“Just keep going. You’re gonna make it.”
That was my mantra last week, which I repeated at least 3,389 times. I was so sick and stressed that finding a positive thought seemed like cleaning the Augean Stables. No way I was going to meet my deadlines/continue living.
Five years ago I would’ve thrown in the towel and wallowed in bed for a week. But this year, I had a game plan.
“I shouldn’t have yelled at him. But I was so frustrated…I couldn’t help it. When I went to bed I just felt so guilty, like I was the worst parent in the world…”
Let’s get one thing straight—my client Amanda is SuperMom. She arranges her life so that she can spend the most quality time possible with her children; she makes every sacrifice for them. But at the end of a four-hour homework marathon with her three boys, she vented on her oldest son Matt—he just wasn’t getting the spelling lesson. A day later she was still racked with guilt.
So I asked her if she had journaled about the experience.—Ehh, not so much. And that was a problem.
Solo entrepreneurs will pick up a thousand different habits if it makes us more successful. We wake up before God, exercise like beasts, read a book a week—we even spend tens of thousands of dollars on seminars and personal coaching. But how much of it actually makes a difference?
In my experiments with lifestyle design, I’ve found that what I omit is tenfold more important than what I include.
Because you can say you’ll do x, y and z. But if your time and focus is spent on bad habits, you’ll only feel worse for not sticking to what you know is best, you won’t get shit done, and you’ll condition yourself to feel helpless–which is the worst possible attitude for solopreneurs.
Much as we hate them, ruts happen. We spend our mental energy griping about the rut, wishing it hadn’t happened, and pretending that it’ll disappear on its own. But ruts are completely under our control. And they most often occur when we’ve stopped our success routines.
Take me, for instance. I make a good living writing, and I’ve worked like a dog to get where I am. But I’m not immune to reality: if I stick to my good habits, good things happen. If I stop, even for a day, the proverbial shit hits the fan. Like last month.
How to fall into a rut
I’d been working on several large projects for state agencies and foreign companies over the last month. These accounts demanded a lot of my attention, and I had to adjust my schedule accordingly: where normally I’d spend my first three hours exercising, meditating, writing, then reading, this month I checked my email first thing in the morning.
Not a big deal. I handled my accounts well and nailed my assignments. But after the major projects concluded, I kept checking email first thing in the morning. I didn’t even have anything to check—I just kept doing it because I didn’t discipline myself to get back into my normal productive routine. And a funny thing happened.
I lost all of my motivation.
Before I knew it, two weeks had slipped away forever and I hadn’t the slightest accomplishment to show for it. I felt restless, uninspired, and helpless—the opposite of my normal charged self. I didn’t know what was happening. Even my daily staples like journaling and studying seemed harder than cleaning out the Augean Stables. And writing…forget about it. I did 500 words a day at max (normally it’s closer to 2,000), and some days I didn’t write at all.
That’s when I realized that no one is immune to bad habits. I’d gotten cocky, and thought I could do whatever I wanted and still keep kicking ass like usual. But after two fat weeks of nothing, and me feeling like a fraudulent toad, things came to a head.
How to get out of a rut
This weekend I woke up at 3:00am feeling worse than I could remember. I was gripped by an intense mixture of fear, guilt, anger, and uncertainty that wouldn’t budge. I tried deep breathing—nothing. I tried reading to fall back asleep—nada. That’s when I realized this was one problem I had to fix proactively. So I picked up my journal (which had collected a week’s worth of dust) and started scribbling maniacally. I was determined to earn my life back.
And I was brutally honest.
I wrote about every little habit that was keeping me down. I wrote about my inconsistency, and how I wasn’t living to my own standards. And in the free flow of words, the answer to my weeks-long funk stared me right in the face:
I had completely abandoned my morning success routines.
Where normally I’d wake up with purpose, meditate, plan my day, exercise, knock out a writing project, and study, I was checking email. It doesn’t sound as heinous as I’m painting it to be, but the influence was subtle. It stole my confidence bit by bit till I was paralyzed.
Normally, every part of my morning would boost my confidence—I’d boost my mood with exercise; I’d feel proud of how disciplined I was as I wrote my first article; I’d feel smarter and more capable after having studied—and on and on. But now I was starting my day with a confidence drain.
When there wasn’t anything in the inbox, I felt worthless. And I was more focused on what I received than the effort I gave and the work I produced. That slight shift in focus was enough to degrade my sense of purpose, and it happened gradually. I didn’t notice much after a day or two. But then a week passed, and I felt bad about myself. Two weeks passed and I was no better than a speck on a frog on a log.
That’s how fast your life can change when you ease up on your success routines.
But the best part of this story is how fast you can turn it all around.
In that midnight session of infuriated journaling, I figured out exactly what went wrong, and what I needed to do to turn it all around. I spent an hour identifying the major gaps in my daily routine and planned for something better the next day. After my hands and sheets were covered in blue pen-scratches, I lay in bed confident that tomorrow would be different.
If I won the morning, I knew I’d win the day.
I’m not going to say breaking the routine was a piece of cake. It took every bit of my willpower.
I forced myself to meditate—to fight the urge to head straight for my laptop as I’d done the past 15 days. And after getting my mind right, I forced myself to do my normal morning exercise routine, which takes about 45 minutes. I hated it at first, and felt I’d much rather be surfing the internet and checking my email. But midway through the workout, I felt my old sense of confidence growing. The real challenge would be when I got back home—when I had to write.
Again, I forced myself to pick up the keyboard and to deny every impulse that screamed, “Check your email!” The keys were heavy, and my mind was slow. But I persevered. And after two hours—normally an article takes 30-45 minutes—I’d worked through three paragraphs. But I was proud of myself for the effort. And when I felt that pride surge, I tapped into a creative wave. Soon I’d finished my first real piece in over two weeks.
I still didn’t feel like my usual chipper self. But I knew if I stuck to my confidence building routines, I’d be back in no time—definitely later in the week. But I surprised myself.
By the end of the day, after hitting my standard goals, and then going above and beyond to reach my dreams, I felt as if I’d never been bucked off in the first place. I was high energy, high productivity, and high on life. Instead of the dread I’d known for two weeks, I felt optimistic about the future, and excited about my opportunities to kick ass, refine my skills, and make life better.
By the end of the day, I hit my pillow knowing that I’d done the absolute best that I could do. And that gives me the self assurance to strive for and accomplish great things.
So what will you do about your rut?
After making a profession of clawing through ruts, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. But if I can turn my momentum around on a dime, in under a day, so can you. All it takes is focus, clarity, a plan, and a promise:
• I will do only the things that boost my confidence
• I will start first thing in the morning,
• and I will keep it up all day.
Success is that simple.
The more specific your plans for an ass-kicking day are, the likelier you are to stick to them and build your confidence. So choose positive thoughts and habits—you’ll do more inspiring things. And when you find yourself in a rut, be brutally honest about the thoughts and habits that are holding you back. That’s how you’ll get back out.
If you’ve been in a rut for over a month, you may want to consider a life coach.
Human habits are funny. Not SNL-in-the-90’s funny, but the type of funny that makes you raise one eyebrow and shake your head a little.
We’ve historically persisted in not-so-good things, like bad relationships, negative self-talk, and exposing ourselves in public. And we quit the good stuff–like pursuing our passions and improving our lives.
After observing this phenomenon in my life and others’, I’ve come to one conclusion:
We only have so much power to persist in good habits. And if all your power is spent on being average, you’ll never persist in the things that can light up your life. I speak from firsthand experience.
(You can skip the story and go straight to the 5-minute life-changing exercise…but I recommend the story.)
How I Changed My Habits and Found Independence
My 18-25 life was a looooong series of suck. (I’d have to add another 12,576 “o’s” to accurately depict the length of my suck. My editor suggested I cut that true-to-life representation in favor of this explanation.)
I was addicted to TV, Facebook, cigarettes, partying, toxic relationships, feeling sorry for myself, and being dependent on everyone but me. I remember reflecting on my days at night—all the nothing—and I’d think, “What the heck am I doing wrong? Why can’t I just succeed?”
But looking back, my shit-fest was an inevitable byproduct of my shit habits.
What does your energy pie look like?
If our life-force energy were a pie, 97% of mine would’ve been eaten up by mediocre sh!t. And at 25, when I’d been sleeping on my mom’s couch for two years, jobless and hopeless, I had an epiphany:
“I can change my pie!”
*That epiphany had everything to do with listening to podcasts like The Tim Ferriss Experiment, and reading books by Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar.
So I consciously shifted the ratio of my daily habits. I put a moratorium on mediocrity—like constant texting and social media. And I forced myself to do more of the every-day, eat-your-spinach type of stuff—reading, studying, creating, meditating, etc.
It turns out that what I had to create was valuable to others—everyone has something valuable—and I ended up selling my writing to websites and companies around the world. By today, at age 27, I’m independent through my passion—I’m on fire for living, and for inspiring people to change their lives.
I finally learned how to persist in the things that were good for me.
But my transformation didn’t happen instantly.
It took time and reflection to identify the activities that had made me average. Journaling was my saving grace. It also took a brain storming session every morning, where I’d commit to the broccoli (or avocado) activities—(depending on your power food—) that would energize my life.
As my energy pie shifted, my life improved commensurately. My depression and anxiety began to disappear. And I knew I was really on to something when I’d ask people how they were doing—“Oh you know, same old shit man”—and I’d think, “Are you serious? Of all the incredible shit that you can do, of all the mountains to climb, you’re stuck in same-old-shit?”
That incredulity happens when you clear out your crap habits and make room for extraordinary things.
And you can do that today.
The 5-minute exercise that will change your life forever
Get a pen and a notebook. (It’s okay, I’ll be here when you come back…) Now take an inventory of your daily habits–time spent on social media and TV, exercising, reading, creating, etc. Then mark each habit as a growth activity or a comfort. For most, the comforts will far outweigh the growth activities.
Now write down all the growth activities that you want as habits—exercising, making money through your passion, etc. Imagine how good you would feel living that kind of life. Visualize what life looks like when you’re constantly challenging and improving yourself in your relationships and in your career. Then ask yourself,
“Can I persist?”
It might be a resounding no right now. But when you take an X to every comfort that you have persisted in, your “Yes” gets a little bit louder. And after you’ve slashed 90% of your habitual comforts, your Yes will be loud–so loud that you’ll actually believe it. And that’s when you’ll persist in all the things that make life extraordinary.
So what are you waiting for? Examine your life! (Socrates, the father of self-improvement, highly recommends it.) Dump the comforts that hold you back. (Yes, even if they’re people.) And commit to the life-broccoli that you know you need.
Since tomorrow is granted, you’ll not want to delay this simple exercise for another minute. Start now. Stop reading this. … ? ….What are you still doing here? Go change your life!
Article originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.com
“How do I stay focused?”
This is the most popular question from my coaching clients and readers. They have dreams, and they’re inspired to be better. But when it comes to working toward a goal, there’s always some distraction: family issues; health issues; kids—the list goes on.
The usual approaches to focus haven’t worked for them.
They’ve used schedules and calendars and reminders; you name it, and none of it has worked. Maybe that’s your story. Maybe your personal and professional dreams have been shelved because you simply lack the focus. And maybe you’re on the verge of letting these dreams slip through the cracks.
Don’t. Your dreams are part of your identity. And when they fade away, you fade away.
This article addresses the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of focus. You’ll discover a more holistic approach that uncovers the root cause of focus issues, which is rarely (if ever) a lack of willpower. And when you’re finished reading, you’ll have action steps you can take today to improve your powers of concentration and your ability to complete the necessary tasks on your path to success.
Are you ready?
Physical steps to stay focused
Even though it’s only 2% of your total body weight, your brain consumes 20% of your energy. That’s a massive demand. And if you’re short on energy, your greedy brain is going to be the first organ to notice. You’ll feel brain fog, listlessness, impatience, and ennui—not the razor-sharp focus you need to slice through your to-do list.
There are a few reasons your body may not be producing enough energy.
You can eat all you want. But if your body isn’t absorbing the nutrients and minerals, you won’t have energy. Dehydration, low stomach acid, and imbalanced gut bacteria are a few culprits in weak digestions.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to boost your digestion and increase your focus:
• Stomach acid is 90% water—you need to hydrate more frequently. Shoot for half your weight in ounces of water, preferably in small sips throughout the day.
• Increase your stomach acidity with appler cider vinegar before meals. Take 2 tablespoons in 4 oz of water to boost your stomach acid and aid the beakdown of your food.
• Take a probiotic. David Perlmutter, author of ‘Brain Maker’, says that probiotics are key players in nutrient absorption and brain activity. He recommends supplementing with varied strains of beneficial bacteria—all of which can be found in his patented probiotic line.
Water is essential in converting fat into energy, lubricating your joints, and shuttling waste out of your body. But it’s estimated that over 60% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Is it a wonder we Here are 5 steps you can take to stay hydrated:
1-Drink warm water with lemon. Warm water expands and relaxes capillaries in your stomach and intestines, making it more readily absorbed. And the lemon provides electrolytes and minerals that support hydration.
2-Eat more water-containing foods—like apples, celery, yogurt, watermelon, cantaloupes, and leafy greens.
3-Drink more milk.
A 2011 study out of McMaster University found that milk was more effective at hydrating a body than water. The combination of fats, salts, and sugars bring more water into your cells.
4-Eat more salt.
Sodium is the electrolyte we lose most of during stress. And when you lose enough, it decreases your body’s ability to retain water.
5-Use an electrolyte tablet
We lose electrolytes through our sweat. Nuun, a popular electrolyte replacement among athletes, provides sodium, calcium, and magnesium in proportion to what you lose through exercise.
Known as coenzymes, B vitamins are essential for converting sugar, protein, and fat into energy. But they are one of the first nutrients to be depleted by physical or mental stress. They’re also one of our greatest nutritional deficits.
You can replace the full b-vitamin spectrum with a single supplement. Or, you can replenish your B’s through food—like eggs, spinach, and lean meats.
Mental steps to stay focused
Once you’ve addressed your energy issues, the mental aspect of focus comes next. Whether you call it discipline, stick-to-it-iveness, or perseverance, focus is a muscle that strengthens with use. Flex it often and it won’t feel like work.
The first step to increase mental focus is to eliminate distractions. Some are insuperable—like kids and family. But everything else can be controlled. And the more of them you control, the more focus capacity you’ll have.
Here are a few distractions to cut out or limit immediately:
Aimlessly surfing the web
Compulsive email checking
Dead-end relationships (romantic or otherwise)
If you’ve struggled with focusing, and you make habits of any of the above, you’ll be shocked at how much more focus you’ll have when you cut them out. You’ll also be amazed at how much time these distractions consume without your being aware.
But eliminating distraction is easier said than done. And you have to keep yourself accountable—or find an accountability coach. The other half of mental focus is making habits of focus-building activities.
Such activities include:
Taking notes on things that interest you
Having fun often
And sticking to schedules
If you find your focus first thing in the morning with meditation, or journaling, or scheduling, your next decision to stay focused will be much easier. It’s like Tim Ferriss’s quote—“Win the morning, win the day.”
So schedule 5 focus-building activities in your day alongside all the things you know you need to accomplish. Make reminders on your smart phone and computer. Enlist the help of a friend to keep you accountable in reaching your goals, or hire an accountability coach. And when you find yourself bored, or puzzled about what to do, resort to your schedule and your focus-builders. If you look back at the end of a low-focus week and think, “What the hell did I do?”, then put a microscope to your week and search for the distractions. They’re there.
Emotional steps to stay focused
The final aspect of focus is something rarely talked about in the business world: emotions. These gossamer little things are hard to define, hard to control. And because of the challenge they pose, most people simply ignore their emotional blocks. But everyone has them.
Take my coaching client, Kim, for instance. She was fighting to feel alive again in her career and relationships. But no matter how many distractions we eliminated, and despite the nutritional and mental progress we made, she couldn’t stay focused enough to make any progress.
One of her goals in our initial session was to “achieve clarity on what to do in her marriage.” For 10 years she had been unhappy and unfulfilled. And the longer she put off confronting the issue, the more paralyzed she became. That feeling of dread spread out and infected other areas of her life: like her career, and fitness goals. She was emotionally blocked from focusing.
So, after our second session—where she declared zero progress in the goals we established—I told her she needed to make a decision about her marriage if we were to continue coaching. I instructed her to call a relationship counselor as soon as we ended the session and to schedule an appointment.
That doesn’t sound hard. But because she had put off decision making about her relationship for 10 years, it was the scariest, most dreadful thing in the world. And when she blasted through her emotional barrier by making that phone call, she magically found her focus. The next week was the most productive week she’d ever had in her life.
So, if you want to be able to focus on the little steps that lead to success, you have to clear away any emotional debris that’s impeding you. The best way to do that is to acknowledge the problem—like a relationship gone sour, or a fear that’s been holding you back—and take action toward a resolution.
*Accountability coaches are particularly helpful in tackling emotional blocks.
Sometimes our problems can seem so big and bad that we’re put off from making the first move. But it’s imperative that you do. And for some, like Kim, regaining your emotional focus can be as simple as a phone call.
If you’ve beaten yourself up for not being able to focus, you’re in need of a more holistic approach. So address the nutritional issues that are holding you back. Eliminate your distractions and commit to focus-building habits. Lastly, confront the emotional blocks that have paralyzed your decision-making.
Stick to this protocol for 1 month for dramatic results.
Article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you aren’t feeling 100 percent. Maybe you got down on yourself today. Maybe you wallowed when you could’ve worked. Maybe you compared yourself to the billion and one other people who have something you want—a sure way to feel like dirt.
But none of that matters now.
What matters is what you choose to focus on before you go to bed, before your subconscious plays with your most powerful thoughts and experiences for eight hours. What thoughts will those be?
I’m choosing to think of the moments when I made myself feel proud. I’m going to magnify that feeling with my mind, and I’m going to make it so powerful that my subconscious can’t resist it as I sleep. That way I’ll be thinking positively when I awake, and I’ll be training my brain as I sleep.
I’m going to choose the experiences that made me feel grateful. And if I missed out on actually feeling gratitude for something or someone important, I’ll give myself that opportunity before bed.
But the past isn’t one of those things.
So, to everyone who’s feeling down, cheer up. Focus on things you did right, even if the day was a loss. Focus on the people who make your life worth living. And generate the positive thoughts and feelings that you want your day to be defined by tomorrow.
If by some glitch in the matrix you didn’t accomplish anything you’d feel proud about, change that before you fall asleep. Take notes on a chapter in your latest self-improvement book. Write a thank-you card to someone who’s been there for you. Meditate, and visualize the success you wish to achieve in life and love. Draft a knockout cover letter for the position you’ve dreamed of applying for. Make your bed, even if it’s five minutes before you hop back in it. Do a 10-minute workout, or a yoga session. Inch, scrape, and crawl toward the better life you have in mind.
You’ll adopt the mindset that it’s never too late to give your best effort, and that your best effort is always a good option. You’re worth that.
Besides, the alternative isn’t exactly appealing.
You can do that. But it’s not really what you want.
You want an inspired life where every breath counts, where more of your dreams come true every day, and where you make a difference to more people. That kind of life is the product of a positive mindset. And to attain it, you have to reset your mind every night before you go to bed.
1. Focus on something you accomplished today.
Relive the experience, feeling the encouragement and confidence as if it were happening now. Magnify those feelings.
2. Feel gratitude—especially for the people in your life.
Think about the top five people who’ve made your life what it is, then relive an experience that made you grateful for them. Think about the lucky breaks in your life. Choose any number of minor miracles to feel grateful for, and keep feeding that feeling of gratitude.
Project into the future the positive feelings you’ve generated. See yourself accomplishing things that you’ve put off for weeks or months. Feel the pride coursing through your body, swelling up your heart. And express gratitude in advance for your achievements.
Brainstorm three critical goals that will bring you closer to the life you want to live tomorrow and write them down. The act of writing down your goals makes them more concrete and makes you less likely to avoid them. It also gives your sleeping brain the opportunity to create solutions for obstacles that stand in the way.
Read something inspiring, and useful, and imaginative, and relevant to the struggles you’re going through. Prefer a self-improvement book with oodles of ideas to test in your own life. Prefer an actual book over digital—the blue light from screens interferes with your melatonin production and sleep cycle.
Reading programs your mind to think in terms of solutions, not obstacles.
Anytime you feel down, and especially before bed, use these five steps to rewire your brain, and to encourage a lively and positive mind.
Article originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.com
When you get rejected, the popular response is to quit. That’s why most people don’t pursue their passions or live their dreams.
But the correct response is to keep going, and to go so hard that, by the time you are accepted, you don’t actually need anybody’s opinion but your own.
Take my early freelance career: I’d get a nibble or two. But then, I’d get rejected. So, I’d tuck my tail, curl into a ball and pretend I was dead.
To my untrained mind, the rejection meant I was an imposter. And I fed those imposter feelings by doing more of nothing, which in hindsight was the worst possible thing to do. I’d make $5,000 a year if I was lucky, and I had to settle for living with mom and dad.
Fast forward to today. It’s four years later, and I have my work plastered on the best sites around the web. I’m independent, and I’m doing what I love.
I still get rejection slips, though.
Success magazine politely told me to suck it last week. But I don’t feel the sting so acutely because I have 30 more irons in just as many fires.I keep my confidence high because I know that at least one of my 50 queries or interviews will pan out. And I keep my mind focused on moving forward by continuing to do my best work, by setting goals, and by living the way a successful person lives.
I still want to crawl in a hole and die on occasion. But I never let that feeling stop me from making progress. Because stopping is incorrect.
I borrowed my persistence strategy from Louis L’Amour, who is the famed author of 60 bestsellers.Pictures of his query log reveal one acceptance letter for every 20 stories pitched. Louis went on to say in his autobiography that the only way he kept going was by having hope. He stoked his hope by putting out so many pitches, it would be mathematically inconceivable for them all to get rejected.
“As long as I had the hope of acceptance, rejection never got me down.”
So, whatever you have to do, keep your hope alive. That means keeping your forward momentum through any means possible. It means applying your time and talents to as many different outlets as you can. It means stopping your “poor me” thoughts dead in their tracks, and reversing your inner dialogue with some affirmative action.
Because if you’re doing your best, then you are a success. You don’t have to worry about what others think because they don’t determine your actions: That’s your job. Just make sure you feel good about yourself.
When you feel like quitting, train your mind to go into hyperdrive. Do everything in your power to advance your station. Those efforts will often be small enough to seem insignificant. But when it comes down to forward momentum or a backslide into normalcy, those small efforts will create the tipping point.
If you’ve done enough, you’ll progress into your success, and nothing will be able to stop you. But if you’ve wallowed because you thought you should be further along than you are, then you’ll want to wallow even more when you think of how much further you could’ve gone… if you’d only given the effort.
So, the next time you catch yourself feeling like dog vomit, do something. Do something good that’s contingent on your values and gives you hope.
Effort is the answer.
As a freelancer, I’ve gone through tough times… especially at the beginning. Even recently, I had a holiday lapse where I could barely made ends meet. But instead of crawling into a hole and dying, I pitched person after person and business after business. I wouldn’t allow myself to defeat myself through inaction.
So, even though I felt like a speck, I kept creating value and putting myself out there. And today, I have so much work coming at me that I have to hire other writers to help with the load. I still have more irons in the fire, and I’m still feeding my confidence.
Did you ever hear the Indian parable of the little boy and his grandpa? The grandpa told the boy that every person has a good wolf and a bad wolf inside of him. The boy asked which one wins, and the old man replied, “Whichever you feed.”
So feed your confident beast. Feed your sexy beast. Feed your rich beast. Feed your happy beast. Feed your productive beast. Feed your smart beast. And when the “poor me” wolf howls, let him starve. The same goes for the imposter wolf, the complacent wolf, the lazy wolf and the hopeless wolf.
When in doubt, do your best. Do something. Do anything. Stop reading this article–get out there and do it!
Article originally appeared on Elite Daily
- How Just One Small Effort Per Day Can Keep Your Dreams Online and Redeem Even Your Worst Days
- Who Would Do That?!?!
- This 5-Step Strategy Will Help You Quit Your Biggest Vice for Good and Quadruple Your Confidence Overnight
- Why Self Encouragement Is Mandatory for Success
- The #1 Skill You Don’t Have Yet