The 5-Minute Exercise That Will Transform Your Life Forever

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

Here’s How to Get (And Stay) Focused

“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.

Digestion

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

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.

B-vitamins

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:

Social media
Aimlessly surfing the web
Texting
Compulsive email checking
TV
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:

Meditation
Journaling
Regular exercise
Reading
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.

Conclusion

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

A 5-Step Routine to Rewire Your Brain As You Sleep

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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.

 I’ll recognize where I came up short, but I won’t dwell on that. Instead, I’ll think of the amazing things I can do tomorrow to improve myself, my relationships, my career, and all the things I can control.

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 wallow a bit more, wishing you were somewhere you weren’t, regretting the things you haven’t done, fearing the life you might not get to live, accomplishing nothing. And as you drift off to sleep, your subconscious will ruminate on those disempowering thoughts. The thoughts will fester. And breed with each other. And occupy more and more of your mind so that by the time you wake up, you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and that a dark cloud has obscured your vision, smothering your joy.

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.

3. Visualize.

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.

 4. Plan.

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.

5. Read.

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

How I Learned to Outcompete Much More Experienced Freelancers

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Article originally appeared on FastCompany.com

Most freelance careers take a little while to build. But for a long time, my growth curve looked like the readout of a dead man’s EKG. The main thing holding me back was myself: I was ashamed of being a beginner.

So I hid behind cheesy LinkedIn taglines like “Professional Writer,” and I spun my writing history into sounding impressive. But what that really told the world was that I was scared to be me–somebody new to the game.

Looking back, I lost business this way. Clients who might’ve hired me were turned off by my pretentiousness. Here’s how I finally got over it.

BRUTAL HONESTY WORKS BETTER

I realize now that the better strategy would have been candor:

Hey Businessperson, I don’t have much experience. I’m just starting out—but I can write. And I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. You’ll love my work, guaranteed. If you don’t, you don’t have to pay.

Using this strategy, I wouldn’t have had to wait so long to build up my credibility. And while writing on spec would have been risky for me—putting time into a project without no promised payout—it still would’ve been valuable experience to pad my resume.

Not only that, but in exposing myself and failing more, my confidence and resilience as a new freelancer would’ve doubled in half the time. Instead, my fear of being recognized as a neophyte slowed my progress. Worse, I put more energy into building and preserving a false image than in developing my value. Because I didn’t believe in myself, I couldn’t count on others to believe in me either.

Writing my way out

Fortunately, my favorite area of writing is self-improvement. And the more I practiced things like journaling, self-affirmations, and meditation, the less embarrassed I became. Steadily, my work became more genuine and my strategy for getting it out there more ambitious. I pitched national corporations and painted myself just as I was: an underdog passionate about writing and inspiring others. When I pitched the real me, clients were more willing to take a chance. And I delivered.

Once I shook off my beginner’s nerves, I gave other people a real chance to accept me as is. And why wouldn’t they? I write for hours a day, edit for just as many, and do my best to live and breathe my craft. Businesses need that kind of ethic–and that conviction is my personal brand as a writer. It’s part of my value proposition. I’ve found that clients are willing to bet on me if they sense it and know that it’s authentic—even if my competitors have (much) more experience under their belts.

Here are a few of the bad habits I had to shake–and the new ones I learned to adopt–in order to compete successfully with other full-time freelancers despite being a newcomer.

DROP THE CHINTZY TAGLINES, AND JUST BE A PROFESSIONAL

Professionalism is evident in your conduct and in your work. No amount of taglines can make you a true professional, and other professionals know that. So don’t be afraid to embrace whatever level of your craft where you find yourself. Just be a “writer” or a “designer” or a “consultant”–no need to be a “professional writer” or “expert graphic designer.” Scrap the adjectives. Be humble. People like that.

Professionals are known for their work ethics, not their job titles–and that’s especially true of freelancers. They go to conferences to learn the latest techniques. They read trade publications. They do the thing they say they do for hours and hours a day. So do that.

Many would-be pros drop out of the game before they get a chance to make real money because they aren’t earning enough. And it’s true that working for yourself full-time can take a long time to become sustainable. Many people spend years in the the part-time phase. But if you accept that the money will come eventually–and that it will come faster the more you practice–you’ll feel better about devoting several hours a day to whatever it is you do. Just make sure to do it. Be the professional you want to be seen to be.

How? Start small and work up from there. Browse websites and businesses to see where your work would be useful. Try solving a problem that a company doesn’t know it had, even if it’s a minor a design flaw, or just a clumsy landing page–and even if you’re doing it on your own rather than for money. Work on that project as if you weregetting paid. Stick with it until it’s completed. And at the very least, you’ll have refined your craft. And at the most, you’ll have something real that you can pitch to the company, and if they like it, they’ll buy it.

VICARIOUS EXPERIENCE COUNTS, TOO

Writers can learn from their own mistakes and successes as well as others’. If you study others practitioners’ experiences and absorb them vicariously, you won’t have to stumble around for years learning the same lessons firsthand. You can apply the book knowledge to real work.

I improved my writing considerably after reading just a couple of books. I took frenzied notes on just about every page, then focused on implementing each lesson into my next work session. Super simple. But it takes a level of discipline and persistence that not everybody has.

PRAISE YOUR EFFORT, NOT YOUR RESULTS

The key to sustaining your growth is to praise your effort, not your outcomes. If you rely only on your successes for confidence boosts, you’ll putter out before you earn 10 bucks. You’ll fail dozens if not hundreds of times before you get a positive result. So applaud every ounce of energy you devote toward your goals, whether that means studying or working. If you can’t learn how to support yourself emotionally and psychologically, you may not manage to support yourself financially, either.

START A SELF-ACCEPTANCE PRACTICE

In my experience, the easiest and most effective way to improve your self-acceptance is journaling. It only takes a few minutes at the end of the day. And all you have to write about are the things you were grateful for, especially the things you did–the effort you showed, what you were proud of, and so on.

This simple habit teaches you to accept yourself no matter what level you’re at, whom you’re competing with, and which setbacks you’ve recently encountered. It teaches you to look for the best in yourself, relentlessly, even when that’s hardest. And that’s how you’ll get everyone else in the world to accept you, too–clients and employers included.

How to Handle Rejection

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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.”
Louis L’Amour

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 To Unlearn Narcissism

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 Step into this scene:

You walk into a crowded party and are greeted by a sea of faces—most of them beaming smiles. But instead of a surge of curiosity, you feel an overwhelming sense of pressure. Then you imagine, “Are they thinking about me? Am I pretty enough? Are they looking at someone more beautiful than me? How can I appear more desirable? Please look at me. You don’t want to look at me? Well, you’re ugly.”

Now you know what it’s like to think like a narcissist. I do, too. Because that person used to be me.

A balanced human would think something along the lines of, “She’s beautiful–He looks fun–I want to get to know this person.” But then again, most people don’t have an enormous hole where their self-worth should be. Narcissists do.

The making of a narcissist:

Narcissists are usually talented and attractive people who skipped over one small detail in their formation: that life is about serving others. The satisfaction of knowing that our actions create value for others is what fills us with self-worth. Those who give freely have the most to give. Narcissists, on the other hand, feel the need to constantly take.
They think their self-worth is a result of what others give them. As a reformed narcissist, I grew up thinking that what I had to offer wasn’t good enough. So when I was called handsome or intelligent, I clung to those compliments as life preservers. And I did everything to perpetuate that image.

I pursued sexual relationships to feel validated. Instead of finding my worth and joy in the things I gave to others, I was entirely dependent on the praise of my natural endowments. I was powerless—jumping from one relationship to the next, sucking up as much pleasure as I could and bailing when things got rocky. And I exited each relationship with less confidence and sanity than I had to begin with.

The cycle drove me nuts. After my third live-in relationship, I seriously considered whether life was worth living. That’s when I knew I needed a serious change.

The unmaking of a narcissist:

I’d heard from famous speakers like Zig Ziglar that happiness lies in the giving. “You’ll get what you want if you just help enough other people get what they want,” he said. I was lucky enough to have been exposed to Zig’s messages when I was at rock bottom, living with my parents, jobless, and broken. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would’ve made it.

As it was, I took Zig’s messages to heart. A complete 180 was my only option, so I started helping others through the written word. But in order to stick with the whole “living for others” bit, I had to unlearn the selfish habits that had made me behave like a narcissist. It started with giving up porn.

Porn had always been my biggest crutch. Whenever I was bored, anxious, nervous, or unsure, I turned to porn. The dopamine release was like crack, which distracted me from any uncomfortable feelings I had. But there was one hitch: In all of that self-pleasure, I never actually learned a thing about myself—and I sure as hell didn’t think about making life better for others. It had to go.

The next thing I nixed was casual dating.

My friends and family had described me as a hopeless romantic because I was never happy out of love. As long as I was in a relationship, I didn’t have to shoulder the responsibility of fulfilling myself—I didn’t have to think about how I was making life better for others. If I was giving my girlfriend wild sex, and if the relationship was entertaining, I could lose myself till it ended, which it always did. And when it did, I focused on getting into another one so that I didn’t have to be lonely—so that I could lose myself. Giving wasn’t part of the equation, so I had to let the casual relationships go.

Finally, I gave up dependency.

Your life heads in the direction of your thoughts. When my habitual thoughts were about others serving me—like my mom and dad cooking, cleaning, and providing shelter for me—it was impossible to break out of my selfish patterns. But as I cured myself of narcissism, as I helped others through my writing, and as I grew my profession, I started thinking more about providing for myself. And then one day, I made the leap.

I had to think about myself to survive. I worked hard and improved as a writer so that I could eat, but the motivation wasn’t just for me. I wanted to eat so that I could write, and I wanted to write so that I could help others improve their lives. The better I got at providing for myself, the more valuable my messages became. And after one full year of living solo, I’d left narcissism in the mirror.

These three habits helped me transform:

1. Journaling was instrumental in my transformation.

I didn’t notice my thought patterns until I wrote them down day after day. When I started journaling, I could finally see those selfish thoughts and behaviors, plain as day. Then I’d replace the old thoughts and habits with better ones.

2. Planning out each day was another important step.

If I didn’t plan on being a better me after my journaling sessions, I wouldn’t have gotten very far. So I made concrete action steps that would make me a more confident, generous, selfless, and useful person, day after day. For instance: through journaling, I’d notice that I felt hopelessly dependent on other’s opinions of me when I spent too much time on Facebook. So, the next day, I’d plan to not use Facebook at all, opting for a self-improvement activity like reading or writing.

3. Affirmations were the third critical step in unlearning my narcissistic tendencies.

People who describe themselves as narcissists have an unedited mind that keeps spewing selfish and disempowering thoughts. Ick. When you hear a lie once, it’s just a lie. But when it’s repeated over and over and over and over, you’ll believe just about anything—no matter how insane it is. I believed I was worth nothing because that’s what I kept telling myself.

When I began making affirmations, I thought I was repeating lies. “I am beautiful, I am worthy, I am generous, I am capable, I am independent…” Bullshit, I thought. But as I stuck with the habit, I started believing in them. Then I started acting like I believed them. And then I was them. I realized I’d actually been those good things all along—it’s just that my mind was so programmed with junk that I couldn’t see the truth before.

We are all good—even those of us who behave narcissistically, like I did. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who behaves narcissistically, even if that person is you, it’s best to go solo and to focus on thinking and behaving like the intelligent and inspiring person you were born to be. Affirmations, journaling, and daily planners helped me make the change. So did giving up porn, casual relationships, and being dependent.

Article originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.com