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 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

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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

celebrate your efforts

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.

 

 

What Competitive Beach Volleyball Taught Me About Leadership

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Article originally appeared on FastCompany.com

“Damn,” I thought, after another humiliating loss. “You’re better than 90% of the players here, but you’re finishing on the bottom rung every time. What’s going on?”

I’ve played competitive beach volleyball for five years, and until recently I’d consistently placed within the top three in most tournaments. But I couldn’t seem to master the “King of the Beach” (KOB)-style tournament, where players rotate partners after each game. I rarely placed better than 16th out of a pool of 20, yet I could spring higher, block better, and out-hit most of the competition.

After consoling myself with “I’m better than them” so many times, I realized I wasn’t better. There was some skill missing that I didn’t have or wasn’t using. It was only at my last tournament—where I placed first in my division—where I discovered the missing ingredient. Here’s what I learned.

TEAMWORK IN ZERO-TO-SIXTY
In regular doubles, players practice with each other dozens of times before partnering up. You have the time to establish chemistry and get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But there’s no such luxury in KOB games. Sometimes you’ve met the people that you’re partnered up with before, but a lot of the time they’re perfect strangers. In either case, you’re suddenly thrown together as teammates—and you either make on-the-spot corrections and motivate your partner immediately, or you flunk out of the pool. That’s exactly what happened in my first five tournaments.

Once I got the confidence to critique my partners, I knew I had to execute at my highest level or I’d look like a fraud.

My reaction to unskilled partners was, “What’s wrong with him? Why is he sucking?” So a couple weeks ago I finally tried to switch up my approach, and basically just psych myself up with a new mantra: “I know he can do better. How can I bring out his best?” In other words, I adopted a leadership perspective. And I won.

These are the three main lessons I learned about developing powerful teamwork pretty much instantaneously.

1. FALSE POSITIVITY IS WORSE THAN CRITICISM
I routinely placed in the bottom 20 at my first few KOB tournaments because of false positivity. My partner would shank a pass and I’d just beam, tell him he’d do better next time, and clap him on the back. But better never came.

I focused so much on staying positive that I forgot about my own game. Then I’d shank passes and miss easy kills. I’d swear under my breath and slink from the court after another loss. But boy did I have a big smile!

Then I learned that good leaders need to give good criticism. If you recognize a habit that’s killing your team’s performance, it needs to be addressed and handled—and fast. In my first-ever, first-place KOB volleyball tournament the weekend before last, I learned how to assemble what some call a criticism sandwich. That method has itself been criticized by some experts, but it worked like a charm for me. When my partners weren’t passing correctly, I’d follow this three-step process:

I thanked them sincerely and praised their efforts. “That last dig was ridiculous—such a good dig. I love playing with you.”
Then I’d call out the problem and suggest a solution: “But we’re bleeding points right now, and it’s because of our passing. So get your platform out early and pass it low like you know how. Get it right to my hands.”
Then I’d finish with another positive in the form of a compliment: “You’re playing lights out, so let’s have fun and put the next one straight down. You’ve got this.”
Sticking with that simple sandwich recipe, I improved the most out of every other player in the tournament, finishing first in my pool. All I had to do was ditch my aversion to criticism and address the issues with good humor. Best of all, this approach worked right off the bat, including with teammates I’d never even met before.

2. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH (CONSISTENTLY)
Good leaders do more than set examples. They practice what they preach over and over and over. I flopped in my earlier tournaments because I wasn’t consistent. I dropped my own performance to match my partner’s level of play.

Worse, I didn’t feel confident enough to address the problem. So I just slid to the backseat and watched another loss unfold. I didn’t take responsibility or practice leading from the front.

But once I got the confidence to critique my partners, I knew I had to execute at my highest level or else I’d look like a fraud. I made sure to set the ball two feet off the net and 16 feet high before I demanded a better set from my partner. I squared up my own platform and showed the kind of pass I needed before I asked for it.

That communicated more than I could have with just words—or rather, my words already matched my actions, and both stayed consistent. And it seems in retrospect that each of my partners could tell; each of them subtly but distinctly raised their own performance level. It’s amazing what people will do for you when you show them how to do it.

3. SAY THANK YOU MORE OFTEN
Most of us bash ourselves when we fail, and we forget to applaud ourselves when we get it right. But we all need positive reinforcement for a job well done if we expect continued results. Good leaders remind us of that need by constantly encouraging good behavior.

I said thank you after each play, and I didn’t care if it sounded repetitive, because my thanks came from the heart.
In my successful tournament, I said thank you after each play, and I didn’t care if it sounded repetitive, because my thanks came from the heart. “What a beautiful pass. Just where I needed it. Keep it up!” Or, “That was three spikes in a row! You’re doing awesome man, thanks.”

My gratitude boosted my partners’ confidence so that they performed at their peak. And the final scorecard proved it: I won each game by an average of 10 points or more.

Looking back, it isn’t all that surprising that the secret to building great teamwork right away is just a dose of leadership. But when it’s just you and a partner, it sometimes feels wrong to take the reins. But that didn’t mean being domineering or bossy. All I had to do was confront issues head on, play as hard as I wanted my partners to play, and thank them consistently for doing good work. That’s something anybody can do—not just leaders.

What Happened When I Replaced My To-Do Lists With “Love-to-do” Lists

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To-do lists are for robots, which I’ve discovered I am not. In my experience, the more “grownup” you become, the more you’re forced to mechanically check things off a list just to get paid. That’s life—welcome to adulthood, kid. But life wasn’t working out the way I’d wanted it to; I got stuff done, I just hated doing it.

So when I finally quit my job to strike out on my own, I decided to inject a little humanity back in my work. To do that, I had to give my to-do lists the boot. I stopped writing those and began writing “love-to-do” lists instead.

I figured that since humans thrive on positive emotions, my career might take an upswing if I committed to doing more of the things I love. That was the theory, anyhow. Here’s how it went for me.

QUITTING MY JOB, AND SHIFTING GEARS

I first considered making this switch when I recognized that no amount of professional accomplishment would make me truly happy. I’d done a lot for my last company, and I’d done well there as an employee. But by the end, I still found that I had to wrench my brain for even a so-so idea. My creativity was suffering, and I just didn’t have enough of those “hell yes!” moments over the course of an average workday to love what I was doing. I was feeling autopilot set in.

I figured that since humans thrive on positive emotions, my career might take an upswing if I committed to doing more of the things I love.
The impulses to defenestrate my laptop and scratch up some adventure became more frequent. But I wasn’t able to rationalize fun for the sake of fun. The articles wouldn’t write themselves, I knew.

I still know that, and yet working for myself has turned out to be quite different—thanks in large part to the love-to-do lists I began writing shortly after going solo. Adopting them while I was still finding my footing as my own boss was liberating. Since I was charging what I wanted, I often had the freedom to write one really good article a day—or even one a week—which freed up a lot more time to do the things I loved.

Which ended up being terrifying.
Our culture has an enormous amount of lazy shame. We can hardly live with ourselves if we aren’t producing something. It’s actually pretty common for first-time freelancers to experience acute anxiety that even though they’re making ends meet, they just aren’t working enough.

I got over this fear when I realized that living my life and doing the things I loved made me better at my craft—and subsequently just as productive and creative as I needed to be in order to earn a living and feel good about doing it.

MAKING MORE TIME TO GET MOTIVATED
In my long hikes in the mountains, I’d find inspiring ideas hiding behind every bend like little forest sprites. Breaking away from the desk to play beach volleyball filled me with competitiveness and the hunger to constantly improve. That helped me go after bigger clients and work harder at my writing game. And lying down in the afternoons to do absolutely nothing—except gaze at the clouds—trained me to accept silence, and to listen for inspiration.

The more love-to-do’s I checked off, the more satisfied I became with my life and my work.

But here’s the thing: I’m as disciplined and productive as ever. I’m as focused playing guitar for 30 minutes as I am researching an article. So yes, I still have to do the standard to-do’s—meet with client X, take phone call Y, edit Z draft. But I don’t approach those work tasks with the same sense of dread that I used to.

Now that there’s something energizing and actually enjoyable waiting for me just past every task, my motivation feels pretty much bottomless. Writing this article, for instance, wasn’t the apex of my professional desires when I woke up this morning. But it turned out to be fun because I’m channeling the positivity I generated from this morning’s rock-climbing session into something productive.

Our culture has an enormous amount of lazy shame. We can hardly live with ourselves if we aren’t producing something.
And when the weekends come, I’m guilt-free. I don’t feel the need to be busy for the sake of busyness, so I can relax, and recharge, and do what I love. You know, like a human. When I settle down to my keyboard the following Monday, I don’t have the back-to-reality blues that most people have—because I know that I can do a little of what I love during the workday, too. That keeps me present at work, and relaxed. And that’s when I do my best. That’s also when I get paid the most.

SCHEDULING WHAT YOU LOVE TAKES DISCIPLINE
If this sounds like a paean to self-employment more so than an endorsement of love-to-do lists, it isn’t entirely. You don’t actually need to quit your job in order to gain more time to do what fulfills you. No, your boss probably won’t like it if you duck out every Wednesday afternoon to go for a bike ride. And it’s true that work is still work—it can’t all be fun, which is why your employer pays you to do it.

But building more “love” into your to-do lists isn’t about trying to change all that. It’s just a strategy to consciously and regularly do more of the enjoyable things you already do (haphazardly) over the course of a workweek. That way you have more energy and inspiration to excel at what you do. And like anything else, it takes discipline.

You don’t actually need to quit your job in order to gain more time to do what fulfills you . . . [but] it takes discipline.
To get started, take an hour tonight after work to do some journaling, and reflect on the activities that energize you most. Start your list first with the things you actually love to do in an average week. (If you don’t normally go squirrel-suit skydiving on an average week—or have never even tried it—don’t add that right away.) Then work out from there. If you’re coming up short, think about what you used to do on an average week—when you were a kid, back when having fun was okay. Write those down.

Once you have a few past or current pleasures accounted for, you can think a little more wishfully. Write down some things that appeal to you even if you’ve never tried them—like salsa dancing.

Now you need to commit. Pick two or three items that you can realistically accomplish next week. Then schedule those love-to-dos right alongside your other work-related imperatives. Those are now appointments on your calendar like any other, so you need to keep just as much as you need to not miss that conference call or meet that project deadline.

My daily love-to-dos look something like this:

Meditate
Journal
Do some sprints
Break away from the computer every 30 minutes for a round of pushups
Read some fiction
Play some guitar
Sing
Play with the dog
Reflect on the things I’m grateful for
Look at the clouds
I don’t always check off every single thing on this list every single day, but I can always hit most of them—whereas before writing love-to-do lists, these activities were just periodic pastimes.

And for my week, I’ll schedule some bigger activities that I can’t do every day:

Take a long hike in the arroyo (I live in Albuquerque)
Practice volleyball at least twice a week
Go rock climbing at least twice a week
Play a doubles beach volleyball tournament on Saturday
Go to choir practice
Spend time with my nieces and nephews
Climb the biggest tree by the river

Other than professional singers, not many people have “sing” on their to-do lists. But then again, not many people have committed to actually scheduling out the things they love to do. Will you?

Article originally published on FastCompany.com

3 Steps to Become More Resilient

3 Top Sustainable Clothing Brands to Try-  CheatSheet.com

           (Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com)

Success of any kind takes time, consistent effort, failure and resilience. Take the late Louis L’Amour, for example. He’s regarded as America’s greatest storyteller, with over 60 published novels — most of them bestsellers.

In his autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man, L’Amour shares his failures like a badge of honor. It was a big badge, too. A picture of his submissions log reveals countless rejections. Had L’Amour identified with his failures, he would’ve quit long before greatness. Instead, he viewed failure as a step to success. And he kept stepping.

“I knew there was going to be failure, I just didn’t know how much,” L’Amour said.

If you’ve dealt with some colossal failures in your business, you’re on the right path. Keep going. But if you want to convert those failures to success, you need more resilience.

How I grew resilience

For my first 24 years, I had about as much resilience as a kale chip. I refused to try anything I wasn’t automatically good at, and I rarely, if ever, put myself on the line. I was so brittle that if I failed, that meant I was a failure. Because of my fear of failure, I was completely dependent on my parents, which only fed the fear.

But in my mid-twenties, I realized that I could only be happy if I provided for myself. So I confronted my demons. I saw just how brittle I had become, and I planned to become more resilient.

In studying experts like Brené Brown and Josh Waitzkin, I learned that resilience comes through celebrating effort, not results. That concept conflicted with my perfectionist attitude. I wasn’t used to coaching myself, and the idea of positive thinking seemed laughable, considering my lack of success.

But what choice did I have? I couldn’t surf couches forever. So I began my own three-step resilience routine.

1. Affirmations and encouragement

Each morning I looked at myself in the mirror and said out loud all the good things I saw or wanted to be. (I know, this conjures up images of Chris Farley’s motivational speaker character from SNL. But funny as it may be, it worked for me.)

I listed all the things I knew I’d accomplish. I congratulated myself on the effort I gave the day before, regardless of the outcome. And I gave myself permission to fail.

2. I started a daily planner

I wrote down all the goals I wanted to achieve in a week and gave myself daily directives to reach them. When I checked off an accomplishment, no matter how small, I would flood myself with encouragement for the effort, for the consistency and for the persistence I showed.

Instead of depending on results for motivation, I relied on my own encouragement and the checklist of accomplishments that told me I was succeeding. I chose to depend on the things I could control.

3. I adopted a nightly journal

I used a journal to reflect on and dissect my daily effort. I praised the energy that I put into succeeding, noting the important thoughts and actions that pulled me through. I reflected on how my attitude affected my efforts and what I could do to change my attitude.

I also wrote about where I didn’t give my best effort. But instead of focusing on the negative, I appreciated myself just the same, told myself how much better I would do the next day and made specific plans to do so. Every directive I came up with through journaling was fed back into my daily planner so that I could improve the next day.

Resilience gave me independence

My resilience routine obliterated the brittle mindset that had held me back. I took a leaf from L’Amour and started my own rejection list. Each “thanks, but you suck” letter I received meant that I was one step closer to results. So, like L’Amour, I kept stepping. (Unlike L’Amour, I am still waiting on my 60th bestseller.)

Related: 5 Daily Habits to Optimize Your 2017

The more I praised my effort, the more courage I had to step into the arena and face failure. And I failed with style. I got rejection after rejection from all the big websites, including this one. Query letters to new clients went unanswered or rejected. There were even people who got offended at my attempts to succeed. But, unlike my brittle former self, I kept going. I celebrated the failure. Every time I chose to applaud my effort rather than dwell on mistakes, I became more resilient.

Within one year of adopting a resilience practice, I went from a couch-surfing boy adrift to an independent man, a writer — published on the world’s best sites — and a contributor to my local business community.

My resilience practice gave me an inner strength that helped me succeed not only as an entrepreneur, but as an athlete, friend, brother, uncle, role model and son too.

Conclusion

Are you where you want to be professionally? Are you able to take risks? If not, start your resilience routine today.

Come up with the affirmations that you need. Encourage yourself from dawn to dusk. Plan out your day, celebrating your efforts as you achieve. And reflect on your day each night with a journal, assessing what you did right and where you can do better.

Encourage yourself. Take risks. Accept failure. And embrace success.

15 Signs You Need a Social Media Cleanse

Social cleanse

(Article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com)

The shiny red notifications. The ‘likes.’ The tags.

Don’t kid yourself — you live for those little guys.

But they’re nothing more than a digital high. Social media is fast becoming an addiction in our hyper-connected world, and it’s silently wrecking you. Maybe you don’t even realize how much you depend on those comments, shares and follows. If you recognize any of these symptoms, it’s time for a social-media cleanse.

1. You’re uninspired.

Inspired people do inspiring things. Of the 99 billion options, social media is not one. Make room for inspiration in your life by trimming the Facebook fat.

2. Your to-do list never gets done.

One step at a time is the best advice for accomplishing anything. But our modern world begs for a caveat: One uninterrupted step at a time. Social media competes for your focus and swamps your ability to power through work.

Related: 3 Ways to End Technology Distraction

3. You haven’t hung out with offline friends in a month.

Social media is instantly gratifying. Flip open your laptop or glance at your phone, and you get a quick fix that affirms your opinions and latest selfies. But it’s not truly satisfying because it isn’t the real thing. Trust me: You need the real thing.

5. You mindlessly navigate to social media during downtime.

Success is a combination of dozens of small habits. Each of your programmed responses either pushes you forward or pulls you back. Reaching for your smartphone like a zombie doesn’t scream “success.” During your weeklong social cleanse, retrain your brain to fall back on useful things. Engage in mini-sessions of directed mindfulness, read a book or reflect on all the gifts that make you grateful in life. See how many success-boosting habits you can form in the gaping void created by social media’s absence.

Related: 25 Best Habits to Have in Life

6. You’re stressed by big deadlines.

Big projects require massive focus, and that can’t exist alongside little distractions. Eliminate the biggest of the media and step away from social media. Make these self-imposed breaks a deadline ritual. They can help get your head in the game and prime your brain for peak performance.

7. You’ve started to think in Facebook posts.

You know it’s bad when a pithy quote pops in your head in the form of what’s sure to be a well-received Facebook post. I’ve been there, too. It’s why I’m writing this article.

8. You’re having problems with impulse control.

Whether your guilty pleasure is snarfing down an entire bag of popcorn or binge-watching “Game of Thrones,” impulse issues arise when you forget how to say no. Continually checking in on trivial matters that rule Facebook and Twitter is a recipe for atrophy. Exercise your executive function and take back control by refusing to be tempted to check your notifications and timelines. Abstain for a week, a month or however long it takes for you to get your head together.

Related: Study: Constantly Texting and Checking Social Media Makes You ‘Morally Shallow’

9. You’re indecisive.

We use social media as a crutch for uncertainty. Instead of identifying the best possible solution and making a plan to pursue it, we turn to social media as an escape. No bueno. A social cleanse forces you to make tough decisions from your own place of self-knowledge, without crowdsourcing a response to each little thing life throws your way.

10. You haven’t read a good book in a while.

Life is better with books. But it’s hard to read something useful when every spare second is devoted to social media. Your online fast is the perfect opportunity to make reading a habit. Read a book — the kind with pages — an hour before bed. The routine itself and the calming activity will help you drift into a more restful sleep.

Related: Reading Books Makes You Smarter, Richer and Surprisingly Healthier 

11. You’re falling behind on fitness goals.

You have only so much room in your life to choose which habits you’ll cling to. Instead of reaching for your phone first thing in the morning, strap on your Fitbit, lace up and beat feet. When you feel the urge to tweet, bust out some jumping jacks or squats. Do useful things for your body.

12. You believe you need social media to be OK.

You don’t. I promise. You experienced happiness before you lost yourself in social media, and you’ll be happier without it interrupting your life every five minutes.

13. You’ve stopped doing your favorite things.

Nearly 100 percent of entrepreneurs are human beings who need fun to recharge and strike a balance. Social media feels good, but it steals time away from doing the things you love. Even worse, its insidious nature means it tries to intrude when you do let yourself live in the moment. You don’t really need to send an update on whatever you’re doing right this second. People can wait three hours (or a lifetime) without learning what you were up to for an afternoon. Rediscover what it feels like to be a human.

Related: How Wanting ‘Likes’ on Social Media Is Killing Our Capacity for Actual Joy

14. You worry you haven’t grown as a person.

Personal growth is a product of undistracted reflection. It’s difficult to assess your thoughts and habits against where you’d hoped to be by now. But if your mind is constantly shifting back to social mode, it’s downright impossible. Shed your social shackles and get to know you.

15. You don’t get time away from your computer.

There’s only so much screen time a person can take before she loses her soul. (I seem to have misplaced the study link, but you get the picture.) If your job keeps you at a desk for eight hours a day, you need offline stress relief. Your soul can’t do much to further your goals and career if your eyes and posture are shot from all those hours parked in front of a screen.

Related: The Shocking Lessons I Learned After I Quit My Social Media Addiction in 3 Days in the Desert

4. You’re so distracted you forgot to add No. 4 in its cozy and rightful place between No. 3 and No. 5.

This might be more of a personal problem, but maybe you can relate. I’ve lambasted social media, but it’s only as evil as you make it. Get some perspective by going cold turkey for a week or a month — whatever you need to regain control. Then, integrate social media back into your life in appropriate doses. When you first rejoin the social conversation, 15 minutes a day is plenty. Maintain your new direction through self-discipline. During the week, daylong fasts can prevent social media from regaining its hold on your life.

The Meditation Guide for People Who Don’t Meditate

MeditationGuide_Blog

(Article originally appeared on Fitbit.com)

Research shows meditation is medicine for the mind—clinical scans prove it literally changes the brain. It’s the mini-vacation where I can lie in the grass, gaze at the clouds, and sort out my thoughts. If I don’t do it, I go bonkers. I start obsessing over minutiae. Inconsequential fears blow out of proportion and paralyze my life. Perhaps you can relate?

But when I force myself to let everything go and just do nothing, I feel more like myself again. The stress melts from my mind, then my neck, and my shoulders, and all the way down to my fingertips. I laugh when I think of how small my biggest problems actually were. And I embrace the stillness that seems so scary when I run from it all day.

If stillness is so good, why do I run? Why does anybody run from the one thing proven to reduce anxiety, stress, depression, and burnout? Simply put, chronic busyness is a habit. And you can break it with a meditation routine.

Don’t meditate? This is the guide for you.

How to Meditate in 5 Easy Steps

Meditation doesn’t have to be stoic or still. Thousands of people meditate on their surfboards in the barrels of 15-foot waves. Others do it a thousand feet up slabs of granite in the Yosemite Valley. But you can do it anywhere that you have control of your breath.

Here’s a simple meditation guide that has worked wonders for me—the non-meditator.

1. GET COMFORTABLE

Find the position you like best and train your brain to associate that position with relaxation. For some that’s seated, cross-legged on a cushion or mat. But since many people associate work and stress with the seated position, I recommend lying down to newbies.

2. ENJOY YOUR SURROUNDINGS

Today, I picked up a dandelion in the park near my home. I held the flower up against the sky, and I noticed the contrast against the deep, deep blue. Then I noticed how the cool grass felt beneath me. I heard the birds twittering and observed the morphing clouds. And I completely forgot about the worries of my day.

Then I realized…I’m meditating! And that’s the point of meditating—it’s a mini-vacation.

Don’t have access to the outdoors? Try carrying a beautiful picture of nature in your wallet. Or you can create a mental image of your perfect place, complete with streams, mountains, lakes, trees, and whatever it is that makes you feel at peace.

Wherever you go, or whatever you look at, just focus on appreciating the things that would normally pass you by: colors, smells, textures, breezes, beauty. Just enjoy.

3. FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH

After you become aware of your surroundings, tune in to your breathing—it’s the essence of meditation.

Deliberate breathing harmonizes your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, calms your fight-or-flight response, and induces relaxation. When you concentrate solely on your breath, you don’t have room to worry about the million and one things you haven’t done.

Place your hands on each side of your navel and feel your stomach pushing your hands out as you breathe in. This diaphragmatic breathing draws oxygen deeper into your tissues for more energy and rejuvenation.

If you’re crunched for time, you can get the most out of each breath with Relax, the guided-breathing feature available exclusively on Fitbit Charge 2 devices. The feature monitors your heart-rate variability to determine your best breathing rate.

4. FEEL GRATITUDE

Once you disrupt your busy thoughts with breathing, you can shift your focus to gratitude. Appreciate your body, the breath in your lungs, the sun, the sky, your family and friends, your fitness and health, and the opportunities you have to live an extraordinary life.

I feel good after noticing my surroundings and focussing on my breath, but when I shift to gratitude, the experience can be transcendental. That’s when my stress really melts away. My body feels lighter, my mind clears, and even though I’m technically meditating, meditating is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m just enjoying my life, and all the people and things in it.

5. VISUALIZE

Now that you’re buzzing with gratitude, you might begin to feel open to possibilities that seemed unrealistic earlier today: like finishing your first 10K, meeting that tight deadline at work, or organizing a junk drawer. It’s time to visualize yourself doing these things, as if they were really happening.

When I do this, I feel unstoppable. My confidence soars. I feel more creative; more in touch with my dreams. And when I end my meditation with a visual, I’m prepared to tackle the challenges I’ve been putting off for days, or even weeks.

You can incorporate meditation into anything. When I’m pressed for time, I blend it into my walks or jogs. And, if quiet isn’t your thing, you can meditate with classical music or any kind of instrumental that is calming to you.

This “non-meditation”-style of meditating is a ritual for me. It has helped me achieve my fitness goals and career aspirations, and it has improved the quality of life I lead. It energizes me and brings meaning to my work. It inspires me. And, when I do, it works 100% of the time.

Try it today. Riff on it, and make it your own. Do it daily for life-changing results.

3 Reasons You Need to Be a Nose Breather

Nose-Breathing_Blog

(Article originally appeared on Fitbit.com)

Tens of thousands of people are taping their mouths closed each night before bed. But before you start thinking this has to be some sort of fad from the pages of a kinky novel… It’s for a better night’s sleep—and better health. Nose breathing, it turns out, is almost as important as the air you breathe. Wondering why? Here are three very good reasons. (Plus, an exercise to get your nose back in on the action.)

Nose Breathing Can Reduce Your Risk of Colds

Your nose, though beautiful, is no ornament. It’s your first defense against viruses and bacteria—but only when you breathe through it. The microscopic hairs located inside your nose, called cilia work with mucous to trap pathogens. The result? Snot, boogers, and a healthier, happier you. Your nose also warms and humidifies air, which helps to reduce your risk of colds. “Proper heating and humidification of air in colder climates are important for respiratory health,” explains Nathan E. Holton, PhD, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Iowa.

Nose Breathing Improves Your Stamina

There’s a reason why ultramarathon legend Scott Jurek encourages breathing through your nostrils: it enhances endurance. One study shows nose breathing reduces breathing rates by over 50 percent, and decreases perceived exertion by 60 percent—which means you might be able to workout harder and longer if you simply close your mouth when you walk or run. (Give it a try: Next time you hit the sidewalk or treadmill, spend thirty minutes alternating between nose and mouth breathing and notice how you feel!)

Nose Breathing Boosts Cardiovascular & Sexual Health, Too

In 1995, scientists discovered that the nose produces nitric oxide—an important compound for cardiovascular, immune, and sexual health. Swedish researchers from the Karolinska Institutedescribed the process: “Nitric oxide (NO) is released from the nasal airways in humans. During inspiration through the nose, this NO will follow the airstream to the lower airways and the lungs”

After NO reaches the lungs, it gets circulated through the bloodstream where it “plays an important role in vasoregulation (the opening and closing of blood vessels), homeostasis, neurotransmission, immune defense, and respiration,” says Patrick McKeown, author of The Oxygen Advantage.

How to Become a Better Nose Breather

Breathing through your nose is scientifically superior. But years of mouth breathing can make nose breathing seem impossible. “Mouth-breathing causes blood vessels in the nose to become inflamed and enlarged,” says McKeown, which makes inhaling and exhaling through your nostrils difficult. Ready to become better at it? Here’s a simple exercise from McKeown:

  • Inhale and exhale through your nose, then pinch your nose and hold your breath.
  • Walk as many steps as you can, building up a medium to strong air shortage.
  • Resume nose breathing, and calm yourself as fast as possible. (If you’re not able to recover within 2 to 3 breaths, you’ve held your breath for too long.)
  • Wait 1 to 2 minutes, then do another breath hold.
  • Repeat for 6 breath holds.

Once you’re comfortable with your nose breathing, you can consider taking it to the next level by taping your mouth shut at night.

“Most people breathe through their mouths all night long,” says McKeown. That’s eight hours of poor oxygenation and zero nitric oxide uptake, which could be explain why you might be feeling groggy in the morning. He believes it’s possible to correct the problem by pressing low-adhesive paper tape, such as 3M Micropore, lightly over your mouth. If you’re uncomfortable with tape, McKeown recommends a stop snoring strap.

The tape might fall off during the night, but McKeown says you should notice a dramatic improvement in energy throughout the day. He recommends using the tape nightly until you’re breathing through your nose all night—your mouth will have plenty of saliva in the morning, and you’ll feel refreshed.

This Breathing Exercise Increases Oxygen and Boosts Your Energy

Breathing-Exercise_Blog

(Article originally appeared on Fitbit.com)

Americans will spend over 10 billion dollars this year on coffee and energy drinks. It’s clear, you need an energy boost, but you don’t need to bombard your body with caffeine, load up the landfills with cups and cans, or spend your hard earned cash. What you really need is a shot of oxygen.

Breathing is simple, free, and you can do it anywhere! But to get the biggest energy boost you’ve got to breathe the right way. According to Patrick McKeown, author of The Oxygen Advantage, breathing more is “exactly the wrong thing to do.” Strange as it may seem, over-breathing could reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood.

The problem isn’t a lack of oxygen, says McKeown, “but that not enough oxygen is released into tissues and organs, including the brain.” The result is a tired, sluggish you—and maybe even a missed deadline or a skipped workout. So why aren’t you getting enough energy-boosting oxygen into your cells?

Carbon Dioxide is the Key

You may have been trained to think of carbon dioxide (CO2) as oxygen’s evil alter ego—just a waste gas—but that assumption is dead wrong. “Carbon dioxide is the key variable that releases oxygen from red blood cells,” McKeown explains.

Carbon dioxide gives hemoglobin the green light to pass oxygen along to the body’s cells. When you take fewer breaths and breathe easier, you’ll have all the oxygen and energy you need to thrive.

5-Minute Breathing Exercise

This counterintuitive exercise, adapted McKeown’s book, will allow you to get the most oxygen out of the air you breathe:

  • Sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed, neck lengthened.
  • Put one hand on your chest and the other above your bellybutton. Feel your stomach pressing out as you inhale, and moving inward as you exhale.
  • Gently press your hands against your abdomen and chest to create resistance.
  • Breathe against your hands, gradually reducing the size of each breath.
  • Inhale less air with each breath and until you have a tolerable air-hunger, making sure to stay in control of your breath.
  • Pause at the end of each exhale. Then, repeat. (If you find yourself gasping for air, you are holding your breath too long—reset with a full breath and try again.)

Continue this breathing exercise for 3 to 5 minutes and aim to maintain a tolerable air hunger. “Practicing 2 sets of 5-minute exercises is enough to reset your breathing center and improve your body’s tolerance for carbon dioxide,” says McKeown.

If you’re doing it right, you’ll feel warmer, you’ll have more saliva, and you might even blush—all of which are signs of increased carbon dioxide. Stick to this simple practice and you’ll have enough natural energy to tackle your entire to-do list and fit in a workout! You might even be able to kiss coffee goodbye.