31 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Setting Next Year’s Goals

You can find more purpose and happiness at work and in life by asking yourself better questions…

Have you ever done a copy-and-paste of your goals from the previous year because you didn’t accomplish any of them? I have. I’ve also fallen into the lazy trap of making my goals in line with everyone else’s — to weigh less, spend less, earn more.

The new year is an opportunity. Many of us use the turning of the year to think about where we are and where we want to go. We set goals and make resolutions for how the coming year will be different. Better.

When we set goals by just going through the motions, we have little chance of success. At best, we might luck into a little progress, but it’s never very satisfying. Instead, taking time in advance to reflect leads to knowing ourselves better. And when we know ourselves, setting the goals for what’s next becomes much easier.

If life is a journey, the questions we ask ourselves are the fuel that gets us from here to there.

Without this intentional reflection, we react impulsively and with limited information. We’re vulnerable to getting pushed around by the forces of those more proactive than us.

Here are 31 questions to reflect on in December–one for each day–before you set your New Year’s resolutions. They’re intended to get you thinking about what you have to be grateful for, what you want to change, and what effort is needed to propel you forward.

  1. What are the first thoughts that come to mind about the past year? Mostly positive, negative, or neutral?
  2. What was one of the most interesting things I learned this year?
  3. Who was one person I met that I’d like to get to know better? Why?
  4. What was one of my most challenging moments? Why?
  5. What was one of my favorite accomplishments?
  6. What was one personal strength I used this year? How did it benefit my work or life?
  7. What hurdle came up more than once? (time, money, attitude, location, knowledge, etc.)
  8. How well did I communicate with the people who matter most to me?
  9. What three events or accomplishments were made possible by the help of others?
  10. What advice would I offer someone else on the basis of a lesson I learned this year?
  11. What are three problems that came up at work? How did I approach solving those problems? Are there any trends in those problems or solutions?
  12. Who needed my encouragement this year? What did I say or do to help them along?
  13. If I were writing a memoir, what would I highlight in the chapter about this year?
  14. What was I doing when I forgot about time and was able to be “in the moment”?
  15. What frustration seemed to come up again and again?
  16. What did I start and not finish?
  17. What did I try and fail?
  18. What three things am I curious to know more about?
  19. If I could wave a magic wand and master one skill, what would it be? Why?
  20. Who is one person I could help right now? How? What would it “cost” me? What would I gain?
  21. When did I slow someone else’s progress? Why? What was I worried about?
  22. What’s one thing I made or created from scratch? How did that feel?
  23. What’s one thing I did that left me exhausted at the end? How did that feel?
  24. What’s one thing I was a part of this year that I’ll remember for the rest of my life? Why?
  25. What was the nicest thing someone did for me this year?
  26. What was the nicest thing I did for someone else this year?
  27. If I could change one thing that happened this year, what would it be?
  28. What felt difficult one year ago that now feels easy (or easier)?
  29. Of the books I read this year, which was my favorite?
  30. How did I capture my thoughts and feelings? (journaling, writing, social media sharing, talking one-on-one with friends or family, etc.) Was that method helpful?
  31. What are six adjectives that best describe this year? What would I like those adjectives to be next year?

Asking ourselves reflective questions can jump-start our learning. When we’re more aware of our interests and desires, we can create goals that align with what we want — not what we think we’re supposed to want. Some of these questions are bigger than others and will be more difficult to answer. They’re intended to be asked one at a time each day for a month. Taking these questions day by day allows your thinking to change over the course of the day. Keeping a journal of these questions and your answers helps you keep track of what you notice through this process. At the end of the month, use these answers to help you create goals aimed at making the coming year your best year yet.

Article by:  Robin Camarote of Inc.

10 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me When I was 18

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~Maya Angelou

Can you remember what it was like?

Becoming an adult. Having to take responsibility for your life. Having the world opening up to you. Having to suddenly start making decisions and setting a clear direction for your life.

Exciting, yet terrifying and confusing all at the same time.

Looking back, there are things you wish you’d known, right? Here are some things I’ve learned that I wish someone would have told me when I was eighteen.

1. You don’t find meaning; you create meaning.

For a long time, I was constantly looking for what I was “meant to do” in life. Doing so can feel overwhelming, confusing, and shame-indulging. But here’s what I discovered: Finding is passive; it means that something or someone has to show up in order to get what we want. It’s outside our control.

So, instead of finding meaning, it’s better to create meaning. To indulge ourselves in projects and activities that feel meaningful to us. When we do this, we go from passive to active. From lacking control to gaining control.

2. You’re not fixed; you’re always growing.

I used to think that I was given a set of talents, skills, and behaviors. That was until I realized that I wasn’t wired fixed, but changeable.

If I want to be happier, I just have to shift my focus. Maybe that means writing a gratitude journal expressing my appreciation toward others, and practicing seeing things from a positive perspective.

Since you’re always in growth, you don’t need to be scared of failing, as everything is a stepping stone to a new talent, skill, or behavior.

The same applies for what we’re good at. If you want to be a writer, then start writing. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, then start reading, acting, and thinking like one. That’s the beauty of it all—you’re the creator of you.

3. Carefully choose who you take advice from.

People love giving advice. But here’s the thing: People don’t give advice based on who you are, but on who they are. If someone had a great experience starting a business, they’re likely to encourage you to do the same. However, if someone had a horrible experience with the same thing, they’re likely to, perhaps not discourage you, but at least point out things that can go wrong.

Here’s what I’ve found to be useful: Take advice only from those who have made the same journey (or a similar one) that you want to undertake.

4. You don’t need to know your passion.

“Follow your passion.” How many times have you heard this message and thought to yourself, “Argh, but I don’t know what my passion is!” Or, “I have too many passions and I don’t know which one to choose.” In general, I think this is rather crappy advice. For me, it caused more harm than good, because frankly, it stressed me out.

If you know your passion, that’s great. If not, don’t worry. Instead of focusing your attention on finding your passion, start following your curiosity. Just like a scavenger hunt, what pokes your curiosity is the next clue. And like Elizabeth Gilbert perfectly laid it out: “If you can let go of ‘passion’ and follow your curiosity, your curiosity just might lead you to your passion.”

5. Buy experiences, not things.

I used to spend a lot of time thinking about what type of designer bag I’d purchase. Don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful things and have no problem buying them. But I’ve learned not to put my happiness in them.

When I think back on my life, what I remember are the beach parties in the Dominican Republic, the soirées I spent with friends in Paris, and the walks with my sister in Central Park.

Experiences are what change us. They help us open up doors to new people, cultures, perspectives, and potentially a whole new world. So, invest your money well.

6. Life is always now, not tomorrow or next week.

Oh gosh, if I had a nickel for every minute I’ve spent either worrying about the future or contemplating my past. It would probably make up more time than what I’ve spent in the present. Pretty bizarre, no? And I know I’m not alone when I say that.

Our mind, which I sometimes like to call our monkey mind, loves pulling our attention from the present moment. But this is where life is taking place.

We can’t have a full experience when our body is in one place and our mind is somewhere else (like sitting in a meeting thinking about what to eat for dinner). And that’s why we’re here, right? To experience life fully. So be present, allow those thoughts about the past and future pass by, just like clouds in the sky.

7. Don’t confuse means goals with end goals.

Vishen Lakhiani did an amazing video where he explained what I didn’t get for so long: end goals and means goals.

End goals define an outcome that describes exactly what you want. This can be seeing your children grow up, being truly happy, and traveling around the world. Means goals can be about getting into a specific university or company or making a certain amount of money. They are there simply to support your end goals.

When I became uncomfortable in my “dream job” in Paris I couldn’t understand why. It included everything I’d ever dreamed of: a good paycheck, travel, and fun colleagues. But I had confused a means goal with an end goal. What I truly wanted was to start a business where I could create, contribute, and connect with other people.

8. Connections, not grades, are the key to success.

Growing up, I was really focused on getting good grades. I thought that good grades would be the key to a successful life. They’ve helped me to open up doors, but the game-changer hasn’t been my grades, it’s been my connections.

Knowing the right people and connecting on a deeper lever is much more powerful than anything written on a piece of paper. Mind you, this, of course, depends on what kind of opportunity you’re after. But, for me, looking back, what served me during my years at university wasn’t the grades I got; it was the connections I made.

That’s how I’ve landed jobs, speaking opportunities, and have been featured on podcasts–things I otherwise never would have heard of or been considered for.

9. Everyone is doing the best they can.

I truly believe this. Everyone, no matter how annoying, self-destructive, or provoking they might seem, is always doing the best they can based on their mood, experience, and level of consciousness. I used to get angry or upset if someone was rude, pessimistic, or didn’t deliver projects on time.

Today, I know that I’m not in the position to judge. I don’t know what they battle. I don’t know what’s really going on in their life. All I can trust is that if I was in their shoes, I might do the same thing. This perspective has saved me a lot of energy, that I previously used to waste.

10. Know your “why.”

Often, we place a lot of focus on what we do or how we do it. Seldom we ask why we do it. If I would have dug deeper in my “why’s” when I was eighteen, I would have connected more to my desires. Like this:

Question: Why do I want to get this education?
Reply: Because I want to get a good job.

Question: Why do I want to get a good job?
Reply: So that I can earn good money, work on something I enjoy, and get a nice title.

Question: Why do I want that?
Reply: Because I want to feel secure and free, to explore the world, to create things, to feel respected, and to connect with myself and others.”

When I got clear about my “why” it became obvious to me that I wanted to work with people, have my own business, and to be able to work from anywhere in the world.

Digging into the “why” really narrows down what’s important. Not having a clear “why” proves that what we’re aiming at isn’t worth pursuing.

Eventually, Everything Will Make Sense

Sometimes we stumble and fall. Sometimes the road is rocky. Sometimes we question if everything will make sense in the end.

Looking back at your eighteen-year-old self, what would you have told him or her?

To be easier on yourself?

To stop worrying and have more fun?

To trust that everything happens for a reason and that things will work out?

From this perspective, what do you think an older version of yourself would have told you today?

To be easier on yourself?

To stop worrying and have more fun?

To trust that everything happens for a reason and that things will work out?

You get the point.

As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Article by: Maria Stenvinkel

A New Way to Make Hard Decisions

Do you consider yourself a decisive person? Or, do you struggle to make choices for yourself—whether they’re big or small?

Many of us (myself included!) fall into that second category, and there’s no doubt that it can be somewhat paralyzing.

Fortunately, science is here to help. According to research published by Psychological Science, there’s one super easy trick that can help you make decisions for yourself: Pretend that you’re actually making them for a friend.

It’s called self-distancing, and it totally removes you from the equation—helping you to make more sound judgments about certain situations.

As part of the research, Igor Grossman at the University of Waterloo and his team conducted a study of 100 different participants who were all in long-term relationships. One group of the subjects was asked to imagine that they had been cheated on, while another group was told to imagine that a friend had been cheated on.

At that point, all of the participants filled out a questionnaire designed to measure their “wise reasoning” skills—things like their ability to consider multiple perspectives or pursue a compromise.

The results? The study subjects who were thinking about a friend demonstrated far better judgement and sounder reasoning than those who were imagining themselves in that scenario.

While the study looked at relationships specifically, this advice holds some water in other areas of your life as well—including your career. And, it’s a tactic that I’ve already been putting to work to combat my own chronic indecisiveness.

So, the next time you feel torn over whether to quit your job, go after that career change, or toss your hat into the ring for that promotion, step outside of yourself and think about what you would tell a friend in your exact same situation. You might just be surprised with your own reasoning and wisdom.

Article by: Kat Boogaard of The Muse

4-Step Formula to Pursuing Your Dreams

When I was 26, I was fumbling through life in different jobs that were only partially fulfilling, unsure of my future but certain of only one thing:

I don’t know what my IT is, but I know IT is going to be big.

I knew very little about what I wanted out of life, but I hungered for authority and to be taken seriously. Then a good friend, Krista, introduced me to a book: “The Dream Manager,” by Matthew Kelly. The book itself generally discussed how a middle manager reduced turnover by investing himself in his employees’ personal goals, which has since become very important to me in my career. But at the time, I was more impressed with the concept of creating a “Dream List.”

Essentially, The Dream Manager explained a simple concept. Fewer than 1 percent of the world ever writes down their hopes, dreams or ambitions, and fewer ever share this list with a third party, creating accountability for their goals. But of those who do, they are much more likely to live their version of a fulfilled life.

I created my Dream List and compiled 100 dreams I hoped to accomplish before I die. Now, exactly 10 years later, I’ve accomplished more than 80 of them and have a new 100 in their place.

If you are feeling a bit lost in life or confused about how to accomplish your life goals, I encourage you to follow these four important steps:

1. Write it down.

First, open an Excel spreadsheet. Create some time categories across the top of your sheet, such as “6 months,” “5 years,” and “Lifetime.” Next, along the left side of your sheet, create as many categories of life that you can think of, including (but not limited to): Spiritual, Family, Professional, Financial, Intellectual, Community, Character and Travel.

Now, take the time to fill in at least one goal for each of the intersecting buckets you’ve created between time and category. If you can get to more than one dream per section, all the better. Write until you can write no more.

2. Notice your themes.

If you are lost in your current career, feeling strapped for cash or frustrated with dead-end relationships, it can be hard to pull yourself out of your current predicament to dream big. So start small.

If you can’t see your future in the Lifetime category, think about where you want to be in one month, and if you are feeling stuck in your professional category, focus on travel or community. Dreams can overlap categories; in fact, I encourage it.

Every once in awhile, pull back from your list to see if you can find themes, or you can build them in right from the start. For instance, if you want to complete a marathon at some point in your life, then perhaps you may want to add a half marathon to your five-year goal and a 5K to your six-month. Do you notice a theme between travel and spiritual that you are longing to spend meaningful time in India at an ashram? Perhaps that can influence your financial goals as you consider how much something like that would cost. You might even consider what professional aspirations you have: could you work at one of these places?

When you remove yourself from your everyday monotony, you can find some gems that may guide you toward a more fulfilling future.

3. Share with others.

Once you feel your list is complete, write down a person’s name next to each dream. This person should be the person in your life that is most likely to help you accomplish this particular dream. Then, share those dreams with your identified person. Ask them for help in holding you accountable to accomplishing your goals, and give yourself deadlines for reaching back out to them to report out on your progress.

By sharing your dreams and asking others for help, you allow people who care about you to invest themselves in your life, and you make it far more likely that you’ll achieve your goals.

4. Check in regularly.

This final step is the most important. You don’t serve yourself by committing to goals and then putting them on a shelf. Plus, when you accomplish a goal, it feels great to mark it off your list and replace it with a new one. You can always move your dreams to a new timeframe if they no longer meet your original parameters, but by checking back in (say, every six months), you remind yourself of what is important to you.

I am now at a point in life where I can be proud of my years of hard work, but I know that I would be only half as far had I not crafted a dream list. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to start dreaming!

Article by:  Candace Sjogren, Entrepreneur Magazine

15 Self-Care Ideas When Everything Seems Impossible

A lot of people think self-love is selfish or egotistical. I used to believe that I was unworthy of my desires and I didn’t matter. I spent a lot of time taking care of others and even more time trying to fit in and be seen, but the truth? I wasn’t seeing myself.

I was a victim of a lack of self-love and hated who I saw in the mirror. For almost three decades, I was at war with myself. I heard the term “self-love,” but it felt like a buzzword, a “wouldn’t it be nice,” but that clearly was not for me. The idea of loving myself was foreign because I was too consumed with self-hate.

I decided to go on my own personal journey to be more kind, compassionate, and loving toward myself. I called it the “Self-Love Experiment,” which turned into my new book by the same name.

What I discovered in my own experiment is that self-care is the foundation for self-love. At first, saying I love myself felt hard, so I replaced the word love with care. I would say, “I am practicing self-care,” and this led to a beautiful lifestyle where I was able to learn that I am worthy, beautiful, and enough as I am.

If you struggle with low self-esteem or lack confidence, you can turn your self-doubt into self-love by practicing more self-care. Here are fun, totally doable self-care ideas to help you ramp up your self-love quotient.

1. Celebrate the little victories.

Spend some time celebrating how far you’ve already come. The little moments along the way are special, and when you can appreciate them, you will feel more grateful.

2. Forgive yourself.

Are you holding on to anger? Maybe you feel like you should be further along or more on track. Place your hand on your heart, close your eyes, and say, “I am sorry I am so hard on you. I know you are doing the best you can. I forgive you and will be more kind and compassionate to you.”

3. Bring creativity to cooking.

Maybe you’ve been eyeballing that fancy wellness Instagram account or you have marked some pages in your favorite cookbook. Getting creative in the kitchen can help you feel more balanced. Being creative fills a need and deep desire to express yourself. When you do this in the kitchen, you also nourish your insides, and when you do this it is reflected on the outside. A more balanced, healthy, and happy you, coming right up!

4. Learn something new.

Is there a course or book you’ve been wanting to read? Keeping your mind fresh by educating yourself and learning more will help you feel more compassionate toward yourself and others.

5. Make a list of things you love about yourself.

When was the last time you said something nice about yourself to yourself? Most of us have a running dialogue of not being good enough and wanting to change things we dislike about ourselves. Instead of letting your insecurities get the best of you, start to be kind to yourself by listing things you love: whether it’s a body part, intellect, ability, or something else. Do this as often as you can, and soon enough you will feel more free and loved.

6. Do something you’ve always wanted to do.

Book that one-way ticket to Europe. Start penning that book or leave the job you hate. These are all things you might have in your heart but are afraid to act on. Following through on the dreams and desires are important for building self-trust and respect. Go for it; your future self will thank you.

7. Move the way you feel.

Don’t be afraid to have some pep in your step. Get in touch with your inner child—you know, the one who loved skipping down the street, jumping up and down, or twisting and shouting and didn’t care what people thought. Dance and sing like no one is watching!

8. Dance to an upbeat playlist.

Creating a playlist to align with your mood is a wonderful way to uplift yourself. Pick your favorite artist and dance it out for added fun.

9. Have a one-on-one with yourself.

Schedule special you time by asking yourself, “When do I feel like my best self? What am I doing and who am I with?” Schedule time each day to tap into that part of you that feels alive, joyful, and happy.

10. Write a love letter to the pain part of you.

Write a letter to the part of you that is struggling—the part you would like to change—and allow yourself to free write and address what is causing you pain. This will give you more self-compassion and understanding, which can help you heal.

11. Choose something different within your routine.

Get out of your comfort zone by doing something different today. Order something new on the menu, take a different route home, call a friend you haven’t talked to in five years, let yourself follow your heart and be amazed at what happens when you do.

12. Read a good self-love book.

There are some great fall reads and classic go-to’s from self-love authors. Pick a book you’ve always wanted to read and curl up with, even if it’s not self-help, as long as it’s uplifting and leaves you feeling better. Curl up with your favorite furry friend and tea, coffee, or green juice.

13. Create a vision board for your future.

Use Pinterest, vision board apps, or cutup images from magazines to create a vision board, a creative way to dream about the life you want. Vision boards are great for manifesting and attracting whatever you desire because they invite you to actually visualize your lifestyle, focus on what you want, and think about what it takes to get there.

14. Center yourself.

Do you ever get nervous or overwhelmed with self-doubt? Chances are your ego is acting up and in overdrive. To realign with your heart center, the balanced part of you that knows all is well, place your hand on your heart and repeat the mantra, “I am safe and loved. All is well,” or a version of this that resonates with you.

15. Kick-start your day with gratitude.

Start your day with things you appreciate. List them out or simply go through them in your mind. Being in gratitude will help you feel more focused and balanced.

These tips are inspired by Shannon Kaiser’s new book, The Self-Love Experiment: Fifteen Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate, and Accepting of Yourself.

 

 

Why We Push Ourselves Too Hard and How to Work Less

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” ~Unknown

I was sitting on the beach with my wonderful girlfriend, trying to relax on our vacation in Florida, yet I was racked with anxiety.

We were lying under a large umbrella, taking in the beautiful waves and swaying palm trees, attempting to recover from the past months (and years) of overwork and overstress. But all I could think about was a marketing initiative I was working on for a client.

The more I tried to chill, the more nervous I became. My girlfriend lay peacefully, dozing off occasionally, while I was busy fending off a full-blown panic attack.

Did I hurry back from our beach session to get back to work? That would be crazy, right? Well, it was worse. I pulled out my laptop and went to work right there on the beach.

I was so addicted to my computer and so stretched thin with commitments that I couldn’t even enjoy this highly anticipated vacation with the love of my life. In fact, the only thing I can remember when I look back on this trip is my stress. I don’t remember enjoying the beach or ever feeling present.

When, I got back from Florida, I didn’t feel refreshed at all. I more desperately need a vacation after it than I did before it. Not only had my over-commitment to work prevented me from enjoying my vacation, it led me to operating at below my best for many months following.

Why did I do this to myself? It was a combination of things. I was insecure and using money to mask it. I was correlating my self-worth with the amount of money I had in the bank. I worked more to distract myself from my own anxieties. But most of all, I was working myself to death because of how the human brain works.

The Psychology of Over-Working

The benefits of working less are counterintuitive, but well documented. There are the obvious benefits—such as having more time for hobbies, friends, family, health, or even working on bigger and better projects—and then there are the less obvious benefits, such as improving creativity and productivity.

Tim Ferriss’ proposition of a “four-hour work week” is attractive to our rational thinking brains, but in practice, it’s surprisingly difficult to work less.

The reason we work more than we need to—sometimes to the extent of actually hurting our productivity, health, or personal relationships—may lie in how humans have evolved.

In their book “Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters: From Dating, Shopping and Praying to Going to War and Becoming a Billionaire–Two Evolutionary Psychologists Explain Why We Do What We Do,” Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa postulate that our brains are shaped by evolutionary pressures to survive and reproduce. We’ve adapted to recurring problems faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

“Our human nature is the cumulative product of the experience of our ancestors in the past, and it affects how we think, feel, and behave today,” Miller and Kanazawa write. People who showed no anxiety to threats would not have taken the appropriate steps to solve the problems and therefore may not have survived.

In his book “Evolutionary Psychology: Neuroscience Perspectives Concerning Human Behavior and Experience,” William J. Ray, describes how these evolutionary adaptations can actually hinder us from properly interpreting reality:

“Consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg; most of what goes on in your mind is hidden from you. As a result, your conscious experience can mislead you into thinking that our circuitry is simpler than it really is…our modern skulls house a Stone Age mind.”

In the context of work-life balance, our brains didn’t evolve to determine exactly how much we need to work. Our brains simply want us to survive and reproduce, and working more seems to contribute to those end goals. Our brain’s anxiety about survival and reproduction motivates us to work more, even though it’s not usually in our best interest over the long-term.

Similarly, our brains crave sugar because in the past, calories were scarce and we needed to eat as much as possible to account for extended periods without food.

Sugar has a high calorie density, so it was very economical for our ancestors. As a result, many people today have a tendency to overeat unhealthy foods, even though we don’t face a problem of the scarcity of food like we did before the agricultural revolution. Unfortunately, sugar contributes to a number of health problems over the long-term, but our brains don’t understand that.

Our brains think working excessively to gather resources contributes to survival and reproduction. But it doesn’t know how to moderate. More work doesn’t always lead to more money, let alone a more fulfilling life. At its worst, excessive work can lead to burnout, depression, panic attacks, and a lack of meaningful relationships.

Here are four signs you may be working to the point of your own demise:

  • Working far beyond what is needed despite the risk of negative consequences
  • After reaching a goal, you immediately set another more ambitious one
  • Refusing to delegate work, despite the opportunity cost of doing the work yourself
  • Creating more work that doesn’t add value in order to avoid feelings of guilt, anxiety, insecurity, or depression

To be clear, there are benefits to working hard. Working more can help you get more done, and, assuming you are doing the right work, that can help you make more money. And there are times when anxiety is rational and you legitimately need to work more in order to survive. But more often than not, working too much can do more harm than good.

The counterintuitive reality is that working more does not always mean working productively if it means you’re going to burn out.

Simple But Hard Choices

We have a choice about how to deal with working too much. Like so many other challenges, there is the simple but hard solution, and a complex but easy solution.

For your health, the simple but hard solution is to eat more healthy food and less unhealthy food. This solution requires discipline, but it doesn’t cost money, and it’s proven to work. The complex but easy solution is to pay for the latest diet products.

The simple but hard solution to workaholism is to work less. This means saying “no” to unnecessary projects and responsibilities. However, I call this the hard solution for a reason. First, it would be a bruise to your ego to admit you can’t handle something. Second, it requires introspection and change in order to address underlying anxieties or insecurities that may be the impetus for pathological working habits.

Fear or frustration with executing on the simple solution incentivizes us to change course. So we add complexity.

These complex but easy solutions include productivity apps, time management processes, or even prescription drugs. They can help us eek out a couple more units of productivity on a given day, but they often have negative side effects over the long term, and more notably, they enable us to avoid blaming ourselves or putting in the hard work of conquering our anxieties and insecurities.

These solutions are like playing whack-a-mole—they only solve the surface level symptoms. James Altucher provided an apt analogy in writing about the power of saying “no” to bad opportunities:

“When you have a tiny tiny piece of sh*t in the soup it doesn’t matter how much more water you pour in and how many more spices you put on top. There’s sh*t in the soup.”

Often times, continuing to work excessively, even while using the latest and greatest productivity apps, only leads to burnout, which results in an extended period of low productivity, or, worse, an unfulfilling life, void of meaningful relationships or even physical and mental health problems.

How to Work Less, Survive, and Prosper

Your brain doesn’t know or care that working less won’t prevent you from surviving or reproducing in modern times.

It doesn’t know how much money you have in your bank account or how many hours you need to work in order to retire in thirty years.

It definitely doesn’t care about helping you achieve higher ambitions like finding love or having fun on weekends.

You feel anxious about working less because your brain only cares about surviving and reproducing.

But we’re not slaves to our lizard brains. The idea that working less can help you accomplish more requires some critical thinking. However, with awareness of how our brains work, we can make decisions that are healthier and more productive.

So, how you can you counteract your brain’s adaptive impulses? I’ll share two strategies that have worked for me.

First, know your priorities. Every time you say “yes” to more work you’re saying “no” to the other aspects of your life that you value. By taking inventory of your list of priorities, and where work lies on that list, you can make decisions that will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Second, address the underlying issues. Oftentimes we work to avoid thinking about our insecurities or shortcomings. Or, we think we need to have more money in order to be loved. I’ve been guilty of both of these.

Once I gained awareness of these issues, it was easier to make healthier decisions about my work. I worked to conquer my anxiety instead of making it worse by burying it in work, and I’ve dispelled the myth that I’m not worthy of love unless I have massive amounts of wealth.

Since doing this work, I’ve said no to many great opportunities in order to keep my life in balance. It’s difficult at the time, but I’m healthier and happier for it.

It may sound idealistic to work less, but if it can help your health, productivity, and life isn’t it worth a shot? If it doesn’t work for you, keep in mind that there will always be more work to do!

Article by:  Michael Fishbein of Tiny Buddha

What Are You Waiting For?

“Before someone’s tomorrow has been taken away, cherish those you love, appreciate them today.” ~Michelle C. Ustaszeski

Most of us are really good at finding reasons to wait.

We wait to call good friends we miss because we assume we’ll have plenty of time.

We wait to tell people how we really feel because we hope it will someday feel safer.

We wait to forgive the people who’ve hurt us because we believe they should reach out first.

We wait to apologize for the things we’ve done because we feel too stubborn or ashamed to admit fault.

If we’re not careful, we can spend our whole lives making excuses, holding off until a better time, only to eventually realize that time never came.

It sounds morbid to acknowledge that our days here limited, and it’s scary to realize that none of us can ever know how many we have.

But we can know that in our final moments, it’s unlikely we’ll say, “I wish I waited longer,” or “I wish I stayed angry longer,” or “I wish I played it safe longer.”

Most of us will get to the end of our lives and say, “I’m sorry.” “I forgive you.” Or, “I love you.”

Of course, there’s another option: We can say those things right now.

We can appreciate the people we love in action instead of distracting ourselves with everyday worries. We can be brave in expressing our thoughts and feelings instead of over-analyzing and talking ourselves out of it. We can decide for ourselves what truly matters and honor it while we have the chance.

This is our chance to live and love. This moment is our only guaranteed opportunity to be thoughtful, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, and kind to the people we value.

It might be terrifying. It might require humility. It might seem like it’s not a priority.

We owe it to ourselves to acknowledge it is, and to do something about it instead of building up reasons to regret.

What have you been meaning to do or say—and what are you waiting for?

Article by:  Julie Deschene of Tiny Buddha

Assuming Positive Intentions In Your Relationship

“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” ~Mildred Barthel

I used to think he was out to get me. The man of my dreams was continually plotting to undermine my happiness in countless ways, all for some mysterious reason I couldn’t comprehend.

Can you give me a ride to work today?” He missed his shuttle on the morning I had my first speech, a forty-five-minute drive in the opposite direction. He obviously didn’t want me to succeed in my career.

Are you wearing that tonight?” Oh great, just before we go out to meet friends for dinner he wanted to throw off my confidence in how I looked. Did he think I was getting fat?

Can you come help me with this?” Couldn’t he see that I was in the middle of a relaxing Saturday morning, my first bit of sanity after a very stressful week? He must not care if I got any down time, though you could bet he’d be sitting on the couch watching golf all afternoon.

A lot of my time was spent stewing, working over these scenarios and replaying them in my mind. Overthinking was my specialty, my calling card in life. I prided myself on seeing things other people missed, reading between the lines to get to the “real” meaning.

These little bits of drama took a lot of mental effort for me to concoct, but after a while I became really good at them. I could summon up a motive from his every glance or change of tone, sometimes simply from thin air.

Nevermind that I still considered him my dream man, just one with the not-so-adorable quirk of trying to undermine happiness.

What did that say about me?

Like most of my uncomfortable feelings, I pushed these thoughts down, working to keep things cool on the surface while I boiled underneath.

Life kept moving forward, and then one day my brother had a heart attack. A year later, a friend had a brain aneurysm. Both survived, but it changed our mindset about time and dreams.

We decided to sell everything we owned and travel the world, taking our retirement dreams and living them at midlife instead, when we had the health and energy to enjoy them. It was a beautiful time, planning our grand adventure and then stepping into it together.

But still, I had these nagging thoughts about him and his continued efforts to rob me of my happiness, even as we were living out our biggest dream. Looking back, it was pure insanity.

I read about this site in Northern Peru that’s supposed to be really cool. Want to go there next instead of Machu Picchu?” He knew I was dying to go to Machu Picchu. Why would he try to take that away from me? He didn’t want me to be happy.

Why don’t you write in the early mornings so we still have the days to explore Edinburgh together?” He knew I wasn’t a morning person, so why would he ask such a thing? Because he was a morning person, that’s why. He thought I was lazy.

I’ve been editing the podcasts and you say “this and that” a lot. It detracts from the message. Can you tamp it down?” Hey, I just got a compliment from a guest on my radio voice. Why was he nitpicking like that? He couldn’t stand it that someone said something nice to me.

None of my thoughts were said out loud, but they did needle at my happiness in small bursts multiple times a day. We were rarely apart in this traveling lifestyle, especially when we started publishing books and podcasts together, and I found an ulterior motive in almost everything he said. Over time, my brain almost melted at the continuous effort required to read into his every word. It was a full-time job.

Then a very big fight happened, one of those life-changing arguments, and I let the cat out of the bag. He was stunned.

“Of course I’m not out to get you. I love you.”

At the end of all the harsh words and tears this was a revelation, an insight into this years-long issue in our relationship.

It wasn’t him; it was me.

All those years of reading between the lines, a skill I’d honed since childhood, kept me from seeing reality. I was ignoring the black and white meaning of what he said in favor of some imagined murky gray story with no basis in fact.

My writer’s mind was altering my own life story, as it happened, without the consent or knowledge of the other main character. I was changing a light-hearted romance into a mystery and painting my husband as the bad guy.

In the aftermath of the very big fight, we agreed to always assume the best intentions of the other person, no matter what words were chosen in the delivery. Instead of picking apart how it was said, we would focus on where it came from, which was always from the heart.

Questions were encouraged. Clarification was required. No guessing games allowed.

It was surprising how fast this one change impacted my outlook. I stopped spinning crazy stories in my head and focused on the moment, what this man who loved me was trying to convey. When I didn’t understand, or the understanding I had was negative, I asked for clarification.

He always freely gave it.

He wanted to see everything in the world with me. He wanted me to have time to write, but also to play together. He wanted the work we produced to be as professional as possible, and he knew we both had quirks to overcome.

The meaning was there in plain sight, in the honesty of his words. He wanted the best for us in everything, as anyone in love would.

He wasn’t out to get me. He was out to love me, to share a life with me, and all I had to do was take him at his word.

The day we vowed to always assume the best intentions in each other was as powerful as the day we vowed to be together forever. And it makes honoring that marriage vow a lot more enjoyable.

How to Train Yourself to Assume the Best Intentions

1. Every single day, compliment or thank your partner for something they’ve done.

Make gratitude for what they do right an everyday thing and the occasional slipups will not seem as big. It also reinforces positive behaviors, making them more likely to continue.

2. When your partner says or does something that rankles you, first stop and ask yourself if a stranger in the room with you right at that moment would have the same reaction.

If you’re overthinking, you will have added layers of meaning that aren’t there. But if you look at it from the outside, it’s a more realistic version of events. It will help center you.

3. If all else fails, ask for clarification.

“I may have taken this the wrong way. Did you mean X?” This gives your partner the chance to clear it up right away, before you’ve had a chance to concoct a story in your head.

It will take some time to train yourself from over thinking and reading between the lines, but it can be done. And you (and your partner) will be happier because of it.

Article written by: Betsy Talbot of Tiny Buddha Blog

31 Ways to Beat The January Blues

A happiness tip-a-day keeps the blues away…

Happiness expert Andy Cope, author of The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence offers 31 brilliant tips to keep us thinking positively as 2017 begins…

  1. Mondays are bad and Fridays good. Really? The average life span is 4000 weeks and a seventh of your life is spent on Mondays. Flip your thinking. Friday is, in fact, another week closer to death, while Monday is an opportunity to make a dent in the universe. Mondays…. bring ‘em on!
  1. Upgrade your knickers so every bit of underwear oozes confidence. Stop saving your special pants for a special occasion and wake up to the fact that life is the ultimate special occasion.
  1. Be a hugger. The average hug lasts 2.1 seconds but for the love to transfer a hug needs to last 7 seconds or longer (but warned, counting out loud spoils the effect).
  1. Be a lover not a hater. It’s so easy to be negative, and join in the barrage of hate on social media. Go with Michelle Obama; ‘when they go low, you go high’
  1. Do an act of kindness for someone else. This can be as simple as letting someone out in the traffic or buying flowers for the bus driver.
  1. If you have small children practice what Gretchen Rubin calls ‘gazing lovingly’. This means downing tools at the end of the evening and standing at your children’s bedroom door, watching them sleep (the modern world dictates that you only ever do this with your own kids and there is an age limit of 10. After that, the general rule is that you NEVER go in your kids’ bedrooms, just in case!)
  1. Practice the 10/5 principle; smile at everyone who comes within 10 feet of you and make eye contact & say ‘hi’ to everyone within 5 feet.
  1. Say nice things about people behind their back. This is a double-whammy because it gets back to them plus people think you’re a lovely person (which, of course, you are).
  1. Write a list of 10 things you really appreciate but take for granted. ‘Health’ and ‘relationships’ will almost certainly be on there. Stop taking them for granted!
  1. Every morning, appreciate that you don’t have toothache and that your kidneys are working. Being able to get out of bed is the best thing ever (linked to point 9).
  1. Write a list of the top 10 happiest moments of your life and you’ll realize that most of the things on the list are ‘experiences’ rather than ‘products’. Set a goal to have more experiences.
  1. Think of someone who has really helped you (given you time or supported you). Write them a letter, from the heart, that says how wonderful they are and what they mean to you. Read it to them.
  1. Instead of asking your partner/kids ‘how was your day?’ change the words and ask (with enthusiasm), ‘what was the highlight of your day?’ Then listen with genuine enthusiasm.
  1. Walk tall and put a smile on your face (not an inane grin, you will scare people!) Your brain will immediately think you are happy and you’ll feel a whole lot better.
  1. Change your aim. Stop setting your sights on ‘getting through the week’ or ‘surviving until my next holiday’. Raise your game. Set your aim to ‘enjoy the week’ or ‘to inspire people.’
  1. Write down your top 5 personal strengths. Be aware of them and start seeing opportunities to play to them more often.
  1. Reduce your moaning and always remind yourself it’s a 1st world problem.
  1. Watch out for the 90/10 principle. This states that 10% of your happiness depends on things that happen to you while a whopping 90% depends on how you react to these events. Make a conscious choice to be positive.
  1. When setbacks occur, ask yourself, where is this issue on a scale of 1 – 10 (where 10 is death). If it is death, you are allowed to feel down. Anything else, get over it.
  1. Most people have an internal voice that is very critical. Challenge it. When your inner voice is telling you you’re an idiot, firmly disagree. Find a positive inner voice (note, this conflict is best done in silence in your head. And if you have lots of inner voices, you need to see your GP).
  1. Spend less time on electronic friends and more time with real flesh and blood ones.
  1. Praise your children for effort rather than ability. For example, if they get a good grade in Math, don’t say ‘Genius, you are the next Einstein.’ Do say, ‘Brilliant! That shows what you can achieve with hard work.’
  1. Practice the 4-minute rule; that is, be your best self for the first 4 minutes of arriving at work, being in a meeting, getting home, etc. Your brilliance is infectious.
  1. Lose the word ‘try’. Instead of setting a resolution of ‘I’m going to try and lose some weight’ or ‘I’m going to try and get a bit fitter,’ go with ‘I’m going to lose some weight’ or ‘I’m going to get fitter.’ Yoda was spot on when he said, ‘Do or do not, there is no ‘try.’
  1. Appreciate that your happiness is bigger than you. It has a ripple effect and infects people 3 degrees removed from you.
  1. Read a bedtime story to your kids like it was the most exciting book in the world (note, it is doubly important for sons to see their dads reading books).
  1. Reframe situations. For example, a leaking gutter means you have a house; paying tax means you have some income; your teenage son spending hours on his X-Box means he’s not wandering the streets, etc. However, don’t overdo reframing otherwise you become Pollyanna; ‘Whoopee, grandma’s dead, what a fabulous opportunity for a funeral and some lovely sandwiches.’
  1. Rather than a New Year’s resolution, set yourself a HUGG (huge unbelievably great goal); this is something that is massive and that inspires you (to write your novel, to run a marathon, to be the best Mom in the world, etc).
  1. Ask yourself, if there was a version of you sitting on a cloud, watching you go about your tasks today, what advice would the ‘cloud you’ give the ‘earthly you’? How would they say you should walk, talk, think and behave? Take that advice.
  1. Be genuinely interested in other people (ask loads of questions about them). In a bizarre twist of quantum psychology, people will find you insanely interesting.
  1. Make sure that you use more positive than negative language. The ratio needs to be about 5 positives for every negative, so catch people doing things well and tell them.