6 Questions to Discover Your Most Meaningful Pursuits

This is a guest post from Jacob of JacobJolibois.com.

meaningful

Minimalism removes the meaningless to make room for the meaningful. 

Properly understood, it is easy to get caught up in the minimalist lifestyle. The idea of removing the meaningless to make room for the meaningful is attractive to many.

Before long, garbage bags line the edge of the road and the backseat of the car is loaded with boxes for Goodwill. But as we finalize the details on our latest eBay auction, we may sit back and wonder, “Now what?”

What was the point of this exercise anyway? What is the “meaningful” that we are supposed to be making room for? While some people are born knowing precisely what they want to do with their lives, some of us live in a constant state of misdirection, unsure of our purpose. Every shiny thing we try, we soon discover, is not what we thought it would be.

As a result, minimalism becomes just another shiny thing we discard when it doesn’t fulfill us. But, if we discover our meaningful pursuits, minimalism becomes a tool that empowers us to realize it.

Here then, are six important questions to help anyone discover their unique, most meaningful pursuits:

1. What currently leads to most of my happiness and fulfillment?

“This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.” —George Bernard Shaw

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered a principle wherein 80% of results stem from 20% of the causes. Therefore, if we could pinpoint the 20% of activity that supplies 80% of our happiness and fulfillment, we could begin taking steps toward maximizing our time and resources within the 20% and moving away from the 80%. Be intentional about breaking down what makes you happy and leverage your minimalist lifestyle to make time for those activities.

2. What concern or problem do I feel most compelled to solve?

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. illuminated the heart and soul of defining our “why”: others. In a world where individualistic concerns are championed, the world-changers and the misfits must unite around a cause larger than themselves. It is there that we will find an answer to our “why” that wells up inside of us and motivates us to make a difference.

3. What would I spend my day doing if I knew I couldn’t fail?

After answering this question, answer a second—what is the worst case scenario if you attempt it now and fail? I would be willing to bet that most of you will discover the worst case scenario isn’t all that bad. If we give our fears a name, they tend to shrink. They’re like the wizard behind the curtain—only an illusion.

“There are two types of people in this world. There are people who see the thing they want and there are people who see the thing preventing them from getting what they want.” —Unknown

4. What do I get so consumed with that I forget to eat or sleep?

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” —Ella Jane Fitzgerald

Purpose is found at the convergence of passion and service. What makes each of us unique is the sum of our individual experiences, traits, skills, interests, and aptitudes. We must tap into the practices that fulfill us and find a way to marry it with our cause (see the answers to questions 2 and 3). There we will find our “why”.

5. What does my perfect day look like?

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” —Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland

Outlining a clear picture of our “why” in practical terms gives us clarity and direction instead of a vague, romanticized goal. It allows us to dig into the details and honestly ask ourselves what we desire. With this clear destination in mind, we can be proactive in our journey.

6. What is one step I can take this week toward realizing my “meaningful?”

“A vision without a task is but a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, a vision and a task is the hope of the world.” —From a church in Sussex, England, ca.1730

Now that we have named our values, burdens, fears, passions and goals, we have a better understanding of why we do what we do. Though we may not have all of the answers now, we have a place from which to start.

At this point, it is crucial to give ourselves a few small wins in the beginning to build momentum. Write down at least one step you can take this week toward your purpose. It could be reaching out to a friend, writing an outline, or setting aside $100.

The important thing is to start. And to discover more and more space to pursue it.

***

Jacob Jolibois writes at JacobJolibois.com, helping others craft a simple, yet impactful life. You can also find him on Twitter.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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moveSKILL | What should stretching feel like? Hacking Your Tight Hamstrings

What should stretching feel like?

 Most of you have never really stretched before. Sure, you have mobilized some. Pulling your leg behind you until you feel a strain on your quads, or kicking your leg up on a bench and leaning into it before a run. Real stretching is not part of a warm-up or cool-down though, real stretching is work. Sweaty, dizzying, (occasionally) nauseating work.

Let’s clarify one point before we get too far. When I talk about stretching, I am talking about actively working to increase your range of motion and your flexibility, with the intention of achieve long lasting and even permanent gains in range of motion. For most, athletes this is the biggest hole in their game (I say most because there are always outliers, those who have amazing flexibility without ever needing to work on it, if this is you this article still may hold some value and I encourage you to read on).

 A quick note on my background:

 As I have talked about a few times in the moveskill podcast, I was never what anyone would consider flexible. I might, after getting really warm in a long workout, be able to touch the ground with my knees locked straight. I have made great gains in the past several years though, because I was lucky enough to find a good coach with a great deal of knowledge and experience in helping adults achieve huge gains in their flexibility. More than the specific exercises, reps, sets, and holds, what I came away with was a deep understanding of the amount of work stretching can be.

 Loaded Stretching, Weighted Stretching, PNF Stretching, Isometric Stretching

I am going to skip the particulars of these schools of stretching. If you want to geek out I recommend Thomas Kruz’s Stretching Scientificallyor Kit Laughlin’s work as good places to start. The one thing you will see across these schools of thought is the principal that lack of flexibility is inherently tied to lack of strength. You may be very strong in some positions, but very weak in others, your central nervous system knows this and limits your range of motion so you don’t do something stupid and hurt yourself.

 Being weak makes you inflexible!

Need some proof? The next time you finish your warm-up try the following; Grab a chair and place it next to you with the seat facing
away.  Put your leg up on the back of the chair with your toes pointing up and knee locked out. Congrats, you have done the “half side splits” and have proven that both your hips have the ability to do the full middle splits (this may not be the case for all you, some people have a deformity known as coxa vara, if you feel a sharp jabbing of bone on bone this may be you). You have also proven that all the muscles in your legs have the length for the middle splits. There is no muscle or ligament that runs from one inner thigh
 to the other, so why can’t do the splits? Because you are weak and your body knows it! Your central nervous system is preventing you from reaching a range of motion where you will injure yourself.

 How should I stretch?

For the sake of brevity I am going to focus on stretching the hamstrings. This tends to be the most common problem area, especially for the functional fitness crowd. I am going to give three exercises programs below based on how bad, or good your hamstring flexibility is. So let us start with a quick test. Start by standing up nice and tall, shoulders back, with a neutral arch in your lower back and knees locked out. Begin to lean forward, piking at the hips making sure not to round your back or protract your shoulder-blades. How far can you reach without rounding your back?

 I can hardly get to my knees

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Start any stretching session with any warm up that gets your body temp up and your blood flowing. Then do the following:

       •       2 rounds of Leg Swings, 10x Side to side, 10x Front and back
       •       25ft of Waiter’s Bow without rounding your back (this isn’t the stretch yet, you are just warming up!)

Now for the hard work. You are going to perform 2 full rounds of Band Hamstring Stretch. Be sure to watch the full video. Each Round
 will consist of:

  • 10 Straight Leg Kicks- Kick high as possible with your knee straight and then drive your leg to the ground working against the tension of the band.
  • 10 Second Straight Leg Hold- Again knee locked out, you are going to be pulling your leg towards your head while simultaneously driving our heel back towards the ground DON’T LET YOUR LEG WIN you intention here is to work against the stretch.
  • 20 Heel Drives- This is where things get spicy, you are going to attempt to drive your heel up and overhead while pulling the band towards your body. Pull hard! The idea is to momentarily hit a stretch that would otherwise be unbearable. You should always be able to lock your knee, if you can’t – back off just a bit.
  • 10 Second Bent Leg Hold- Pull your knee Into your chest with the bottom of your foot facing up or slightly overhead. Choke up on the band to increase the tension and pull in hard towards your chest. Simultaneously try to push the bottom of your foot up and overhead. You should feel a deep stretch in your high hamstring.
  • 10 Straight Leg Kicks- Repeat exactly like the first round, notice how much ROM you have gained.


 Perform this routine 3-5 times a week for up to 6 weeks. You will begin to see increased range of motion (ROM) within the first few days.

 I can almost get to my feet

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 Start all stretching sessions with any warm up that gets your body temp up and your blood flowing. After you are warm, do the following:

•       2 rounds of Leg Swings 10x Side to side, 10x Front and back
•       1 round of Banded Hamstring Stretch on each leg (read above) 

For this Stretch you will be performing the Single Leg Good Morning. This is a loaded stretch, using your own body-weigh, if you are unable to do the stretch with your knee locked out or spine totally neutral then go and perform the routine above.

 Perform 3 Sets of 10 Single Leg Good mornings with a 10-15 Second hold on the last rep of each set. Rest 90 seconds between sets.

•       Maintain a neutral spine at ALL TIMES
•       Keep hips square to the ground, do not turn out to the side as you lower
•       Keep your knee locked out
•       You may use a wall to assist in balance, but do not push yourself up. This takes away from the contraction in your hamstring.
•       Video yourself practicing this stretch the first few times, chances are something is off and seeing yourself will help solve issues that will stall progress.

You should perform this routine 3-5 times a week for up to 6 weeks. You will begin to see increased range of motion (ROM) within the first
few days.

 I can touch the ground 

Untitled3

Your hamstrings are in good shape, but there is always room for improvement! Start all stretching sessions with any warm up that gets your body temp up and your blood flowing. After you are warm, do the following:

•       2 rounds of Leg Swings 10x Side to side, 10x Front and back
•       1 Set of Single Leg Good Mornings 15 Reps with a 15 Second hold on the last rep. (Read the points of performance above)

You will be performing the Jefferson Curl. This Stretch will not only work on hamstring length but also the strength and mobility of your spine, as well as your ability to compress into a pike. 

Complete 3 sets of 10 reps with a 15 second hold at the bottom of your last rep. Rest 90 seconds between sets. We recommend super-setting this with the Kneeling Hip Bridge.

  • Use a 15-20kg bar. This is not something you need to start heavy with, however having some weight is important. A dumbbell or kettlebell can also be used.Keep knees locked out at all times.
  • Don’t neglect your spine! From the top down think about rounding your back one vertebra at a time, delaying hip hinge as long as possible.
  • As you fold forward let the weight hang free and pull you down. Never let the weight rest on your feet or the ground (if it hits the ground find something stable to stand on)
  • At the bottom REACH not only with your arms, but your back as well feeling your body compress against your legs.
  • Return to the top slowly by contracting your hamstrings first THEN allowing your back to realign vertically one vertebra at a time.


 Finish with 1 Round of Band Hamstring Stretch on each leg

Perform this routine 3-5 times a week for up to 6 weeks. You will begin to see increased range of motion (ROM) within the first
few days. You may slowly add some weight as you continue, 2-3 kg at a time never going heavier than 30kg.

Parting advice 

The best advice I can give is to start a routine and stick with it. You will be amazed at how quickly you can develop strong, flexible hamstrings.

moveSKILL | What should stretching feel like? Hacking Your Tight Hamstrings.

How Successful People Stay Calm by Dr. Travis Bradberry

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90 percent of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

If you follow our newsletter, you’ve read some startling research summaries that explore the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.

Research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study, led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby, found that the onset of stress entices the brain into growing new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.

“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” Kirby says. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry and perseverate on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.

Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.

Related: Caffeine: The Silent Killer of Success (LinkedIn)

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, what follows are ten of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.

They Appreciate What They Have

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.

They Avoid Asking “What If?”

“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control. Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go.

They Stay Positive

Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to an exciting event that you can focus your attention on. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.

They Disconnect

Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even—gulp!—turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels.

Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule. If you’re worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, first try doing it at times when you’re unlikely to be contacted—maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with it, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.

They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyperaroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. The stress that caffeine creates is far from intermittent, as its long half-life ensures that it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body.

They Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Stressful projects often make you feel as if you have no time to sleep, but taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

Related: The 6 Secrets of Self-Control (LinkedIn)

They Squash Negative Self-Talk

A big step in managing stress involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

They Reframe Their Perspective

Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren’t sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor. If you’re thinking in broad, sweeping statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to reframe the situation. A great way to correct this unproductive thought pattern is to list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just some things—not everything—and the scope of these stressors will look much more limited than it initially appeared.

They Breathe

The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This sounds simple, but it’s hard to do for more than a minute or two. It’s all right if you get sidetracked by another thought; this is sure to happen at the beginning, and you just need to bring your focus back to your breathing. If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to 20, and then start again from 1. Don’t worry if you lose count; you can always just start over.

This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but you’ll be surprised by how calm you feel afterward and how much easier it is to let go of distracting thoughts that otherwise seem to have lodged permanently inside your brain.

They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. This means tapping into your support system when a situation is challenging enough for you to feel overwhelmed. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress and supply you with a new perspective on the situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Asking for help will mitigate your stress and strengthen your relationships with those you rely upon.

How Successful People Stay Calm.

Generate More Power in Your Punches Using This Traditional Kung Fu Training Method – – Black Belt

An Okinawan karate instructor who once visited my martial arts school impressed me with his knowledge of how to efficiently generate power in hand techniques. It’s rare to see a person who practices a hard style utilize power that’s generated in the legs and then amplified in a torquing manner in the waist to eventually flow up through the body to the hands.

Cultural Connection

Few karate and taekwondo people have a good grasp of how to use what Chinese stylists call waist power. Instead, most use what I refer to as “hip-rotation momentive power.” If a practitioner is strong and large, HRMP can be effective. However, as age increases, physical ability naturally decreases, and along with it goes the ability to generate HRMP. Not so with the more efficient waist power.

When the Okinawans first imported martial arts skills from China, the use of waist power was the preferred approach. Yet this effective method was lost because many students didn’t devote enough time to properly learn how to use waist power before they began teaching karate.

Some also have speculated that the Okinawans didn’t want the Japanese to learn karate properly and, therefore, didn’t teach them the waist-power knowledge they’d acquired from the Chinese. Taekwondo stylists, who learned from Japanese karate practitioners, didn’t learn the Chinese waist-power method, either. Likewise, some kung fu teachers have failed to learn it.

Different Methods

The HRMP method of generating power in techniques is much easier because students require less skill and time to be able to use it. Waist power, on the other hand, is much more difficult to master because all parts of the body must be linked in a coordinated fashion within a supple muscular environment. If this skill is not mastered, techniques produce diminished power.

At this point, you may be thinking about a specific type of power because every kung fu system has different names for power-generation methods. Actually, there’s no such thing as internal power or external power; there’s only efficiently delivered kinetic energy. Whether you employ the simpler HRMP or the more sophisticated waist power, both create kinetic energy. For kinetic energy to be effective, it must cause damage to the target. Therefore, the greater the efficiency in creating, delivering and exchanging kinetic energy, the less energy you need to produce a given amount of damage. The fact that it requires less energy and has greater efficiency in delivering power makes learning waist power worthwhile.

Step by Step

The first step in learning this approach is making sure you are “rooted.” Nearly everyone has heard the term often enough, but it can sound somewhat esoteric. A better description is to assume a stance in which your weight is balanced on the balls of your feet and your center of gravity is lowered. Only with this positioning can the two most important aspects of efficiently generating power be realized: balance and coordination.

Combine the supple body state described above with a balanced position, and you can begin. It starts with your legs and is amplified by your waist. Kinetic energy then flows from your body into your hands, and only a supple body will allow this to occur.

To better understand the coordination that’s required, consider an example from the world of physics: a row of steel balls suspended in line so they touch one another. When one ball is pulled away and released so it can hit the others, the ball at the opposite end swings away from the rest. This is a classic example of the efficient movement of kinetic energy through an inert body. Kung fu practitioners learn to make their body do the same thing. Waist power travels through the body only when all its parts are linked together properly. Misalignment detracts from the power output, as does stiffness in any part of the body.

Learning kung fu’s method of producing power takes time, practice and a qualified teacher. The advantage is that a smaller person can generate a great deal of energy without needing a lot of upper body strength and a larger person can generate power without relying on only his strength.

Jon Funk is a seven-star praying mantis kung fu instructor based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Generate More Power in Your Punches Using This Traditional Kung Fu Training Method – – Black Belt.

8 Daily Habits That Will Make 2015 Explosive

The new year is here and most entrepreneurs are looking at how they will raise their game in 2015. Many of you may want to ramp up your personal development and productivity to a whole new level to reach some major goals.

When it comes to finding success and achieving your goals, many times the most important struggle is the one that you encounter in mundane daily life. To truly find success in your life, it is important that you take the time to do the little things that matter most. Small changes to your daily routine can translate into monumental success in all of your endeavors.

Related: The Secret to Successful Goal-Setting (And Having Your Best Year Ever)

Here are eight things that you should be doing, if you aren’t already, habitually.

1. Get up early

Getting up early is about more than just getting up on time. When you get up early, before most people, you have a quiet and relaxing time to get things done. Imagine being able to sit down and go through emails or handle daily tasks without your message notification buzzing or your phone going off.

By getting up early, you are not only giving yourself some extra time in the morning, but you are giving yourself some extra valuable time that will allow you to get even more done.

2. Read

You should be reading every single day. Never let a day go by that you don’t grow in some area of your life. This doesn’t necessarily mean crushing an entire novel in a few hours, but put aside a little time to read, preferably 20 to 30 minutes.

When you read you help stimulate your thought processes, and may be surprised by the ideas that you come up with. Reading things such as magazines or newspapers can also help you stay abreast of the world around you, a trait that can only be helpful, no matter what industry you work in.

3. Exercise

Even if it is just for 30 minutes, it is important to start exercising daily. Exercise can help release endorphins that can naturally boost your mood and your energy levels. Not only will you feel happier and more energized but those who work out regularly report lower levels of stress.

4. Practice gratitude

This can be a hard one for some people and it’s something that unfortunately many of us need to consciously practice. When our lives get consumed with work and personal demands it can be hard to remember to show gratitude to those that we interact with. Try to make a conscious effort to practice this.

As it starts to become more natural, you will be surprised by how many doors open and how many new relationship you can form by showing sincere gratitude to those around you.

5. Schedule your day before it starts

Having a set schedule is a powerful tool when it comes to making the most of your day and being as productive as possible. To have the biggest impact with your time, try making your schedule the day before. This way the moment you wake up you will know just what is ahead.

6. Focus on high-priority tasks first

Many people actually often put their high-priority tasks on the backburner and end up saving them until the last minute. This may be because the task is daunting, or because they think they will have more time to dedicate to the endeavor.

No matter what the reasoning is, challenge yourself by starting with focusing on your high-priority task. Get it done first and then focus on smaller things. After being in the mindset of tackling a high-priority project, your less demanding tasks will be easier to complete. It’s a small change but one that can improve your effectiveness drastically.

7. Always go the extra mile

Do a few extra (meaningful) tasks every day that go beyond what your actual requirements are. This can mean just a few extra sales calls beyond your quota, or working for an extra 30 minutes before shutting down.

By putting in a little more effort than required you can start getting the attention of your superiors or clients, get more done during the workday and feel a new energizing sense of motivation and satisfaction.

8. Improve in one area each day

This area can be something small or large and it can be in your personal or professional life, but make it a goal to improve in one area of your life every day. This can be improving your jogging speed while you work out, getting more emails done in a certain time period or improving on your elevator pitch.

No matter what it is, take the time to really try to improve one small thing, and before you know it the improvements in your personal and professional life will surprise you.

by Timothy Sykes

8 Daily Habits That Will Make 2015 Explosive.

5 Ways to Find a Job You Love So It’s Gift, Not an Obligation

By 

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ~Confucius

I once worked for a big international consultancy firm (okay, it’s McKinsey, don’t tell anyone) and hated it.

Everyone told me how lucky I was to have that job. They went on and on about how prestigious it was, how I got to travel the world, work with executives on the big topics, and hang out with brilliant colleagues.

As much as all of that is true, I still hated the job. Not because of McKinsey, but because of me.

It might be a dream job for a lot of people, but it surely wasn’t for me. It was a nightmare, and in the end I couldn’t sleep anymore (at which point a nightmare in the literal meaning of the word started to seem very attractive to me).

Have you ever gone without sleep for days? If you have, then you know that it’s not sustainable for very long. After four days I was a zombie, and a miserable one at that.

I was on the verge of a breakdown, and I knew that something needed to change. In hindsight, it was so obvious what that “something” was—but back then, twelve years ago, I had totally lost my way.

Fortunately, I finally gathered up enough courage (or desperation) to pick up the phone and call my HR manager. I quit, and then I went to bed and slept like a baby for twenty hours straight.

Two months later I had landed a job that I genuinely could love, and two years later I was running my own company.

Since then my co-founders and I have grown our company to 200 employees, with offices in London, Berlin, and Copenhagen. More importantly, I am able to have fun, learn at a fast pace, and maintain a great work/life balance even from day one.

From these two contrasting experiences I have learned five lessons that I use to keep myself on the right track, and that might be useful for you too:

1. Don’t settle.

It’s so easy to fall victim to the idea that we should be grateful just to have a job, especially in times where the economy is bad. As much as I am a fan of gratitude, if your job is not making you happy then it’s not the right thing for you to be spending 50 percent or more of your waking hours doing. Period.

Of course, we can all have moments of doubt and bad days—congratulations for being human! But if you dread going to work often than not, then it’s time to connect to your inner strength and creativity to move on to a new mission.

2. Be courageous.

I recently came across a happiness study that showed a positive correlation between courage and happiness.

At first that seemed a bit odd to me. But then I understood: brave people get more out of their lives because they dare to break out, let go of their past, and embrace the unknown. They grow more, learn more, and live more intensely. Thus, they are happier.

Since this realization, every time I get fearful, I ask myself, is this a happiness enhancer in disguise?

Of course, sometimes courage comes in the form of non-action. Staying where you are even if it is difficult is also courageous. Only you can distinguish the difference between growing and fleeing.

Statistically, most of us are biased toward the non-action end of the spectrum, so it makes sense to contemplate if we are staying put (in a job, in a relationship, in a city) because we are brave or because we are afraid.

3. Follow the “One-Year Rule.” 

Let’s say that you have realized that you need to move on in your life, and that you are courageous enough to act on it. Good for you! However, sometimes you will find that you are actually stuck.

Maybe you really need your paycheck at the end of each month. You may even have children to provide for. What do you do then?

The One-Year Rule goes like this: make a plan and a firm commitment to yourself that one year from now, you will have sorted out your problems and be in a much better place. With planning, creativity, and patience, most things are possible.

4. Live your priorities.

More than once, you have probably listened to someone go on about how their children are their number one priority, or how they value good health. Then you wondered if their actions were really in line with these beliefs. Worse yet, sometimes we have been that person.

When we say that our daughter or son means everything to us, then that statement needs to be backed by recognizable action. This could mean picking up your child early from kindergarten and being present while you play with Legos together.

Maybe your priorities are very different from mine, and that’s fine too. The point is that we each need to be clear on what’s important to us and then live according to that blueprint. Otherwise, we end up with regret and low self-respect.

For me, working at McKinsey wasn’t the right thing to do because that required me to be an always-on type of guy. I needed a job where I had much more freedom—that was my priority.

5. Don’t believe the naysayers.

It’s amazing how many well-intended friends, family members, and colleagues are more than willing to tell us when our ideas, visions, or plans are unrealistic. They tell us that we should rather be grateful for what we have, whether it’s a job, a spouse, or something else.

Our parents can especially be a strong source of our self-doubt; parents are inherently risk-averse on behalf of their children. That’s fine, but we, their children, shouldn’t pay too much attention to that.

My dad thought it was the silliest thing that I wanted to write a book. “There are so many books out there already,” he said. “Shouldn’t you rather focus on your business?” I didn’t listen and I am happy about that. What advice from your friends and family should you make sure to avoid?

Here’s a tip: the next time someone is projecting their own fears and limitations on you, imagine a huge trash bin between you—and visualize all their words slipping into that bin, before they even reach you.

Don’t be upset with other people; they are allowed to have their own beliefs and opinions. Just remember it has nothing to do with you, even when they claim it does.

If you follow these five simple rules, I believe that work can become much more of a gift in your life rather than an obligation.

It certainly worked for me, and I am by no means unique (or we all are). You deserve a job you truly love—and if you haven’t found it already, it’s probably out there looking for you.

 

5 Ways to Find a Job You Love So It’s Gift, Not an Obligation.