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Mental Performance

Compare Yourself To Other People? Here’s A Better Solution!

comparison is the thief of joyGrowing up I experienced so much anxiety it stunted my self-confidence.

This caused me to feel so frustrated at my perceived failures I continuously beat myself up about it. I would look around at other people and think, “Why couldn’t I be like them?” Why couldn’t I be smarter? Why wasn’t I better looking? Why did I have no friends? Did I fit in? Will they like me? These are the types of thoughts that lead you to a whole lot of pain and suffering. This type of thinking does not need to happen, and I’m here to show you how to change your perception.

Changing this can help you develop yourself to the point where you have little or no social anxiety, you are able to come up with realistic creative solutions to the problems you face, you can learn to see yourself as a fluid person and not a static being.

The History of Comparing Yourself to Other People

the condensed version

Where did we learn this behavior?

We learned it from our parents, our friends, tv, advertising, the media, seeing other people do things that we can’t do, failure, taking things personally, etc. What we learned is that we are not good enough or that we don’t measure up.

What is so bad about comparing yourself to other people?

There has been research completed which identifies the effect on performance of those who maintain an internal comparison versus those who use external factors to manage themselves. In the research, it showed that in stressful settings, those who were internally managed were found to “perceive less stress, employ more task-centered coping behaviors, and employ fewer emotion-centered coping behaviors than externals.” In high stress situations, those with an internal comparison performed better than those who used external factors for a comparison. (Locus of control, coping behaviors, and performance in a stress setting: A longitudinal study by Anderson, Carl R)

So what does this mean for you?

First off, you aren’t somebody else. You are you. You may wish you were someone else, but you are still you. By comparing yourself to other people, you automatically tell yourself that you aren’t good enough and that you can be compared to other people. This leads to all kinds of anxiety, self-loathing, anger, hatred, and generally all kinds of nasty behavior which is unnecessary.

I’ve lived it. Occasionally, this kind of nonsense will return into my head. Even after all the years I have worked at this, I still face my demons… But, now I’m smarter.

Important note: realize that shaming yourself further cements you in this destructive pattern. Those emotional anchors are there, but you don’t have to feed them.

So, what can we do about this when it happens? How do we ‘fix’ it?

Start comparing yourself to yourself!

What I mean by that is that instead of comparing yourself to other people compare yourself to how you were in the past.

Say for e.g. if you were trying to learn a new song on your guitar. You get really frustrated because you are having trouble learning a specific part of the song, or even the whole song entirely. Your mental process kicks in about how you are not good enough, how you are not as good as your friend Jack who can play this song as well as a hundred more difficult songs, and then you start comparing yourself to Jimi Hendrix who could literally play this song with his teeth. Ah, the misery!

The alternative?

Think about when you never played the guitar. Think about when you learned your first chord. Think about the first time you ever put two chords together and the experience you had. Maybe it was damn easy for you or maybe it was difficult.

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But the fact is, you have gotten yourself to the point that you can even consider playing a song. That means you have developed your interests, you have motivated yourself to locate/buy a guitar, you have found someone/something to teach you, you have learned your first chord and so on.

Do you see how much you have grown? Do you remember how it was not always easy? Did you somehow think that it was easy for everyone? Other than the rare exception, things don’t come easy to people. It takes hard work, dedication and persistence.

If you don’t play the guitar or have never played the guitar, have no fear! This situation can be applied to literally anything you do. If you think you aren’t as smart as someone else, you start comparing yourself to other people who are way ‘smarter’ leading to the same process. It all comes down to not being good enough.

What if you were good enough? What if there was no such thing as good enough?

What if you decided, instead of comparing yourself to other people, you would accept yourself as you are and go from there?

Let’s say that within your personality lies something that you can do incredibly well, and also even better than someone else.

Impossible!!!! You say…

Consider this:

jimi hendrixJimi Hendrix wasn’t born with a guitar in his hand, and I can guarantee you it wasn’t always easy. His first guitar was actually a one string ukulele which his father gave to him after he saw him running around with a broom pretending to play Elvis Presley songs.

It took him time to figure out what he wanted as he became interested in football in his teens. It wasn’t always easy for Jimi, but he stayed on his path certain that he would find his calling.

After the loss of his mother he was given his first acoustic guitar and Jimi was hooked. He fell in love with playing the guitar… when his “something that [you] can do incredibly well, and also maybe even better than someone else’ showed up. It became a pleasure to learn and play the guitar.

Do you think Jimi Hendrix really gave a #$$% what other people thought of him playing guitar? In his younger years, he was actually very insecure… but when he realized his passion, it didn’t matter so much anymore…

I guarantee you he would never have experience the success that he had if he continued to care so much about what people thought about him. He was focused on expressing his self and his love for HIMSELF. Other people just got to enjoy it as a side bonus.

It was his passion. He felt that he was good enough, and felt secure enough to pursue his love.

Wouldn’t you feel free doing that? If you realized that every person is a sum of all their parts. Each person has strengths and weaknesses. If you consider that some people literally don’t understand math, some are bad at math, some are good at math and some are incredible at math, you can consider that people are made in all shapes and sizes.

Consider that if you feel that you are not strong in one area, you can improve in that area, or work to improve in that area. You can also choose to look for the thing which you love. Every step you take on this path, you can reward yourself because you are moving towards what moves you. Even if you take the time to work on your weaknesses (which I highly suggest), and you are struggling you can still reward yourself for working on your weaknesses even if you have seen no tangible gains yet.

Eventually you will make progress and you can look back on yourself and realize how far you have come. It feels great!

Doesn’t this sound a lot better than comparing yourself to other people? Recognize that while other people may have their gifts, you have yours. There are people who write way better than me, but that doesn’t change how much I love to write!

There are people who are better than me in probably everything that I consider myself to be good at, but I’m not living for them I’m living for me. I know that I own what I have and I can appreciate that. I may or may not be the best at something, but I can follow the path that I love and see where it takes me.

When I start comparing myself to other people, I think… uh, that actually makes no sense. Take 100% responsibility for your life. If you don’t like something, go out and change it about yourself. And if you can’t, accept it and start focusing on what you control instead of what you don’t.

Aim to express instead of aiming to impress.

If you have any questions or parts of the article which you don’t understand please let us know so we can ensure to give you the answers. We love trying to provide value to you and we want to be a part of helping you be a happier, more fulfilled and successful person personally and socially.

– Karim

Categories
Mental Performance

How I Overcame Judgment of Others and Myself

judgingThink of the first time you heard “don’t judge” from one of your friends or family members. It probably felt a bit odd and unfounded, as you were not even aware what you were doing was wrong. We are creatures of habit and it’s easy to fall into the bad habit of judging people. This is a short story on how I was able to fix my negative judgment of other people and myself.

At the end of 2012 I started reading Human Dynamics by Dr. Sandra Seagal and David Horne. Human Dynamics focuses on the different thought processes people have and how to create synergistic teams with the understanding that no one’s process is better, just different. Naturally I am the more subjective type and have a great difficulty viewing things from an objective view. However, being overly subjective allows for an increased empathy and relate-ability with people because I can literally feel what they feel.

When you make a decision you always use “reference points” to ground your perspective. For sales’ associates it could be “monthly sales,” for blood donors it could be “lives saved,” for a charities it could be “dollars raised.”

My emotions are my reference points. This means I have trouble separating my emotions from situations that are strategically disadvantaged to use emotional reference points because of their ungrounded nature. One second I may feel one way, the next moment I may feel another. Making professional decisions from emotional reference points is like trying to strategize for a board game with only the Spanish directions.

It’s more natural for me to make my decisions from emotional reference points. I often end up passing covert judgment on the people I speak with, and the way I feel is dependent on the subject matter we are discussing. In turn, I will involuntarily pass judgment on that person based on the emotions I feel in that moment. If I were to talk to a friend in distress I may judge them as a helpless person who needs nurturing, when in reality they could be one of the strongest people I know. This shows how emotional judgments can contain errors.

This pattern of judgment has repeated itself over my life but I’ve never had a tool to help myself overcome this issue. I was never able to understand how some people avoid passing negative judgment on others and themselves.

Don’t Judge, Just Observe

I assumed people either judged you or they didn’t. People could either turn their judgment on or off like a light switch. Until a trip in late 2012 to my Aunt’s place I could see no reconciliation to this problem.

My Aunt is a very objective person. I jokingly called her a robot with moral values because she has this amazing mental capacity to process information in an objective way, even in very emotional situations where I’d go whacko! For months she had told me “don’t judge, just observe” but it didn’t sink in until I saw how different she is compared to her husband.

She thinks, plans, does the accounting, finances, and even strategizes for the family. He focuses on his day-by-day experience, works as a longshoreman when he feels like it, and nurtures his family. She wants to build a financial support system, and he would rather go fishing with the kids. If she were to judge him, their relationship would tarnish and break after a critical amount of compounded-resentment bursts from a series of unmet expectations. Because she observes him, she can see him for his strengths and appreciate his “way of living,” giving contrast to her own.

Observing and not judging also has benefits for their kids (my cousins) who grow up in an environment where regardless of their differences; each individual has the support and freedom to be who they are. To watch this was very inspiring for me and forced my common assumptions about things like Nazi-level-cleanliness and what that says about a person.

All this is because they observe and don’t judge.

Present Day

I am now able to separate my subjective judgment from my objective observations. Every conversation I have with someone, I remind myself to observe their actions and not judge them. Previously this was difficult for me, (as I would imagine it is with most people) because I wanted to project my values and motivations onto them instead of trying to understand their perspective.

I also apply this, a tremendous amount, to my internal dialog. After any conversation I have, I always reflect on what I’ve felt. The more I’ve felt, the more reflecting I do. I will often pass judgment on myself based on the emotions I feel. I am very critical of myself, so when I reflect on my feelings, most often, they will be interpreted negatively and my self-judgment follows suit. Once this cycle continues to repeat itself, I find it hard to break.

During my phase of reflection, I now focus on observing my actions and feelings that occur, rather than judging them. The two things this does for me; first, it clearly separates my emotional bias from anything I can learn from the experience and second, it allows me to extract objective lessons I can communicate to other people. As a coach this is extremely valuable.

As I increase the number of observations and lessen my judgments I am more positive and less emotionally unstable.

My aunt is truly an amazing person and taught me how to separate my emotions from my thoughts. Emotions are a subjective experience. Every time you meditate, what you feel belongs to you, just the same, as every emotional outburst you have, is yours. You are the only person who feels exactly like you do. By focusing on your observations instead of focusing on your judgment of others or self-judgment, you can be a happier, more effective, and motivated person.

By the way… applications for our Mentorship Coaching program will be closing soon. There are a limited number of spots left, so if you want to accelerate your success in implementing the strategies of Social Dynamics to live a more badass life, apply today.

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Mental Performance Social Dynamics

Rapid Rapport, Making Connections, and Creating Value

This is a guest post by Max Nachamkin from Inner Gladiator.

Enter Max

Max Nachamkin Inner GladiatorThe world is getting smaller and smaller every day. With Facebook hitting 1 billion users, it’s now even easier to ‘connect’ with people.

But with this sense of connectedness, we tend to escape what’s in front of us every day. Here in Philadelphia, I can’t even count the number of people I see who are texting on the way to class, instead of looking around and talking to people they know.

Technology was invented to help solve the problem of being so far apart, but now that we’ve incorporated it so much in our lives, it’s gotten to the point of a social addiction, where personal communication is left to a minimum.

What does this mean?

Social networking is an illusion for most people — they think that they are talking to many people, when they are in fact talking very few, and on a superficial level.

Conversations become meaningless and small-talk becomes the daily routine. Personal relationships suffer as a consequence.

It feels depressing even writing this…

… But it’s not all bad, and there’s amazing news too:

Personal communication and connection is valued even MORE today than it has ever been. And when you do it right, the value you give to the world is fucking strong. Look back to a time when you met someone at a party and instantly connected with them.

It felt awesome, right? When this happens to me, I feel like the party was great – even if it sucked – just because I met one person that I liked, and that liked me in return.

Or think about when you’re out in public and have a positive conversation with a stranger. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something strong when you connect with people you don’t know, especially when you do it quickly.

When it comes down to it, rapidly connecting with a fellow human being is the ultimate value.
They leave the interaction feeling great about themselves, about what they do, and about who they are. You’re giving them love. You’re giving them your full attention, and every time you do this, your value increases as a person.

People are distracted by so many other things that when you give them your focus, they realize what they’ve been missing.

And the best part: you begin to love to make people feel good, and the cycle repeats.

The Mindset

A huge part of social dynamics is to influence people to help you achieve your goals (and help them with theirs to create that win-win relationship). By leading your interactions with people and by using these techniques I’m about to show you, you’ll not only help people feel better about themselves, but you’ll also make it easier to ask for help when you need it.

When people like you, they’re more likely to help you. It’s common sense, but yet so easy to forget about.

And you know what? They will feel even better for helping you.

When you don’t ask someone for help when you need it, you’re denying them the chance to be helpful. And why would you want that? I always say the best feeling in the world is to feel important, and over time, I still haven’t found anything better.

Regardless, these simple techniques will work for friends of friends that you’re meeting or not-so-random strangers on the street. Once you get practice in with these techniques, you’ll both feel good about having come out of the interaction of meeting each other, and you’ll start to build those win-win relationships you’re looking for.

The Techniques

Body Language

Body language is crucial. When you communicate the right message in your interactions on a physical level, people will start to ‘get it’ on a subconscious level. By doing the right things, you’ll make people feel comfortable. Without comfort, you’ll weird them out or give them the wrong impression.

First: Smile.

Second: Tilt your head down and a little to the side. You’ll seem more intrigued and non-threatening. Ever seen someone walk around with their head held up a little too high? It makes you feel like they seem better than you, and it’s annoying. Remember to keep your head slightly down and tilted to the side.

Third: Mirror body language.

For example, if you’re at a library, and a cute girl is looking for a book, you better be looking like you’re looking for a book too. If you just go straight up to her while she’s looking in a different direction, you’ll seem extremely threatening. Yes, you could still meet her, but when you’re body language mirrors hers, her subconscious will tell her that you’re not threatening her environment and it will be easier to connect with her.

Same thing goes with meeting an important person at a business meeting or a stranger on the street.

Creating a time constraint

Give the other person a clue that this conversation isn’t going to last forever. A simple, “Hey.. I gotta run in a second to catch a train, but…”

People like to feel secure. By doing this, you’ll make them feel even more comfortable when you’re meeting them. If you’re already at a meeting or a party, it’s already assumed, so you don’t have to worry about this one. But if you’re talking to someone in a public place and your interaction doesn’t have an end date, this technique is extremely helpful.

Again, without comfort, it’s much harder to connect.

Focusing all on them

excellence is a habitSince your goal when going into an interaction is to make the other person feel good about themselves, you have to switch the focus to them whenever you can. You want to get them talking about themselves. When someone talks about themselves, they feel comfortable and important. They feel perfect in that moment.

You’ll know when you get it right because they will want to keep talking and talking and talking (and talking) about something they’re passionate about.

Now, don’t go approaching someone random on the street and asking everything about them.

That’s creepy.

But if you want to meet someone, then go say what’s up. You don’t need any canned lines or an excuse.

In the case of meeting a stranger, though, it’s efficient to focus on some third-party item. If you’re at a bookstore…first, make sure your body language is correct, then make a comment about how crowded it is or that you can’t seem to find the book you’re looking for. You’ll get a small reaction, but then you can ask for help on finding a new book, and then start asking questions about them.

Make them feel comfortable, then focus on getting to know them.

By doing this, you’re making them feel good about themselves. Too many people go throughout the day feeling like shit or that they aren’t good enough…and by giving your full attention to someone, you are giving them the most important gift in the world. You’ll make their day.

Once they start to open up, listen. This isn’t unconventional wisdom here.

Listen to what they have to say and step inside their head for a minute. If they are saying stuff that you don’t like, that’s okay. Your goal isn’t to prove that you are right and that they are wrong — you are simply just trying to figure out what this person is like.

Fill in the conversation gaps with “how? why? when? with? who?”. Give a non-verbal agreement by nodding your head and being legitimately interested. Better yet, actually get interested in what they have to say.

This is the best part: it’s not uncommon for someone to come out of an interaction feeling awesome. They’ll love you for just having listened. They won’t straight up tell you this, but you can tell in the way they’re acting that you know it’s true. They are smiling, happy, and feeling accepted.

But sometimes, they will feel guilty because they realized you haven’t said a word. You kept putting the focus on them, and they only realized it after the fact because they were having such an awesome time talking about what they love.

Wait a second…you wanted to go meet someone and now they feel guilty that they don’t know you? Fuck yeah!

In those cases, share some things about yourself to put them at ease. As long as you don’t go on to some long tangent or rant, it’s all good. Just share some things about your life and put the focus back on them.

Takeaways

When you build rapid rapport with someone, your goal is to understand them quickly. You want to learn everything you can about this person, and by doing so; you’ll make the person feel amazing. They’ll love you for it, and you’ll begin to appreciate your ability to brighten up other people’s days.

By connecting with more people, you’ll find more people that you enjoy being around. You’ll start to find the people you want in your life, and you’ll find people that you care for, and will care for you in return.

If you think about it, chances are that you know someone who uses these techniques to give value to other people. These people understand how social dynamics works. They “get it”.

If there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s to start focusing on understanding other people. Get to know what they want from life, and figure out how you can help them get it. By helping other people get what they want, you add value to their life significantly. And when you add value to their lives, they’ll be more inclined to help you with your goals when you really need their help.

By learning about someone quickly and efficiently, you will begin to form more win-win relationships and develop the kingpin lifestyle you want.

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By the way… applications for our Mentorship Coaching program will be closing soon. There are a limited number of spots left, so if you want to accelerate your success in implementing the strategies of Social Dynamics to live a more badass life, apply today.

Categories
Mental Performance

Caution: Why “Be Yourself” Is Bad Advice If Not Taken Properly

coo kid shadesI was in the lineup for attendance call a few days into the first week of grade 5. My bag was with me, messy but all things were accounted for. In between the first few last names starting with “A” I caught myself looking at the back of my peer’s abnormally dark head through the tinted lenses of my new sunglasses. They were gifted to me from the gent that my mother was dating at the time. They followed the contours of my head perfectly and reflected enough light that no one could see my eyes. I felt like the epitome of grade 5 cool.

A few seconds later I looked behind me to find the one guy in class that I hated the most who also happened to be the most popular. “Why are you wearing those?” he asked with a half grin implying the obviousness that they were unnecessary. “That’s stupid to wear sunglasses if the sun is not out.” My self-esteem was already low and in an instant I went from “LL Cool J” to “LL Cool not” as the crushing blow was delivered. I slipped my shades off and quietly placed them in my backpack. Upon telling the story to my mom’s gent, I told him that I had continued to wear them regardless of the guy had said.

The reality was that I was too scared to tell him I had conformed to someone else’s opinion and was embarrassed to share the truth with him from fear of losing his approval. “That’s good,” he told me with a smile on his face. “Be yourself, that’s all you ever need to do,” he said with his hand on my shoulder. Those words sealed the casket of any positive emotions now passed away.

Looking back now I know it was wrong to let the guy tell me what to wear and what to not. Of course it is silly to wear sunglasses during a day without sunlight, but what the hell! Sometimes you just need to do the things that make you feel a little bit better about yourself. If that means wearing sunglasses during an inappropriate time, then wear them!

Be Effective With The Advice You Give

Studying Stephen Covey taught me one thing beyond all the rest: be effective at whatever you do.

This is especially critical with so much advice being thrown around in the self-development community.

Coaching guys & girls in our Mentorship Program has allowed me to see certain patterns of behavior in people’s development and how well they take the advice of others. Of course when you’re going over a topic like the “relationship with oneself” I often hear frustrated symptoms of the “be yourself” advice.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that no matter how many times you hear or say it, it does not become anymore effective at teaching yourself to come into your own or how to be more confident… if you have the wrong frame of mind.

“Be yourself” is one of the most powerful realizations that you can have as a growing individual.

“Be yourself” ranks 10/10 on the importance scale and 1/10 on the effective advice scale.

Question: Why is this not an effective way of helping someone you care about?

Answer: Because if one does not know themselves, how are they supposed to “be themselves?”

Know That Being Yourself Is The Answer

The only reason I was able to overcome my insecurities and lack of confidence was the burning desire to improve and fix what had been broken internally. On my search I have heard “be yourself” more times then you can shake a stick at. Each time I knew it was true; I just couldn’t connect myself to the statement and internalize it.

Even thought I have heard “be yourself” in its many forms, I know that the only reason I am able to learn from it is because I know it to be true. Each time I hear it instead of letting it frustrate me I let it nudge me one step closer to internalizing it. One of my favorite writers Earl Nightingale said; “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” Instead of allowing that advice to rot my mind, I allow it to power my personal growth.

“Be yourself” is a piece of advice you’ll never stop hearing about, so we need to learn how to utilize it properly.

Here are 3 ways to learn more about yourself:

  1. Learn the power of vulnerability. Brene Brown says that vulnerability is the key to true self-esteem. By being vulnerable and embracing who we are, we avoid destructive behaviors found within shame. Vulnerability is key if we are going to “be ourselves”. Watch this amazing video on the concept.
  2. Understand your values and priorities. Take 5 minutes to write down the 5-10 most important things to you right now at this point in your life. Once you have your list, rate each one to establish a priority.
  3. Create a vision for yourself. A vision will help your sense of identity and give your life direction.

If you can learn that being yourself is the answer you are searching for, and you can slowly get closer to that reality, you will be able to take those once frustrating comments and use them to fuel your success.

By the way… applications for our Mentorship Coaching program will be closing soon. There are a limited number of spots left, so if you want to accelerate your success in implementing the strategies of Social Dynamics to live a more badass life, apply today.

Categories
Mental Performance

How To Be Good At Anything: The Process Model

Felix Baumgartner“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Bene Gesserit “Litany against fear,” from Frank Herbert’s Dune

The honest truth is I played poker to escape working. I found something that excused me from the obligation of dead-end jobs and college classes, so I did it.

This is part 3 of my “How to Be Good At Anything” series. Here is part 1 and part 2.

It wasn’t that I was lazy, it’s that I just didn’t care. Video games, porn, pizza, even sports made me feel like Han Solo in a tuxedo gone back in time to win a fist fight with the guy who would otherwise invent cursive. And I was a pro at all of them, so who cared about the low volume and especially normal effects of real life?

Only, I didn’t really care about the rest either.

It all felt good, for a bit, but I didn’t feel alive. It felt like sleepwalking; every day the same dream. Video games, or scoring a goal made it feel a bit brighter, or louder, but it didn’t make the experience feel any more awake.

I was addicted.

The result, hypersensitivity to the above activities, coupled with an across the board dampening of pleasure. In other words, life was boring, except my addictions, which were both making life boring and what I relied on to escape boredom. I lacked passion because I couldn’t like anything new, and I wouldn’t try long enough to love it. I knew how to be good at anything but I would never be great because I was incapable of having the necessary honest conversation with myself about if I wanted to be.

The great ones dedicate themselves to their dream every day because they are motivated by love. To the great ones, being good is an insult and a form of settling that is simply incompatible with their level of desire. Their passion drives them to do the work and the homework right every day, and in turn they become great.

Yet here I was, talking about arguably the most important part of my life as if it was something I had no control over. I had been going with the flow for years. Wishing for an outcome and waiting to see if it would come. I was the limp, powerless ego I detested in other people. – Chad Fowler

be fearful of mediocrityThen I experienced the most important moment of poker, and perhaps of my life. I woke up unusually early for a morning following an un-particularly numb night of video games, but I didn’t get up. I was contemplating my life the way you can only do in a bed when you’re unable to sleep. Why did I feel so unexcited? I spent every moment doing whatever I wanted; surely, if anything was, that was reason to just be happy. I realized I hadn’t been doing whatever made me happy; I had been doing what was easy.

Suddenly, I was awake and in that moment I realized poker was something I had to do. I had found something I loved. All the shenanigans in my life that kept me at arms length from being great were simply fear: fear of success, fear of failure, fear of responsibility. If I dedicated myself to something I knew I would find out who I was, and I was god damned scared I might not like it. And I accepted my fears. I didn’t know what would come, but I was curious again. I now possessed greater desire than fear, and with it all of my self-sabotaging addictions no longer belonged in my life. Without a place to exist, they ceased to be.

I deleted and destroyed my video games, adopted a primal lifestyle of fitness and diet, learned to cook, and took up non-competitive practices of yoga, meditation, hiking, biking, and rock-climbing. I erased porn from my life. I began writing, and returned to playing both guitar and piano. I moved to Calgary and joined a group of friends dedicated to growth, awareness, expression, new experiences, and generally outliving the hell out of life. All because anything else was a compromise to the focus and passion fueling my desire to do what I loved.

I love poker because its challenges teach me who I am. I love poker and its something I have to do.

The moment of realizing you have something you have to do is the first step towards greatness. Without it, there is no point in even getting started.

Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping… waiting… and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir… open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us… guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d be truly dead. – Joss Whedon

Forward Acknowledgement: This is an article of strategies I learned from The Mental Game of Poker on the foundation of how to learn. The ideas, many terms and lines are taken directly, or slightly modified, from Jared Tendler’s book. Though the theories are nothing new(some frequently attributed to the psychologist Abraham Maslow), Jared Tendler brilliantly explains them and it was in his book where I truly came to understand the content. If you are interested in these topics, or if you like poker, pick it up.

THE PROCESS MODEL

“The Process Model” organizes the naturally recurring parts of your entire development so you can put the principles of the ALM (Adult Learning Method) and Inchworm into action day after day. It does not create anything new, but creates a foundation for mastery through organizing what you already do. The process model improves results-oriented thinking, and ultimately leads to a consistently high level of performance while maintaining steady improvement. It relates to every decision, as well as every event, a month of performance, a year, and even a career.

There are five parts of the process model that all work together:

flow chart

  1. Preparation/warm-up: What you do before you perform. Whether it’s planned, random, or nothing at all, it’s how you prepare.
  2. Performance: Doing it.
  3. Results: The outcome.
  4. Evaluation: A review of your results right after performing.
  5. Analysis: Actively working to improve away from the activity.

The process model is something that applies to anything in life involving performance. You’ve already used it in countless areas of your life, including sports, dating, music, art, writing, and business. Even if you weren’t aware of it at the time, in some way you were using the process model.

Here is a more in-depth look at the process model when applied to professional football:

Preparation/Warm Up

While the details differ greatly by activity, the intent of preparation remains the same: to be ready to perform at your best and win.

In professional football, preparation starts shortly after the last game, and ends just before kick-off. Throughout the week, coaches and players review game tape, run drills, lift weights, analyze opponents, formulate a strategy, and practice that strategy – all with the intent of getting ready to play at a high level and win. The day of the game, the players and coaches follow a structured routine to warm up their bodies, focus their minds, and review their tactical strategy so they’re ready to compete. They run drills, rehearse plays, listen to music, double-check equipment, and fire each other up.

Part of the reason preparation is so important is because of the range that exists in your quality of performance. In every moment you can be great, or you can be terrible. Preparation allows you to more likely perform at the peak end of your range, and sets you up to perform better than ever.

How you prepare is a matter of personal preference. There are no strict rules because ultimately it’s about doing what works for you. So you’re going to have to try things.

Here are some general things you can do to prepare:

  • Review your long-term goals and set goals for the session.
  • Review the corrections to your common mistakes.
  • Review your strategy for improving your mental game issues.
  • Use deep breathing, power poses, meditation and/or visualization to steady and focus your mind.
  • Listen to a favourite song

Performance

zig ziglar quotesPlaying the game is the players’ and coaches’ only opportunity to put their skill and hard work to the test. In football, performance includes everything from the first play of the game to the last.

Performance in anything is just as obvious and doesn’t need to be repeated. What isn’t obvious are the consequences when preparation and evaluation happen during performance.

Ideally, preparation has you ready to perform at a high level at the beginning of your performance. However, if you do nothing to prepare, the first 15 minutes of performance become your preparation. During a warm up, your mind isn’t yet fully in the action yet, and as a result your performance is marginal. Consequently, you make mistakes and fail to notice details that set up future mistakes until you achieve focus. You also become susceptible to other issues of frustration, fear, motivation, and confidence that snowball from poor performance.

Optimally, evaluation only happens after the session when you can objectively look closely at how you performed. However, people often review their performance in the middle of an activity, fixate on past mistakes, consider what they should have done, the position that would put them in, and how they would imaginarily feel. Basically, they are evaluating how they are performing while they are performing. In other words, they’re multitasking and play worse for that reason alone.

Removing evaluation doesn’t mean eliminating adjustments. Adjustments are how you stay at least one step ahead of the situation. Adjustments are key; evaluating while engaged is excessive. If you’re spending too much time reviewing previous activity, your adjustments aren’t known well enough. Ideally, they should be so well known that they are made automatically and without thought (Unconscious Competence). Otherwise, you’re no different from a quarterback making up a play at the line of scrimmage rather than calling an audible (a predetermined alternate play his teammates already know well). Instead of evaluating, take a quick mental note, and refocus on the action.

RESULTS ORIENTED THINKING

Not being results oriented gets a lot of attention these days, especially in the poker world. The solution given is often to ignore, block out, or detach from your results. People know it’s a mistake to focus too much on short-term results because of variance, but stopping is easier said than done. When you only focus on wins and losses, your emotions go on a rollercoaster because they are attached to winning and immediate results. Being focused on winning in the short run is not what causes problems; it’s the set of results you’re ignoring.

You also need to focus on qualitative results in the short run so your emotions can attach to factors that you have 100% control of in the short run. The process model provides the structure and organization to capture qualitative results since they aren’t easily calculated at the end of an activity. Use the process to focus more and more on the quality of your performance, your mentality, and overall improvement; and steadily your emotions will reorganize around this set of results.

If it’s all skill in the long run, then you need focus on skill in the short run. – Jared Tendler

Results

In football, there are many ways to measure the outcome of a player’s performance. Typically, people think of results mainly in terms easily quantified, such as score, yards run, yards passed, interceptions, fumbles, and of course wins. However, it’s also essential to account for qualitative results, such as how well you performed, your level of focus, degree of emotional control, and your improvement of weaknesses.

Evaluation

The first opportunity to gain an objective view about what happened during play in a football game is immediately after you finish playing. When you’re actually performing – whether it’s football or anything else – you performing your best by focusing intensely on the activity itself and far less on how you are performing.

After football games and once back in the locker room, players talk with each other and have time to reflect on the game. Coaches also start a formal review of player performance, going through game tape and reviewing their own decisions to get an initial impression of what needs work before the next game.

Remember, although people tend to focus immediately on quantitative results such as wins, losses, and other easy to calculate statistics, because of variance those results alone are unreliable measures in the short term of how you performed.

Here are a few better ways to evaluate:

  • Look closely at tough decisions to see how you responded.
  • Estimate how much variance influenced results.
  • Evaluate whether you achieved the qualitative goals you set before the session. If you fell short, why?
  • Review how you did in the areas you’re trying to improve. Did you see any progress?
  • If you’re going to analyze any situation later, right down any notes of how things had been feeling immediately before then or any other thoughts that you may otherwise forget.

Spending a short time to evaluate is also a great way to put down your activity after you’re done, so you can get on with the rest of your life, and to reset your mind before the next time you perform.

Analysis

successAnalysis is the stage where you actively work on yourself away from the activity. It’s the best time to go into greater detail assessing your performance and the performance of others around you, as well as bring in additional resources to ensure your perspective has the right information.

In football, this includes a more detailed analysis of the game tape, such as scrutinizing the mistakes a quarterback made in reading the defense. Perhaps an audible was mistakenly called because he saw something that didn’t actually happen. While watching the game tape and reviewing his decision-making process, he can figure out what went wrong and then use the week leading up to the next game to fix it. Doing this kind of tedious work isn’t necessarily the most fun part of a player’s week, bit is often the most valuable.

Analysis doesn’t have to be done immediately after an activity; in fact, sometimes it’s best to take a break before diving in. There are many ways to work on your performance, such as analyzing situations you’ve noted, watching training videos, working directly with a coach, talking with others, studying experts, and of course posting on and reading articles online.

After you’re done analyzing, take what you’ve learned and adjust your preparation or warm-up to include the most up-to-date information. That way, you’re even better prepared the next time you perform.

Use the Process Model Every Day

Ultimately, the process model makes your approach to performance and improvement more active, organized, measurable, and efficient. When you use it over long stretches of time, you also improve your ability to learn and achieve results. Too often, people only start working hard on their performance when they’re feeling bad, performing poorly, or their success rate drops. Why wait until something negative happens? When pursuing and competing for their dreams, people gain an advantage by continually learning and improving. Use the process model every day to keep your learning curve steadily rising, so you never plateau.

What’s one part of “The Process Model” you can implement into your life right now? Share with us in the comments below.

P.S. If you want to accelerate your success in implementing these strategies and reaching your goals, we’d love to help you. Apply today to our Mentorship Coaching program and we’ll gladly offer you a free coaching session to see if we’re a good fit.

Categories
Mental Performance

How To Be Good At Anything: The Inchworm Concept

losing at pokerI hated losing. Losing felt worse than winning felt good, and because of that, winning became the only escape from losing.

I knew short-term variance made poker the profitable opportunity it was. I wanted to be friends with variance, but deep down I hated it.

This is part 2 of my “How to Be Good At Anything” series. You can find part 1 here and part 3 here.

Forward Acknowledgement: This is an article of strategies I learned from The Mental Game of Poker on the foundation of how to learn. The ideas, terms and lines are taken directly, or slightly modified, from Jared Tendler’s book. Though the theories are nothing new (some frequently attributed to the psychologist Abraham Maslow), Jared Tendler brilliantly explains them in his own way and it was in his book where I truly came to understand the content. If you are interested in these topics, or if you like poker, pick it up.

“Would you like me to give you the formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But isn’t that at all.” -Henry Ford

INCHWORM

Inchworm is an eye-opening concept that illustrates the process of improving over time. It isn’t new, but you likely haven’t thought about it previously. When you understand inchworm you will be able to:

  1. Consistently and efficiently improve anything.
  2. Keep clear of common learning mistakes.
  3. Avoid fighting a reality you can’t change.
  4. Recognize where a skill is in the learning process.
  5. Handle the natural ups and downs of learning.

To begin looking at inchworm, take a moment to examine the natural range that exists in the performance of your greatest skill-set. Think about the quality of your decisions at your absolute best, and when you’re at your absolute worst. How good do you get at your best? How bad at your worst?

Regularly you’re performing somewhere in the middle between your best and your worse. If you plotted the quality of every decision you’ve made in the last six months on a rating of 1-100, you’d observe a bell curve.

bell curve

This bell curve shows the natural range that exists in your skill-set, and is present in every skill-set of life (though some ranges are more narrow than others). You will always have aspects of your performance that represent the peak of your abilities, and your worst. Always. You’re skills are always evolving, and that means you’re learning. If you’re learning that means there’s a range in the quality of your decision making.

Range exists everywhere. It’s especially obvious in professional sports. Golfers shoot over par on holes they’ve previously shot an eagle. Hockey players make sharp passes as well as outrageous turnovers. Soccer players acrobatically strike the ball mid-air to score incredible goals and also whiff the ball in front of an open net.

When looking at yourself, for better or worse, it’s important to be honest about the reality that range exists. Not what you wish the reality to be, but what actually is.

The right side of your graph represents your current peak in ability – generally when you’re in the zone with a great mindset. It includes all of the newest skills and information you’ve acquired. Remember, these skills are the ones learned only to the ability of conscious competence and cannot yet be considered part of your permanent skill-set.

The left side displays your worst. The mistakes you shouldn’t make but still do. The errors that occur when your mind goes blank. It’s interesting to note these lapses can be avoided and are often linked to weaknesses in your mental performance. As the aspects of your mental performance develop, you frequently perform closer to your best.

The inchworm concept applies when you look at how your range improves over time. Imagine the movement of an inchworm. If you haven’t seen one, it starts by stretching its body straight, anchors the front “foot”, then lifts up from the back end, bends at the middle to bring the two ends closer together, anchors the back foot, then stretches it’s body straight again, and takes another step forward.

inchwormWhen you reach a new peak in your ability, the front end of your range takes a step forward. Your best just became better, which also means that your range has widened because the back end hasn’t moved yet. The most efficient way to move forward again is to focus on the back end of your range and make improvements to your greatest weaknesses. By eliminating the worst part of your game, your bell curve takes a step forward from the back end, and now it’s easier to take another step forward from the front.

Consistent improvement happens by taking one step forward from the front of your bell curve followed by another step forward from the back. The implications of this concept are:

  1. Improvement happens from two sides: improving weakness and improving your best.
  2. Performing your best is a moving target, because it’s always relative to the current range in your ability.
  3. You create potential for an even greater A-game (and mental game) when you eliminate your C-game because mental space is freed up to learn new things. (Yes the quality of your mental peak of zone can improve as well.)

Two Common Learning Mistakes:

Ignoring Weaknesses

Constantly learning new things while ignoring, avoiding, or protecting your weaknesses cause a wide range in your performance. The problem is it takes a lot of mental energy to think through all the new things you’ve learned and as you lose focus there is a dramatic drop-off in performance level. So when you’re at your best you’re better than ever, but when it gets bad, it gets really bad.

To make matters worse, because performing well takes so much mental energy, it will rarely happen. Also mistakes, many of them basic, will show up completely out of nowhere. Most of the time you’ll be bad, and as your poor form frustrates you, you’ll get worse. Your confidence will drop, you’ll become anxious and nervously watch your performance level free fall deep into (your activity)-hell. (For me, poker-hell.)

Preventing this from happening is actually quite simple: you must stay focused on learning the correction to your weaknesses until it is trained to the level of unconscious competence – especially after your A-game improves. Doing so keeps you humble, reminds you of your weaknesses, and is the most efficient way for you to improve.

Comparing Your Worst to Your Best

On a run of poor form it is especially hard to maintain proper perspective, specifically of your development. While recognizing improvement may not seem like much, it can be critical to helping turn things around.

The only way to prove the back end of your range has taken a step forward is by analyzing your worst, and comparing it to your previous worst during a previous tough stretch. Under intense pressure you rely heavily on the skills at the level of unconscious competence. So, for better or worse, what shows up at that point gives you a perfect view of your greatest weaknesses.

Comparing your worst to your previous worst and seeing improvement in the midst of a tough stretch will give you the much needed confidence boost to recover to your best.

I hated losing, but I’m now at peace with it. Growth is difficult. Mistakes happen, and negative emotions are going to be there. When you’re at your worst it is time to work hard to make it a little better, so it won’t be as bad tomorrow; it’s the one thing you can do to make your dreams a reality.

“Without some failure, you can’t learn what’s needed to achieve greater success. Real failure only happens when you give up.” – Jerad Tendlar

P.S. If you want to accelerate your success in implementing these strategies and reaching your goals, we’d love to help you. Apply today to our Mentorship Coaching program and we’ll gladly offer you a free coaching session to see if we’re a good fit.

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Mental Performance

The Secret to Stability and Success: How Your Intentions Shape Your Life.

brush strokeThe power of intention is a concept your school never taught you. Understanding this concept is a simple adjustment that will help you tap into your inner operating system and improve your life significantly.

Listen up close: it’s very subtle, but extremely powerful.

From my experience of tapping into my intentions, I have come to realize that many of the different techniques taught in personal growth, confidence training, and other methods of developing oneself center around one fundamental principle. Many different theories teach us to work on our body language, push ourselves, stop procrastinating, and exercise everyday.

… You know the list well of things you should do.

Few of these theories focus on the real power behind our actions: that is, our intentions.

What is intention?

Intentions are performing an action with a particular purpose or objective in mind.

The number of times I have heard just “live in the moment” or “I don’t think about the future because I can’t control it” is shocking. Believing that we can have no impact on our future or even that the future never comes is akin to self-imprisonment. What comes ahead is a consequence of the individual decisions we make, today. That said, without any planning or focus on execution, you will never know if you are headed in the right direction.

History suggests that people who think in a certain way have a much greater chance of being successful than those who think in unhealthy and destructive ways. This is the fuel behind most of the entire self-help/personal growth industry and is also supported by a great deal of research that pins Emotional IQ as a better predictor of success than IQ on its own. Strangely enough, if anyone wants to be successful they literally just have to read a few of the great books available on the topic and take action. The knowledge is there for us, but only if we want it. Many people say they want it, but this idea doesn’t make it down to their core. This is where the power of intention comes in.

How can you BE successful?

If being successful only involved doing then I think it would be so easy to be successful. Doing is not the solution. It is possible to spend a whole lot of time doing something but achieving nothing. What is more important is the question: “what are you feeding?” Are you feeding a stable reliable confident self-image through your actions or are you feeding a destructive externally supported dependent person.

It doesn’t matter as much what you do as how you do it. If you can learn to tie to your emotions and self-value to the process, when you do things the right way you naturally feel good about yourself.

Take a second:

Imagine you turn on your radio and most of what you hear is fuzzy white noise, but occasionally you hear flickers of your favorite radio station. So you are a little clumsy and fumble with the dial but keep missing the clear signal.

You begin to get frustrated. You may even think that your radio sucks or become jealous of all the people who get to listen to it with clearer sound.

You begin to slip into a victim mindset.

But you don’t give up, and over time, you learn to turn the knob ever so slightly, and use your trained ear to recognize when you are getting close. Eventually you can hit the signal you want most times and you develop your fine tuning abilities to achieve the result you wanted.

I would compare our thinking stream to the radio signal that comes into your car. In the case of the radio frequency we know where it is coming from. But in the case of our thoughts, they just arise into our consciousness.

So how do we begin to dial in our thoughts?

yogaOne way I like to use is through meditation.

By meditating frequently we can become familiar with the incoming frequency before the thoughts arise into consciousness. It is possible to sense that there is a place that these thoughts are coming from: I would describe this as a feeling more than anything else. This feeling, i.e. the incoming frequency, only brings white noise to us at first.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t even recognize this quality of our minds and that simply is because we are inexperienced and ‘fumbling around with the dial’. Our mind sends us all kinds of distortion that we believe to be reality, when in essence it is just the result of our underlying beliefs painting what we see. Most of us aren’t aware of this process occurring.

But there’s good news: we can get in touch with it and develop our internal senses. As you tap into recognizing how the internal frequency is getting distorted, you can learn to make the adjustments necessary to hear a clear signal that runs straight from within you and displays to the outside world. Over time, you learn the territory and see what types of thoughts and situations throw you off and learn to navigate with nautical precision.

When we act and develop our ability to act through our internal frequency, we start reaching states of fluidity and flow. Things fall into place, and we are effortlessly in tune with our internal and external world. When I am fully connected to my core I feel connected to ALL beings. To further define acting through your internal frequency is to be in a state where nothing you do is for any reason other than being what is most natural and beautiful within you. You know where you begin and another person ends and you stop doing things to please other people. Your body language is naturally confident, your voice is appropriate, and your confidence is through the roof all because you are doing what you are supposed or made to do.

Fortunately, as you begin to decipher what it is that is most fundamental within you, you will naturally begin to see when others are screwing with you. Others will screw with you both intentionally and unintentionally.

tobaccoOne problem in our society is that intentions are hidden. This may occur because intentions are unknown or because those intentions are truly selfish. The mere existence of Tobacco companies is a prime example of how some people have malicious intentions. Their goal is to get you to smoke, and get you to smoke a lot while playing within the rules. If the people running those organizations cared about your health, the organizations wouldn’t exist. Even though that seems obvious, it can be easy to determine what organizations are out for your best interests by the products that they produce and how they produce them. Do you see what I am getting at? At a fundamental level, there is no possible intention upon which a Tobacco company can be built that is in the best interests of the people who will use their products.

Remember that every dollar you spend is sending a message. Everything you say is sending a message. Everything you do and think is sending a message. If you pay attention, you will recognize that everything you say and do is a form of communication with the world around you and with yourself. Each word and each action is your true form of currency.

If you act out of sync with your internal frequency, it will lead to poor confidence, anger and all kinds of mental and physical chaos.

If you act in line with it, all the good results described as how to act confident and how to become smarter will come to you naturally. You will intuitively know what needs to be done and whether it is in line with what your ultimate goal is. You can lie to other people, you can lie to yourself… but you can’t lie to what is within you.

If you cut corners, you’re cutting down your own success.

Go out there and explore, and have fun doing it!

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
–Friedrich Nietzche

This is all easy to hear, but your true reward lies within your practical application.

… So how do you decipher your internal frequency?

Here are 5 ways that will lead you back down your golden road to natural existence:

  1. Notice where your impulses come from: Follow them back to their source.
  2. Ask yourself these types of questions: What was I hoping to achieve by doing that? Was that because I wanted to do that or because I was expected to? Do I feel connected to what I am doing? Do I feel connected to the people around me? If not, why not? Once you drop the act completely, this gets a lot easier… the sooner you learn, the easier this will be for you. Did your act become reality at some point in your life? Are you being you?

  3. Remember what you need: Food, Water, Shelter.
  4. Everything else in your life is a luxury. Start releasing your attachments to these things. If you had to leave to go to a new city and never be able to turn back, what would you take with you? You only get a backpack. Stop carrying all your heavy baggage around with you… it feels good to put it down. Most of what you need is just in your head, it is not based in reality. Sure you can enjoy these things. But, if you are overindulging you could use some perspective.

  5. Love yourself.
  6. Perhaps the greatest gift you can give yourself is your own friendship. Recognizing that nothing outside yourself is better than what is already within you. There is far too much fear that is spread around, and hardly enough love. Learn to make decisions from a place of love rather than avoiding fear. Avoiding fear is playing to lose.

  7. Spend some time on your own in silence.
  8. Soon you will notice how crazy your mind is. All you need to learn is some objectivity and be the calm in your storm of thoughts. It is from this place your natural frequency can best be deciphered. If you are one of those people who can’t be alone, then you need this the most. “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you are too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”

  9. Ask for help.
  10. This is a very tricky topic and mastering yourself takes time and dedication. If there are things you don’t understand, please ask. If I do not know the answer, I will find it for you or do my best to point you in the right direction. Reaching out is one of the best ways to be proactive about your life.

Keep your ears out for Part 2 of this article that dives deeper into the concept of Stability. I’ll explore how to remain level-headed despite the traps your mind will set for you (and there will be many.)

Categories
Mental Performance Passion

Why Your Ideas Are Bad (And How to Fix Them!)

broken light bulbI’ve always found it interesting how no matter how fiercely you want to be successful, your brain will always come up with resistance.

You start a new hobby because you enjoy the activity. You distance yourself from everything that doesn’t matter and you focus on expressing yourself through this newfound interest. As time progresses you naturally look for greater challenges to test your skills and get feedback on how you compare to yourself, and eventually other people. But somewhere along the way you inevitably hit your breaking point.

This breaking point seems to unlock every insecurity you have. It hits you in all the wrong places. What was once something you did for the experience and to develop yourself, is now something you fear and avoid routinely.

What Happened Here?

The first and most obvious thing that happened is that you stopped doing it for yourself. You thought, “I don’t feel like it.” You stopped focusing on the process, and as you improved yourself you became increasingly self-conscious and judgemental. The judgement became too much to bear. So you gave up. You stopped because your art, your expression, your work was no longer giving you that shiny piece of validation – the validation that comes from being excited with little to no effort. You are no longer being intrinsically motivated to get better, and therefore you lose that motivation to stay focused on the journey you started. The judgement you pass onto yourself is too much to take credit for and your bad material becomes too heavy to carry. Why carry all this judgement when you can simply give up?

Brian Crosby is a comedy writer who has worked for big name TV shows like This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and The Royal Canadian Air Farce. I recently stumbled upon his TED talk that addresses this very problem of not persevering through your bad ideas.

Watch the video below, and I highly recommend thinking about how this applies to your life. Share it with me in the comment section below. I’d love to continue the conversation.

This quote caught my attention:

Getting to the point where you make an impact is a consequence of your process. It is a consequence of making a slew of bad ideas until you get to a good one. – Brian Cosby

Now here is my proposal to you: commit to your hobby, your passion, your work and get past the self-judgement of bad ideas. Let go of all of the doubts you have of yourself and understand that you have everything you need to be successful at whatever you want – you are just going to have to get through the bad ideas first.

It took Brian ten years to realize this. Older generations have wisdom to pass down that every person that’s ever wanted to do something constructive with his or her life can benefit from.

Stop passing negative judgement on yourself and start working on some bad ideas. What do you think?

Categories
Lifestyle Mental Performance

How to Organize and Declutter Your Life

overwhelmedIs a cluttered house the sign of a cluttered mind?

Many poets have alluded to as much over the centuries. With the pace of our lives becoming ever faster and more tools at our disposal to stay organized than ever before, it’s fair to say that most of us are a hot mess.

Clearing up clutter – in your mind, in your life and in your space – requires stepping back and making some clear decisions.

Here’s a four step process that can get you started on the right path:

  1. Understand your priorities?

    Most of us go through life reactively, rather than proactively. Our days are spent responding to emails as they come in, fulfilling other people’s demands, and allowing ourselves to be interrupted at the slightest whim for another person. But if you step back and ask yourself: What is my priority?… are you optimizing your day, your schedule, your routines, and your workspace to serve that? If your goal is to write a book and you’re spending all day on social media sites, then you’re not serving your priority. If your goal is to be available eight hours a day to offer remote customer service for a product and you’re constantly getting interrupted by your kids, you’re not serving your priority. So get clear on what matters.

  2. Learn the difference between need, desire, and expectation.

    Much of the clutter that accumulates in our life, from objects in our home to meetings in our day, can be blamed on a lack of understanding the difference between needs, desires, and expectations. What do you need – really need? Food, water, shelter, perhaps some critical medication. Could a simpler house that would require less work or fewer hours at the office suffice? Do you really need a four bedroom house on a five acre spread? Maybe not – but maybe you genuinely desire that. When you close your eyes and think about what really makes you happy, what are those things? A beautiful house, a fast car, or an expensive watch might be on the list. But take the time to understand what truly brings you pleasure, versus what you spend your time pursuing because it’s expected of you. If you focused only on those things you truly needed and desired, and jettisoned the activities and possessions tied to expectation, how much energy could you free up?

  3. Set a plan.

    Once you understand what you’re truly trying to accomplish and what matters to you materially and spiritually, take control over your day. You may have things that are required of you, such as meetings with clients or time spent on deliverables you don’t enjoy. Everyone does. But ask yourself what chunks of time you can carve out of your life to accomplish your goals. Do you have health objectives that aren’t being met? Prioritize work-out time before or after work. Do you spend your whole day obsessively checking email? Could you schedule it into blocks throughout your day? Could you focus on your family without checking your phone throughout your entire dinner each night? Even for one night. Decide in advance what your day looks like and then do your best to stay on target with that.

  4. Eliminate one thing from your life each day for thirty days.

    As we grow older, the sense of the “weight of responsibility” grows because we tend to accumulate things without letting other things go. These can be commitments, relationships, or objects that no longer delight us. Set the intention to let one thing go each day for 30 days and see how you feel at the end of the experiment. Do you feel lighter? Were you able to let go of certain things without the universe ending? Did you gain a new appreciation for something when it wasn’t in your daily life? Don’t be overly serious or regimented, but try this as an experience and see if it creates a sense of moving in the direction of a less cluttered mindset and by extension, physical space.

An uncluttered space starts with an uncluttered mind. By following the process above, you can begin to remove some of the limitations that hold you back from achieving the things you want and creating the sense of a cluttered existence in the first place.