Career or goals in life. Just have to have faith that it will happen for you!

5 Surefire Ways to Improve Your Personal Strengths

 

One of the things that I believe is necessary for people to perform at a high performance level on their life journey is to become aware of what they’re naturally good at in life. I’ve mentioned several books that you can learn about this with (StrengthFinders and Standout are my top two), but this really is the beginning of your journey.

The next step of leveling up in life is working on these strengths. In the video above, John mentions that you need to focus on your strengths and not on your weaknesses. However, he doesn’t exactly say how you can do that.

Here are some strategies that I’ve used in the past which will help you improve your personal strengths.

Gain Experience

When I was a kid, one of the coolest things to look forward to during the school year was when we would go on field trips. I think as a kid, you want to go because it’s a change of scenery from the regular class room. Also, the longer it took to get to the destination, so that meant more time you had on the bus to mess around.

Those days were awesome.

Looking back, though, I think those field trips had more lasting impressions on me on what I remembered than talking about the same thing in class. Was it because of the change of the routine? Sure. Perhaps that’s what started the the vivid memories, but being fully engaged in the environment I’m sure helped as well. Whether it was a trip to the Children’s Museum in Indy to study dinosaurs, or a trip to Metamora to learn about canals and to ride a train, those were the days that very particular memories have stuck with me.

Later in college I had lab segments for many of my courses. Professors said that these sections were for hands on learning. Well, I’ll tell you, I was horrible at many of the in class activities we had. (I was so horrible in lab that I came close to failing most practicals!)

However, thinking back now I realize that if it wasn’t for the lab section of many of my undergrad courses, that I wouldn’t have done as well in the rest of the course.

In both situations, I can think back now and realize how important those times were, even though (especially in the case of the lab sections) the material stretched me a little bit. Today, I compare many of the road trips I’ve been on with my past field trips. Likewise, when it comes to doing things that I’ve never done, I can think about the labs that I was in and think “Well, I know nothing can be that bad!”.

In the end, it’s that hard earned experience that will launch you further than if you just passively heard about it. It gives you confidence that you know what’s going to come up around the bend. Having dealt with similar situations before really helps you be confident in that you can handle whatever you’re doing with ease. And it also means that you can share something with others about how it went last time.

Get Feedback

Verification is key. Just ask any comedian.

Do you know why comedians are really funny when you just hear about them and then later they’re not as much? It’s because until the point where you’ve heard them, they’ve probably been working on that same joke routine for 5 to 15 years! From small audience to larger audience, to finally getting noticed by Comedy Central and then possibly on to sitcoms – they’re working on the same material.

After the Comedy Central Special has aired or the sitcom has run its course, what happens to these successful comedians? Many would say they go underground.  It could be that, sure. Another thought is that they haven’t had time to get their new material as polished as their old stuff… or they just don’t feel the need to!

Similarly, when you’re doing an activity that utilizes your strengths, make sure you’re asking for feedback. For one, it makes you better at your strengths. And two, it might just keep you relevant to your potential audience!

Keep a Journal (Write Stuff Down)

Ok, so as you might be aware, I recently started writing down weekly plans. This has been game changing and I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks now. I now know why teachers have to lesson plan. It’s amazing the difference of work you can get done when you plan out when you’re going to work and get stuff down.

On top of this, I’m also keeping ideas down as part of my daily journaling. Journaling is just as important as the weekly planning because it’s really easy to later examine what you’ve already done.

Writing things down is also important because it just stares back at you. It doesn’t change. You can keep coming back to it and adding. Obviously, the opposite of that, simply speaking things and trying to remember them… is not so functional. It’s real easy to go from one idea to the next. Never really planning anything out.

Just get things recorded and you’ll later be able to act on them or make them better. (In fact, a recommendation that Pat has is using sticky notes if you’re looking to brainstorm. He does this for books.)

Participate in a Mastermind (or another type of study group)

Think tanks, masterminds, roundtables, or simply small groups – whatever you call them – can be huge. Not only do you get the benefit of immediate feedback, but you also have the benefit of multiple people contributing to making each other better. Throwing an idea out and reflecting upon it with a group is obviously going to have much better results than you just working on it yourself or with one other individual.

Follow in the Footsteps of Others

One of the sayings that I’ve heard over and over about being mentored and/or coached on a strength is that particular mentor or coach has probably seen it before. So the question is, “Do you want to find the land mines yourself or would you like to know where they are and get through the path faster?”

Personally, I’d like to know where the potential problems are going to be and learn from others about them.

To do this, you can either personally interact with someone 1on1 (probably expensive) or you can spend time reading books and online resources that they have produced. Either way, just one hour a day spent towards using these resources will help you grow a great deal. Depending on the topic, after a month or so, the results of study and fine tuning start compounding and you’ll notice a great difference.

Homework

Ever since I started on my self development path back in 2006, I’ve believed that we should focus on growing our strengths, and get help on our weaknesses. Once you figure out what your strengths are (again, I’m a Connector and a Teacher according to Standout), work on gaining experience doing those strengths, getting feedback, keeping a journal, participating in groups, and studying great resources. You’ll find that your efforts in these areas will pay great dividends in your personal growth.

If you have already started developing your strengths, I’d love to hear how you did it. Was it one of the ways above or something completely different?

Want Less Drama in Life? Stop People Pleasing!

One of the things that so many people complain about in their life is the amount of drama that is in it. And one of the biggest problems that causes this drama between us and other people is an inner feeling that we have to make everyone like us; we need to be the solution to everyone’s problems. We need to be there for people so they continue to be our friend… or just nice to us.

At first, we like this feeling with people. We all like to feel that we’re important. We like to feel that the more we help this person, the more they’ll see us as a reliable and trustworthy friend and/or more.

However, as time goes on, we might start feeling that they’re taking advantage of us. That if we don’t do what they ask, they’ll be upset and we won’t hear the end of it.

“It’s their fault that they don’t understand me! If they understood my position, they’d stop asking so much from me!” you say?

Not necessarily. As adults, being stretched thin is totally our call. More than likely, we were the one’s who said yes to helping them in the first place. They asked and we agreed.

We all have demands in life that need our attention. On one hand, some of us are just better at asking for help from others. On the other, some of us are more inclined to be the helper.

If you are that helper type who wants less drama in your life, maybe ask yourself how you can get out of your situation.

More importantly, “How do we stop people pleasing?”.

First, you need to start expressing your concerns and opinions around others by communicating more clearly.

And second, by working on yourself some so it doesn’t happen as much as in the future.

Start Being Ourselves Around Others and Communicating More Clearly

If you find out that you’re a people pleaser, you might be wondering what you can do to stop it right away. Well, that might be a little hard depending on your situation. I mean, you still more than likely want to remain friends with these people – you just want to change your relationship with them a little. So let’s look at some of the things you can do right away that will help give you some space and time to figure out the deeper issues.

Stalling  – Not exactly the best tactic as it’s not very clear per se, but I have to put it in here if you’re looking for some immediate help. You’ve probably already played dumb or said you have too much going on to deal with their request right now (…however they can call you later).  Simply remember that this tactic only gets you so far and that as soon as you say yes, you’re stuck.

Ask for What You Want –  If you’re with a group of people, just say what you want to do. You might not change anyone’s mind, but it might surprise you that some of them might have wanted to do the same thing… they were just too afraid to say anything.

Compromise – If you’re with one other person, simply go for the trade. It might be as simple as saying, “If we do this, I’d like to to this.” Don’t try and force your decision on them. Remember, you’re trying to eliminate stress here. Do it for both parties.

Set a Time Limit – Another way of getting out of doing something you don’t want to is actually agreeing, but saying you can only do it for so long. This is a form of a compromise, but instead you’re giving yourself room to part ways.

Learn How to Say No (Don’t Give Excuses) – Sometimes, none of the other tactics are going to work. Perhaps you don’t like a co-worker’s friends. Or you get stressed at certain events. You simply don’t want to do whatever is being asking of you. When this happens, you’re just going to have to grin and bare the response. Just remember to be POLITE in your response. A simple “no, thanks” typically goes far.

Do Something For Yourself – Many of us agree to do what others are doing because we don’t want to be left behind. However, it’s totally ok for you to do things on your own if you are left behind. In fact, you should learn how to embrace it! None of your friends want to go to the other movie you suggested? Check it out on your own time! Let other’s opinions be things to consider in your decision – just not the final factor.

Whichever of these that you choose, remember that in the end, no one is a mind reader. So remember that they’re not used to you actually voicing an opinion. Also, don’t expect them to suddenly start waiting for your response.

The Harder but More Rewarding Part – Working on Ourselves

Until you examine who you are and adjust, you’re still going to attract the same kind of people in your life. This is true of not only people who want to take advantage of you, but all negative people. So let’s start digging deep and start changing some things around a little bit.

Examine Your Fears – Most of the time when people are people pleasers it’s because we are afraid of the outcome of not pleasing others. In a worse case scenario, if we start expressing our needs, will others accept them? If the answer to that is no, ask yourself if they’re really worth keeping around. Are they a lifter or a weight in your life?

Recognize Your Successes (Keep a Journal!) – Another reason we are people pleasers is because we feel that going with the flow of others adds value to us. You’re totally aware of their success, but of they of yours? Remember times that you have accomplished things. Even if you don’t think they were a big deal. To someone in the world, they are. Did you learn how to finally use roller blades? Good. Got your first meaningful job? Great! Celebrate your wins no matter the size and keep a record of them so you can look back in the future if needed.

Examine Boundaries (and Create New Ones) – Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Do you tolerate the intolerable? Or do you strive for excellence and set the bar up there for others as well? Learn how to identify and label unacceptable behavior for others. When they do it ask yourself why they’re even in your social group.

Stop Basing Your Own Worth By How Much You Do For Others – I saw a post on Facebook not too long ago that said that if the world was full of love that worth would not exist. Here’s the thing: if you hang out with people who do appreciate and respect you, you’re going to find out that you have all the worthiness you need to be successful in life. Stop

Consider the Source (Are You Being Manipulated?) – Sometimes people are just manipulators and you’ll have to learn how to sniff them out. A classic line that manipulators use is “Oh, you’re so great at XYZ! Would you help me with mine?” That doesn’t sound so bad, but on top of that they’ll try and coax you into doing something you hadn’t planned on and try to tell you what your availability AND time frame is to said job. They make the decision for you.

Run from these types of people.

Practice Successive Approximation (Create an A-Z plan and list) – Sometimes you’ll have people in your life that just can’t take the hint. You’ve tried several of the above tactics and they’re still being persistent in trying to get your attention and/or telling you how you can help them.

In this case, you’ll need a plan to get from where you currently are with this person to where you want them in your life. If they’re actions are predictable, this will be much easier to carry out.

An example might be noisy neighbors. Step 1: Just greet them. Step 2: Next time you see them, mention how noisy the neighborhood gets. Step 3: If they didn’t get the hint yet, just go knock on their door and politely ask for them to quiet it down.

Consider who you want to give your time to. – Ultimately your choice is yours to make. Do you want to spend time with someone who constantly makes you feel bad or with those who will respect and care about you?

Don’t be Scared of the Fallout – If someone in your life isn’t happy that you’re setting boundaries and starting to care about your own time and what you invest it in, perhaps you don’t need that person around. I know this is the hard part, but it isn’t your job to worry about what others think of you.

Realize You Can’t Be Everything to Everyone – Frankly, you are who you are. You have your strengths and weaknesses, as does everyone else in the world. Don’t expect to be Superman. Just realize that no one is perfect and you shouldn’t expect for yourself to be. When you have to say no, it’s ok. Just remember that you’re saving yourself in the long run by not rescuing everyone.

You only have so much time on Earth. Make a Stand. Make Your Time Your Time.

Homework

The next time you’re feeling that angry feeling towards someone “controlling” you, think about who they are. If they’re not a boss, client, or family member ask yourself if you need them in your life. Even if they are a supervisor, client, or family member, ask yourself if this constant frustration is worth your long term time and energy. If it isn’t, start looking for a new job or different clients. If it’s with a family member, figure out ways of limiting your time with them. Whatever is in your life right this instant isn’t what you’ve always had and always will have. Change is inevitable. Just become the catalyst and change it yourself.

Properly Wielding Positive AND Negative Thinking

The Ying Yang of Positive and Negative Thinking

In the world of self-help and personal development, one of the biggest things you hear is that positive thinking will help get you where you want to go. That you must change all your negative views to positive ones. That you should always be a optimist. I see where people are going with that… but it’s only half the truth. The key is learning how to use both positive and negative thinking together.

I was a Pessimist Before I was an Optimist

It might sound odd, but looking back on my life, I believe that I was a pessimist for much of it. At one time, I was so focused on the bad things which were going to inevitably happen, that I never saw the good things for what they were.

I don’t know how I became a pessimist, really. Perhaps it was being picked on at a young age and then moving on to being socially awkward and not wanting to do anything outside my comfort zone? That might have been it.

I do know that it got worse in some ways when I got to college. I went through several instances of depression when I first got there. Mainly because one of the few things I was decent at (getting good grades) I was no longer capable of doing – so it seemed. So instead of having time to figure out who I was and working on problems in my own time, I felt I had to keep up. I went from being the victim to being the delinquent. I looked for what was wrong with a given situation, other people, and how I could exploit them. And as you could probably imagine, this was a bad habit to get into. It turned me into someone that wanted to fix everything and everyone. What I saw wrong in others was a reflection of the insecurities I saw in myself. It also made me think that nothing was my fault.

Obviously, this perspective quickly drops one’s self-esteem and confidence and keeps it down. How come? Simply because your subconscious mind is always listening. Crap in, crap out.

If most of your thoughts are of judging others, then you’re going to probably think negatively of yourself and of the world, too.

In fact, it was only recently that I started learning how to give compliments (without being weird) and how to receive them.

Moving from Pessimism to Optimism

When I first got into LTD in 2006, going out of my way to think positively was very liberating but difficult at the same time. I was so used to putting others and myself down. Half the time I didn’t even realize I was doing it until members of my upline pointed it out. (Thanks Gabe and Dave!) I didn’t realize that many of the bad vibes that I had with other people were because of my own words and actions. It was then that I realized I wasn’t a great as person as I had thought.

One of the first books I read when I got into LTD was called What to Say When You Talk To Yourself (Kindleby Dr. Shad Helmstetter.

In the book, he talks about how there is a feedback system not too different than the Trigger => Habit => Reward system that I talked about here.

His model is: Programming => Beliefs => Attitudes => Feelings => Actions => Results. Your results then reinforce or chip away at the programming in your head. Cycle starts over again.

As you start taking control and being aware of this loop, your life starts to take a turn for the better. You are now present and start to realize that you can actually achieve things that you set out to do. Life isn’t just about chances and things outside of your control.

Hoping Your Life Away

However, something I’ve seen time and time again are people wishing their way out of things actually getting done. That as long as they focus on how awesome the future is going to be, that it will magically happen for them. In fact, for the longest time after getting involved with LTD and reading self-help book after self-help book I was caught up in this mindset. This limbo mindset can be described as doing something completely different than what you should be doing to get you the desired results you want.

Or, in other words, you’re practicing to be a basketball player but want to be a professional baseball player. Both types of players want to win, true. But how many people remember Michael Jordan as a baseball player? Not many outside of classic sports and sports trivia world. He didn’t have nearly as much time practicing and playing baseball as he did basketball. Therefore, he wasn’t as great. (Not totally knocking him, though. A professional athlete is still a professional athlete!)

Positive Thinking is a great thing. However, on top of the mentality to succeed, you need motivation to get started. Most of the time, stress is that motivator.

Appreciative Inquiry or Problem Solving? The Realist Uses Both.

In the above video, Kelly talks about how stress can actually be a good thing in your life. However, by many yet today, stress is considered a big killer. They believe that you have to do anything you can to avoid stress. Some of them might even believe a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) is all that you need to succeed and that all your stresses will simply melt away (or they’ll somehow take care of themselves…?).

Ha. Likely story, right?

When you have a stress at home, school, or at work, you have a choice to do two things. You can either see all the good effects the stress has made, or you can simply find a solution for the stress. In academia, looking for the good is called Appreciative Inquiry.

Again, I’d argue that it’s only half the solution.

The truth is that stress is a sign that you care about the thing that you’re stressing out about.

What I’ve found is that if you don’t have stress, you don’t really have that initial motivation to get started in your next journey. If you don’t see things that are wrong with life… then how can you possibly help to fix them and add value to others? You can’t simply block bad things out of your mind. You must recognize the problem that is there then choose on how you’re going to deal with it. This is the proper use of Negative Thinking. It is basis for the Scientific Method (aka the Problem-Solving Method).

In the end, the difference between good stress and bad stress isn’t the stress itself, it’s what your reaction is.

Do you see stress as a threat? Do you see it as a challenge to make your life and the life of other’s around you better?

I would recommend to try to see the stress in BOTH perspectives. See it as a threat and then see it as the challenge. Threats have to be dealt with immediately, challenges make us better off when we overcome them.

Is the glass half full or half empty? It’s both. Fill it up the rest of the way and get on with life.

Homework:

I want you to specifically look for an instance in your life where you might get stressed and start freaking out. For many of us, we ourselves, or people we know, school is starting up again. Maybe you have a big review coming up at your job? Or perhaps you have a presentation you have to give to a potential client?

Whatever the situation, I want you to look at it as an opportunity to knock one out of the ballpark.

Then, I want you to prepare for that event as if you’ve done many before and this is just another notch on the wall. Prepare proactively and not reactively. Have a strategy. Sure, you could miss, but if you prepare for the big day with a little bit of positivity and enough caution to take the event seriously, you’ll probably do better than you expect.

Let me know how it goes for you and if you changed anything from when you typically handle a stressful situation.

The Bad Excuse of Perfectionism

Perfectionism: Good or Bad?

Most of my life I’ve been wanting to do something as good as I could because my name was tied to it’s quality. The better and well put together the project, the better I looked. So becoming a Perfectionist wasn’t too hard for me. In fact, for many years I thought being a perfectionist was a compliment.

However, as time went on, I came to realize that being a perfectionist was an excuse. That if you boiled it down, I wanted to be certain of getting desired outcome before even trying to make an attempt at that outcome.

One of the things that first hit me when I was in grad school was this idea that perfectionism could actually be a bad thing. That making sure that something you produced was good enough for you. That everything was perfect.

In grad school, they talked about how there were PhD candidates that would be so involved with having a perfect dissertation that they’d miss their defense date and not graduate for another semester.

That is a stark difference than what I had seen in my undergrad days or even before – when I was rushing to get things “done” and turning them in on time. It was hard for me to believe that people could miss deadlines by trying to be perfect – because wasn’t meeting that deadline part of being perfect?

Perspectives of Perfectionism

Afraid of Being Wrong

As I think back, though, I remember one time after I had taken a salsa dance lesson. I had learned a new move and wanted to try some things out with a friend. However, because I was too imperfect in my mind, I was afraid to even be on the dance floor. I couldn’t do what I came to do. It was torture.

Sometimes the hard part is starting. Sometimes it’s finishing.

In the creative life, it’s been said that as a creator you’ll always find something that needs to be touched up on. Whether that’s a speech, a painting, or a video, you’re never going to be truly satisfied. You’ll need to find out how to say “Well, that’s good enough”.

Simply accept that no one is perfect and neither should their work be.

Failure, the Twin of Success

Without failure, we can’t learn. I know, I know. School and Corporate America would tell you otherwise. The thing is, though, is that failure is necessary for growth. Have you ever heard the saying “If I’m not failing, I’m not trying?” Here’s another perspective for you. If you’re not trying, you’re not doing what you’re meant to do. Which means, if you’re not failing you’re not doing what you’re meant to do. Which is worse? Failing or doing what’s meaningful to you?

 

Tactics to Overcome Perfectionism

Prioritization

I recently saw this quote graphic on Facebook:

The-key-is-not-to-prioritize-what’s-on-your-schedule-but-to-schedule-your-priorities-Stephen-Covey-QUOTES

Setting priorities is key. If we stretch ourselves too thin, we’ll be creating opportunities for our perfectionism to get the best of us. When you focus on one thing at a time, you’ll have a high likelihood to get that one thing done. Make sure you realize how much time you’ll need and set realistic time aside accordingly.

Scheduling

I recently posted about my weekly scheduling routine in this post. Weekly scheduling does a couple of things. First, it takes those priorities you just listed and gives them mini-deadlines in a given week. Deadlines are important because setting them and meeting them helps you get to your next priority.

Scheduling, especially with an app like Google Calendar, also gives you a mini-time line and helps you keep track of things you’re going to be doing.

How Do You Eat An Elephant? One Bite at a Time.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself continually hitting a wall when you’re trying to do a project during a certain amount of time. That’s when you know that you’ll need to cut your projects into smaller components. An example might be doing a project for school.

When I was doing my major projects for school, including my senior design project and my thesis, there were milestones that were set for me. As a creative doing our own thing, we need to be able to figure out what those milestones are on our own. If your shooting to get 10 things done in a week and you’ve fallen short, try getting 2 done and see how long that takes.

Fire, aim, ready. Repeat.

In the world of engineering, we’re taught to measure twice and cut once. Be as efficient as possible. However, that can really kill you as a creative. Why? As an engineer we have parameters that we have to build something in. On the other hand, as a creative, we have little to no parameters – other than those we set for ourselves. So the easiest way to figure out what those parameters are is to just fire, see what the bullet hits (if anything), and then adjust accordingly. Then try again.

In the end…

The trick to fighting Perfectionism is to not fear or dread doing your projects.

You still have to get them done. However, Just Do-ing It might involve being a little strategic.

Take back control.

Get your stuff out there and see the difference in the world you can make!

Developing Life Changing Habits Through 5 Types of Triggers

A Little Background in Habit Formation Theory

There are two books that are pretty interesting reads about habit formation. The first one, the Power of Habit (via Audible), Charles Duhigg talks about The Habit Loop. In this loop, there are three parts to forming and reinforcing habits.

1. The Cue / The Trigger – the event that actually starts the habit

2. The Routine – the actual habit that is performed

3. The Reward – what doing the habit gets the participant

In the the second book, Hooked (via Audible), Nir Eyal takes this loop and adds another piece called:

4.  The Investment – The longer we spend doing a habit that yields favorable rewards, the less likely we are to stop doing that habit.

Each phase of the loop is important in developing new habits. If it wasn’t for a cue, we wouldn’t start the routine. If it wasn’t for the routine, we wouldn’t get the reward. If it wasn’t for the reward, the cue wouldn’t mean as much to us in the future. Therefore, we wouldn’t spend as much time on it. So on, and so forth.

Simple enough, right?

Note: In the video above Brendon talks about the importance of Triggers. The term Trigger is another name for the term Cue. Personally when I think of the word cue I think of a cue ball. When hit by the pool stick, the cue ball starts a series of events that hopefully lands a ball in a pocket during a pool game. Likewise, when I think of the word trigger, I think of a trigger on a firearm that starts the whole chain of events that pushes a bullet out of that firearm. Personally, I use them interchangeably, but we’ll stick with Trigger for the rest of the post.

In this post, we’ll be specifically talking about Trigger use and formation. I believe it’s the most important part of the Habit Loop and probably the one we have the most control on.

Trigger 1: Time

In Brendon’s video, he talks about setting alarms to be triggers. Time is probably the easiest way to start habits. Most of us start our days with alarms that starts a chain of events where we’re getting ready for the day. (Others are luckier where they don’t need an alarm to start their day. They’re triggered by kids, pets, or even the sun. Wouldn’t it be nice?)

How and when to use it: In the video, he talks about setting three alarms on your phone to keep yourself calm throughout the day. This helps someone be more present. For me, I use alarms to remind myself when to keep hydrated. Using time as a trigger is typically used to do something that you need to do a reoccurring daily basis.

Trigger 2: People

When I’m around other people, I have an internal switch that goes off. Most of the time, I’m an introvert. But when I’m around others (especially networking), I go into extrovert mode and start talking to everyone I can. Why? Because both of my strengths involve interacting and adding value to other people: teaching and connecting.

Other people will use others as a trigger as well. If you’ve ever heard of social drinkers, these people use others to tell themselves when to drink. While it might not be the best habit to have, the end result is the same as mine: connecting with people.

The difference of the two habits is that I learned mine from hanging around other successful people. While the social drinkers might have learned their habit from their party days at college.

How and when to Use it: Depending on who you want to connect with, you’ll need to practice a method of connecting. Whether you’re the life of the party, the host, OR the bartender, you can’t afford to be socially awkward. Learn how to be normal (which we’ll discuss at another time) and enjoy others’ company.

 

Trigger 3: Places

Sometimes it can be really hard to get through a kitchen, especially if there’s pie sitting out. Or walk by a pool at the YMCA without wanting to jump right in. Places can be triggers too.

However, among all the triggers, places can be the start of the most mindless habits. This can be good and bad. If you’re an addict and you’re exposed to whatever you’ve been addicted to, it’s much easier to indulge. Likewise, if you’re that same addict and you’re putting yourself in all new situations, it’s much easier to find something else to put your mind on.

Studies by David Neal and Wendy Wood from Duke University suggest that new habits are actually easier to perform in new locations. They say that old locations mean old habits and old routines. If you’re trying to perform a new habit, you’ll have to break the old cycle which can be very difficult. Likewise, new places are like blank slates. There aren’t any pre-existing triggers, therefore it should be easier to start a new habit.

I know for me that I do all my work in an office. Why? Because anywhere else I go I can’t seem to get that same work done. I’ve set the office setting to work and the rest of the house for other things.

How and when to Use it: As mentioned before, locations can equally trigger good and bad habits. First, if you’re trying to do something new, see if you can’t find a new place to do that new thing. Are you working out after several months or years of not regularly? You should probably go to the gym (unless of course you suddenly find all of your furniture replaced by exercise machines). Are you trying to start a business at home? You better not start typing in your comfy chair in the living room. Instead, if you have a spare room/space, go there. If you don’t, go to a nearby coffee shop or restaurant with Wi-Fi.

Trigger 4: Emotions

Many people eat when they’re bored, sad, or even anxious. For most of my life, that was me. Or if you don’t eat, maybe you play video games instead. Either way, these habits are caused by emotions. And as we all know, those who let their emotions dictate to them, don’t live a very happy life.

Emotional habits tend to happen when we’re not present. If you think about the video and Brendon talking about the alarm trigger for a minute, it’s almost a double trigger. First, the alarm triggers you to breathe in a way to make you calmer. As you get calmer, you become more present. If you’re present, you can make better choices. You’re not running on emotions at this point, you’re running on logic. And this new logic can help you build better habits.

How and when to Use it: One thing you can start doing is trying to sense any weird habits you have. Do you bite or pick at your nails? Do you fidget? Then, when you identify them, figure out what caused them. Do they start from you being anxious or bored? Are you still feeling that way? If you are, sense that feeling and then make yourself do something else. Perhaps you can start a few exercises? Or you can take Brendon’s advice and do a breathing technique to calm yourself.

Trigger 5: Notifications and other Events

The last kind of trigger that I know gets the best of me are beeps from my phone and tabs flashing or showing numbers in Chrome because of new messages. If it has a sound notification, I typically got to deal with it. If it’s visual, it gets harder as time goes on. This is the bad side of events being a trigger. However on the other side of the coin, you can build new habits by what’s called Habit Stacking. Habit Stacking is a new term I learned from my mastermind in which you start with one habit. As time goes on, you add another. One such habit stack might be our waking up or going to bed ritual. When it’s time to get up, you typically have a routine that you do. It can be as simple as using the toilet, taking a shower, and then brushing your teeth. Or perhaps you’re one of those who like to start coffee first and then do a few exercises?

How and when to Use it: You should not that the smaller the habit is, the easier it is to put into your life. It’ll probably much easier to eat healthier in the morning than suddenly becoming an early morning runner. However, that said, it really depends on your goals. If you want to feel like you’ve accomplished something by running a mini-marathon, then perhaps the running routine might be better followed by a shake later on in the day.

Picking Your Next Habit Trigger

Regardless of which habit you want to do, you’ll need to make sure that the trigger you choose for that habit is specifically defined and actionable. For me, I like to do certain exercises a day. I typically do them right after I’m done getting my shoes on for the day. I’ll do 35 pushups and then walk the dogs for 20 minutes. After that, I’ll be fresh and alert and ready to get my day started.

Experiences with Triggers?

In the comments below, I’d love to hear how you’ve used triggers in the past for good or bad habits. If you do have some bad habits you’d like to get rid of, what are some ideas that you have to weed them out of your routine?

5 Steps to Successful Weekly Planning via Tony Robbins

Weekly planning. It’s something that many of us might not be familiar with. Especially if we’re having to deinstitutionalize ourselves from the academic and/or corporate world. But the thing is that planning is a vital element to be successful in self made career.

So let’s see what Tony has to say on the matter:

“I Don’t Have Enough Time.”

When I was first getting started with LTD, one of the first CDs I ever heard had a Diamond talking about how people have a top few excuses about why they don’t want to start The Business. The number one reason was this phrase.

The CD continued, “There is no bigger killer of dreams than those five words”.

But the truth is, everyone that has ever lived has had the same amount of minutes in a given day and in a given week. Lack of time never stopped Picaso from painting, it never stopped Steve Jobs from creating and building Apple, and it sure hasn’t stopped Tony Robbins from connecting with tens of thousands of people (yearly) from all over the world.

So the question is… how do they do it?

When it comes to time, they have a strategy. Most of us don’t. In fact, I’m still learning to keep an ever more productive calendar and this is why I wanted to share the strategy with you.

The first thing to do is stop telling yourself that busy people are special. They’re not. They simply have found a strategy that works for them. Then they execute, adjust, and execute again.

Most people go into the week with little planning going into what their week looks like. At best, they have a jumbled list of tasks.

I fear, however, that many of us were taught to act this way. From day one in Kindergarten, we’ve been told when it’s time to stop something and then move onto the next task. Those who went to college had even more of this ingrained into our heads.

This is one reason doing something you love is not easy. We’re not used to setting our own schedules.

If you’re wanting to do something on your own, you need to have a strategy, otherwise you’re going to sink back to default which is waiting for someone to tell you to do something.

However, you should realize that the strategy that successful people have is not just for them. You can learn it too.

5 Step Weekly Planning Method

So below you’ll see the overview of the different steps. While we note that many execute, learn, and then execute again, there are 3 other important steps.

1. Commit To Success

2. Be Present

3. Reflect on the Past

4. Plan the Future

5. Fill in the Gaps

So let’s dive in.


1. Commit To Success

It all starts with the Routine

When you’re committing to success, there are two vital parts you need to take note of. First and foremost is the actual point in the week in which you do the planning that we’re going to be laying out here. Personally, I like to do it on Sunday. Sundays have always felt so “Ugh, here comes another week” most of my life that I want to replace that feeling with a “Oh snap. Here’s the stuff I’m looking forward to doing this week!”

However, if Sunday doesn’t look good for you, then perhaps the first thing on Monday might be better?

Either way, you’ll need an hour to do this. (Possibly up to 2 hours if you’re just beginning your journey and aren’t in a groove yet!) Also, make sure you do it before checking emails or any other weekly tasks.

Action Step 1: Write down your planning time and schedule it. That’s the first thing you have to commit to each week. Committing to yourself.


2. Be Present

Building the Framework (Visualizing the Big Picture)

So, as I’ve said plenty of times on NI before, you always want to start with the end in mind, right? When you get there, how will you know? What does success actually look like? Where do you want to be in the next 3 to 10 years? What do you want to be remembered for? Think of these items as your framework for what you’re doing. Without the foundation, whatever you do this week won’t be anchored properly.

In fact, it might help to put this in some sort of visual aide so that you remember quickly it from week to week.

Action Step 2: When meeting with yourself, reconstruct your goals and framework to get there. This first step should be relatively short. 2-5 minutes at most.


3. Reflect on the Past

What Were Your Wins?

First part you can look forward to is celebrating your wins. People rarely take the time to appreciate the things they’ve accomplished before diving into what’s next. Personally, I know I’m horrible with this. Learn how to be proud of things you’ve done. Learn how to give yourself a compliment – a good grade.

Here’s something that was a win for me last week: I was able to edit all of the first AoL podcast using a software I didn’t know much about. Had a awesome Fizzle meeting with Maria and Jon Ridge. Talked about a business opportunity he’s excited about. Also looked into becoming an online tutor. I feel that tutoring and teaching is a great way to connect with people.

Action Step 3a: Take 5 to 10 minutes listing 5 to 10 wins that you had this week.

 

What Did You Learn?

Sometimes a win isn’t actually a win. Sometimes it’s something your learned. What major things did you learn about? Any quotes you want to share? Or how about things that inspired you? Or possibly found out about people you’d like to connect with? You need to keep track of these things!

Something that I learned this past week: It doesn’t matter how many people are signed up for an event. If it’s free, there’s a good chance they’re not going to come. I had 4 other people besides Jon, Maria, and myself listed for the Fizzle Meetup. None of them showed. Would be interested in finding out why.

Action Step 3b: Take 2-5 minutes going through any notes, shares, and ideas from last week. List all the lessons that come to mind.

 

What Didn’t Happen?

Finally, here’s the part that many dread in their day to day life. Funny enough, though, it’s actually what most of us have to deal with when it comes to reviews at our careers and even in school. So the reason we hate it so much is because that’s what we’re used to is bad news in our reviews.

However, we should only care about the things that actually mattered. Don’t worry about the small stuff.

The stuff that went south – did it happen for a good reason (maybe other important things happened?), or was it a bad reason (getting sucked into social media debate that lasted on and off all day long?). What could you have done to avoid it? If you see yourself going down that path again, what can you change?

Something that didn’t go my way last week: I wanted to record another one or two more conversations for the podcast. However, due to weird technological issues, I wasn’t able to get either. Looking forward to recording them in the future. Also wanting to go through some of Pat’s newbie stuff so I can remember how bad he was so I don’t feel so terrible myself!

Action Step 3c: For 2-5 minutes come up with a list of things that didn’t go right and what you can do to improve next time. For bonus points, you can start taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong – even a meteor strike.


4. Plan the Future

Determine Outcomes for the Week

We’ve already looked at where we are by thinking about our goals and developing the framework to get there. We also have quickly looked at the past. Now it’s time to look at what’s coming down the pipeline.

The next step is thinking about our outcomes. Personally, my outcomes come from the Pillars of Happyness.

A good amount of outcomes to do on a weekly basis is probably 5 to 7 items. If you’re thinking of the Relationship Pillar, maybe you could start that new dating site profile. Or if you’re looking at the Health Pillar, perhaps something like getting a gym membership might be a good goal. You get to decide how big or small they are. Whatever they are, make sure that they’re propelling you to your long term goals. So surfing Reddit all day might not necessarily be a great decision.

A big goal for me this week is to get this post out on time. I’ll be having some connectivity related problems this next week and I just want to make sure that before I don’t have access, that I get it posted.

Action Step 4a: For 5 to 10 minutes, make a list of 5 to 7 outcomes that you want to get done for the week.

Schedule Everything You Want to Get Done – Seriously.

This step is one I struggle with. I have issues with scheduling. However, everything I do takes up time in my day. However, while most of us realize this, we typically don’t try to do anything about. I would guess that if you took all of those 5 to 7 outcomes that you just listed that you’d probably need a lot more time in a day then you actually have.

This is the reason we feel that we never have enough time in a day. While we might just make a list, most of us usually underestimate how much time something is going to take. Since everything takes time, we need to assign actual time to those items that matter the most to us.

Action Step 4b: For the next 5 to 15 minutes, look at your 5 to 7 tasks you just listed in Part a. Spread those out throughout your week while doing only 1-3 per day. Now actually reserve the time on your calendar. The key is assigning real time to each task.


5. Fill in the Gaps

Make Room for your Miscellaneous Items for the Week

So you have your outcomes and then broke them apart into smaller manageable daily lists. Next, you have to fill in other stuff. Have a meeting you need to go to? Put that in. Have a mastermind that you’re a part of? Put that in. Taking classes from Fizzle? Get those in there.

By the end of this process, you shouldn’t have any stray lists or tasks in your head or on stickies around your desk.

Also, while you’re at it, you might want to take a little bit of time to touch base with some people this week.

Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Who can I add value to this week?
  2. Who can help me get done what I have coming up?

Do both of these weekly as I can tell you that you can’t keep all your good ideas in your head. You’ll forget by morning (even if you don’t you’ll definitely forget by the weekend!).

Action Step 5: For the last 5-10 minutes, look at what’s left on your to do list*. Now looking back at your schedule. Think about where you could fit these little tasks and connections in. Schedule all of them!

*A multi platform tool that will help you organize your to-do lists is Trello. You can use Trello on your desktop, laptops, mobiles – whatever.


Bonus Tips

So here’s the deal, even with this strategy, you might have some small questions in getting everything in that you want to get in. So let me see if we can predict those:

Q: Everything keeps taking longer than I expect! What can I do to make better predictions?

A: As Frank Forte would say, “The Analytical in me thinks that if you believe you’ll take an hour to make a blog post, you better schedule it for an hour and a half or two”.

Q: So, I got behind on day one. I had everything planned out just like you said. Now what?

A: Did you have buffer time? If you planned on having a 45-60 minute conversation, did you leave the extra 15 minutes of buffer time? They might have wanted to talk longer.

Q: So, I put in buffer time and I still am not getting everything done I want to. Now what?

A: You’re just going to have to be ok in not getting everything done this week. Nobody’s perfect.

Q: I find that by the time I get to some important tasks in the day, that my energy is giving up to do them. How do I get them done?

A: If you find yourself not having enough energy to get things done (I’m a night owl naturally, I don’t have that problem), you might want to get everything done at the first part of your day. You can even take that another step and do all your important tasks at the beginning of your week.

 

That’s It. There’s my strategy. Now, what are your hacks?

Think I’ve missed anything? Is there anything you’d add or need cleared up? Let me know in the comments below.

11 Ways to Get Things Done That You’re Putting Off!

Life would be so much awesomer if we only did what our hearts and emotions wanted us to do each moment of the day. Unfortunately, there’s lots of little pieces in doing things that many times that we don’t want to do. Just this week I forced myself to learn how to use Logic Pro X for the upcoming podcast. I wanted to do better than what Garageband enables me to do. But Logic Pro looks so scary and detailed in comparison. But you know, if I want to eventually have professional sounding podcasts (which I’m pretty happy with my results thus far), then I know I need to put in the time to learn how to get it done.

So… what did I tell myself?

1. Just Do It!

Now if you can’t get done by simply following Shia’s advice, here are a few more pointers that might help you tackle your own project that you’ve been putting off.

2. Don’t just think about why you need to do this. MEDITATE on it.

Clear your mind and don’t think of anything else but this task. Don’t think about the phone call you’re going to get in a couple minutes. Don’t think about what you have to do with your friends in a few hours. Don’t think about what you’re going to feed the family when you get home.

Mind clear? Now, just take 5 or 10 minutes and think about why you want to do this task that you want to do. What will this task help accomplish? Who is it helping? Dig deeper and find the good that doing this task will be doing in the world. Every little job that is out there is going to mean more than you think it will. Even if it’s doing laundry. Doing the laundry will give you clean clothes so that you won’t be working in dirty ones next week.

3. Knockout the fear.

Chances are the biggest thing that’s keeping you back from what you’re wanting to do is fear. What will happen if I fail at the task? What will happen if someone finds out? What will happen if? Well, have you ever thought about what would happen if you don’t? I’m sure you have. That’s why you’re thinking about doing it in the first place! So embrace fear and just know that it’s part of the process. Hell, even when we learned to ride a bike we had fear. Now we look back on bike riding as one of those things we have to learn to do!

4. Embrace the Suck.

Very similar to fear, is knowing that something that you have to do is going to suck. It’s the elephant in the room. Just like learning a new piece of software or even cleaning out the garage. You know it’s going to be awhile before you see any fruit come of it. So what? Hard things suck, but in the end it will be worth it.

5. Letting Go of Perfection.

Man, I really struggle with this one. In college (and I can almost blame school in general for making me this way), I never wanted to do anything until I knew exactly how to do it. That I didn’t want to turn anything in until it was perfect. The truth is that nothing in life is perfect. Your living condition is never perfect. Your friends and family aren’t perfect. So why would you expect yourself to be? So let go of the fantasy, the ideal, the expectation of yourself. This task before you, it needs to get done. Shoot for the A-.

6. Focus on the Intention, not the Results.

So even if you shot for the A-, you might just completely fail altogether. This happens too. Prepare for the worst case scenario, but don’t expect it. If you fail, think about why you did it in the first place. Was your heart or mind in the right place? Yes? Great! Knowing that is half the battle! However, don’t quit there. Learn from the outcome. What could you have done better to have a better result? Failing is never really failing unless you don’t learn something from it.

7. Do a Little and Stop

Mini-breaks are key. So, let’s say that you have to write up a report for some presentation you’re going to give. Ok, it’s hard enough that you got to make the presentation, right? Well, what’s the best way to do all of this? Storyboarding it! Or if you remember back to high school, write an outline first!

Now, take a break – actually get up and get a drink of water or do some push ups. Actually take a mental break.

Now, go back to your outline and look at the first section – can that be divided even more? Yes? Make your sub points. No? Then write your first paragraph.

Take another break to get free. Go stretch, play with the dog for 5 minutes and come back.

Rinse and repeat. You’ll eventually find yourself in the flow and find that taking a break is actually starting to become annoying.

8. Give Yourself Constraints

This solution is somewhat the same but totally clutch. Totally kills procrastination for me. So you know when you have clean out a room (or the garage in my case) and you keep putting it off? Well, here’s a great way to get it done. Do the work according to a time frame. Do it for 20 minutes (or 10 minutes if it’s on the computer) and then regardless of where you’re at, just come to a complete stop. More than likely you’ll find it hard to do so and keep going until you find a point where you can. Best part is that after the break you take, you’ll find it easier to start because your mind will be like “Oh, I’ve already started on that and it wasn’t so bad!” Every little part helps. If you find yourself needing additional help, ask someone to hold you accountable.

9. Express Gratitude (maybe even in a journal form?)

The job that’s keeping you from doing the stuff you actually enjoy will probably result in great things. In my case, I was putting off learning the software, but now that I got it down, I have a template that I’ll be able to use to get things future podcasts done quicker. Changing things as I go, but at least I’ll have one, two, five sessions out there soon!

Like wise, if you find yourself going to a job you dislike, just appreciate the fact that you have one. You have money to buy food and keep a roof over your head! At least you can even do the job! Can you imagine that if you didn’t have sight how much that might set you back in doing it? Imagine life sucking even more and then try feeling sorry for yourself. That will give you a boost. “Well at least I’m not…” is always a great motivator for myself.

Alternatively, if you’re in a career you love, but you still find it hard to get out of bed, realize that you’re in a gifted position. Sometimes it’s easy to take things for granted, but realize that you could be in a job you hate or weren’t meant for. Go do what you’re great at and learn from it.

Having problems with expressing gratitude regularly? Look into the 5 Minute Journal. Expressing gratitude is no small matter. People who are highly successful use just this one thing to get TONS of things done.

10. Don’t overthink things.

Truth is, we can sit there thinking about doing a task… until we sit there and talk ourselves out of it. Realize that you can over think things. Don’t. Just realize that it might start happening, call it for what it is when you see it and restart your thoughts. “Damnit, I’m over thinking it!” is probably one of my most favorite release phrases I use now.

11. Learn and Grow

Just as I previously mentioned with riding a bike, we all can remember things that we’re glad we did when we were younger. Draw on that feeling to realize that what you’re about to do is going to be worth it. Realize that having this opportunity is a good thing in the end. It’s a learning opportunity. And frankly, spending your time learning is probably one of the best ways to spend your time.

 

How Do You Get ‘Er Done?

Below in the comments, share about how you use any of the above tactics to get things done. Is there any tips that you can give that might help someone break their procrastination? Chime in below with your procrastination hacks!