistakes as part of the learning process
No one likes to make mistakes, but we need to learn that only when we make mistakes we realize what is not working and what can be changed or be done better. We should always keep in mind that we are not what we do, we are much more than that. Our actions, what we do, is the self-efficacy which can be increased with the practice; our essence, who we are, our self-esteem, is separated from everything and do not depend on our performance.
2. Do not compare yourself to others
Comparing yourself to others is never constructive. Focusing on what others do better than us is a trap that no one is immune and is very insidious because it leads to focus on what we do or do not possess losing sight of the many gifts that are already present in our lives. Continuing to bring our attention to others makes us take everything for granted. The comparison leads us to measure ourselves using inappropriate parameters, risking to live someone’s life and desiring things we don’t really want. When it happens to envy someone ask yourself: “I really want that thing, that result, that goal?” And if you do not want it, then why are envious? Are we convinced that this person will appear in the eyes of others better? But in the eyes of whom? And that’s really so important?
3. Be loyal to your values even if it means being unpopular
Key values are those that belong to our soul, do not change over time and lead us in our lives. Be true to your values, even if it means going against and be unpopular. It is not easy, you will lose people along the way, but you won’t lose yourself and this is the only thing that matters. Being faithful to your values means loving yourself.
4. See the past as an adventure
Life is an adventure: every day we have the opportunity to discover something new and wonderful to experience. The past is what allowed you to get to this moment, including errors. Do not condemn your past, even if you suffer, it made you the person you are today.
5. Do not underestimate your talents
All of us have unique talents that make us special, but very often we underestimate them or we are not even aware of them. What makes you feel most alive? What gives you more excitement, what you dream to be, do, have, give? What were your dreams, your passions as a child? What makes your heart beat? What are
your favorite topics? What are your interests? What would you do even if your are not paid for? What makes you feel so absorbed that you lose track of the time passing? What are your features, your peculiarity? It’s just by looking within yourself that you can discover your talents and make them available to the world.
6. Surround yourself with people that inspire you
We are social animals and we need to interact and share experiences with others. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you and inspire you to be the best version of yourself.
7. Express your anger creatively
Anger is an important emotion, but many times we try to repress or deny it, hurting ourselves. It’s important to express anger and there are many different ways to do that. Playing sports, spending time in nature, writing, screaming (in the car or with a cushion for example): find ways to express anger, not hold it in!
8. Celebrate every success
Celebrate every success, even when it seems insignificant, it is important to keep motivation high. Celebrate the wonderful person you are, whatever you do or whatever result you get. Just because you’ve decided to do something new and try to be happy, you deserve all the possible respect.
The benefits of meditation are far reaching and have been well known for centuries. However, the idea of formal meditation doesn’t sit well with some of us.
The idea of sitting cross-legged for extended periods and delving inward puts many of us off before we’ve even got started. Even the word “meditation” can be a very real barrier to entry for some. What a shame, as the many benefits of meditation can be good for us all.
A better understanding of what we truly think/feel/want
Less feelings of anger, hurt, or disquiet
Being more present
Being more content
A better understanding of who we really are
This little list is just starting to scratch the surface. Meditating can be that powerful.
If meditating in a more traditional way for extended periods feels right for you, all power to you— please continue with your journey. If that isn’t you, don’t worry, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.
If you recoil a little when meditation is mentioned but still want to reap some of the rewards, I hope to offer several ideas that might work for you. But first, a bit of personal reflection.
I Confess I Do Not Have a Formal Meditation Practice
As someone that writes books and a blog all under the broad umbrella of simplicity and that can often be found leafing through books and words by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bruce Lee, Sun Tzu, and Lao Tzu, it may surprise you to know I do not consider myself to have a formal meditation practice.
Perhaps somewhat out of step with the trend of our time, my morning routine (if I even have one) does not have time carved out for sitting cross-legged in a quiet room, reflecting on the universe at large.
Don’t get me wrong, I admire that others do this, but it never really felt like a fit for me. I’ve tried to make it a habit, at a few points in my life, but it just hasn’t stuck.
If I’m honest, I think the word “meditation” itself intimidates many of us. We perceive it to mean we need some special point of entry, or skillset, to reap the rewards.
All this said, perhaps paradoxically, I am also totally sold on the benefits of meditation and I want them to be a part of my life. I just happen to believe you can get those benefits in other ways. Your formal practice doesn’t have to be formal, and you don’t even have to call it a “practice.”
This is where the art of meditating without meditation comes in.
Meditation without Meditating in Action: My Top 6
Here are some of my favorite ways to achieve some of meditation’s powerful benefits without actually feeling like I am meditating.
Walking is my ultimate reset. It blows away the mental cobwebs that can accumulate. It provides new stimulus and re-energises a tired mind. Complex problems I’ve been struggling with can suddenly feel like they fall into place on a good, long walk. A fresh perspective can somewhat magically drift into view.
I like to walk early, before the rush and before the noise of human traffic drowns out the birds singing. Depending on where I am, I like to walk as close to nature as possible (a nice park, a beach, a hike over rolling hills). This is as close as I consider I get to a formal meditative practice.
2. Being at one with the outdoors and nature
The natural world is a passion for me. Something that breathes life and color into any day, if I just make time to stop and notice what is going on around me. I find it grounding and uplifting all at once.
Nature presents us with a constant wonderland. It’s easy to take this for granted. We can fix this by spending some time just being at one with nature and reconnecting with the great outdoors, and we’ll feel so much better for it.
Be amazed by that spider’s web glistening with the morning’s dew.
Take in the sun rising and setting.
Make time to watch the clouds moving overhead, soak up the inspiration that comes from the view.
Be endlessly in awe at nature’s ability to evolve, adapt, and deal with challenges.
Enjoy the offerings of new life and renewal each and every spring, by making deliberate time to stop and notice.
3. Losing myself in music (art)
Some would say this is cheating, as you are using outside stimulus to get a response; I say call it what you will. The benefits that people claim to get from meditation, I have and feel from losing myself in music.
Music is transformative. It can lift our mood on our darkest days, it can ease anxiety when we feel on edge about something, it can shift our mindset.
We can leverage different music at different times to support our state of well-being. Music is one of life’s true pleasures for me, one of the very last things I would want to give up.
However, if music isn’t quite as powerful a force in your own life, perhaps there is something else that is. Literature can, and does, serve the same end. Or a beautiful painting or sculpture that really moves us, or even a really great movie. All of the above can be transformative, life-affirming, and even life-changing ways we can apply ourselves.
4. Seeking stillness
Seeking stillness may sound like a total contrast to the earlier suggestion to listen to music; maybe it is or isn’t, but this time is necessary for me. This is time to let my mind just drift without expecting too much of anything from it. Letting it wander where it wanders. In a results-orientated culture, we can spend too little time here.
Cut to the core, this is actually what meditation is all about. For me, all it really means is taking the time to get in touch with our own thoughts and finding a point of reflection. It’s cutting out the external world for a while and tuning into frequency us. It’s about reconnecting with the signal, amongst the noise.
This is time to turn off the phone, unplug from the internet, and make space for some calm in our day.
Disconnecting a little from the busy world around us, to reconnect with ourselves.
No special cushion necessary, unless you want one, no special seating position necessary unless it helps trigger the state. Just make a commitment to be mindful and find some stillness in your own way.
For me this means writing and playing guitar.
Writing, in particular, is something I spend much time on. I feel better on days and weeks that I have made time to write creatively. Ideas flow freely and come out on the page. I make sense of thoughts and words and try to communicate as effectively as I can, then I refine (edit). When I am truly in a writing flow, this creative process can definitely feel meditative.
6. Exercise (calisthenics, yoga, and breathwork)
I am a fan and practitioner of calisthenics (working with one’s bodyweight as the weight). I find this form of training both physically demanding and endlessly interesting. I enjoy the raw simplicity.
Learning new moves or practicing well-worn moves, trying to perfect them, also has a meditative effect. I’m totally in the practice, and often have to be if the move in question is getting hard or has a balancing element. Trying to create whole body tension for some moves also means I need to be aware of where my breath is (am I holding it somewhere or letting it flow?).
Yoga is relatively new to me and I have been slow to embrace it, perhaps somewhat surprisingly as my wife is a yoga practitioner and teacher and has encouraged me to give it a proper go for years. Knucklehead that I am, I finally took note and I’ve come to really enjoy this time. I now make time for working on the mat through my week, amongst other exercise I do.
As I am new to the yoga poses themselves, and how different teachers teach, I find I have to be totally present for yoga. No time to think about what comes after or what has just happened; to keep up with the class I have to listen. This has a calming effect on body and soul on the best days.
The breathwork, and constant queues to focus on breath, have also made me aware of where I tend to keep tension (physically and mentally).
What’s great about this list is that you can use these practices interchangeably, and they can happily co-exist at the same time.
I think the “meditation” label puts as many off as it attracts. In busy and distracted times, this is a missed opportunity for us all to feel the benefits.
When we forget the labels, all we’re doing with the practices above is resetting a little. The art of meditating without meditating if you like.
Give it a go. String these resets together on a regular basis and feel the benefits for yourself. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be open to further experiments in formal meditative practice after doing so. If not, just find your own way. Keep what works for you, discard what doesn’t, and call it what you want, or call it nothing at all.