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

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Article originally appeared at DYLN Inspired

Wellness is a mindset. But how do you change a mind that’s been set for years—decades even? For most of us, we have to battle against disempowering habits and beliefs to achieve the life we want. And that can seem like an uphill affair.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are 5 strategies you can start now to simplify your transition into a healthier lifestyle:  

1. Give Yourself Plenty of Visual Reminders

Set reminders

The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” applies most to self-improvement. Studies at Cornell University showed that people were less likely to eat vegetables when they were stashed in the vegetable drawer, and likelier to eat healthy when the good food was visible. The conclusion? Keep your eyes on the prize. Literally.  

We depend on visual cues. So, for whatever improvement you desire, you can increase your chances of sticking to it by reminding yourself with sticky notes, index cards, pictures, and notifications on your phone.

For example, we know it’s healthy to drink half our weight in ounces of water. But if you don’t have the water bottle in front of you…are you actually going to drink? We recommend selecting one of our 5 vibrant colors of DYLN Alkaline Water Bottles—you’ll never miss ‘em.

2. Get an Accountability Coach

Studies show that we’re likelier to follow through with our goals if we have someone to hold us accountable. People pay thousands of dollars just to have someone check in on their progress! But all you need is a friend or loved one.

Share your goals with them—the more specific, the better. Ask them to help you by keeping you accountable, which could be as little as a 5-minute phone call per week. And set up consequences for not sticking to your plan: like giving your accountability coach a sum of money, or donating to their favorite charity.

Most importantly, pick someone who you can celebrate your successes with—someone who is emotionally invested in your wellbeing. Their presence will legitimize your goals.

3. Make Rituals

Yoga Ritual

Rituals help to strengthen your neural connections to a positive outcome. Running 5 miles a day can seem like a grueling task, for instance. But a good ritual can help you mentally prepare for the challenge. After you’ve laced up, listened to your pre-run jam, and downed your sports drink, you find yourself beating the pavement without difficulty.

It’s all in the ritual. And the stronger it is, the better it supports your habits. 

So try to incorporate more of the things you love into the positive behaviors you want. If you know yoga is the best for your body but find it hard to stick with, mix it up with music. Maybe treat yourself with your favorite green smoothie afterward. Do it with friends. Then when you commit to doing yoga, it’s not just yoga: it’s a time to listen to your favorite tunes, and hang out with your favorite people, and sip your favorite drink. All of those positive associations involved in a ritual will help you stay consistent.

4. Applaud Your Effort

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We strive for goals because we want to be a certain person, or have a certain quality of life. That’s normal. But those incentives statistically don’t hold water—we have a 92% failure rate for new resolutions. What’s the missing link?

It’s self-acceptance.

We get to thinking we’re not worthy of praise until we’ve become the person we want to be, until we’ve lost the weight, until we’ve found success. But if success depends on motivation—which it does—and if you reserve your praise for completed goals, then how can you stick with something that takes longer than a day?

That’s why it’s smart to praise your effort—not the outcome.

When you give your best effort, you need lots of encouragement from yourself to continue the behavior. So applaud your effort. Doesn’t matter if you’ve hit your mark. When you do your best and improve consistently, you will hit your goals. 

You can stay consistent by routinely praising your efforts. Take 5 minutes at the end of the day to journal about the efforts you’re grateful for. 

5. Visualize

What was the last fitness goal you committed to but didn’t stick with? Chances are, you stopped because you couldn’t see yourself succeeding. But that can change that if you practice seeing yourself doing what you want.

We tend to fear the unknown—even when the unknown is the thing we want; like health, or vitality. Visualizing helps you overcome that fear by repeatedly exposing you to your desired outcome, even if only in your mind. If you make something familiar enough in your mind, it won’t seem so big—so unattainable—and that gives you the mental fortitude to persist in the necessary habits. 

Conclusion

What healthy habits have you been putting on the back burner? If you prepare a game plan with these 5 mindsets, you can make the quality of life you dream about a reality. So remind yourself of your goals with visual cues. Get an accountability coach. Make rituals out of your healthy habits. Consistently applaud your effort—I’m talking 30 times a day. And practice visualizing your goals before you start your day. 

Oh—one more thing. All of this goal setting and ass-kicking puts a premium on your mental focus, which is related to your state of hydration. So drink lots of the right water.