The Definitive Guide to Inspired Living

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Hi, I’m Dan.

Thanks again for reading and enjoying my articles! To show my gratitude, I’ve made an eBook that will be part of your success story. It’s a list of 9 habits that will help you live your most inspired and successful life possible.

These tips are the reason why I’ve succeeded as a writer and coach after years of failure, and they will be the reason for your financial and emotional freedom. You’d never believe how fast they work!—if you apply them.

So when you read, take notes. Plan on making these action steps part of your daily rituals. Focus on mastering this material and on actually making the changes you know you need to be an inspired and successful person.

(These steps are the exact steps I charge my clients thousands of dollars to learn. So make the most of them on your own, save a ton of cash, and get the results you need!) 

A little about my story

Four years ago I was another lost millennial who slept on my mom’s couch. I lived out of a beaten up thrift-store suitcase that carried every threadbare garment I owned. At 24 I was defeated before I’d even given life a shot.

But today, at 28, I write for the best sites in the world: including Entrepreneur, Fitbit, FastCompany, and Elite Daily. I make a living by helping others to achieve rapid success. How did I get from my mom’s couch to the top of the writing world so fast?

Nine simple action steps.

And the first one, positive affirmations, came from Mr. Zig Ziglar, the most famous self-improvement figure of our time. At my lowest, when I questioned if there was even a reason to live, Zig helped me realize that I wasn’t fundamentally deficient— that I could change my decisions if I just took charge of my thoughts.

 

Directive #1: Do Positive Affirmations

Zig told me to start a morning-and-night ritual of positive affirmations. I thought it was stupid. But Zig said it didn’t matter; the affirmations would work if I believed in them or not. I didn’t have anything to lose, and I couldn’t fall any farther, so I started the affirmations.

“I am courageous, confident, bold, patient, rich, generous, hopeful, positive, fun loving, adventurous, creative, disciplined, etc.”

The affirmations were everything that I hadn’t been, so they were tough to say. But I stuck with them, morning and night, and within a month, I had my first paid writing gig. $50 bucks an article. Not bad.

After that month I realized how valuable affirmations really were. Everything you say to yourself is an affirmation, and you’re in constant affirmation mode one way or another. But for most people…it’s the wrong kind of affirmations.

“I can’t do it. I’m not worthy. I’m too small. No one loves me. I suck. I’m a joke.”

We don’t even hear these things because they’re a constant—kind of like getting used to a strong scent in a room. The negative affirmations become part of your identity, until you break the cycle.

Before I started positive affirmations, I had no clue about the junk I told myself. But after a month, I started to hear all of the little niggling thoughts that directed my life.

“You’re an idiot,” I’d hear. “You’re a failure.” I began to hear the beliefs that had weighed me down for so long. So every time I caught myself in stinkin’ thinkin’, I’d counter with a positive affirmation:

“You’re incredible! You’re strong and bold. You’re an amazing and unconditionally loved man.”

Slowly but surely, I broke my failure identity. And it started with one simple directive:

Do affirmations for 10-20 minutes every day.

Print out the affirmations list below and recite them first thing in the morning (that’s the start of your morning routine), throughout the day when you notice your thoughts, and before you go to bed:

 

affirmations-picture-ms

 

 

Directive #2: Journal every night

After I realized the importance of my thoughts through affirmations, I got more interested in my inner world. My next life-changing directive came by instinct: I decided to pick up a journal, and I absolutely had to do it every day for a year. I just knew that it would be part of my success story.

Journaling came naturally. Since my affirmations routine had gotten me interested in how my thoughts shaped my life, I broke down every thought I had for the day, analyzed them, and I saw how they led to my actions. The reverse was true, too: if I crapped the bed, I could trace the action back to a negative dialogue, which usually took root in the morning.

By spending 30 minutes in reflection each night, I put a microscope to the small decisions that built up my life. And that gave me the self-knowledge and power to change my life.

Before, I’d just go to sleep and carry the same patterns of negativity into the next day. But with a journal, I identified everything that helped me succeed, and everything that held me back. That helped me to break the bad habits that held me back and instill the new habits that made me successful.

Three months of journaling brought me to my first full time writing gig where I saved enough to move out on my own. I succeeded through one simple directive:

Spend 10-20 minutes journaling every night for a year.

To get the most out of your journaling practice, do it at the same time every night. Start your journaling session by writing down positive affirmations about who you are: I am focused, courageous, confident, bold, creative, successful, and positive.

Then simply narrate all of your decisions for the day, searching for things you can congratulate yourself for and also for things you can improve. Ideally, you’ll end each journaling session with action steps for a better tomorrow that you can feed into your daily planner: limit facebook, emails, texts, etc. Which brings us to the next action step!—
 

Directive #3: Eliminate your distractions

By now you know that I was famously unsuccessful up until my mid-twenties. I was arguing with my little sisters over who’d clean up dog crap when my peers were getting masters degrees and mortgages!

But my situation wasn’t due to any genetic deficiency or lack of smarts…I was simply too distracted to make meaningful progress in the areas I desired.

When I picked up journaling, though, and intended on making the most out of every second, I realized just how much progress I could make by eliminating and/or reducing social media, emails, texts, and unstructured internet time. Those habits were always the reasons why my best days never were—why I went to bed feeling bad about my efforts.

So I started doing my first social media fast, logging out of all social media accounts for a full seven days, and strictly limiting email and texts to two check-ins per day. The first day of my first fast indicated just how badly I needed it.

I caught myself unconsciously reaching for my phone or navigating to social media on the computer at least fifty times! I even felt agitated like you’d expect from someone detoxing from cigarettes or alcohol. But the net result was overwhelmingly positive: I had all the uninterrupted focus I needed to accomplish my goals and feel good about myself in the process.

That first week of social media fasting was the first step on a path that ultimately led me to make a six-figure coaching salary, teaching others how to become successful and balanced through eliminating their distractions. My productivity went up by 500% easily because I finally had the time and focus to do deep work. And when I ended the day knowing that I did my best, my confidence grew, which helped me do better work, and get better results—which increased my confidence even more! Social media and distraction couldn’t compete with my newfound results, so I never looked back.

Now I schedule two email/text check-ins per day as independent goals: that way, I’m 100% focused and undisturbed when I need to be writing and working. (Which is most of the time!) All of my email and text notifications are turned off to ensure that my work time remains uninterrupted. And I never miss any urgent situations because I keep my ringer on for phone calls—clients, friends and family know to call me if it’s important.

This one habit of limiting distractions and scheduling my communications was responsible for hundreds of thousands of profit in my writing and coaching career. It also helped me gain control of my thoughts and my actions; instead of escaping into a distraction, I learned how to refer to my daily goals and do work, or simply rest and let my mind recover for a couple minutes. (One of my astute clients noted that her desire to check social/emails/texts was usually when she just needed a mental break!)

So, if you want to get your confidence and productivity as close to 100% as possible…

Eliminate your distractions.

  • Reduce social media to a weekly habit—once or twice is usually enough.Yes, you read that right—social media is not an essential! And it shouldn’t be occupying any more of your time than is profitable. Try spending more time with friends and family, or pursuing your passions instead!
  • Schedule our your email/text check-ins as goals in your daily planner.I have a really relaxed schedule, so I usually only need two: one after my first two hours of work, and one around 5:00pm. But even my clients who thought they were tethered to their phones—salespeople, real estate agents, etc.—discovered that they never needed more than five separate check-ins per day.
  • Limit your article intake.Yes, even the most inspiring, value-packed articles can be a distraction, depending on how you use them. Most of my clients come to me with an unrestricted article-reading habit. They get high off of inspiring stories and empowering advice, but they never do anything with it! So their confidence drops. Then they feel like they need another inspiration hit…and then BAM! They’re reading another article.So, same as my clients, I’m advising you to strictly limit your article intake. If you have an article or two saved that will be really useful to you, set a specific goal for reading and taking notes. That way you’re prepared to fully absorb the value. Also, you’re not using articles as an escape for the inspiration you need to create through empowered action. Which always comes through having a strong daily planning habit—your next directive!

 

 

Directive #4: Plan out every single day

Journaling helped me see the things I could improve. But I didn’t commit to those improvements until I wrote them down. So I started a daily planner.

After my journaling session, I’d take all of my directives and make them concrete in a daily planner. It’s nothing fancy, just a sketchbook with blank pages. But the magic happens when I fill the pages.

I write down everything I need to improve yesterday’s results. At first it was cutting out timewasters. Limiting facebook, email and social media all became daily goals. And with all the extra time I scheduled self-improvement goals.

I blocked out time for writing, learning about writing, and pitching. That took up half my day. As I got more advanced with goal setting, I factored in my other needs as well: like fitness, fun, social time, and giving back.

I rarely accomplished everything on my list. But I always focused on completing the top 5 most important targets. I refused to compromise on my affirmations, so I did them for 10 minutes first thing in the morning—check. I could only reach success as a writer through discipline, so I wrote at least an article a day, first thing in the morning—check. My articles wouldn’t get read if they never got published, so I made daily pitching goals—check. And I could only improve by learning from the greats, so I devoted an hour a day to studying my craft—check.

The more I planned for, the more I accomplished. And the more I accomplished, the more successful I became. Within 6 months I had improved so much that I got paid 10x more than my first full time writing job. I was even paid for editing. I landed my first authority sites, like MindBodyGreen and Elite Daily. And I got my first coaching clients.

The directive that got me to this level was:

Plan out your day.

Use my exclusive planner as a template for your own daily planner:

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Directive #5: Constantly encourage yourself

I used to quit at everything I did. I thought it was because I was a natural-born failure. But when I started encouraging myself all day, whether I had failed or succeeded, I finally found the momentum to push through to success.

For example, I got a rejection letter from a company I was dying to write for recently. I can bash myself for sucking, confirming how much of a failure I am. Or, I can applaud my effort, know that’ll succeed eventually if I keep trying this hard, and learn from the experience.

“You did such an incredible job, Danny—(that’s what I call myself). I’m so proud of you for putting in the time and effort, and for giving your best. You didn’t make it this time, but that’s okay—you’ll make it next time. I promise that I’ll do more research into the website, I’ll craft the right pitch for the right editor, and I’ll double my efforts on improving as a writer. You will land this publication, and I believe in you.”

Encouragement is an adaptive response to failure, and you need it for your successes, too. But most successes are so small that no one but you will notice. That’s the nature of success. All of your major achievements are underpinned by countless tiny goals. And no one will applaud you for these small steps but you.

So, to keep full steam ahead toward your goals, you need to encourage your efforts and celebrate the little steps—you need to encourage your efforts.

So pat yourself on the back every time you check off a goal; every time you make a good decision; every time you can. Tell yourself how much you appreciate your effort. Make encouragement part of your daily ritual.

I list “encourage yourself” in my top ten goals (just like you saw in the daily planner), and I make 10 or more boxes to check off in that department. When I finish an article, I applaud my effort. Check. When I meet my fitness goals, I appreciate what I’ve done for my health and happiness. Check. When I know I’ve done my best at the end of each day, I pump myself up about it. Check.

Through an attitude of constant encouragement, I’ve conquered some of my biggest goals. I try. I try. I try and try and try. And for each effort, whether failure or success, I encourage myself—instant positive feedback. That makes me resilient and it keeps me bouncing back for more. Even when I fail hard.

Now I’m not afraid to climb the highest mountain, or slay the giant (publication), because I’ve got my back no matter what. After 9 months of constant encouragement, I landed Entrepreneur.com. By writing for them, my work got noticed by more companies who wanted to pay me more money.

It’s because I followed this directive: constantly encourage yourself.

(To cement this habit, you really, really need a daily planner.)

 

 

 Directive #6: Rest for 30 minutes in the middle of your day

Hustling is great, don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of it. I do it every day—but not all day. In fact, the 24-7 hustle mentality got me fired from my first full-time writing gig.

I wrote four 800-word articles a day for months. I was able to save up some money, but I couldn’t save my sanity: I was eaten up and burnt out.

I only made time for work, and I forgot about the things that made me happy. I was super-productive. But what was it for? I wasn’t producing happiness. I wasn’t improving as a writer. My quality of life was just as bad as when I lived on the couch—just as miserable, just as incomplete. But now I was on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Luckily, I got canned.

The quality of my writing degraded because I had zero energy, and that was because I never made time for fun and rest. But the company didn’t care about my quality of life. They just fired me. And I was shockingly happy.

The first week I did all the things I deprived myself of: hiking in the mountains, playing beach volleyball, reading for pleasure, and just kicking back to watch the clouds go by. I gave myself a week to recoup. Then I got smart and scheduled rest and fun into my schedule.

I take mini-breaks from writing and editing so I can shift my focus. I’ll do some deep breathing, maybe a couple jump-squats, or lie down on my back for 3 minutes to let my mind wander. Then I jump right back in to my work. But with more focus. More intensity. More inspiration.

Along with the mini breaks, after lunch I block out 30 minutes to an hour of straight nothing. I go to my patio. I turn off my phone. I leave the computer. I lie down and I watch the clouds float by.

I think about my life, what I’m enjoying, what I’m inspired to do more of, what I want to do better, what I’m grateful for. I appreciate what I have. I appreciate the food I just ate. I appreciate the hard work I’ve put in today. I notice the air. I notice the trees. I notice my feelings. I notice everything but work, which gives me time to recharge for maximum performance.

This time for rest is usually when I have my best insights.

If I have a problem, or an obstacle, my meandering mind will find a creative solution, which comes to me like a gift. I keep my notebook handy to write these things down. But other than that, I just rest.

Then I’m done. Then I feel ready and excited to attack the second half of the day. Then I feel like I can take on whatever I need to succeed.

If I skip rest and reflection time, it shows. I don’t have as much energy; I feel like I’m grinding, and I sense a loss of joy. I want to put my best self into my work, so now I make time to rest.

Since I’ve been disciplined resting I’ve gotten dollar-per-word gigs from top companies like Fitbit as well as equally lucrative contracts with state agencies and private companies. But, more than that, I get to whistle while I work—I’m happy. My writing gets better and better, as does my coaching. And counterintuitively, I have more free time to do the things I love. When you take 30 minutes to get to 100%, you are 10 times as effective as the 50%, run-down and drained version of you.

So follow this directive:

Do nothing for 20-30 minutes after lunch.

This is also called meditation J And if you don’t know how to do it, here’s your guide.

 

 

Directive #7: Practice gratitude

Before I’d started any of these directives, my focus was on everything I didn’t have: like the girlfriend I lost, my non-existent success, the money I wasn’t making. I was miserable. I wasn’t effective. And I attracted more and more things to gripe about.

My health fell apart; I felt like I was losing my mind. And it got so bad that I had to change immediately if I wanted to be sane. So I started my self-help journey.

One of the first bits of advice I heard was to be grateful, but I didn’t understand it at first. What did I have to be grateful for? I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t healthy, and I didn’t have what I wanted. But the deeper I got into self-improvement; it became evident that gratitude was the ticket to the positive attitude I needed in order to do my best.

So I practiced gratitude even when I felt purely ungrateful—ten minutes in the morning, and ten minutes throughout the rest of the day. I simply focused on the good people, things, and events in my life: parents who never gave up on me, a roof over my head, a good brain, and about a million minor miracles that kept me safe and alive up till that point.

I wouldn’t end my morning gratitude until I was so joyful that I couldn’t keep from smiling, and so inspired and eager that I couldn’t wait to tear into my goals for the day.

As I grew in this practice, I created a consistently positive attitude that enabled my best efforts even when I felt my worst—which is what made consistent. And that consistency is what made me successful.

When I refused to be grateful, I got stuck in a rut. But the ruts became shallower and less frequent as my gratitude practice became more consistent. Once I shifted to gratitude—even if that involved thirty minutes of hardcore gratitude in bed, or an hourlong gratitude walk to start the day—I’d always find my positive attitude and best efforts.

If you want more opportunities to grow rich, and if you want to consistently be and do your best follow this directive:

Spend at least 20 minutes a day in gratitude—and don’t start your day until you’ve cultivated an inspired attitude through grateful thinking.

Split this time up between your morning routine and your afternoon meditation. Reflect on the people, events, and things that have helped you succeed. Feel joy for them. Smile for them. Then think of more things, like your childhood, your teachers, your parents, your role models. Find gratitude for your mistakes, and everything that brought you to this opportunity to succeed. You’ll be grateful that you did.

 

 

Directive #8: Visualize daily

Seeing is believing.

Before I started visualizing, the only thing I saw was the crappy reality I had created: my mom’s house, no friends, no fun, no life. I stayed stuck for a long time because I refused to use my imagination.

But I overcame years of stuckness almost in an instant when I started visualizing.

Anyone who has achieved fame and fortune has used visualization. Tesla, famous scientist and inventor, visualized every single part of the hydroelectric dam at Niagara Falls. Roger Banister, famous for running the first sub-four minute mile, accomplished his feat not by any special physical training, but by seeing himself reaching his goal in his mind.

What barriers will you see yourself breaking through?

Starting visualization was hard for me at first. I just couldn’t believe that seeing something in my mind would make a difference, and I couldn’t believe the things I saw anyway. So I dropped it. But that was before I picked up affirmations and journaling and all of the other success rituals that gave me confidence and self-esteem.

When I picked up visualization again, it became one of the most important tools for my success. The grateful and inspired feelings I generated during a powerful visual sustained me through the lean times, and motivated me to work harder and better even when I wasn’t seeing the results physically. Visualization kept me intensely focused when I needed to perform.

Most people give up on their dreams because they don’t see the results they want. They get down on themselves. They bash their efforts, trash their dreams, and quit. But that’s not you: all you have to do is stick to a visualization routine.

It maps out the future. It gives you a sense of competence and familiarity in uncharted territory, which helps you make good decisions when it counts. Visualization is the bridge between the life you have now and the life you want.

Today I visualize for at least twenty minutes every day. I spend time in gratitude first, to build up the feeling of wealth. Then I see myself growing as a writer. I see myself getting published on bigger and bigger publication. I see myself making more money, and spending it on growing my business, on spoiling my friends and family, and on doing the things I love.

Not only do I see, but I feel. I feel the body that I want to have. I feel the money in my hands. I feel the excitement and joy of reaching my highest goals. I feel gratitude for the things I visualize even though I haven’t experienced them physically—and that’s the key. Because whatever you are grateful for, you will have.

The directive that took me to the next level of success is this:

Visualize for 20 minutes every day.

See yourself accomplishing your lofty goals. See yourself doing what you love. See yourself inspiring lot of people. See yourself making lots of money. See yourself giving it away to the people you love, and see yourself building more wealth and happiness with it.

But don’t just see. Feel and hear and taste and smell the success. The more vivid and detailed you make this sensory experience, the more powerful it will be when it comes to real-life results. Most important: feel gratitude for all of that you have before visualization, and for the things you visualize.

 

 

Directive #9: Do Your Best

I started writing four years ago. I steadily grew my career by scheduling my time, committing to success rituals, and by writing every day. But after year one, I was still living with my parents. I did well. But I could’ve done much, much better.

Then one night before bed I randomly asked myself in the mirror,

“Did you do your best today?”

I didn’t. And I knew exactly where I let myself down. But instead of sulking about it, I just promised myself to do my best the next day. The next evening I made another appointment with the man in the mirror and asked the same question. “Did you do your best?”

This time I answered yes. And it felt f$!@%g amazing.

The question made success simple for me. I needed to do my best to succeed, like everyone. And if I wasn’t doing my best, there really wasn’t a reason for it, other than a lack of focus.

So I began writing that one directive into my daily planner: Do your best. I put a fat square around it; I’d dream about how good I’d feel checking it off that night; I focused my best effort into my daily tasks.

Why the hell not?

A month goes by and I’ve got a contract worth ten-fold more than my last gig. I ask myself the same question every night—“Did I do my best,” and I answer affirmatively half of the time. The other half I’m figuring where I came up short and committing to a better showing the next day.

Three months go by: I’m published on Entrepreneur.com. I’m batting 90% on my nightly question—did I do my best? Because I’m focusing with such intensity, I’m finding ways around all the obstacles that had kept me from results. When I need more money, I don’t just sit around and wait; I pitch my ass off and earn a new client or two.

I’m realizing that part of my best effort is to never become complacent as a writer. So I schedule 1-2 hours daily for studying my craft. I’m also figuring out that doing my best requires a ton of energy and focus—which I don’t have unless I’m taking good care of myself. So I get serious about fitness goals, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, taking enough breaks, drinking enough water, and penciling enough fun into my week so that I’m 100% present and focused on my work when I’m working.

Doing my best has become my mantra and lifestyle. And the more I focus on it, the better I get.

A year has passed since my life-changing directive. Now doing my best isn’t even a question (though I still ask, just to be safe). Sometimes I wake up feeling like roadkill, but I figure out a way to change my energy and do the things I must. When you’re doing your best, there isn’t any other way.

In a short year, I’d gone from nickels per word to dollars per word. I’d moved out of the comfort of my parent’s house and accepted the challenges of being an independent man. Today I’m accomplishing accomplishing greater things, every single week, and helping more people. I’m able to do it all because I know I’m doing my best. My best is enough.

And so is yours. So, start planning on doing your best every single day.

Recap

  • Eliminate your distractions. Restrict your social media for limited weekend use only, and limit your email/text checks to 3-5 times during the day.
  • Plan out an ass-kicking day with 5-8 concrete action steps related to your ambitions.
  • Then don’t begin your day until you’ve cultivated an inspired attitude through gratitude, exercise, and visualization. This is possible if you focus your thoughts, and accept nothing less than an inspired attitude to start the morning.
  • Encourage your efforts all throughout the day so you aren’t relying on (non-existent) instant results for confidence and energy. Write out ten checkboxes for self-encouragement in your daily planner.
  • Make sure to take break from the world for around half an hour after lunch—reflect on the good in life, feel how good it feels just to be. Meditate!)
  • And end each day by reflecting on your thoughts and decisions in a journal.

 

Conclusion

These directives gave me a new life in a year. But it only took that long because I had to stumble and fail to find them. With all 9 directives right here and ready to be practiced, however, your growth curve can and will be much steeper. You can achieve an inspired life in under a month. (If you stick to the habits, you’ll see incredible results in under a week!!)

It’s a challenge, sure. But the pressure is just what you need to break out of your comfort zone and grow into the new you. Need expert accountability and guidance along the way?

 

Check out my coaching package today

 

 

Written by Daniel Dowling
Hi! I'm Dan, founder of Millennial Success. When I'm not getting six-packed--that's "hit in the face" in beach volleyball--or reading Jane Austen's novels for the fifth time, I'm helping people make every day a breakthrough as a writer and coach.