Make your goals more robust by doing this:

Make your goals more robust by doing this:

I knew the exact path I would go down once I escaped high school. Get my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in accounting, conquer the CPA exam, and get a good job with benefits.

That was my goal from day one. Every day in school this goal was in the back of my mind.

I thought about getting to the end of the road. I had my eyes on the prize, and imagined how my life would be better once I reached the finish line.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. In an early undergraduate accounting course my school required a minimum grade of a B before moving on to the next course.

I messed up on the first exam. My world almost came crashing down. Everything I was focused on almost disappeared. The future I dreamed of was slipping away. (In retrospect, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. But in that moment, that was my whole world.)

Goals are great, but can be burdensome

I’ve been a fan of goals since I was young. They kept me accountable. They gave me a something to shoot for. They helped me zero in on what I needed to do.

Goals are important. But they are not the only thing that matters. (In case you were wondering, I had to retake that class, got an A, and lived happily ever after.)

The missing ingredient

In “The Power of Habit”, Charles Duhigg explores the depth of how humans function, including the neurological patterns that govern our habits.

He defines the habit loop and divides it into three elements: cue, routine, and reward.

According to Duhigg, cue and the reward are neurologically intertwined, creating a sense of craving. This is why some folks crave certain actions, like smoking a cigarette or eating that candy bar. What we really seek is the reward from the routine.

What can we do with this knowledge of habits?

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, wrote “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big,” where he explores the idea of goals and habits with a unique twist.

According to Adams, there are two types of people in the world: those who are goals-oriented and those who are systems-driven.

(For the purposes of this article, I use habits and systems interchangeably.)

Adams believes that goal-oriented people always exist in a state of pre-success or failure; there is no in between.

However, systems driven people look at the familiar in new and different ways. Those with a system in place succeed every time they implement the system.

For example

In honor of NoNoWriMonth, let’s say I have a goal to write a book. My hope is to achieve this goal in the next few months.

Thinking of this goal, I see a gorilla of a task at hand. Writing an entire book? Sheesh, that’s tough to do.

Now imagine this: Say I get 70% of the way through the book, but can’t do it anymore. I’m a failure. All of those hours were merely a waste of time. Unless…

I have a system.

What would your system be?

My system would be writing for a minimum of 10 minutes first thing in the morning. In those 10 minutes, write at least 500 words. It doesn’t matter how good or bad those 500 words are. The system is merely the act of writing within this time frame.

These mini-goals, or systems, are what is going to help me reach that long term goal of writing a novel. By writing for merely 500 words per day, I could easily have a draft with 45,000 words within 3 months. That’s the power of systems.

Systems also make it so you never truly fail

The system is writing for 10 minutes, first thing in the morning. What would I hope to accomplish with this system? Well…

  • I want to improve my writing skills
  • I want to improve my editing skills
  • I want to share my thoughts with the world

With my system in place, I would achieve bullets 1 and 2 every time I write. The 3rd bullet allows me an out even if you never finish writing the book. How so?

Let’s go back to the scenario earlier. Say I’m 70% of the way through the book and decide I can’t finish it. I just wasted a bunch of time.

But, if my goal is to share my thoughts with the world, I can still accomplish that!

I could break up the book into bite-sized pieces and share it with the world through articles my blog.

Systems increase your chances of success

Scott Adams looks at systems as a technique to increase your chances of success. It’s not simply success or failure, as it is in the goal-oriented frame of mind.

Instead, with the right system in place, you can succeed a little bit each and every day. These small wins drive you closer to accomplishing your goal of writing a book.

Adams actually recommends that you set up systems all throughout your life in order to accomplish those things that you want and increase your odds of success.

Another system example

One such system that I’ve implemented into my life is having 10% of my paycheck transferred into my retirement accounts every single month.

Instead of setting some audacious goal (say saving $1 million) and the obsessing over it every single month, I have a system in place that operates automatically. This one simple habit helps puts me on track for success. This system operates every single time I get paid.

Going back to the habit loop, the cue is receiving my paycheck, the routine is having it automatically transferred. What’s the reward? Checking my investment accounts and seeing the balance I’ve managed to accumulate.

This is one instance where having a system in life increases my odds of success. By creating the habit of saving, I don’t blow through my whole paycheck.

Instead, I slowly invest my cash that will help me reach my eventual goal of financial freedom. Do I know when I’ll reach that goal? No, but the system in place takes it from a pipe dream to a realistic probability just like that.

Systems-driven thinking

Systems influence your mindset. The right systems allow me to become mindful and focus on the present moment. Instead of thoughts about some future audacious goal, I focus on that task at hand.

I focus on what it is that I have accomplished already. With systems, the accomplishment is taking action. It’s writing 500 words today. It’s saving 10% of my paycheck every pay period.

The system becomes routine, and there’s no obsession on the end result.

Goals and anxiety

Personally, goals make me worry about the future to the point of anxiety. Goals can be overwhelming, especially if they aren’t expected to be accomplished for years or even decades.

Systems are a form of mindfulness, present state focus on the moment. They allow you think about what you are doing right now. You don’t think about how far away you are from that goal. This frees up your mental faculties so you can do deep work and do the best you can now.

Systems keep you grounded and present. They allow you not to obsess over the progress bar.

Don’t rob your present state awareness with audacious goals about the future. You can still reach them, you just need the right system.

What systems (or habits) have you implemented in your life that have had a big impact? Are there any systems you think we can benefit from by implementing into our lives?

I am lucky

I am lucky

I would be insulted if you called me lucky two years ago.

After all, I worked my ass off to get to where I am today. That’s not luck. I created this reality I live in.

Or so I thought.

I realized something a few months ago. Luck isn’t about winning the lottery. Being called lucky isn’t an insult. It’s the truth. After reflection, I am very lucky.

I was born in the right country to the right parents. Everything I have experienced has brought me to where I am today.

I almost drowned in family friend’s pool when I was 3 years old. But I didn’t. I was saved by my neighbor’s friend. I could be dead. But I’m not.

I have a natural drive to work hard. I’m self-motivated. I always wanted to do that best I could. I can’t describe what gave me this internal drive at a young age.

It wasn’t something that I learned from a book. There was a moment or series of moments that shaped me into becoming that type of person.

Maybe it was my mom, who started teaching me when I was 3 or 4 years old.

Or, maybe a teacher help change the trajectory of my life.

Or maybe it was my three siblings influenced me.

All I know is that if you change one of those inputs, the output or my life would be different today.

 

One Example

Bill Gates is brilliant. He’s ambitious. He took advantage of the opportunities he saw early in his life.

Bill Gates is also lucky.

He attended Lakeside, a private school in Seattle. A private school with a computer. Not just any computer, but a brand new, top of the line computer.

The Lakeside’s Mother’s Club had a rummage sale every year to raise money for the school. And instead of just funding the budget, they always would fund something kind of new and interesting in addition. And without too much understanding, they decided having a computer terminal at the school would be a novel thing. It was a teletype — upper case only, ten characters a second — and you had to share a phone line to call into a big time-sharing computer that was very expensive.

This was one moment in Gate’s life that put him on the path to revolutionizing the world. Luck played a role in getting him there.

What if one detail and his life changed? What is he attended Public School in Seattle instead of private? What if he not have access to a computer in middle school? Would he have still changed the world?

(Credit to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers for this story.)

When comes down to it luck and hard work two sides of the same coin. Here’s how I see it:

Luck + Hard Work = Success

No Luck + Hard Work = A difficult, but fulfilling life (in my opinion)

Luck + No Hard Work = A recipe for disaster (Case in point: lottery winners)

No Luck + No Hard Work = Not much

Being lucky isn’t a bad thing

Bill Gates got lucky. He worked his ass off for years and change the world and process. He took advantage of the luck bequeathed to him.

He leveraged this and used it as a springboard to create one of the most successful companies in the world.

Sometimes you just have to put yourself in the right place with the right amount of effort. Embrace the serendipity around you. Work hard. Follow your curiosities. Go where others haven’t dared to go. Who knows, luck might just find you.

What is one thing that has happened in your life that you would say was “lucky”? How would your life be different had that not happened?

Change your mental state by walking

Change your mental state by walking

I am a habitual walker. Everyone in my office knows that.

Around 7:30 am I get to work. I focus on the task at hand and get into flow until about 10 am. Then I take a break and step out of the office for a short 10 minute walk.

The time isn’t always the same, but one thing remains consistent: I make sure to get in my walk.

At 12 pm I take a break for lunch. After I finish eating I go for another short walk.

Then after another 2-3 hours I go for one last walk during the work day.

No matter where I am working or what is going on, I always find time to go for a walk.

I don’t care how busy things are or how crazy my bosses are, I make every effort I can to go for a walk and get my 10,000 steps in during the day.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes I have a deadline that I need to hit. Or I’m asked to help assist on another project. And I’ll go longer without taking a break. But I always find time for a walk.

Walking leads to focus

I credit walking with helping me focus better throughout the day. I’m more productive. Not only that, but I feel happier at work.

By the end day, while others are dragging ass and on their 3rd or 4th cup of coffee, I feel refreshed, focused, and as though I could continue working for another few hours if I have to (which I do sometimes).

I credit all of this to going for those short walks throughout the day.

I don’t walk because of the health benefits

I have a hard time sitting still. I like to get up and move. But when you work on the computer all day long, there aren’t many opportunities to this.

Many of my coworkers sit at their desk all day long without ever leaving the office. The only time they get up is to go to the bathroom, pick up something from the printer, or the heat up their lunch in the breakroom.

That’s not me. I need to get up. I need to move.

3 reasons to walk

Walking helps me reevaluate and focus on what matters

When I’m out in nature I focus better. I go out for a walk with thoughts or questions to ponder in my subconscious mind. When I go back to work, the answer I’ve been seeking suddenly comes to me.

Taking breaks throughout the day and changing the environment that helps my brain make connections that I wouldn’t otherwise make.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you’re thinking about a problem before you go to bed, and then in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning the answer comes to you? That’s what happens when I go out for a walk. Answers seem to appear.

It is meditative

I’ve mentioned this in a prior article, but for me going for a walk can be very calming and meditative.

When I go for a walk I use it as an opportunity to focus and become mindful of the world around me.

When I walk out the door the first thing I notice is the sidewalk and all of the cracks and the plants growing in between some of those cracks.

I look up to the sky and notice if there are clouds. What are they shaped like? Does it look like it will rain today?

I look around at the trees and other features in the landscape around me. There is usually just grass and shrubs. But, every once in a while, there is a beautiful flower or unique looking plant.

Then my mind shifts to the buildings and the cars around me. I think about all of the other people out there. I wonder what they are up to and where they are going.

By the end of my walk, I am mindful and relaxed, just observing the world around me. It’s a great opportunity to reset your brain, recharge, and get ready to put in another few hours of work.

Best of all, walking is natural, easy, and free.

You don’t need a gym membership to go for a walk. You experience half the impact on your bones and joints than if you were to go for a run. And most people are capable of going out for a walk on a regular basis.

In fact, in a study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, regular walkers could actually be healthier than runners.

Risks for hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease drop significantly in walkers as compared to runners.

This could be due to the fact that chronic running could lead to over training and inadequate recovery time, which could make you susceptible to overtraining, injury and illness.

In summary

Walking has made me more productive, relaxed, and happier.

Give it a shot! Using a fitness tracker or any number of free apps on your phone, try to get in 10,000 steps per day and see how it affects you.

Do you enjoy going for walks throughout the day? What benefits do you notice when you go for a 20 minute walk?

How are your questions?

How are your questions?

Three months ago my boss came to me and told me that I had to work out of town for a month. I would only be about an hour away, so I could commute if I wanted to.

This was a minor annoyance, but no big deal. I could still sleep in my own bed and go on with my normal routine without too much interruption.

That changed two weeks ago. Due to budget cuts, I wouldn’t be working an hour away. Instead, I would have to drive two hours away to Jacksonville and work there for a month. No way was I commuting now.

When I found out I had to spend a month away from home, I was heated. I was the only person from my office who had to travel away from home this year. And this would be my second time doing it.

Last time I also traveled to Jacksonville, and I was miserable. I was upset I had to spend time away from home. And that was only for two weeks. This time it would be for the entire month.

What’s wrong with me?

I had an observation three and a half weeks ago: the smallest things were setting me off.

I was complaining more. I was playing the victim. I believed everything was outside my locus of control.

So you can imagine how I felt when I was told I needed to go away for a month. I was angry. “Why the f*** do I have to keep doing this? It’s not fair.”

A few days after finding out I would be in Jacksonville I was listening to a Tony Robbins recording.

He talked about how we can’t control everything around us. But what we can control is our perception of the world. In order to change your perceptions, you must change the questions you ask yourself.

When you’re upset or angry or annoyed, don’t list the reasons why a situation sucks. Shift the focus. Ask better questions.

Ask yourself: “what’s good about this?”

The light bulb moment

A couple days later, I was taking my mid-morning walk at work still fuming when the light bulb went off. Right then I shifted the focus. I asked myself, “What’s good about this?”

When I got back to my desk I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote in big, bold letters at the top of the paper “What’s good about having to work in Jacksonville for a month?”

And I began to list things out.

  1. I’ll meet new people.
  2. I can go to new restaurants.
  3. I can check out their breweries.
  4. It won’t get dark until late, so I can explore after work.
  5. I’ll be downtown, and everything is within walking distance.
  6. I’ll challenge myself with new tasks at work.
  7. I’ll be able to go home on the weekends.
  8. All of my meals are paid for.
  9. I’ll break my routine.

All of the sudden, I started to feel better. Instead of being annoyed, I started looking forward to it.

In retrospect, I don’t even know why I was annoyed.

The only thing I really had to be angry about was being outside the comfort of my hometown. Other than that, going to Jacksonville looked like more good than bad.

How is it going so far?

Today is my second day in Jacksonville and I’m enjoying it much more this time around.

I’ve been able to explore more. I’ve gone to new places to eat. I’ve tried new beers.

I’m convinced I would not enjoy myself if I continued with the mindset of being annoyed.

But because I searched for reasons why this would be a good trip, it has thus far turned out to be good.

I reframed the situation by asking “what’s good about this?”

I forced myself to come up with answers to a question I didn’t even previously consider.

A reminder

This serves as a reminder for myself: you are only as good as the quality of questions you ask yourself.

You can use this same technique in a number of situations.

For example, if you’re stuck in traffic tomorrow, ask yourself, “what’s good about this?”

Come up with five reasons why being stuck in traffic is actually a good thing. I tried this the other day and there was a huge difference in how I felt by end of my evening commute.

Next time you’re in a situation that makes you angry, annoyed, or upset, ask yourself, “what’s good about this?”

It may be hard to come up with answers initially. You will want to resist answering. Overcome this resistance, answer the question as best as you can, and see how you feel.

Remember, you’re only as good as the quality of questions that you ask yourself.

Why I don’t tell people what to do anymore

Why I don’t tell people what to do anymore

As you know, I ran a personal finance blog for two years. I created the blog for three reasons: (1) to help people with their finances, (2) to reinforce what I was learning, and (3) to make a living from blogging.

At the start of this blog, I absorbed everything I could on personal finance. I read the classics, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I read The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, followed up by Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

I read numerous other books in the following months and had a good grasp on personal finance. I gave advice to anyone who was willing to listen to me.

I would also write 2 posts per week about personal finance topics that I conjured up during the slow work day.

Do THIS, not that

In these posts I would pick an area people struggle with. Then I would tell them what to do.

Save 10% of your income. Open an IRA account. Don’t go into debt. You get the idea…

I felt like an authority. I believed as an authority it was up to me to tell people what to do.

It was all out of the goodness of my heart. Honestly. I didn’t think I was better than anyone. But I expressed what I thought people should do.

This began to trickle into my personal life

I would give advice to my girlfriend. “Do this instead.”

I would give advice to my sister. “Why are you doing it that way? Do it this way.”

I would have arguments with family members. I told them why they were wrong and why they should think about a particular situation differently. I’m not proud of those moments.

I had my view of the world and wanted everyone to conform to that view. Not necessarily in a negative way. It was just how I believed the world should be.

This changed last year

A year ago I became interested Buddhist concepts and philosophies. As I was reading, I came across a quote that stuck with me:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

The Buddha himself essentially told people not to blindly follow what he said. It was his way of saying, try this yourself. If you like it, continue to use it. If not, move on.

And this idea struck a chord. All this time I was telling people what to do, what to think, what to believe.

I had my view of the world and what the right thing to do was. But that wasn’t the right thing to do.

The fault in giving advice

Derek Sivers was interviewed last month on the James Altucher Show. In this podcast, he asked James about how he deals with giving advice.

Derek went on to say that he never knew what to tell someone who came to him seeking advice.

For example, one person wanted to know if they should quit their job to pursue an entrepreneurial venture full-time.

Derek said he wasn’t sure what to tell this person. Should he tell them to quit? Or should he tell them to stick with their current job?

The dilemma caused him to think about the fault in giving advice.

Advice is a double-edged sword

Any advice we give to others is based 100% off our personal life experiences. It’s based off the knowledge and actions we have taken throughout our lives. And it may not always be the best advice.

That’s why it’s not useful to tell someone what to do in their life. Especially if you get into a position where people trust your opinion and will do whatever you tell them.

That’s where I could see Derek’s problem. What if he told them to quit their job and dive in full-time and they failed. Would it be his fault? Not really. But I’m sure he would feel pretty bad.

But what if he told them not to quit, and they never get that fire under their ass to turn their venture into something big. Is that also his fault?

I don’t tell anyone what to do, just what I’ve done

From these experiences, I’ve learned that it’s not my place to tell people what to do.

Even in their articles, I do my best to present to you things that I do that work for me, and encourage you to try them out for yourself. But I refrain from telling you what to do.

And this is where I leave it. “This is what I did in this situation. This is the end result. This is how I feel. Try it out yourself.”

I feel better now, not telling others what to do. I merely make suggestions based off my life experience.

Try this out yourself and see how it makes you feel. If you like it, great! If not, that’s okay too.

Do you ever find yourself telling others what to do? Or do you have others in your life who always seem to have advice for every thing? How does it make you feel?

I’ve improved my productivity. Here’s how.

I’ve improved my productivity. Here’s how.

It was Wednesday morning. I was struggling. It was hump day but the clock hadn’t even struck 9 am. I wanted to go home.

My eyes hurt. I had a headache that radiated on the left side of my skull. It concentrated over my left eyebrow.

I had it for two days in a row. Maybe it was a migraine? It didn’t seem like it would get any better any time soon. I wasn’t getting anything done. My focus was gone. Then I tried something out. And I was productive again.

Purpose

This post is a mish mash of ideas for how you can be more productive.

These are a few things I’ve tried in recent weeks that have enhanced my productivity at work. This isn’t the end-all be-all of productivity posts.

These are some things that I have been working on recently to maintain a level of productivity that has amazed co-workers. (Not to brag…I just want you believe what I’m saying.)

So what am I doing to be productive?

Get rid of blue light

I had a massive headache. 10 hours in front of the computer was getting to me. My eyes hurt. My vision blurred. I was tired but found myself unable to sleep at night. So I decided to try something. I got rid of the blue light.

I installed f.lux on my work computer that Wednesday. Immediately I noticed a reduction in eye strain. With a day or two my headaches dissipated.

If you don’t know, f.lux is a software that adjusts your computer light to the time of day. If it’s day time, then your screen is bright. If it’s early morning or late evening, it gradually reduces the blue light and brightness of your screen.

I used this software to reduce the blue light of my screen, even during the day.

I felt great. I could sit at the computer for hours without losing focus. The glare of the blue light in my eyes was no more. I didn’t feel like I had to step away from the computer every 20 minutes.

By using f.lux on my computer, I survived 10 to 12 hours of staring at the computer without having the awful migraines that accompany it.

Reducing blue light not only makes me more productive, but I’ve been sleeping better too. For instance, reducing blue light, especially before you bed, has been shown to improve sleep.

I also use a blue light filter on my phone and tablet. I can read a book on my tablet before bed every night and not have to suffer from the effects of that awful blue light permeating my eyes.

(Keep in mind, some blue light is good for you. This is how your body knows that it’s day time and time to get to work. That’s why I step out of the office every few hours to get some natural blue light from the sun light.)

Have a purpose

This seems obvious. When you have a purpose for why you are doing something, you are more likely to do that thing and stick to it longer.

A purpose makes a task easier to do. You know exactly why you are doing what you are doing. Even if the purpose is weak or insignificant, it will help you get through something you don’t really want to do.

For example, there are times when I am assigned to do something I don’t really want to do.

When this happens, I could do one of two things. I could complain about how I don’t want to do that thing. “Why can’t so-and-so do it?” Or “this isn’t fair, why do I have to be punished by doing this?”

I’m sure you can think of times where you were assigned something you didn’t want to do. How did you react?

Most people go the first route and complain. I know, because I used to be a complainer. (I still am at times, but nowhere near as much as before.)

I shifted my mentality early on. There is an alternative to complaining. Now I look at things as a learning opportunity. I look at this (unwanted) opportunity as a chance to learn a new area. I use that project to expand my knowledge and add to my repertoire.

This is my purpose when I do almost anything new. “What can I learn about X?” Or, “oh well, I have to do this whether I want to or not. I might as well learn as much as I can about the topic at hand.”

For me, using learning as my purpose has greatly improved my life. When the purpose is to learn something you, it restores that natural curiosity that escapes many of us once we become older.

But you’re purpose doesn’t have to be to learn something new. That’s just one idea.

Your purpose could be to make your customers happy. Or it could be to connect with new people. Or it could be to help those around you.

Whatever it is that you are assigned to do in work, or even life, always have a purpose for why you are doing that thing. No purpose = no drive. And without drive it’s almost impossible to get anything done.

FOCUS

John Lee Dumas, creator of Entrepreneur on Fire, has this saying of “FOCUS.” To him, FOCUS means to Follow One Course Until Success.

This all ties into the mindfulness and awareness that I’ve been practicing recently. When you have a lot on your plate, it’s easy to jump from task to task and never get anything done.

Have you ever had a day like that? A day where you seem to be busy. But then but they end of the day, you feel like you got nothing done?

This is what happens to me when I multi-task and try to do a bunch of things at once. I feel busy but I don’t actually get anything done.

When you focus on one task until completion, you are able to get into a flow state which enables you to focus or get in the zone as athletes call it.

When you’re in a flow state, time seems to slow down but also speed up (as weird as it sounds). You become engrossed in your work. You become one with what you are doing. Next thing you know, you are knocking out stuff left and right and the work day is over!

So try it out. When you write out your next to do list, only list 3 things, and put full focus on concentration on that first item on your list before proceeding.

Do nothing

What if I told you that you could be more productive by doing nothing?

I do nothing for a big chunk of work each day.

That’s not to say I sit around all day doing nothing. Let me give you an example:

Every day I get into work around 7 or 7:30. I focus on my work for a solid two or three hours. I really focus on one task and do my best to complete it in that time frame.

Then, around 10 am every morning I step outside the office and go for a walk. I’ll take about five to ten minutes to just walk around.

During this walk I really try to become aware of the world around me. I shut my mind off to the work I was just doing a minute earlier. I become completely aware of the world around me.

I take in the environment and the trees around me. I look up to the sky at the clouds. I listen to the birds chirping. All while I am taking a slow, leisurely walk.

It’s all very relaxing and meditative. I’m able to step away from the voice inside my head for a few minutes in the morning. Any worries and fears that I was just thinking about while in the office dissipate for those brief moments.

By the time my ten minutes are up, I’m ready to dive right back into what I’m doing.

By doing nothing for a 10 minutes in the morning, and again in the afternoon, I’m able to feel refreshed once I dive back into the task that I was doing.

Too many people plug away at something for hours and hours because they need to get it done.

They believe in powering through the morning and working through lunch. Then they feel sluggish around 2 pm. So they pound coffee and try to power through the afternoon.

I know because some of my co-workers are like this. What they don’t know is that constantly being “plugged-in” is actually making them less productive.

I’m under the impression that you need to get away from what you are doing every few hours if possible. Taking mini-breaks throughout the day can add to your productivity by leaps and bounds.

So try this next time you work. When you are on your work break, step away from your desk (or work station), and go for a walk (or sit outside) and practice mindfulness of the world around you.

Let go of those thoughts you have from work. Practice some mindfulness mediation in these few minutes. Then see how you feel when you get back to work.

This works for me

This isn’t your typical list. Some things are your normal productivity tips, like having a purpose and focusing on a single task. But implementing these in my life I really do feel more productive.

As for those unorthodox things…I really believe that reducing blue light at certain points in the day has helped me focus on the computer, where 99% of my work is performed. My headaches are gone and I sleep better at night.

And finally, doing nothing intermittently throughout the day is a sure fire way to survive the day.

This works for me. Try them out and let me know what you think.

What are some tips you have for staying productive? Is there anything out of the ordinary that makes you more focused and productive?

Your thoughts are like a dog on a leash

Your thoughts are like a dog on a leash

It’s 10:10 pm, and I’m winding down to go to bed. I’ve implemented meditation into my life. You can read more about that here. Or here.

I made a decision to meditate before I go to bed.

Why? I noticed that I sleep better on nights where I meditate right before bed.

Am I supposed­­ to medita­te right before bed? Some experts say no. But I don’t care because I feel better doing it.

A few minutes go by as I’m sitting in my chair, trying to go through my mindfulness meditation routine. I have some light music playing in the background, and I’m really trying to focus on my breath.

“What should I have for breakfast?” pops into my head. Shoot. That brought me out of my focused, peaceful state of conciousness.

I take a few deep breaths and focus on my breath and body.

“How am I going to get all of that stuff done at work tomorrow? There’s no way I can do it. I’m so sick of all this…” Arg! I did it again.

Okay, for real this time. I close my eyes and focus on my breaths. I count to three breaths.

“I forgot to schedule my dentist appointment again! I need to make a note of this.” I grab my phone and make a quick note to remind myself to schedule an appointment tomorrow.

“Well that ruined any chance of meditating tonight.”

How many times has this happened to you?

It seems to be happening to me more often lately than I would like.

I sit down to meditate. Then my thoughts explode.

All of the things that I forget about during the day magically appear in my conscious mind. All those thoughts, worries, stresses, appointments, meetings, and so forth.

You name it, and I’m thinking about it, when I least want to.

What could I do to fix this?

A wise friend once gave me some advice when it comes to meditating. They told me my mind is a dog.

“Okay…what?” I asked.

“Just hear me out,” said wise person.

“Imagine your mind as a dog on a leash. Every time you meditate and have a thought, your mind suddenly wants to chase after it.”

“It’s like when a dog sees a car or a ball or another dog. They start going after it and trying to get it.”

“During the day, your mind is an unleashed dog. It chases whatever it wants and goes wherever it wants.”

“But when you meditate, you want to put the dog on a leash. Put your mind on a leash.”

“Your mind is going to chase thoughts for no reason.”

Like when I started to think about breakfast, work, and appointments for no apparent reason.

“So what you need to do is let your mind pursue those thoughts to an extent. And once they’ve gone too far, pull them back in. Just like you would do to a dog on a leash.”

“It’s okay to let your mind pursue different thoughts to a degree. But if you let them go too far, you are defeating the purpose of the meditation.”

“Let your mind wander very slightly, and once it’s gone far enough, pull it back in.”

My wise friend may also be a little crazy. But he has a good point.

So I’m going to try this out next time I meditate. I’ll let my thoughts go a little bit, but then I will pull them back in. Just like a dog on a leash.

Maybe this analogy will help me focus better with my mindfulness meditation. Or maybe it’s just crazy talk. Whatever the case may be, I’m going to test it out tonight and see how it goes.

I Wasn’t Going to Do This

I Wasn’t Going to Do This

I didn’t plan to write about my year in review. I guess I don’t think much of New Years.

People on Facebook post “new year, new me!” I think these posts are ridiculous. Why should the new year change who you are?

Many people don’t keep their new year’s resolutions. Isn’t this enough to show a different year doesn’t change who people are?

Despite this, I’m going to write about my year in review. I had an amazing 2015. The purpose of this post is for me to express my gratitude to the past year, and touch on what I hope to accomplish going forward.

“We Should Go to Europe!”

In early April, my girlfriend asked me if I would like to go to Europe with her in the summer. Travelling Europe was a dream of hers. She would be getting her Bachelor’s in May, and the upcoming summer would be the perfect time to travel.

I’d never been out of the country before. I was hesitant. I read news stories about horrific things that happen to tourists.

You know the stories – terrorist attacks and random acts of violence.

Prior to the trip, I did my research. I read about people who got pickpocketed or scammed.

I read horror stories about people getting caught in the airport or losing their luggage.

Oh yeah, my other concern had to do with the 10 hour flight from the U.S. to Europe.

I knew flying is safer than driving. But I still had thoughts of the Malaysian airline plan that randomly went missing.

Despite these (completely irrational) fears I couldn’t say no. These worries weren’t going to prevent me from taking the trip of a lifetime.

“I can’t wait to go!” I said to my girlfriend with slight hesitation.

I’m Grateful I Had This Opportunity

I’m grateful I could take a month off from work and travel. This isn’t a privilege that many people get to have, and I had it.

In July, my girlfriend and I traveled throughout Spain by car for two weeks. Afterwards we hopped on a plane to Amsterdam, Netherlands for a few days. Then we took a train to Cologne, Germany for a couple of days. Then a short bus trip to Brussels, Belgium. And finally one last flight back to Spain to visit my girlfriend’s family for a week.

A Wonderful Learning Experience

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to observe different cultures and the different ways of life.

I was exposed to the Spanish culture of taking afternoon siestas and lunches being the biggest meal of the day.

I saw a more laid back, slower pace of life in these countries. Contrast this with America, where everything is quick, full-throttle all of the time. The slower pace of life was a nice change.

I’m grateful that I got to see many beautiful landmarks. I saw countless Cathedrals throughout Spain, including those in Avila, Seville, and Barcelona.

I also got to see breathtaking museums in Amsterdam and Cologne. Museums which chronicled the rise and fall of Nazi Germany in World War II. Others that exposed me to the art of Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

I’m grateful because I found a greater appreciation for the world.

I appreciate the other cultures that share the world.

I appreciate how far we have come as a civilization.

What Else am I Grateful for in 2015?

Going to Europe was the trip I will never forget. But it’s not the only thing that I’m grateful for in 2015.

I’ve learned to become more present. I’ve learned to live in the current moment.

In years past I would fret about the future or the past instead of enjoying the present.

As a result, my mind focused on those things that I cannot control right now.

I’ve learned to live in the present and savor each and every day that I have.

You Know How You Savor a Good Meal?

You smell the food prior to eating. You chew the food slower, and try to identify its many flavors. You strive to make every bite count.

This is my new approach to life. I try to savor every moment that I have. I don’t rush to get things done.

I’m more present. I live in the current moment. I work daily to become more aware of where I am and what I am doing.

As a result, I’m more in touch with myself. I better recognize how I really feel.

If you read my last post, I don’t worry about the past or the future any more. Life’s too short to worry about those things. Time is just an illusion. All we have is the moment that is given to us right now.

I’m extremely happy with 2015.

Most people are ready to turn the calendar over to the next year. They hope for a better year. This year I don’t feel that way. I’ve grown a lot as a person. And I couldn’t be more pleased.

Moving On to 2016

I’m not asking much more from 2016 than I got from 2015. But, if I had to list out some goals, here they are:

1. Continue to learn every day.

Learning keeps you young. It makes you grow.

Not only that, but growing and learning helps you identify opportunities.

I also talked about this in my last post. I strive to make every moment a learning and growing opportunity.

2. I want to help others more.

It’s easy to focus on what I want.

In 2016 I strive to help others out more.

I think I do a decent job of this, but I would like to improve going forward. And I want to help others continue grow and learn as well.

That’s why I enjoy blogging so much. If only one person learns something new from what I write, then I have accomplished my goal as a writer.

3. Create an ecommerce business that will allow me to quit my job.

This last goal is one that I’ve been working at for a couple of years now.

I want to make money selling products online. This goal is completely unrelated to this blog. I have no intention of making money from this blog.

But I do have plans to grow my ecommerce business online. My goal is to generate enough income that will allow me to quit my job and focus on this business full time.

If this doesn’t work out, will 2016 be a bust? Of course not!

I had a goal of generating income from eBooks in 2015, and I failed miserably. And here I am, calling 2015 one of my best years ever.

These are my goals. But they’re not really goals as much as they are reminders. Reminders of who I am and who I would like to become.

What about you?

What is one thing you are grateful for in 2015? And what is one goal you would like to accomplish in 2016? Let me know with a comment below!

How you can discover your passion and purpose in life

How you can discover your passion and purpose in life

I don’t have a passion.

I work as an auditor. I chose a safe major in school which led to a safe career path. I’m good at what I do, but it doesn’t make me feel alive.

Every day I feel a little more anxious because I haven’t found my passion. Four or five nights a week I wake up, without fail, apprehensive and scared.

I worry that I’ll never find my calling. I want to follow my passion, but I don’t know what that is.

What am I doing wrong?

Teachers, leaders, mentors, and family members encourage us to do what we love. The message is everywhere. On television. At Harvard commencement speeches. In Ted Talks. “Do what makes you come alive,” they say.

What if nothing comes to mind?

I don’t have a passion. There isn’t one thing that make me come alive. At least not in the way those public speakers make it sound.

I have a wide variety of interests. I love sports. I enjoy learning and helping others. I find psychology and entrepreneurship fascinating. But I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about any one of those things.

The problem with finding your passions

The educational system

The education system don’t foster students’ passions.

The educational model is the same system that popped up during the industrial revolution. Kids spend the six or seven hours per day in a class room, performing academic drills in math, science, and English.

As a result of this model, we don’t foster children’s natural creativity.

Sir Ken Robinson talked about this in his popular Ted Talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” Robinson believes that we are all born with “immense, natural, creative abilities” which “slip away as we get older.”

Instead of nurturing creative abilities, we devote equal time to specific academic areas every day.

Robinson believes that the educational system is too standardized. He’s right. Everyone learns differently, but school doesn’t foster to these individual differences.

Standardized testing overrules creative activities. Teachers are evaluated based on how many students they can get to pass a test.

Administrators don’t nurture creativity. You can’t measure creativity. You can’t put a number on it. You can’t rank students and pay teachers based on the creative ability of their students.

Students are steered away from their passions

According to Robinson, students are steered away from their passions and interests in the current educational system.

The educational system is a factory learning environment. You plug students into the system, teach them up, and send them on their way. This one size fits all system kills passions.

If an 8 year old kid loves science, they aren’t encouraged to spend more time on science. Instead, they have to take the same classes in equal parts for over a decade of their life.

Then they go to college and focus on what their passionate about (if they haven’t developed a distain for education yet). But they still have to go through 2 years of prerequisites so that they are “well-rounded” citizens.

As a result, children and driven away from their passions by taking a decade and a half of the same classes instead of focusing on what they love.

Dreams Crushed at a Young Age

“You can’t make a living doing that.”

“No one will pay you to paint or play music.”

“There’s too much competition.”

“Be realistic.”

Parents who do this stunt, and even destroy, a child’s growth. It discourages natural curiosity and tells people not to follow their passions because they’re not realistic.

This leads to the wrong focus. Get a safe job so that you can pay the bills. Get a job that is well-paying and well-respected. Parents push their kids to go to medical or law school so that they can have a successful life.

That’s what happened to Eric Reed. Eric was a successful lawyer who had everything you could imagine. He had a fancy house, nice car, and could buy almost anything you could imagine.

But Eric was working crazy hours. I’m talking 12 to 14 hours a day. When Eric wasn’t sleeping he was working. He hardly saw his family and was unfulfilled with life.

Eric did everything that you’re supposed to do. He got a respected job. He could buy anything he wanted. But he still wasn’t happy.

Eric isn’t alone. Many people face this same struggle. I know because I’m facing that struggle. I picked a job that was safe and pays well. But I don’t love it.

Eric broke free from his shackles. He followed his passion and became a travel writer. Now if only I could do that…

Misconception of Passion

Passion is a strong term. For me, starting with passion isn’t a good place to begin. I don’t feel passionate about anything in particular.

I think maybe the word itself is the cause for a lot of anxiety.

So what do I do since I don’t feel like I have a passion?

Pick One Thing and Move in That Direction

What interests you today? For me, it’s writing, entrepreneurship, and psychology. These are areas that I pursue a little every day.

I don’t expect to make money from these interests right now, and that’s okay. Because I enjoy these things already, I don’t need to make money.

Dive Deep in What You Like

What area do you really like? What are you interested in at the moment? Dive deep into that area.

Discover everything you can about that area. Read about it. Talk to people who work in it. Study it. And finally, become that area.

Take music for example. If I become really passionate about music, I would first start to play an instrument and understand music theory.

I would talk to other musicians and get their advice. I would hire a coach or teacher to help me become better. And I would practice every single day.

What if I lose interest?

I talk to other musicians and take lessons for six months. But don’t feel as interested in music as I did before. Now what?

Naturally, I would move on. It’s a simple as that! It’s okay to quit something that you thought you were more interested in at one point in time.

You are searching for your passion (or something like it). Don’t pursue something that you don’t want to do anymore. It isn’t a life sentence. Don’t be afraid to quit.

Move on to the next thing

Move on to whatever interests you next. Pursue this thing until you lose interest. Or continue to pursue it as long as you enjoy it.

It’s okay to quit what you are doing and move on to the next thing. One of two things will happen: you will find what brings you to life or you will add tools to the toolbox for the future.

When you pursue diverse interests, you become proficient in different areas.

Let’s say I’m interested in music for a few months but eventually get bored. I become interested in psychology and marketing. Then I become extremely interested in computers.

After becoming proficient in those areas, I could take all of this knowledge and combine it into one new idea. After all, that’s how many of the great careers or products began.

Doing many things before finding “the one”

One person who’s done a number of things before finding his true calling is Robert Greene.

Robert Greene is the bestselling author of the 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and Mastery. But he didn’t become a best seller overnight.

Greene said that he worked 80 jobs before becoming a best-selling author. He previously worked as a construction worker, screenwriter, and hotel receptionist.

He learned a lot from those jobs. He worked many crappy jobs with crappy people and was able to take everything he learned and make something out of it. This ultimately led to him writing The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction.

That’s what I strive to do

I follow my interests in my free time, working on them a little bit here and there as I can. I pick a path and go down that path as far I want. There will be detours along the way. There already have been. And that’s okay with me.

I don’t get paid for what I’m pursuing right now, and that’s fine.

I don’t make money from writing, but I do it because I enjoy it. I enjoy the challenge of researching and writing and expressing my thoughts.

I don’t have a passion. But lately I haven’t been waking up in the middle of the week worrying.

I pursue what interests me in my free time. If these interests amount to something down the road, great! If not, at least I’m doing something I enjoy in my free time and staying productive.

What do you think? Have you found your passion? What did your journey look like?

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How Meditation Improved My Monday

How Meditation Improved My Monday

I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning in bed. I was stressed from work. I was anxious about life.

I called up my girlfriend who was out of town. I talked to her and explained my problem.

She has taken an interest in yoga and meditation recently. She loves doing them and finds that it lifts her spirits.

She suggested I start doing yoga and meditation to help with my anxiety. She sent me a couple of guided meditation videos to help me get started.

“Just give it a chance,” she said.

Naturally I resisted. I knew meditation had many benefits. But for some reason I could never bring myself to do it.

I’ve experimented with meditation in the past. I’ll admit, I liked the way I felt. But for some reason I resisted.

I didn’t think it would help in this situation. Besides, some of those videos were just too far out there. It was too touchy, feely for me. You know, the kind of stuff where you have to “find” yourself.

“I’ll do it later” I said.

“Okay, your loss.”

She was right. It was my loss.

I Finally Had Enough

Last Monday I got home from work feeling exhausted. I had eye strain and a headache thanks to staring at the computer all day long.

My back hurt. I was tired and grumpy. I felt lousy.

“Enough. Let me try meditating” I told myself.

I downloaded the Headspace app from Google Play and got to work.

I did the first 10 minute guided meditation session from the app. Afterwards I felt amazing.

I was relaxed throughout my body. I was awake and alert for the first time that day. I was more aware of my body and mind. I felt more present and in the moment.

My sour mood evaporated. I was no longer grumpy. I felt as if I had woken up from a blissful sleep.

I thought to myself, “I could get used to this!”

Could I Replicate This Feeling?

The next day I meditated during my lunch break. The result was the same.

I felt more productive and focused throughout the afternoon. I was energized, but relaxed, if that makes any sense. And I was more aware and mindful of what was going on.

“Why have I put this off for so long?”

Maybe you’re like me. You’ve put off meditating because it’s too touchy feely, or “woo-woo” type stuff. Trust me when I say, it has completly shifted my thinking.

When you mediate, your analytical, reasoning mind shuts down and you have an increased sense of awareness. This state of mind has been described as “Satori,” “Zanshin,” or “enlightenment” in martial arts.

Meditation Has Powerful Physiological Effects

Studies show that people who meditate recover from stressful situations quicker than those who don’t.

Science shows that skin resistance decreases in states of anxiety and stress, and increases when we are relaxed.

Researchers have found that mediators have a large skin resistance, thus allowing them to recover from stressful situations more quickly and better cope with stress.

Your Brain on Meditation

Your brain has various different brain waves, depending on your situation.

When you meditate, you encourage an increase in alpha brain waves. These wave are conducive to creativity and the assimilation of new concepts.

Some practitioners are able to achieve a more relaxed state of mind, which encourage theta brain waves. These types of brain waves are associated with deeper insights and intuition.

Not only that, but those who practice meditation consistently continue to exhibit alpha and theta brain waves after meditation sessions.

This increases relaxation, creativity, and emotional connection for a time period after meditating.

Getting into the “Right” Brain

We have a tendency to use the left hemisphere of our brains. Practicing meditation allows us to “turn off” this verbal, linear, analytic style of information and processes.

This means we become more right brained. Our sense of time and logic no longer dominate our conscious thoughts when we meditate.

Instead we become more holistic, receptive, and think beyond language and logic.

Meditation and Psychology

Finally, research literature suggests that meditation produces feelings of self-transcendence, increased meaning in the world, and more connection with the world.

Other research shows that people are more confident, have better self-control, more empathy, and become self-actualized during meditation as a result of meditation. Finally, people report a decrease in anger and better ability to control their attention thanks to meditation.

Do You Want to Give Meditation a Shot?

I started off by using the Headspace app. You can also find guided meditation videos on YouTube. Here are a few to get started:

Can’t sleep, Meditation For Insomnia, Guided Voice, Gentle Music For Sleepless Nights, Relaxation

The Five Minute Miracle – Daily Guided Meditation

10 Minute Guided Meditation to ease Anxiety, Worry, and Urgency

The benefits of meditation cannot be denied. I was ignorant and held off meditating for so long. Being a bit of a skeptic (and slightly ignorant), I can say that I was completely wrong. Don’t wait so long like I did, try out meditation for yourself and let me know how it goes.

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