Over the years, I’ve developed habits that help me overcome obstacles, get past fears, take action, and reach my goals. While visiting my family over the Christmas holiday, we talked about some of them. My mom suggested that I share them with people. Check out these weird things I do.
I use the following practice for steadying my mind when it’s tired, off-center, and unfocused.
- To energize my mind, I’ll do a yoga routine. Rodney Yee’s DVD, A.M. and P.M. Yoga, is perfect for this because his A.M. yoga routine is a beginner-friendly way to start the morning.
- To center my mind, I’ll then use a customized 4-track playlist from Pamela Mile’s Meditate CD that equates to roughly 20 minutes of a semi-guided meditation and instrumental tracks.
- To visualize my goals, I’ll also use affirmations while meditating. It’s a technique I learned from Shakti Gawain’s book Creative Visualization.
However, the most important thing I do during this practice is not to pass judgment on whether I do it “right.” If I meditate for 5 seconds or 5 minutes, I consider it a success that I was able to quiet the mind at all.
2. Do One Thing
This is my favorite way to bust procrastination. I adopted this after reading Gary Keller’s book, The ONE Thing. It’s a quick four-step process.
- I take an index card (or paper) and write “The One Thing” at the top.
- I ask myself, “what’s the one thing I could do right now that would make everything else easier or unnecessary.”
- I write the answer down on the index card.
- I complete that one task.
It works because the task I write down on the index card is usually the main reason I’m procrastinating. And it permits me to forget all the other tasks (for now), which makes it easy to focus on completing the ONE job that will make everything else easier or unnecessary.
3. Get Inspired
I like to start my day feeling inspired, and the loo is the perfect place to do that.
It’s the only room in the house where I can be alone with minimal interruption. That makes it great for reading books, but if I’m in there for too long, people begin to wonder if I fell in. So the books I read need to be inspirational, but readable in short periods.
My loobrary consists of the following books:
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life by Richard Carlson
- How To Be Interesting (in 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy
- What To Do When It’s Your Turn by Seth Godin
- Damn Good Advice (for People with Talent) by George Lois
I spend a few minutes each day reading different parts of these books, and I open myself to the possibility of being inspired.
It’s is a great way to start the day.
I use platforms like Udacity, Coursera, and EdX to take online classes in a variety of exciting topics like economics, art history, and communication. I also buy a lot of nonfiction books on a variety of topics like psychology, design, and management.
This quote from Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, perfectly sums up my experience with continuing education.
“I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things.”
When I started my career ten years ago, I was an art school dropout with some programming skills. Today, I’m a college graduate working at the intersection of consumer technology and customer experience design.
That’s the power of self-education.
5. Read A Book A Month
The single best piece of career advice I read was in Jack Canfield’s The Power of Focus. He quotes Jim Rohn as saying,
“if you read one book every month about your industry, in 10 years you’ll have read 120 books. That will put you in the top 1% of your field.”
It’s been over ten years since that quote inspired me. And I’ve read way, way more than 120 books. I don’t know if I’m in the top 1% of my field, but I’m working near there.
6. Write Morning Pages
A while ago, I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a book that teaches techniques and exercises that helped me become confident in my creative skills. The one method I continue to use from the book is Morning Pages. I’ll let Julia Cameron explain:.
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. ‘There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages’–they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
The best time for me to write my Morning Pages is immediately after waking. I’m just too tired to do anything other than a stream of consciousness writing.
It’s refreshing to start the day with a clear mind.
7. Step Into The Fear
One morning I had a flash of inspiration. I realized that my worst regrets and best memories were directly connected to how I reacted to fear.
When I was paralyzed by a fear of failure, fear of the unknown, or fear of making the wrong choice, I would come to regret it. Alternatively, when I took action in the face of those fears, I was rewarded for it.
Over time I developed a habit that reminds me to take action in the face of fear. I’ll say to myself, “step into the fear.”
It’s a reminder that I can control my reaction to fear; that the only wrong decision I can make is indecision, and that uncertainty will probably lead to regret.
8. Choose Joy
Each time I use the techniques in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I immediately feel lighter and ready for new things to come into my life.
I’ve since adopted one of the techniques as a trigger for when people, situations, organizations, hobbies, books, classes, etc. clutter my mind with frustration.
I’ll ask myself, ”Does it bring me joy?” If it does, then I keep it. If it doesn’t, but I still want to keep it, I’ll ask, “Has it served its purpose?” If it has, then I know what I have to do. If it hasn’t, then I keep it.
However, the only way this works is if I am brutally honest in answering those questions. And I know I can count on my inner critic for that. He just doesn’t let me get away with lying to myself.
9. Fire Up the Time Machine
I use beacons to take me back to pivotal moments in my life. They include movies, books, documentaries, totems, trinkets, quotes, and pictures. This is a technique I use when I’m feeling a little hazy, and I need a pick-me-up.
The beacons act as a lens from the past that points to the future. Through that lens, I get a bird’s eye view of the present. I consciously and subconsciously remember all the memorable moments and great tragedies that helped me become who I am today.
And after stepping through the time machine, there’s a sense of clarity. The haze is lifted, and I’m able to look to the future with excitement and wonder about what comes next.
10. Learn A New Skill
Learning a new skill serves a few purposes:
It’s cognitively demanding to be a beginner at something. There’s rarely room for anything other than the tasks at hand. So, it’s an excellent opportunity to leave my regularly scheduled life for a bit.
It’s also a great way to experiment with permitting myself to fail. Learning a new skill is a humbling reminder that the journey is how you get to the destination. It’s an excellent antidote to the pursuit of perfection. Especially since perfection doesn’t exist.
Lastly, you never know when you’ll need a random skill.
11. (Under) Promise and Over-Deliver
First off, I certainly don’t promise less work than I’m capable of and then deliver exactly what I’m capable of. I think that approach cheapens the spirit of the statement.
So I amended the statement to fall more in line with how I feel. I “promise and over-deliver.”
I always challenge myself to deliver more than is expected of me whenever I accept a task. I believe it’s the only way to make a genuine and honest impact on people’s lives.
12. Get In The Driver’s Seat
In The Power of Focus, Jack Canfield wrote:
“Think of a car driving through the night. The headlights only go a hundred to two hundred feet forward, and you can make it all the way from California to New York driving through the dark, because all you have to see is the next two hundred feet. And that’s how life tends to unfold before us. If we just trust that the next two hundred feet will unfold after that, and the next two hundred feet will unfold after that, your life will keep unfolding. And it will eventually get you to the destination of whatever it is you truly want, because you want it.”
And the great philosopher from behind the plate, Yogi Berra, once said:
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
The quotes above act as a beacon. They remind me that I’m in the driver’s seat of my life. The weird things I listed above are the headlights I use when it gets dark and the GPS I use when I’m lost.
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Originally published on Medium, January 22, 2017