Showing posts with label habit formation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label habit formation. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Power Of Habit Over Your Life And What You Can Do About It

The Power of Habit

The little things we do without thinking, and how to change them for the better 

Every morning you get out of bed and probably go about a routine that you have set on automatic.

These little actions are done by rote and without any conscious thought - in other words, they've become habits.

Perhaps you get up, get dressed, lace your shoes and go for a run.

Maybe you grab your water and yoga mat and head off to your studio.

Did you brush your teeth or use mouthwash before you left the house?  How about your hair? Do you shower before you leave, or did you take a shower the night before?

If you did any one of these things and didn't think about it before hand, that's the power of habit.

Every time you catch yourself checking your Facebook or other social media without thinking about it first, that's the power our habits can take on us.

So, if our unconscious actions can dictate our behavior, what then, does it take to change our actions to take on the desired effect?

For example, imagine you have a new goal you want to accomplish.  With summer coming around soon, maybe it's to lose a couple of pounds or get in better cardiovascular shape to be more active this year.

Don't pretend that losing a couple of pounds to look and feel better outdoors isn't on your radar. Most of us have a social pull to fit in, to feel better, to look our best, and losing a couple of pounds can have a profound effect on our self-esteem.

Besides, I need the analogy for my argument.

So how do you create better habits in a safe, constructive way?

Understand the 3 Step Process of the Habit Loop to Build Better Habits

It takes decisive action with attention to the small details that will make lasting change.
In Charles Duhigg's seminal book on habits, he discusses how the power of habit dictates our actions and influences our outcomes. 

Citing research, Duhigg claims there is a process of three steps that form a loop in our behavior.

1) The first is the cue - what are the shortcuts you need to get more done, more easily?

2) The second is the trigger - what causes you to act?

3) The third is the reward - what do you get in return for the action?

This loop of cue, trigger, reward is the basis for building a habit.  And remember, a habit can be an automatic action that is good, or one that is not. 

Over time, this anticipation can develop into a craving for the reward and result in action that is beyond our conscious control.

Think about checking your email.

The cue is that when you open up your computer or smartphone, your inbox automatically updates all of your new emails. It may "ding" or pop-up a notification that you have a new email.

The trigger is the desire to know who emailed you, what about, and how important is it.

Finally then the reward is opening your email inbox and reading an email.

Research indicates that this process is one that tickles the same part of our brains like cocaine - it's exhilarating and releases significant amounts of dopamine, the chemical for pleasure in our brains, and it's why we get a slight thrill every time we open up our inboxes. We begin to anticipate the happiness that we get from the reward.  It's this phase that reinforces the habit loop (more on this phase below).

The anticipation of seeing a new email is a similar experience to expecting the rush from amphetamine. It also helps explain why social media platforms like Facebook are so popular and addicting.

So how do we change negative behaviors and create ones that we want?

Unlock Your Potential While Breaking Old Habits

Duhigg reports that habits are potentially 40% of all our daily actions, meaning that there are unconscious actions we do automatically almost half the time.

Because as we develop habits, our brain creates patterns that it relies on as a shortcut to save time and energy.  So, in effect, the old habits and patterns never disappear, which helps explain why it's so easy to slip back into the negative habits we were trying to change in the first place. 

How then do we rid ourselves of negative habits? The sad part is that we can't.  

So the trick then is to refocus the brain on what part of the habit loop needs to change and be modified.

In other words, you need to create a new habit loop, one that is built around the actions we want over those we don't. 

The primary factor, however, is in developing a craving for a new reward.  

The craving for a reward is what drives our actions, and if unsatiated, will continue to build on an unconscious action - how the scent of food can make you crave that item, even if you just ate. 

If you are trying to build an exercise habit, the key is to set a cue such as putting on your shoes first thing in the morning, and then after a run, have a reward set up.  

As you develop these conscious acts, by reinforcing the rewards, you begin to create the anticipation of reward.  

That anticipation creates a craving for the next reward, and once a craving is established, the roots of habit spread and become unconscious, leading to new habit formation.

So reward yourself to create a new habit. Eat that chocolate, drink that beer, sit on your duff and watch T.V.

If you really want to make a difference in your habits, it's that simple. But only if you operate within a habit loop.

Otherwise you're rewarding nonsense.

If you'd like to read Charles Duhigg's awesome book, click on the picture below.  I do get a small referral fee for each sale, just FYI.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Plan The 20% Of Your Efforts That Yields the Best Results

What's Your Process

Productivity is a by product of efficient process.

Procrastination is another.

In a previous post we discussed how defining your passion would improve your productivity.

In another recent post we discussed the myth of hyper-productivity.

There've been articles and posts about how to improve your productivity, better time management tips and ideas for self-improvement.

All of these concepts are by-products of another concept put to action, and that is "process."

Process is defined as "a serious of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end."
 It is, in other words, what you do in a sequence of steps to achieve a desired outcome.

If you want to train for a marathon, there are a series of training methods and ideas to help.  Of course you need to train the requisite number of times - i.e. be "in shape" to best run a marathon, but a process of training would help you maximize your ability.

If you want to learn a foreign language, there are ways to learn quickly, but for most people and most learners, there's a process of language acquisition that takes a dedicated amount of repetition over extended time.

One of the more important concepts in the school of productivity and process is the Pareto Principle.

Otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle is the idea that you get 80% of your results from 20% of your actions.

Understanding this dynamic between effort and outcome is crucial to your overall success. By focusing on the 20% that yields the best 80% of your results, you'll accomplish more with less effort.

The trick then, is to develop a process that builds on the 20% that yields the highest gains.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Defining Your Passion Will Take Your Productivity From Good To Great

What's Your Passion? 

There are countless charlatans, Internet Marketers, and 'Self-Help Guru's' that claim they can help you find your passion.

Find it they say, and everything else will fall into place.

The claims they make about productivity, self-improvement, entrepreneurship and goal setting all comes down to the idea of passion.

Passion.  That's the subject of discussion today.

Everyone knows what passion feels like, but how do you define it?

Let's play a little simple game.


It's late at night, you're alone, not quite asleep but not awake either.

It's dark and quiet.

Until the knock on your door.

You check your phone, it's late, you don't have any text messages or missed calls.

It's not cold outside but it's not warm either, so you slowly sit up in bed before turning on the lamp from off your nightstand; in no-time you've wrapped a robe around you, and switch don the sequence of lights to the bedroom, into the hall, toward the living room and front porch.

The whole of your house is now glowing with LED light as you unbolt the door.

You crack it open and POOF, nobody's there.

You start to close the door and it's jarred open.  Not by a hand, not a foot or tool, but by something. 

Where it's head should be is a long snout with a tail switching around like a cat tail.  Long and slender the proportions seem almost human, but not quite. Panicked you push harder, only to have the door fling open and as this thing stands in the foyer.  You stare right into its milky, opaque eyes. It looks like a blind man, no, not a man, but a man-thing.

It opens it's mouth, it's lips pull back to reveal teeth like long, razor-sharp stalagmites before it makes a noise that is simultaneously a squeak-click before a calming, soothing baritone says to you:

"I'm ZCHvKcl - or in your tongue, Greg.  Where I'm from is insignificant, but I have a number of questions.  If I may, I have a short amount of time before your atmosphere eats away at my lungs, may I ask you three questions about humanity, and in return I'll tell you about the future of your species?"
 What would you answer?

Would you want to know what is in the future?

Would you humor a seemingly non-threatening creature?

Would you take the time to answer him, knowing that the answer to the future of humanity is the reward?

What Would You Do?

He wants to understand why we fight, we we wage war on one another when it's entirely obvious we are the same species.  So why are we inclined toward violence to resolve our issues?

The second question is about why we treat the only hospitable place we know of so poorly?  We pollute our water, belch gas into the air we breath, and depose of our refuse in the ground we need to grow our food.

Finally the third question.  He (assuming it's a "he") wants to know about passion.  What is it, why do we all claim it and act upon it?

How would you respond?

Passion is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:
"1)  a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something 
2)  a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way 
3)  a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone"
In this case, let's focus on the first definition.

Let's break down the definition of passion into it's clauses.

  • A strong feeling - we all have those, but how does that help us?  - 
  • of enthusiasm or excitement - this is a little better, it allows us to understand what we should be feeling - 
  • for something or about doing something - Ah ha!  It's about getting something done in a strongly emotional way. 

So how do you answer you're visitor?  What does passion mean to you?

If you tell him that it's about a strong excitement to do something, you've defined passion better than most.

When you hear, "what's your passion" or "find your passion, find your path," know that it's about finding that one thing that you can do with ebullience and joy.

It's the thing you want to do rather than sleeping or eating, or in some instances even sex.

For some, it's music, with others it's writing.

For painters it's about the colors and brushstrokes. There are people who absolutely love cooking and can spend a whole day in the kitchen without knowing if a nuclear weapon went off outside.

Your passion is the thing you can do and lose all track of time, all sense of the outside world.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How Executing These 4 Steps Will Guarantee You Succeed At Anything

It's All About The Execution - The Executioner's Revenge Part One

(To read Part Two Click This Link)

Too often we think about the results of what we want, and get lost in the big picture.  It's often what is difference between our chance for success and the possibility of failure.

What separates the truly successful from those that get-by?

The successful know that the difference between success and failure is minute, but the minute details are what make the difference.

This post is a two-part discussion about the differences between success and failure and what is ultimately, the factor most important.

And that is the execution of a plan.

Bear with me.

This post is going to have plenty of sports metaphors - and will be published in two parts - but the point of the post is that the difference between success and failure is often one of execution.

Success and failure are often separated by mere inches, or seconds, in sports.

In life and business that line is one that is often times subjective.

It's subjective to an opinion of the audience and can shift just as a line is drawn in the sand -which, is why I don't like the term, line in the sand - if the wind blows, what then?

Success and failure are twins often separated by a razor fine line

Sure, if you're keeping score, the one with the highest score at the end is the winner.

Except in golf.  That s#!t's cray-cray.

The lowest score wins the hole, but it's kept track by the honor system.  When I hear people talk about their golf scores, their handicaps and how far they can drive the ball, a couple of thoughts come to mind.

  1. I'm reminded of Mark Twain's quote; "Golf is a good walk ruined."
  2. Regarding scorekeeping I think: "You walk around, often drinking, keeping score with a small pencil on a pad.  You keep your own score, and there isn't a judge or monitor to see you're recording it correctly.  And then I think if accountants were able to be this loose and free while drinking mind you, would you still hire them to do your taxes?
  3. When they talk about their drive game, basically they are telling you they have advanced degrees in surveying.  How else can the professionals drive an average of 280+ yards, but any amateur is driving 285+ yards.  Then I wonder to myself, "wow - all these golfers are experts at determining distances, what did I miss in school that I can't tell 6 inches from half a foot?"
  4. Once again I'm reminded of Mark Twain's quote; "Golf is a good walk ruined."  

It doesn't matter the strengths and weaknesses of the plan.

There are 4 stages of planning and most important, executing that plan that will dictate the best opportunity for success.

Those stages each feed on the other and if done properly, bring you full circle.

1) The Planning Stage: Think of all things that you want to accomplish.

2) The Doing Stage: Get out there and get started.

3) Evaluation Stage: Mistakes are made.  Things happen.

4) The Success Stage - Execution come full circle - You need to use the data from all three previous stages and get back to work on your path.

1) If You Plan For Success, You Succeed At Planning

Every plan has holes; every day has ups and downs.  In concept, it's the understanding of those fluctuations that make a plan an effective one.

While it's definitely important to make a plan, it's also crucial you act.

Think about everything you want to accomplish. What are some of the larger tasks?  Some of the smaller ones that may be lower hanging fruit - the tasks that may be easier to accomplish in shorter time and with less energy?

By planning ahead and thinking about all the potential hurdles that may get in the way, you have a better, more sure-footed path toward accomplishing your goals.

By acting on a plan, we discover where those pitfalls may be.

2) Get Off Your Butt And Get Doing

Discovering what works and what doesn't is the input you need before the evaluation phase of your plan.

It tells you whether or not your plan is on the right trajectory.

But you need to first do something to enact your plan before you can evaluate the data.

Because after you act on your plan, it's going to look a little, or a lot, different than you first began.

Knowledge is experiential.  That means that we learn by doing, not by thinking, reading and dreaming.  We are kinetic learners on a biological scale, we learn by doing.

It's the meat, the spices and casing of the sausage making process.

Like I wrote before, making sausage is about putting everything together, some things that may or may not appear to work together, but with proper testing and planning, you know are awesome fits.

After you get started, there's bound to be some bumps and bruises.  It's part of the learning process that is called trial and error. By doing, we're gaining data that allows us to properly set up our next course adjustments, which are the most important part of how you adapt your execution of your plan.

Above all else, adapting and recalibrating is the primary difference in determining your success and failure.

Part Two Of The Executioner's Revenge

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How I Used One Simple Inversion To Write This Awesome Blog Post

The One Simple Thing You Must Know To Write More Awesome Blog Posts

My March Into Spring Challenge 

In honor of the month of March, I'll be writing 31 posts in 31 days.

Truthfully I should have released this statement yesterday, but I posted How To Get S#!T Done - My Kindle Publishing Experience instead.

Why did I do it this way?

In this post you're going to learn how making ourselves accountable to others sometimes makes us less likely to accomplish our goals; the importance of showing people how you do your craft; and how to move forward without a plan.

The Truth About False Starts 

I wanted to explain the purpose of why I was taking on the challenge of writing so many posts in so many days.

Especially when I'm unsure where I'm going with this challenge.  My editorial calendar is sparse, I've got minimal ideas and even less time.

So the inversion I'm using is writing about how the sausage is made, my process and the thought behind them before telling anyone why - more on that below.

Think of it as a bit of a false start like this poor guy:

Not only did he get a false start charged against him, by the looks of his dive, he also had a great belly-flop as well.

Basically I've done enough belly flops in my lifetime.

They hurt.

The point of inverting the publication of these two articles is that; 1) the article I posted was more in line with what I felt was needed to be said and had a little more value than a post about MY ambitions such as this one, and 2) I wasn't 100% sure I was going to announce my intentions.

Why did I hesitate?

The Truth About Goal Setting And Accountability

When you think about setting a goal, there are a number of popular beliefs on how to best accomplish them.

One way is to write it down and document your actions every day that you fulfill the steps necessary toward your goal.  It's been called the Jerry Seinfeld method, writing a joke a day, marking a calendar with an "x" that over time creates a visual chain - one that you don't want to break.

Other ways include a "vision board" - placing images, ideas and quotes that are motivational in nature and that you can focus your mental/imagination on.

Some believe in making our goals accountable with others by telling them all about it before hand.

The idea is that by sharing your goals with someone else, a friend or family member that you trust, you're making yourself accountable to not letting that person down.

There are plenty of studies that show that by announcing your goals aloud and to an audience, the odds of you accomplishing them decrease significantly.

Don't believe me?

How about this post: Shut Up! Announcing Your Plans Makes You Less Motivated To Accomplish Them

It's a review of studies that date back to 1933 that disproves the modern idea that when we announce our plans, we're much more likely to accomplish them.

The truth is the opposite actually.

Another reason is that I wanted to explain what I was doing with evidence that you could see.

As I wrote yesterday, people like to see a finished product.  They also really like to see how the sausage is made.

Think about your favorite song, your favorite band.

You've listened to the lyrics thousands of times; memorized every time change and melody possible, and still have no idea what the song is really about.

So you look to interviews, videos, YouTube, Facebook groups, anything to try and understand what's the song about.

Until the band speaks and shatters the illusion.

What you thought was a heartbreaking ballad of lost love and the power to overcome that broken person you were, is revealed to be about a drunken day with a dog and a squirrel chasing each other on the 4th of July.

(This never happened to my knowledge, yet...)

In one singular moment, a songwriter can tell you with absolute certainty that your interpretation is correct, or wrong.

And that experience is exhilarating or crushing in its revelation.

But only if you get to see how the sausage is made that you can truly understand the intention the artist had.

Make Your Sausage In Front Of Others - Otherwise Who Knows What's In It

So that brings us to why I hesitated to state my goal of 31 posts in 31 days.

Look, I'm not a prolific guy.

It takes me awhile to percolate an idea, let it marinate and finally set out to explain it.  That's why I showed the screen shot of a post I've been struggling with for over a week.

And once I write that idea, develop the concept and characters (in fiction, a tone in blogging), I'm spent.

Like don't ever want to write again - spent.

Until I pick an idea, see it develop and want to share it.

So the main reason I inverted the publication of my announcement for posting 31 articles for 31 days and yesterday's about "sausage making", was that I wanted to explain how and why I'm doing what I'm doing.

Especially since I'm beginning this challenge of writing 31 posts with only 4 ideas and topics so far.

It may seem (and you'd be right) contradictory that by claiming to write 31 articles in 31 days is the goal, which as we've discussed will minimize the probability of it happening, by showing you my process of how, why and when I go about generating my content, I secure a reasonable chance of success.

Continuing with the arcing themes of this blog so far, we'll be discussing Creativity, Self-Improvement, Goal Setting, and Maximizing Productivity in upcoming posts.

But it's a wide open editorial calendar and I've only got 4 ideas.

And this was one of them.

Man am I tired.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The ONE Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Productivity

What's Your One Thing?

This post is, in part, a book review and a personal story about why I write.  Take it for what it is, and disregard the rest as you see fit.

There's a book by Gary Keller called The One Thing.

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

 It discusses productivity, management tips and self-improvement.

It preposes we tend to distract ourselves with too many things, too many tasks to do, too many demands on our time and energy.  Wasting too much of our time not only distracts us from the task at hand, but it also acts to form limitations to what we can ultimately achieve.

In simple terms, it breaks down that we should only focus on the ONE thing that we actually care about, and what we can excel. Or as the author states, "extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus."

There are some current myths discussed in the book and exposed as lies.

Multi-tasking? Not a real thing.

Willpower on call?  Not true, it's a finite resource, like any other energy/endurance capacity you may have.

Who is Gary Keller?  He built Keller/Williams Realty into the largest Realty firm in the world.  That's right, #1 position for a Real Estate company in the world.

My One Thing: How I Got Started

When I was a kid, I would spend hours in my tiny bedroom reading.

That is if I wasn't busy running around the street playing games and trying to get the neighborhood kids to compete with me.

Now, keep in mind I wasn't a superb athlete, so I made sure I'd work on my technique longer and more precise than any other kid I played. Beat me, I would work my ass off to make sure I could outlast you next time.

It was just the right mix of hyper-competitiveness, obsessiveness, and spite.

As a teen, I'd close my door to shut out the world and assay through pages of sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, mystery, the "classics" from Thoreau, Whitman, Thomas, Poe.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered existential philosophy from thinkers such as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard.  For "culture," I read the Bible in multiple translations, the Thesaurus, Encyclopedia Brittanica and poured through the dictionary religiously.

Needless to say, that type of shit can really mess you up, especially in your impressionable early teen years.

Surrounded by my imagination, I'd enhance the mood by playing music on a tiny two-speaker boombox.

I'd play cassettes with songs from the Cure, the Smiths, Depeche Mode, rewind them until the tape wore down and drift off into a dreamworld of starships, foreign lands, and superheroes.

While I'd lose myself in the songs, I'd read as if my life depended on it.

And, I felt it did.

See, I didn't have a great home life.

My parents were divorced, my father didn't want anything to do with me and my 3 siblings while my mother remarried to a man who was overworked, drank too much and seemed overwhelmed by taking care of a pack of ungrateful kids.

So I read countless books, stories, and magazines to escape from what I felt in an unjust world.

But mainly I read as much as I did to learn the craft of storytelling and how to get a point across. I discovered that there is something universal about being human.

Part of the uniquely human experience is the desire to share our thoughts and ideas with others.

We're social creatures.

It's part of why we developed language and in turn, societies, cities, states and governments.

It's why we live with other human beings, even when they're screaming at you, or staring at you from out of the corner of their eye, not speaking with you at all.

Long before I had my "reckoning" about life and the human experience, my first victims of all this study and information were my younger brothers and sister.

They're all much brighter than me.

Like I'm a bag of wet cement compared to the genius of my siblings.

Probably in part of my competitiveness, but possibly from spite, I had to prove my greatness to them.

I was the oldest brother, meaning I had to be better.

So, I'd write them stories. This was in the beginning before they were old enough to read, and I barely old enough to write.

My early manuscripts would comprise of two, three or maybe four sentences with some poorly drawn pictures, but the point was to help them learn what I had.

I'm not sure they enjoyed the stories as much as I did in creating them.  Most of the time they were sci-fi epics that included spaceships flying around in a sky full of asterisk-drawn stars, shooting lasers and rockets at each other, while the story usually was text that complimented the pictures.

The point is, from the early beginnings, I knew there was something that I needed to share with others.  I coached for a long time to teach what I had already learned.  I wanted to share ways to think, to act, and to learn.

That's my ONE thing.  To communicate what I learn along this path that I'm walking, about life, about writing.

Well I guess that's two things.  That just goes to show you there's always more to learn.

If you're interested in reading about how you can become laser focused, pick up a copy of The One Thing from Amazon by clicking this link:  The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

(It IS an affiliate link, meaning if you purchase it I'll get a small share of the sale from Amazon)

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Kindle Publishing Lesson: Beg, Borrow and Steal Your Way To Becoming A Better Writer

Finding Your Ideal Reader And Developing A More Confident Voice In Your Writing

If you're like me, doing something you love can be the greatest thing in the world.

When I started my Kindle Publishing Journey, I didn't know what I didn't know.  I've learned a ton over the 6 months I've been writing and self-publishing.

But one thing I do know and have learned along the way is that passion alone, while great, won't suffice. It's like eating a chocolate only diet.  It may sound delicious and you may salivate just thinking about it, but all it will do is constipate you until your clogged arteries make your heart explode.

But doing something you love is also incredibly rewarding.

It could be surfing that really stokes you.

Or perhaps running in the early morning hours is what you find the greatest of thrills.

For some who are more like myself, getting lost in writing is exhilarating.  I can lose track of hours without even knowing that the sun has set for the night.

Like stumbling through a dark, misty forest unsure of what lies in the dense woods is what it's like in the monolog in my head.

Seeing my words on the page is like finding a clearing in the bramble and brush, my vision is more clear, the story is more focused.

It's these moments of clarity that I see why all the images in my head scream that they needed to be written and thoughts to be shared with someone else.

All without having to say a word.

As Stephen King wrote in his "On Writing," being able to write truly is a form of ESP.  It's telepathy with the reader, a way to worm around in their heads, their thoughts, and their dreams.

But writing can also be absolutely horrible.

It's not the fear of the blank page.

No way.  I can ramble with the best of them.

For me, a blank page is like a canvas that I get to paint on.  If it's any good, I'll share it with others.

If it sucks, it's practice in colors, paint strokes and textures for the painting that I will eventually share.

It's part of the exhilaration for me.

Those are some of the important things I've learned through my Kindle Publishing experiences.

Another one?

Writing is both exhilarating and terrifying.

Especially when I re-read the words on the page and they aren't as beautifully erudite as when I heard first them in my head.

The flow of language, the momentum of the story and the way I "heard" it all in my head doesn't have the same appeal once I see it upon the page. I think of it like middle school, when I'd recite a short couple lines that I'd rehearse to say to one of the many girls I had on crush on.  Only, the next day I'd stumble and stutter those lines, more concerned with the new zit on my nose and whether they're focused on it than what I wrote the night before and was now reciting.

When my writing is bad, it's terrifying.

When I think about the readers, I wonder how much they want to choke me out, laugh at me and deride my thoughts.

 That is, if there are any.

I also worry they will see through me, and discover what I fraud I am. It's terrifying that they may find my voice stilted, unimaginative and most terrifying of all, boring.

Everyone who's ever tried their hand at writing knows these feelings.  From school to letters and creatively, it's a challenge not to feel like you're overexposed, naked in front of the cameras, standing pants-less in front of a crowd of people that are our friends.

But how do you overcome the fear of being exposed?  Of being unimportant? Of being seen as a  fraud?

The ABC's Of Developing Your Writing Skills And Finding Your Voice

  •  A) First, choose one person who you write for. They could be someone you know, someone you wish to know, or someone you create out of your imagination.  In other industries, it's called an "ideal reader."

Just like in life, you're not going to be liked by everyone equally.  Some will really like and care for you, and that's a lucky thing to have.  Others aren't going to give two shits about you.  Others still may despise you without you even knowing about it.

So creating an ideal reader is important for you to know what to say, how you should say it, and how you hope they'll receive it.  It's a lot easier to talk with a friend, one who knows you intimately and you know them than with any stranger you may try to meet and get to know.

Writing, in simple terms, is sharing ideas with an intimate friend without speaking.

  •  B) Second, gain confidence through minor accomplishments.  

Building positive habits is about micro-accomplishments.

In time, those micro-accomplishments allow you to build a foundation that you can then go on and make newer micro-accomplishments.

Think of it as running a marathon.

You have to train for it, but you want to take those strides in micro-phases.  That is, you run aspects of the marathon, building your endurance and stamina over time.  But you also focus on the little things, like your step, making sure you run heel-to-toe.  You work on lengthening your stride, especially when tired. But every step is one more in building a better way to run a marathon for you.

Taken together, your strategy, training and technique, you will form a number of micro-accomplishments that, in time, prepares you to run a full marathon.

Not that I've ever attempted to run a marathon.

It sounds like a horrible experience to me, but then again, I can't run.

Not because of any particular disability, just when I run I look like a gazelle jumping on hooves while their legs recoil underneath their body in a circular, disjointed motion.

If anyone was running next to me, it'd look to an unsuspecting observer that I was trying to kick the person next to me on every jump I took.

  •  C) Finally, Beg, Borrow and Steal

Like most innovators, there are three main ways to gain confidence and mastery. The best way to overcome the fear of writing is easily broken into three techniques that I call Beg, Borrow, and Steal.

It's a popular notion that artists - as all writers are - are tapped into some greater universal connection.

That their ideas are floating around in their heads like a swirling, boiling cauldron of ideas. False! Another wrongful trope is that artists are inspired by a muse that only they can hear and they catch bolts of lightning.

What every artist does is looks for ideas that they can incorporate into what they're trying to say.

Andy Warhol famously borrowed from popular culture and popular advertising to make his iconic paintings.

Pablo Picasso is credited with the saying; "Good artists borrow, great artists steal."

Even famous tinkerers in history like Thomas Edison knew this truth - his inventions took gleefully from the thoughts, research, and design of a man named Nikola Tesla.

  1. Beg An Expert: If writing is scary for you, think about ways you can get information from another source, preferably someone in that genre that you respect. It could be a friend who's already doing what you want to accomplish, or someone that is so far ahead of the game it's a dream interview. Ask them until they acquiesce - Twitter is a great, easy gateway to find experts you want to connect with. Ask to the point of bothering them.  Beg them for an interview about how they wrote their piece, their story, their book.  For most of them, they were once in your shoes as well.  It will offer some helpful insight and motivation to keep you on track.
  2. Borrow From The Chef: Borrow from a well-thought idea.  Develop the thought as your own and write it down.  Like watching a cooking show and trying to recreate the menu, borrow what you like, but embellish it with your own spices. What was it that impressed you, and how would you explain it to your ideal reader?
  3. Steal From The Master: Steal from the experts. Don't get me wrong here.  I am not advocating stealing someone else's words; that's plagiarism, and it can get you in a world of trouble, from legal and otherwise.  But steal the idea then develop it in a way that only you could, and in a way that makes sense to your ideal reader.

Remember, there's nothing new under the sun.

There have been billions of people who have lived on this Earth,  all with dissimilar backgrounds from you but with similar thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams.  That means that there's nothing new that can be written, rather, just how you write that is unique to you.

So go ahead, steal the plot line from your favorite movie or book.  Develop the story telling and characters in your way and you'll have a unique story to share and call your own.  In my own Kindle Publishing adventure, I've stumbled upon all of these areas.

So if you struggle with your writing, or confidence in doing anything new, just beg for the knowledge from an expert, borrow an idea or whole-heartedly steal the idea and make it your own.

Just change the names to protect the innocent and guilty.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The 3 Things You Do To Sabotage Success: How To Stop Limiting Yourself!

How Your Beliefs Determine Your Success

It's that time of year!  

The holidays are here and among us like aliens masked as friends. Not the cute E.T. type aliens, more like Alien vs. Predator type, the kind that want to rip your spine out with your skull as a trophy.  

Perhaps that's just how I feel, but I digress from the point...

A New Year means that it's also time for resolutions and grandiose plans for ourselves and our lives.

(Get The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business from Amazon here)

They could be changes in our behaviors, or changes in our jobs, or perhaps an itch to travel that needs to be scratched.

But like a parasitic worm, there's ONE major problem that will destroy even the best resolution.

It's the danger of self-limiting beliefs.

The problem with changing habits or making any substantial changes in our lives is that we are often sabotaging our chance for success without even knowing it.

While we're busy trying to become Superman, we're often wearing a necklace made of Kryptonite.

If you want to make changes in your life, the hardest part isn't getting started or changing negative habits into the ones you desire most.

No, the most challenging aspect of these changes are the ones that can act as the most harmful to whether you succeed or not is: simply your beliefs.

If you believe you'll succeed or not has a large influence over whether you'll effectively make the changes you want.

I'm not talking about faux concepts like "fake it until you make it" or imagine it and it will come to fruition.

But if you do believe that you can do something, all research points to the fact that you should succeed.

The single most influential factor in psychological research about behavioral change is that it is the positive mindset that differentiates between success and failure.

If you doubt you can; you don't have enough training or the right type of schooling, or you don't know how, so you don't even try to get off the couch - whelp - you guessed it!

You have zero chance to succeed.

That's called the power of self-limiting beliefs.

(In the past, we've discussed what is success in a world that judges your outcomes - this is about stopping our tendencies to limit ourselves).

The Power Of Beliefs And The Dangers Of Self-Doubt 

A recent article I stumbled upon got me thinking about the power our confidence and doubts play on our potential for success or failure.

(You can read the article by clicking here)

If you believe in you can accomplish something, you can.

If you doubt you can do it, you can't.

It's the truth of self-limiting beliefs that we can only accomplish what we believe we can.

(Obviously as much as I want to be Superman, it's not going to happen. Unless I'm sent to a galaxy with a red star perhaps)

But in Henry Ford's own vernacular, if you believe you can do something or believe you can't, either way, you're correct.

When we believe we are capable of something, we find mechanisms to overcome any challenges that present themselves along the way.

Get Off The Couch And Get Moving! 

For example, if you just ate waaaay too much this past holiday and feel you want to lose some weight, you probably feel motivated to get started.

You go out and get new running shoes, a new workout outfit, get ready for bed, set the alarm clock to wake up early and when it goes off?  You end up hitting the snooze button, negotiating with yourself that you'll get started in just a little bit, or later in the day, or tomorrow.

Or perhaps you climb out of bed, lace up your shoes, head outside, and begin to run.

You start to breathe heavy; your legs are plodding into the concrete like they're trying to anchor themselves to the ground, and you slow down to a mere walk.

Somehow you've forgotten just how difficult it is to start a workout regime but being reminded by your body loudly just how out of shape you truly are.

You finish your routine and go about your day.  Slowly, you become sore in places you forgot about, stiff in others.

The next morning, you're not as enthusiastic as you were the day before.  You're sore, tired and it takes a little more momentum to begin.  It's harder to lace your shoes, to get outside and start. It becomes easier to quit earlier than the day before and before you know it, you've walked twice the distance from the day before.

The limiting belief is that it's too difficult to lose weight.

So when obstacles appear, you false-start or quit too early.

But if you reexamine the outcome, and your approach is rethought, motivation and follow through are much easier to maintain.

The main problem in the examples above were in the failure to establish more realistic goals with the by-product (outcome) being losing weight.

You can't believe in the outcome solely and have expectations of being successful. You need small, manageable tasks that add up to the desired benefits and goals.

A Quick 3-Step Process To Guarantee Success From The Outset

If the desired outcome is to lose weight, setting more manageable goals while developing a reward system works much more effectively.

Instead of getting motivated to lose weight, try to focus on exercising in a short, limited amount on an every-other-day basis.

In short, the 3 most important things you can do to make lasting change in your life are the result of these conscious acts:

1) Decide On Change: Make a decision on what it is you want to change about your habits.  It isn't until we decide that something needs to change and we are determined to change it that true action and habit development can begin.

2) Create Manageable Tasks: Once you've decided the action you want to take and the desired outcome you want, work backward from that point.  Create a list of small actions and tasks you can make daily.  Small repetitions and accomplishments over time build up to a monumental change.

3) Evaluate Your Beliefs: What you believe goes along way toward success.  Discover what doubts you have; what self-limiting beliefs are you repeating to yourself that are having the negative effect on your changes? It's only through understanding our motivations and mindsets that we can overcome the barriers we create for ourselves.

By making a decisive choice to make a change, creating daily micro-accomplishments toward the end goal and examining what beliefs may be limiting performance is the best routine for you to make lasting, permanent changes in your habits.

Finally, get enough rest.

Often we limit ourselves by stressing our energy resources.  By placing too much stress on our energy stores, we have very little left over for change or resistance as it comes about in our day.  We become creatures of habit, rather than purpose and that is directly correlated with lack of sleep and energy.

There's only so much time in the day and you have only so much energy.

Prioritize your important tasks after you've had a chance to recharge.  Get a proper amount of sleep, setting the alarm for the same time every morning, and take mental breaks throughout the day.  Exercise or meditation are great ways to recharge your brain.

Stick To Your Routine. 

As you start out on making your habits permanent, one of the most important things is to make them routine. Too often we fail by taking a break just when things are becoming more difficult. But if you're serious about the changes you're trying to make, then stick-to-it-ness is critical for success.

A great trick is to post a calendar and mark it for every day you succeed in moderate exercise. (For more tips, you can read my post 5 Tips To Make A Better You)

After the first week, treat yourself to a movie (avoid the popcorn), a show, or some other activity you enjoy.

After a few weeks, if you meet your exercise goals, treat yourself to something you value a little more, say a new pair of shoes or a nice dinner out for example.

The idea is to make your incremental steps more manageable and believable.

And in the process of taking additional steps, we're able to get much further.

If you'd like to make a positive change in your life, your health or habits, get The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg from Amazon by clicking the link.

Truth is, you'll find the paperback, hardcopy or ebook format you want at an incredible price and I'll receive a small commission for helping you find the book.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What To Do When Your Best Isn't Good Enough

How To Be Successful In A World That Judges Your Outcomes

how to define success

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In a recent post I discussed the book The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

It got me thinking about what if you try your best but it's not good enough?

Well, it could be a problem of perception.

The Genius of 90%

Have you ever watched a movie that was great up until the ending?

The recent Mad Max comes to mind.

In it, the movie starts at the warlord Immortan Joe's fortress The Citadel, a cruel fortress that Immortan Joe has used to imprison survivors of the apocalypse. To control the survivors, Immortan Joe pumps water from the cliffs of The Citadel with much fanfare.

After his top warrior Imperator Furiosa helps 5 of the warlords'  herom escape, the warlord leads a war party across the wasteland to catch them with stunning cinematography and action.

It's one long car chase across the desert of Australia that thuds at the end.


For one, warlord Immortan Joe is killed about 80% into the movie.

Two, Mad Max and Furiosa return to the Citadel and the enslaved survivors know that they are now free. The water lines are opened once again to the cheering of the survivors as Mad Max disappears into the crowd.

Roll credits.

It just ends, there's no denouement.  It all ends too quickly and feels like the producer was limited by time, money, plot holes or all of the above. There's nothing that wraps the movie in a tidy way or reveals the futures of these survivors.

Judged by the ending, Mad Max: Fury Road sucks.  So why then is it so popular?

Because 90% of it is entertaining and visually stunning.

The End Justifies The Means - Or Not

So how do you define success then?  Mad Max: Fury Road is an awesome fete of cinema. Even with a quickly wrapped ending that falls flat.

We've all gone through it.  We've worked our tails off to prepare for success at something important only to fail.

You've spent hours developing an idea, going through all the necessary edits and cuts only to find out that in the end, it just wasn't good enough.

Sitting in your room at night spending hours writing a song that you're sure is the best thing you could do.

You wrote it specifically for one person in mind, that special someone.

They'll swoon with your melodies; their dreams are replays of your metaphors in their imagination.

You tell them it's unfinished but that they are the inspiration for it.

In your mind, you imagine how they'll act when you play it for them.

They'll fall in love with you (all over again).

And then you play it for them.

And their reaction is underwhelming.

"Um, that was good," they say.

"Can you play Taylor Swift?  Led Zeppelin?" they ask afterwards.

How do you react?

Are you the type of person that throws your hands up to the sky as if to say "what else can I do?"

Are you the type that allows the disappointment to consume you and paralyze you from ever taking a risk that success requires, from doing that task again?

Are you crestfallen?

Maybe.  Nobody would blame you for feeling that way.

But by spending the time to learn the chords and melodies, as well as memorize the lyrics, you're already a success.

By putting yourself out there, you're already a success.

The process has taught you things that are invaluable to how the song is received.

What if you're on a team, and you dream of winning a game, a championship, and you lose the final game you play.

Is the season a failure in your mind?

All those hours you've spent training and learning from your teammates and coaches.

All the time you've sacrificed for the team when you could have been with friends and family doing other things, is that wasted?

Yes and no.

It's true that the experience is wasted if you judge the outcome of the season as the only metric of success.

And most of the time the pressure felt immediately after the big loss is one of perception.  It's how we imagine our success is perceived by others. Friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends, players from other teams - these are who we imagine we're being judged by.

But why do we allow the perception of others to dictate our concepts of success?

Why is it that the people who didn't engage in all the hours of dedication, of learning, sculpting and rehearsing are the ones we shy away from after we fall short of our goals?

Look, we all set goals.  Some we meet and with many we fall short.  Why let other people, especially ones not invested in the process, in the hours of work you dedicated to determine your opinion of your success.

Is it something you're taught?

The Failure Of Your Education

How Your Success Is Pre-Determined By Your Approach To Learning

Habit formation and definition of success
In school, the emphasis is often on studying for the tests.

Preparing on material that you'll be tested on rather than the comprehension of the material.

Studying and the last-minute cramming of all that material just before an exam is a short-term solution.  It's like a crash diet before a day at the beach.  It may help you fit into a new bathing suit but won't make a major difference in the long run.

We too often focus on the outcomes of what we do and not on how we prepare.  In school we focus on our grade on the exam versus the long term benefits of comprehension.  It's the opinion of others that matters, by way of our grade on the exam, rather than what we've gained in understanding.

While grades are an obviously important metric for reflection, for us to gain insight on how well we grasp the material, it shouldn't be the primary point.

The point of education should be in comprehension.

Instead, it should focus on the understanding of the material.

This is how real gains are made in knowledge, not in the rote memorization of dates and facts, but in the analysis of the information.

And when doing something of value we should have the same goal in mind.

In The Eye Of The Beholder A Rose Is Still A Rose

A painter shouldn't be judged by how well they recreate a lifelike image.

But they should be judged on the nuance of their respective skills.  How well do they mix textures, lighting and shades?  How is their grasp and analysis of the subject?

If we judged painters, writers, musicians and other creatives as we do athletes and students, we'd have a much less beautiful world.

So we shouldn't let others determine that the outcome justifies the means.

How we do something and what we learn along the way is 1000 times more valuable to our well-being than the outcome of one game or how one song is received.

So when you do your best, but it's not good enough, ask yourself how you're evaluating what's "good enough."

Success shouldn't be defined by other peoples judgments of your outcomes.  If you do your best and you fall short, it's still a success.

Trust yourself and trust your process.

If you'd like to get a copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, click the picture below and get your copy from Amazon today.