MAKE YOUR HABITS STICK

Last post we looked at why developing winning habits is so important and how they can have a dramatic impact on our lives. The million dollar question is how can we be motivated to make those habits stick, especially in the moments we really don’t feel like doing them. This can be true early on. After a habit becomes a part of our life, it is usually much easier to stick with. Some habits you will even come to find yourself looking forward to and end up feeling like something is missing when you don’t do them. We are getting ahead of ourselves. Let us back up and tackle the question as to how we can maintain our level of commitment and enthusiasm for our daily winning habits.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is right at the beginning. When we are putting a new habit in place in our lives, we need to have a strong enough ‘why’. Let us use the example of eating healthier. If we are doing it because we know we should or simply that it would be good for us, that is not a very powerful why. Will this reason hold up when you find out the local pizza place has buy one get one free and you are tired from a hard days work? I am guessing not. Before we put our new healthy habits in place and make them a part of our lives, we need to become emotionally attached to why we are doing them. It is simply not enough to know on an intellectual level why what we are doing is beneficial for us. In order to stick to our winning habits, especially in tough times, we need to become emotionally invested in the outcome. Let us take a look at a few ways in which we can do that.

One of the most powerful things we can do is to really get clear as to not only what pleasurable and positive things will happen by us sticking with our new winning habit, but also what painful and negative things will happen if we do not stick with this habit. Using both will not only double our motivation, but will help us be motivated in an entirely different light. Most of us tend to use only the former and forget the latter. Take trying to quit smoking for example. Some of the reasons you may list for you ‘why’ is as follows. I will be able to breathe better and do more things without becoming so winded. I will stink less and be more attractive to others, especially those who do not smoke. My skin will age less rapidly. My immune system will be stronger and I will be able to fight off sickness better. All very good and helpful reasons to quite smoking. Let us look at examples of what would happen if we don’t stop smoking. These can often be discovered by taking to opposite of our positive statements. I will miss out on playing with my children and grand children because I will be too winded to keep up. In several year, or less, I will have to depend on oxygen and not be able to breathe on my own. I will meet the person of my dreams but they will be sick from the smell of cigarettes on my clothes and hair. My skin will dry, have more wrinkles and I will look older than I am. My immune system will be so weak I will spend more days sick than healthy. I will not be able to taste and appreciate some of the wonderful food I enjoy.

Some people may consider looking at the negative aspect of not achieving your goal or sticking to your habit as ‘scaring yourself’. In a way that is true, but when we are looking to transform our lives in a positive way, we need to use both the carrot and the stick. Both hope and fear are great motivators and should both be employed.

Another great motivational tool is considering something that may be more important to us than ourselves. For parents, this is hopefully their children. These quotes in the pictures above paint a pretty honest picture. You can tell your children how it is important it is to eat right and not to spend all of their time in front of the television or on their phone playing video games. If, however, they watch their parents spend hours a day on Facebook, twitter and other social media platforms while having a coffee and doughnuts for breakfast. What we say goes so far. When faced with believing someone’s words or actions, especially if they contradict, people will always believe actions. This holds true not only for children, but for our friends and coworkers and other people who observe us. If you want to be known as a great spouse and you are consistently posting loving words on social media, but when people see you out together you are disrespectful to your spouse, which one are they more likely to believe? When you are busy lecturing your children on the importance of good health and finances, make sure you are showing them as well. That is even more important.

So when the temptation to stray from the path of the winning habit creeps in, remember your ‘why’. If you have had a stressful day and your are tempted to light up, picture and really think about both running around playing with your grandchildren as well as laying in a hospital bed not being able to breathe on your own. It will certainly make it easier to find an alternative to that cigarette. Free doughnuts in the breakroom? Imagine your children following in your footsteps on unhealthy dietary habits and what that will mean for their lives going forward. It is important to use every means at our disposal for changing our healthy habits. We will not only be transforming our own lives, but you never know who may be watching us as well.

SOME HARD TRUTH

We here at Secret2anamazinglife.com convey what we have to say in a positive manner. That does not mean, however, that we sugar coat things. The quote above is a prime example of that. Recently, I was asked how I manage to maintain a positive attitude daily despite new, and sometimes fairly intense, life challenges. People often ask what was the ‘one thing’ that I did to transform my outlook on life and be able to maintain that positive mindset. The good news is that you can stop looking for that ‘one thing’. The reason being that it is not just one thing, there are several things and they are done daily.

I often use physical fitness as a comparison for self-improvement because the two go hand in hand. In today’s society people are looking for the 6 minute abs routine that will transform their bodies. Some are looking for that one diet, or even diet pill that will do the trick for them. When the trainer tells them it is a daily habit of working in at least 30 minutes of physical activity they are shocked. “I have to do this every day?” It depends how bad you want change. If you really desire to have that healthy and fit body so that you have more energy and less illness, then yes it will take some time and dedication. That is why diets seldom if ever work long term. You need to change your mindset and eating habits, not go on a 28 day diet.

This holds true for any type of self-care. The most common excuse people have for not starting healthy and productive habits is “I don’t have time.” What they are really saying is that it is not a priority for them. If having a healthy body was important to you, then you would make time to go for a daily walk in the park or go to the gym for 30 minutes. Can you find an hour a day to meal prep for the week ahead? If you are dedicated you could. You know that spending 10 minutes a day in quite meditation would greatly reduce your stress, but you just don’t have the time. Then reducing the stress in your life and all the unpleasant side-effects is not a priority for you.

We all are guilty of wasting time. I am no exception. If there is an area of our life that is suffering, we must develop and dedicate ourselves to habits to improve that area. We discussed ways in which that can be done in the physical fitness arena, let us take a look at a few others. Let us say your relationship is not at the level of intimacy you wish it would be. You need to develop a habit that increases that intimacy. You could send your significant other a message on lunch every day letting them know something you are grateful for in your relationship. You could get in the habit of planning a weekly date night with your spouse. If your finances are not where you want them to be, you need to develop a habit of savings and/or investing. That could be as simple as swapping out that gourmet coffee drink you usually stop and spend $5 on for one that can be created at home for $1 or so. You do that 3 times a week you are saving $12. Doesn’t sound like much, but multiplied times the 52 weeks in a year you just saved $624. Simple, small changes in daily habits can make big transformations in our life. There is a simple

We have seen how important changing our habits can be. How can we make sure that we do implement them? More importantly, how can we make that easier to do? Most importantly, how can we make sure that the habits we put in place stick? To answer those questions and more come back and read tomorrow’s post.

A POWERFUL LIFE HACK

I’m not one to promote ‘life hacks’ as a solution. Generally, it takes consistent action and work to change one’s life for the better. This idea above can certainly guide us in the right direction. If we consistently ask ourselves how the person we want to become spend their time, we will find ourselves wasting a lot less time.

Another way to do this is to write down everything you do one day and how much time you spend on it. Do not try to alter what you would normally do. If you find yourself sitting down watching meaningless YouTube videos for 30 minutes, write that down. Do you scroll through social media for just a little bit? Write down when you start and when you end. It may shock you how much time all of those little bits add up to. Also, write down what you do that is productive and how long you spend on that. Did it seem like forever you spent cleaning the house or sending emails out to promote your business? Write down when you started and when you stopped.

As you spend time sitting and pondering what the person you are striving to be would do, it would be helpful to pull out your list. This is not merely to find out how much time you are spending productively verses unproductively, but gives you a list of other benefits as well. It will show you when you tend to be most productive during the day, as well as when you seem to fall victim to distraction. You could use this information to better plan when you should schedule work related items verses recreational items. Adding items from the list of things the person you are working on becoming would do will be easier if you have this list as well. If you spend an hour a day watching videos of bears sitting at picnic tables, it may be more beneficial to slip in a few videos of cost effective ways to promote your book. Maybe if you would like to dedicate a certain amount of time to getting the the house in order you could look at your daily list and find out when you seem to have the most energy and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Thinking about how the person you want to be would spend their time will keep you disciplined to not waste as much time and make better use of the time you have. This does not mean there is no time for recreation, but that there is certainly ways in which time can be better spent. Perhaps having a picture, or pictures, of the kind of person you wish to become posted where you will see them will also serve as a good reminder. Remember it takes more than asking yourself this question once. Ask yourself at least once a day, preferably first thing in the morning, how would the person you are trying to be spend their time and energy? This will give you some great energy and plans for your day. Do this often enough and in no time you will become the person you are striving for.

HOW OATMEAL CHANGED MY LIFE

What is the secret to an amazing life? Oatmeal. Wait. What? Oatmeal? Well, not exactly oatmeal but in my case it is. When it comes right down to it, what makes a life amazing is enjoying it. That may sound like a no brainer, but it is really the great secret of life. You may be thinking, “Doesn’t everyone know this already?” You would think so. Still, we hear of people doing anything they can for money, for power, for fame and even so someone would click the little ‘thumbs up’ button on their social media post. What they fail to realize is they do all of those things for one reason and one reason only – to feel good.

So the secret of life is just doing only things we love? Sure Bucky, and well you are at it you could find a magic unicorn to ride to the playground to eat the cotton candy that is good for you. I have seen a lot of self-improvement books and seminars telling people to focus on trying to eliminate things in their lives that are unpleasant and make them less than happy. This certainly is a logical step. The less things we have in life that we don’t like, the more we will feel good. In fact, this is part of the seminars I teach. Notice I said that it was part of living a life that feels good.

Here is a terrible news flash. We are all going to die. We are all going to have to file taxes. We, at some point in our lives are going to have the terrible situation of losing someone we love. In other words, there are going to be situations in our life that we cannot control and mitigate. Certainly, limiting these as mentioned above is one option. What happens when you have to work with that annoying boss because you really like the job and need the money? How about members of your spouse’s family you have to put up with to keep the peace at home? There are always situations that seem to require us to do things that are less than pleasant. In that case how do we manage to still feel good even when doing things that don’t feel good? That is the million dollar question. Once we look at the answer, we will discover a tool we can use to transform our entire life.

How do we enjoy doing the things that we know we must do but really do not enjoy? The first part of the answer comes in asking this question in the first place. It amazes me when I look and listen to people’s success plans, almost nobody includes ‘having fun during the process’. Try asking this question to yourself next time you embark on a goal. Ok, so how do we enjoy the process and what on earth does all of this have to do with oatmeal? So glad you asked. One thing I asked myself was how to start eating healthier with my new work hours. I have limited time to heat and consume anything. This usually pushes you toward fast food and unhealthy options. One thing that is healthy and fast is oatmeal. Although not a terribly exciting food, oatmeal has a host of health benefits.

My challenge in all of this was simple. How could I enjoy eating the not very exciting dish of oatmeal every day? The first thing I needed to do was quantify my emotional state. On a scale of 1 to 10 how excited am I about eating oatmeal? I gave it a 4. Then I asked myself the important question, “Where do I want to be?” Realistically, I decided I would like to be between an 8 to 10. Depending on the day, I could be more or less excited, but I wanted to stay in that range. Then the million dollar question – “What can I do to go from a 4 experience to a 10?”

Why is that a million dollar question? Stick with me here. I began to think of what could make eating oatmeal a more fun and exciting adventure. The first was to have a ‘cool’ oatmeal bowl. That is mine in the first picture. It was given to me by my mother and has an inspirational saying on it. Sadly, two days ago I dropped and broke the spoon. Next, I wanted to research all of the benefits that eating oatmeal bring to your health. I figured if I could picture this happening with each bite, my oatmeal consumption would become infinitely more enjoyable. I looked online and read some great articles. I also decided to look for fun and healthy oatmeal. Why stick with the boring flavors? I found Kodiak high protein oatmeal filled me up and gave me the most energy. Better oats gave me some healthy options. All of these things increased my enjoyment of eating oatmeal. I even look forward to going to different stores to see what kinds they have. I also found fun and healthy things to add to my oatmeal.

If you stuck with me this long, here is the golden ticket this represents. You can apply this same power to anything in your life you would like to become more enjoyable. How can you deal with that annoying coworker? Maybe imagine him with a cartoon head while he is talking to you, or be grateful that he is allowing you to practice your patience skills. How can you enjoy working out more? Maybe treat yourself to a new workout outfit, or running shoes? Listen to some music that really gets you pumped up! Imagine how good you will feel when you are done. There are a million different options. Just keep asking yourself how can I go from a four experience, to say a six or a seven. Work your way up.

Here is another coo thing. This works in reverse. Why would you want to take a good experience and make it bad? Let’s say you have some unhealthy habits you enjoy. Drinking soda maybe? Eating too much candy or fast food? Try picturing that adorable gummy bear floating in anchovy juice. Picture what that greasy burger is doing to the inside of your body. In fact, get some pictures printed out. Looking at a picture of a smoker’s lung or clogged arteries can certainly achieve that emotional connection you are looking for. Use this tool for creating more joy in your life. It will help you enjoy the things that add to your life, and help you stop enjoying the things that subtract from your life.

3 CHOICES FOR 1 SOLUTION

Last post we looked at discovering the cause of anxiety. Today we are going to begin to look at ways in which we can begin to treat our anxiety and take back control of our emotions, our mind and our life. We are going to take them one at a time, starting today with Physical coping strategies. Please know that the methods we will be discussing, although very valuable, are not all that is available. Before beginning any lifestyle changes it is important to check with your doctor to make sure they are safe and right for you.

Why start with physical coping strategies? Quite often anxiety can cause a paralyzing effect when it comes to mental and emotional changes. There are, however, some physical tools we can use to ease the level of stress that may allow us to then begin to explore methods more directly associated with the mind and emotions. As with any challenge we face in life, anxiety can best be approached using several methods and what works for one may certainly not work for everyone. The order in which you utilize the methods we discuss is less important that your willingness to try them. There will be enough options in each category to find something not only helpful, but enjoyable. Just because we are utilizing these tools to help us become less stress and anxious does not mean we cannot enjoy the process. Quite the contrary. The more we enjoy the method we choose, and the easier it is to incorporate into our lifestyle, the more likely we are to stick with them and the more successful we will be.

The first physical coping method we will look at is being physical. Do not worry. I am not going to tell you to go to a gym, an activity that causes anxiety in some, or run in sandals like the lady in the picture above. Both of those would be helpful, but there are so many other options. One of the main symptoms of anxiety is feeling tired. Believe it or not, this will only be made worse by not moving. Newton’s first law of motion says that an object at rest tends to stay at rest. That is as true of human beings as it is of planets in the universe. The important thing is to just move. Find a physical exercise you enjoy. It could be basketball, swimming, hiking, roller skating, dancing or just going for a stroll in the park.

Why is exercise important? Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. Not only does it increase energy and provide a boost to your immune system, two things that can suffer with anxiety, but it also releases endorphins. Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter which is a fancy term for a chemical messenger of the brain. What message does this neurochemical transmit? When endorphins bind to receptors of the central nervous system, a pleasure hormone called dopamine is released. As you might guess a pleasure hormone helps relieve pain and manage stress making you feel good. In addition the chemical serotonin is released when you exercise. Serotonin helps regulate mood, body temperature and appetite. These three areas are also affected greatly by anxiety. There are even more beneficial chemicals released during exercise. As you can see, exercise can help you feel better from the inside and you don’t even have to think about it, you just have to move.

Another physical action many people do not consider is their diet. High processed foods such as chips, snack cakes and fast food can increase anxiety. A diet rich in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other such items can not only increase your good health and immune system, they can actually decrease your level of anxiety. A healthy diet is something we can all benefit from. It will not only help our waistline, it will help our bottom line when it comes to reducing anxiety. Start by adding additional healthy foods to your diet. Swap out a bottle of water for your usual soda. Enjoy a nice healthy protein bowl instead of a burger at lunch. If you try to transform your diet all at once that can cause additional anxiety. Meal prep is another great way to take a lot of the stress out of healthy eating. On what is your slowest day of the week try putting together a few healthy dishes to make cooking and eating them a breeze.

These are but two physical actions you can begin to take today to help cope and treat your anxiety. As with any major health change, make sure to consult the appropriate professional. Physical actions are a great way to begin to reduce anxiety because they do not put additional stress on your already taxed mind. Here area few more you may consider. Quit drinking alcohol. It may seem to relax you, but from a physical standpoint can stress your body even further. Ditch the caffeine. When we are feeling a little tired because of how anxious we are feeling, it may be tempting to reach for a coffee or energy drink. That can leave you feeling jittery and increase the level of stress in the system. Practice deep breathing. Another action that can benefit anyone. By paying attention to your breathing you refocus the mind off of the anxiety and focused solely on the breathing. Plus, deep breathing has a host of other benefits as well. I encourage you to try some, if not all, of these actions to find which ones work for you. Do not stop there. A simple Google search of ‘physical treatments for anxiety’ can open up a lot of other options for you.

WELL WATER CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE… AND YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO DRINK IT!

I’ve been in the self-improvement industry, professionally, for 2 decades now. Everyday, I listen to motivational recordings, I watch motivational videos and I even have a day-by-day motivational calendar. You would think after 9 years of motivational blogs, writing 2 books and teaching many seminars I would not need to learn more. Why continue to expose myself to so much self-improvement material? In fact, with so much self-improvement material out there, why do I feel compelled to continue to add my own contributions? The answer can be found in the graph above on well water.

Here is a saying that most of us have probably heard before. “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” I used to think this line was a bunch of nonsense. Now, it is one of the axioms I live my life by. How else do you explain the same situation happening to two different people, one is devastated and the other shrugs it off and keeps going? Some people allow challenges to make them bitter, some use it to make them better. Yet another self-help cliché. A man’s father is an alcoholic so he becomes one too. Yet, just down the block a woman watches her mother lose her job, her relationships and slowly drink herself to death. The pain this woman sees and feels makes her never desire a drop of alcohol her whole life through.

Here is another saying that used to annoy the hell out of me. If I stand on my head and look at the jerk in the office, he still is a jerk…only upside down. How about those people who can look at someone who is constantly putting them down, or saying rude things to everyone and all they can manage to say is “That person must be my personal emotional trainer who is helping me strengthen my patience.” No Sally, that person is just an ass. Funny thing is, Sally could be around the office jerk and remain completely at peace. That’s when I began to see the power in this. One of my favorite life coaches is Tony Robbins. I recall him saying something about reality not being reality in actuality, but reality to the individual. That is not it word for word and if anyone can find the quote please share it in the comments below. What it does mean is that reality is how we choose to view things. In our example of our jerk office worker, to me they were a jerk that was upsetting. To Sally, they were an emotional trainer helping her increase her chance at nirvana.

That brings us right back to our well water example. I have included another graph so you don’t have to scroll all the way back up. Here at secret2anamazinglife we care about you that way. What I learned today was that well water maintains a temperature of 68° (or 20 for our Celsius friends) This temperature stays the same despite the ambient temperature around it. Sunny and hot in the summer? 68°. So cold you could freeze fire? 68°. It is as if well water has reached some point of nirvana where it is unaffected by its surroundings.

In addition to serving as a great example of not changing to reflect your surroundings, this example serves us a two-fold lesson. 68° is the same no matter what, right? Not hardly. Just like our example of the unpleasant coworker who was completely a different person depending if you were talking to Sally or myself, the same is true of the well water. If we fell in the well in the middle of the summer, that water would probably feel cool and refreshing. If, however, we slipped on some us and became a ‘human bucket’ of sorts plummeting down the well at a high rate of speed to water that would seem rather warm all things considered. You see our situation can change how we would view the exact same water. We would still be stuck at the bottom of a well which would suck. Unless, of course, you are Sally who would look at it as a chance to practice her survival skills. Yet another examples of viewing life in 2 totally different ways.

This is why I encourage everyone to keep an open mind. Read all the books, listen to all the speakers and expose yourself to as much motivational material as you can. Someone might say the same thing you have heard for years in just a slightly different way that can make all of the difference. Remember how we view life is 10 times more important than the actual facts of life itself. It can not only help us deal with the challenges of life better, but let us be like Sally, who can maintain her inner peace even in the face of an annoying coworker.

  • P.S. – this is an entirely made up example. Although I have a few annoying coworkers, I do not have any named Sally who can remain in a state of inner peace.

LEAVE A LITTLE EVERYWHERE

Leave a little everywhere? A little what? There are certainly things we shouldn’t leave behind us. If we suffer from a lack of hygiene, we leave a little odor of ourselves behind as a reminder we have been there. Not good. If we discover our Ford Escape has a leak in the rear differential, hypothetically, we leave nice little puddle behind in the drive way. Also not good. There are many things in which we should not leave everywhere these days. Our information on the internet, for example. We shouldn’t leave our cup of coffee on the roof of our car as we drive away. I must confess to being guilty of a few of these myself.

What should we leave behind and where should we leave it? Kindness is what we should leave behind. Before you roll your eyes and think that this sounds like one of those corny new-age statements, stay with me a second. In today’s world of division and hostility a little kindness can be like coming across an unexpected flower growing through a crack in the sidewalk. Wait, that sounds like we are going even deeper in the new-age rabbit hole. Let me use the picture above as an example. It was on the inside of a door to a mailbox on which I had to install a new lock today. The person had placed a little heart that said “Smile” on it. This was handy considering the lock was really messed up and I had to break it off to fix it. Yet, it serves as a good reminder. That little sign did make me smile. I trust it is a nice thing for the mail person to see when delivering the mail. The person who goes out to check the mail? They get a daily reminder to smile as well.

Here is a sign that I saw the table at Inspired Coffee. That is a coffee shop that hires individuals with Physical and mental disabilities to give them an opportunity to improve their position in the work world and in life. Great place, I highly recommend checking them out. That one simple sign has inspired everyone who sat at that table and took the time to read it I would imagine. One sign and it can make a huge difference in the life of many people.

In looking for secrets to an amazing life, one of my prerequisites is that there should not be that much work involved. It is not that I am lazy. Ok…maybe a little…sometimes. The reason I think there should not be a lot of work involved is because we are less likely to use those secrets and if we do it will be less often, when we ‘have the time’. To me a great secret to an amazing life should be one that can work on auto pilot. That is why we can set up our lives for success in just such a manner. Little work, big return.

Think of how many places there are to place some inspiration. Above is a picture of my laptop that I write a good deal of these blogs on. There is also a Nitro brewed coffee, that is just something that helps me write these blogs. On my laptop you will see that I have a picture of myself and my beautiful Margie. Every time I turn on my computer I am reminded of our love. That gives me that warm fuzzy feeling inside and is a pretty good way to start writing. Plus, this picture has her flashing that lovely smile that melts my heart. I have a blog 5 days a week, imagine what seeing this amazing picture 5 days a week does for me and my love for my lady? Especially because writing can be a very solitary venture. This way, even though we are apart, she is still with me. I have inspirational quotes in my locker at work (along with more pictures of my love) that help my mindset on the job. There are screens on cell phones, the dash board on your car, next to the coffee maker and a host of other opportunities. Find a quote, picture or something that inspires you and place them in all of these places. Every day you will be hit with many little doses of inspiration and motivation. Add that up over a year and it can really positively affect your life.

Another way to give yourself that warm fuzzy feeling is to leave these notes for others. I am not talking about bringing a sharpie in the public restroom, but something positive and creative. Perhaps you could purchase some Post-it notes, you know the pieces of paper with sticky on the back, and leave a nice note with the next tip you leave. Perhaps it is as simple as posting something positive on your social media page. Sending random inspiring texts to friends and family can really make someone’s day. What about leaving an inspirational sign in the break room at work? It could be the start of a more positive work environment! Who wouldn’t want that?

The secret to an amazing life is to find little ways to remind and inspire ourselves daily. If you think of all the areas in which you can do this, some were listed here, the possibilities are nearly endless. Add to this little places in which you can inspire others and you will have increased the joy in both your world and the world at large. We have discussed some ideas here, please share your ideas for opportunities to inspire yourself and others in the comments below!

A SECRET TO AMAZING…HAPPINESS

Today so many people are chasing happiness. The look for it in books, retreats, people, relationships, money, cars and a host of other outside influences. The truth, as you may have heard, is that happiness is an inside job. Even my book, A Happy Life for Busy People, teaches you ways to find your inner happiness. Here is another hard truth. If you place your happiness in someone or something else, you are also handing over control of your happiness. They can decide to give you happiness or take it away. If that person or thing should ever leave your life, your happiness will go with it.

Taking all of this into account, how do you gain inner happiness? There are several key components to accomplishing this. Gratitude is one of the quickest and easiest ways to accomplish this. Becoming grateful for what you have in your life, good and bad, is a great key to happiness. We have devoted many posts to this and I invite you to search for some posts. Another great key to happiness can be summed up in one word – PROGRESS. That is why goal setting can be such a strong tool toward happiness and success in life. We once again refer to the quote from our great friend Earl Nightingale – “Success in the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” There is that word ‘progress’ again. Working on losing weight and becoming healthier? Maybe you went for a short walk after dinner – progress. Doing your best to write that book that you’ve kept inside you for most of your adult life? Write 500 words – progress. In these and many other examples, you are certain to feel happier once you complete these tasks and become one step closer to your goal.

Another great way to harness the power of progress is through continuing education. Before you begin to worry about student debt, transportation or if you are too old to go back to school, let me put your fears to rest. There are more ways than ever before to educate yourself. I am very interested in the second world war and the psychology behind it. I can pull up videos on YouTube, order books and DVDs from Amazon or look for material on the internet. In addition, there are great sources at my local library. No matter what subject you choose to pursue, gaining knowledge gives us a feeling of accomplishment, or said a different way, progress.

If you add to this gaining knowledge in the field of self-improvement, you will be progressing in two areas simultaneously! You will be both gaining knowledge as well as improving your position in life. Double the progress; double the feelings of joy and happiness. Even if your goal isn’t exactly knowledge based, such as living a healthier lifestyle, gaining knowledge on the subject could be progress. I say could be because it must be followed with action. If you do pair this gaining of knowledge with action, every bit you gain will be progress. Look up what foods have the greatest thermogenic effect? Progress. Viewing and the picking a new workout to try? Progress. Picking out those cute new running shoes and then actually using them to run? Progress.

We are all looking for secrets to an amazing life. One of the key components is happiness. The secret is that to find happiness, look for progress. There are so many avenues in which to do so. Set a goal. Work to increase your knowledge base or combine the two and feel twice the feeling of progress. What in your life are you progressing toward?

TAKE IT EASY WHILE YOU’RE PUSHING

Today’s post is one of simple reassurance. If you subscribe to a blog like this, you are undoubtedly a person who is driven to learn and utilize secrets to an amazing life. It is worth noting and something we must be careful of when working to improve our lives, we must enjoy the process. This can be difficult to do during the best of times, but takes special care when we feel like we are failing or even moving backwards.

When we are trying to improve any aspect of our lives there comes a time when we face an obstacle or a set back. It can seem as if we are trying to push a giant marshmallow up a hill. Maybe we are doing our best to improve our physical fitness and we sustain and injury. After weeks of rest, going back to the gym and having to ‘start all over’ can be quite deflating. Perhaps we are working on completing our next book and accidentally hit ‘delete’ instead of ‘save’, wiping out weeks or more of work. (I did this once, it was followed by feeling of being nauseous) All of these moments can lead to doubt. What can doubt do? As Shakespeare said, “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” There is a lot said in that one line, and all of it is true. Doubting ourselves can lead to giving up too soon or even failing to try.

Once returning from injury to the gym, I remarked how deflating it was to have to lower the weights so far from what they were prior to injuring myself. I was told something that not only applies to the gym, but to every other task in life – “You are still further ahead than everyone who is just sitting on the couch.” Unless your job is a professional couch tester, this is quite true. Were you supposed to write 1000 words and only could come up with 750? That is better than sitting on the couch (which is where I am writing this ironically) not writing anything.

Some days you may fail all together. What about those days? There are expected too. If you are striving to be your best, that is what counts. We often do not succeed at the level we wish to. We can use it for motivation to work harder the next day. We can recall days that we crushed it more than we expected and realize it all balances out in the end. We can also realize that we are going to have days that we try and fail and even a few where we fail to try. As long as they are the exceptions and not the rule, we should not be too hard on ourselves. Just make sure to get back up and kick butt again!

THROW BACK THURSDAY… FOR SELF-IMPROVEMENT?

This is a picture of a very young me. Appropriate for a post with the title of ‘Throw Back Thursday’. In case you are not aware of the premise of such a day, allow me to explain it in a nutshell. Often, on a Thursday, people on social media post pictures of them from some time in the past. This can be a fun exercise to engage in. A brief window into the past or some happy memories. On occasion it can contain a little solemn nature to it. Perhaps you remember someone who has passed on, or a business that has closed, people who have moved away or the like. In general, despite the mention of this, the memories are usually focused on the good times. You are reflecting on the way things used to be and celebrating the good about them.

Here is the thing about throw back Thursday, by Friday things are usually focused back on the present and/or the future. How on earth can some fun activity we engage in on social media teach us about life and self-improvement? I find there are lessons to be found almost anywhere if we look hard enough. As for the lesson of throw back Thursday, it can teach us a very important lesson. It can certainly be fun to reflect on the past, but we should do so on a limited basis. Once a week might not be a bad plan. It is also helpful when we look back at things and even people we have lost it can be painful. I think looking at and sharing those pictures with an accent on the fun memories we shared while sharing our sadness of missing them can be quite healing.

The best thing I think about throw back Thursday is the fact that on Friday we return to the present. The past can be a great teacher, but a merciless jailer. How many times have you let the sting of regret from something you did in the past ruin several days of your present? I know I have thought a million times over things I should have done better and wished I would have done differently. Do you know what I got out of that? A focus and motivation to do things better. A good reminder of how important it is to be the best version of yourself. Do you know how long that took me to get out of my past memory? About 5 minutes give or take. The rest of my time I just spent beating myself up and making myself feel terrible which did absolutely no good. If I would have just visited that memory, gotten the lesson and returned to the present that would have served me.

Living your life in the present while focused on the past is akin to driving a car looking exclusively through the rear-view mirror. You will be focused on everything that is behind you. How will you think this will affect your immediate future? I think the results could be very costly in terms of pain, finances and the impact of where you are going. The same can be true in life. Much like driving, it is advised to glance in your rear-view mirror and see if there might be anything coming to affect you from behind, but keep your focus on where you are going.

Much like ‘Throw Back Thursday’, limit the time you spend focusing on your past. If you can try to focus on the positive aspects of even the saddest aspects of your past. Maybe even use one day of the week to reflect. We can gain wonderful lessons from our past. What succeeded, what did not work and who was there for us. Being jailed by the past will prevent us from creating an exciting and rewarding future. Just as you wouldn’t drive your car looking through the rear-view mirror, don’t determine your future through the lens of your past. Glance at it every now and again, but keep your focus straight ahead.