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ten gifts you deserve to give yourself

12/29/13 1 Comment

10-gifts-yourself

another great piece by marc of marc & angel hack life:

1.  An open mind in full acceptance of life’s changes.

You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago.  You’re always growing.  Experiences don’t stop.  That’s life.

Sometimes there are things in our lives that aren’t meant to stay.  Sometimes the changes we don’t want are the changes we need to grow.  Growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.  The bottom line is that you can’t reach for anything new if you’re holding onto yesterday.  You may think holding on makes you strong, but often it is letting go and starting anew in the present.

2.  A meaningful path and purpose.

If your life is going to mean anything, you have to live it yourself.  You have to choose the path that feels right to YOU, not the one that looks right to everyone else.  It’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb, than the top of the one you don’t.  So don’t wait until you’re halfway up the wrong ladder to listen to your intuition.  Every morning, ask yourself what is really important, and then find the courage, wisdom and willpower to build your day around your answer.

In the end, it’s not what you say, but how you spend your time that counts.  If you want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  The time to do what truly matters.

Identify what’s most important to you.  Prune nonessential commitments.  Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.  No wasted time, no fluff, no regrets.

The mark of a successful person is the ability to set aside the “somewhat important” things in order to accomplish the vital ones first.  When you’re crystal clear about your priorities, you can painlessly arrange them in the right order and discard the activities and commitments that do not support the ones at the top of your list.

4.  The space to BE, without needless worry.

If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it.  Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential.  Stop over-thinking everything.  Life is too short.

Your biggest limitations are the ones you make up in your mind.  The biggest causes of your unhappiness are the false beliefs you refuse to let go of.  You are capable of far more than you are presently thinking, imagining, doing or being.  You will, however, become what you habitually contemplate, so clear your mind and let your hopes, not your fears, shape your future.  How?  Meditate.  Run.  Set your mind free.

5.  Permission to be imperfect as you grow.

You may not be where you want to be yet, but if you think about it, you’re no longer where you once were either.  You have good reason to believe that you can trust yourself going forward.  Not because you’ve always made the right choices, but because you survived the bad ones, and taken small steps in the right direction.

Focus on the right things and just do the best you can.  Don’t allow yourself to be crippled by stress and self-loathing.  Everything is only as it is.  There’s no reason to let it destroy you.  Breathe.  Let every moment be what it’s going to be.  What’s meant to be will come your way, what’s not will fall away.  And remember that a great gift may not always be wrapped as you expect.  (Read The Last Lecture.)

6.  Reassurance of being ENOUGH.

Tell yourself, “I am ENOUGH.”  Accept your flaws.  Admit your mistakes.  Don’t hide and don’t lie.  Deal with the truth, learn the lessons, endure the consequences of reality, and move on.  Your truth won’t penalize you.  The mistakes won’t hurt you. The denial and cover-up will.  Flawed and vulnerable people are beautiful and likable.  Liars and phonies are not.  Every beautiful human being is made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions and finished with unique edges.

You are YOU for a reason.  Ignore the distractions.  Listen to your own inner voice.  Mind your own business.  Keep your best wishes and your biggest goals close to your heart and dedicate time to them every day.  Don’t be scared to walk alone, and don’t be scared to enjoy it.  Don’t let anyone’s ignorance, drama, or negativity derail you from your truth.

7.  The right relationships.

Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them.  You have to figure out who’s worth your attention and who’s just taking advantage of you.  If your time and energy is misspent on the wrong relationships, or on too many activities that force you to neglect your good relationships, you can end up in a tedious cycle of fleeting friendships, superficial romances that are as thrilling as they are meaningless, and a general sense of wondering why you always seem to be running in place, chasing affection.

Choose yourself rather than settle for those who treat you as ordinary.  YOU certainly aren’t.  Never settle for being someone’s “option” when you have the potential to be someone’s “first choice.”  You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with.  If you hang with the wrong people, they will bring you down, but if you hang with the right people, they will help you grow into your best self.  The RIGHT people for you will love all the things about you that the WRONG people are intimidated by – that’s what you need to look out for.

8.  Self-education.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”  Life is a book and those who do not educate themselves read only a few pages.  When you know better you live better.  Period.

All education is self-education.  It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.  We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.  Those who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own time are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.  Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.  Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.

9.  A chance to touch your dreams.

Everyone dreams, but not equally.  Too many people dream only at night in the quiet of their own minds, and then awake to find it was all an illusion.  Don’t be one of them.  Dream by the day instead.  Be one of the people who dream with their eyes wide open, and who works to make them come true.

Rest when you are tired, but don’t give up.  You never know what’s just around the corner.  It could be everything you’ve been working for, or it might be just another mile marker on your journey.  Either way, when you keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day the next step you take will be the one that carries you to your goal.  (Read Tuesdays with Morrie.)

10.  The freedom to express your whole truth.

The greatest and most gratifying experiences in life cannot be seen or touched.  They must be felt with the heart from the inside out.  There’s nothing more inspiring than the complexity and beauty of human, heartfelt feelings.  Sadly though, many people let the fear of judgment numb and silence them.  Their deepest thoughts and feelings often go unspoken, and thus barely understood.

Do NOT let people invalidate or minimize how you feel.  If you feel something, you feel it and it’s real to you. Nothing anyone says has the power to invalidate that, ever.  No one else lives in your body, or sees life through your eyes.  No one else has lived through your exact experiences.  And so, no one else has the right to dictate or judge how you feel.  Your feelings are important.  Don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise.

related: 7 questions you are too scared to ask | 7 reasons why you’re not maxing out your potential

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how to train your brain to see what others don’t

09/09/13 3 Comments

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written by  for huffpost:

Charles Darwin had one of the greatest “aha!” moments in all of history when writing his magnum opus On The Origin of Species. After reading a book written 40 years earlier on population growth and resource competition, Darwin immediately saw the connection to the variation among species that he had observed in the Galapagos — and voila, the theory of natural selection was born.

“Darwin reads this book and says, ‘Wow, that’s it!’ That exemplifies the ‘aha!’ of getting the new piece of information, and seeing the implication and seeing how it fits,” cognitive psychologist Gary Klein, author of Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights, tells The Huffington Post. “That was an unexpected shift in his understanding.”

These epiphanies and flashes of sudden clarity tend to come at the most unexpected moments. So do we have any control over these insights, and is there a way to train the brain to become more attuned to them? Insights may be unexpected, but we can actually teach ourselves to see connections that others may never notice.

“An insight is an unexpected shift in the way we understand things,” says Klein. “It comes without warning. It’s not something that we think is going to happen and that’s why it’s unexpected. It feels like a gift and in fact it is.”

Here are five things you should know about insight — and ways to bring more “aha!” moments into your life.

Be curious.

Being curious is the best way to become more insightful, says Klein, and a lack of insight often comes from being in a passive and disinterested state of mind.

“Curiosity is another engine of insight,” says Klein. “People who get insights see something that’s a little bit off, and instead of ignoring it, they’re curious about it. Curiosity keeps our mind engaged to work out the implications.”

Let your mind wander.

2012 psychological study found that daydreaming — passive though it may seem — actually involves a very active brain state, which is why the wandering mind can sometimes stumble upon brilliant insights and sudden connections. The researchers credit this phenomenon to the fact that daydreaming correlates with our ability to recall information in the face of distractions. Recent neuroscience research has also found that daydreaming involves the same brain processes involved in imagination and creativity.

“I worry about people who spend all their empty time when they’re not in conversations listening to music or podcasts or things like that, and not leaving any space to just daydream,” says Klein.

Pay attention to coincidences.

“Be more alert to anomalies,” Klein says, “rather than quickly explaining them away and staying in your comfort zone.”

We tend to ignore coincidences or not think much of them, because they’re often meaningless, says Klein. But looking for coincidences is a powerful way to make surprising connections.

“There’s a belief that correlation doesn’t imply causality, which is true. People see all sorts of correlations in coincides that turn out to be spurious, so they get a bad reputation,” Klein says. “But in my work I find that a lot of insights are fed by people spotting coincidences and making assumptions, and instead of just saying ‘It must be true,’ doing to follow-up work to find out if it’s true.”

Look closely at contradictions.

Insights can occur when we encounter ideas that don’t make sense to us.

Questioning contradictions is another path to epiphanies. Whereas curiosity makes us wonder, contradiction causes us to doubt — and it can be another powerful way to gain insights.

“Our tendency when we hit a contradiction that involves things we believe we understand well is to say, ‘Well, that must an anomaly.’ We have a marvelous set of techniques for explaining away inconvenient facts,” says Klein. “The contradiction only leads to an insight when people take it seriously enough to explore it a bit.”

Act on your insights.

Daydreaming isn’t the only state of mind that can lead to insights.

“I’ve found a number of examples where people were under tremendous pressure and came up with marvelous insights,” says Klein. “We should embrace urgency.”

This urgency forces people to look at things they’d otherwise ignore (what Klein refers to as “creative desperation”), and when they gain an insight, encourages them to act on it right away. This is frequently how chess grand masters try an unusual move that ends up being successful and winning the game for them.

“The problem with too many organizations is that they don’t feel any pressure to act on the insights they’ve had,” says Klein. “They act like they have all the time in the world and then they end up going out of business.”

related: zadie smith on “creativity and refusal” | 9 easy ways to create ideas |  20 ways to spawn million dollar ideas

7 questions you are too scared to ask

08/20/13 1 Comment

7-questions-scared

introspection can be a scary thing sometimes.  people are afraid of what they’ll find in their subconscious.  other times, we know our problems (maybe even the answers) but it’s easier to not think about them.  whatever the reasoning, it’s always best to work out our difficulties in order to progress.

marc chernoff of marc and angel hack life poses some great questions to help us assess where we are right now and what we can do to move forward.  check them out below:

1.  Based on my daily routines and actions, where can I expect to be in five years?

This is your life story and you are the only author.  If you’re feeling like you’ve been stuck in the same setting for too long, it’s time to start writing a new chapter of your life.  The plot structure is simple:  Doing nothing gets you nothing.  Doing the wrong things gets you the wrong things.  Doing the same things gets you the same things.  Your story only changes when you make changes.

If you have an idea about what you want the next chapter of your life to look like, you have to DO things that support this idea.  An idea, after all, isn’t going to do anything for you until you do something productive with it.  In fact, as long as that great idea is just sitting around in your head it’s probably doing far more harm than good.

Your subconscious mind knows you’re procrastinating on something that’s important to you.  The necessary work that you keep postponing causes stress, anxiety, fear, and usually more procrastination – a vicious cycle that continues to worsen until you interrupt it with ACTION.

Progress in life is always measured by the fact that you’ve taken new action.  If there’s no new action, you haven’t truly made any progress.

2.  Are the people around me helping me or hurting me?

A big part of who you become in life has to do with who you choose to surround yourself with.  And as you know, it is better to be alone than in bad company.  You simply cannot expect to live a positive, fulfilling life if you surround yourself with negative people.

Distancing yourself from these people is never easy, but it’s a lot harder when they happen to be close friends or family members.  As hard as it may be, it’s something you need to address.  To a certain degree, luck controls who walks into your life, especially as it relates to your family and childhood friends, but you decide who you spend the majority of your time with.

If someone close to you is truly draining you, be honest about it.  Be kind, but communicate your point of view.  Tell them you love them, and that you want to be around them, but you need their help.  Remember, most problems, big and small, within a family and close friends, start with bad communication.  If this other person is draining you, and you haven’t talked about it, they may not even know.

At the end of the day, you should surround yourself with people who make you a better person and distance yourself those who don’t.  (Read The How of Happiness.)

3.  How have I been draining my own happiness?

In life, you become what you repeatedly think about.  If your thoughts and behaviors aren’t helping you, they’re hurting you.  Other people and outside events can influence you, but happiness is ultimately an inside job.  You have to disconnect external influences and achievements from happiness and give yourself permission to be happy, in each moment, without the need for anything more.

This isn’t to say that you should be complacent.  You can still set goals, work hard, interact with others, and grow, but you must learn to indulge joyously in the journey, not the destination.

What you need to realize is that all you ever truly have are your thoughts towards the present moment.  Every moment is very similar; the details are just details.  If you say something like, “If I had more than what I have now, I would be happier,” you are sadly mistaken.  Because if you are not at all happy with what you have now, you will not be any happier if it were doubled.  It’s just more of the same.

The bottom line is that you have everything you need to be happy or unhappy right now.  It just depends on how you think about it.  Will you be grateful for what you have, and find joy in it?  Or will concentrate on what you don’t have, and never, ever feel like you have enough?  The choice is yours to make.

4.  What excuses am I making?

As George Washington once said, “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

Truth be told, if you are good at making excuses, you will never be good at anything else.  No matter what the obstacles are that you see in front of you, the only thing truly standing between you and what you want is the excuse you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.

When something is a priority, it gets done.  Period.  And it’s not what we claim are our priorities, but how we spend our time each day that reveals the truth.  You can make excuses.  You can always try to wait for the perfect moment, the perfect this, the perfect that… but it won’t get you anywhere.

To get where you want to go you just have to start DOING.  It makes all the difference.  Making excuses takes the same amount of time as making progress.  (Read The Power of Habit.)

5.  What mistakes do I fear most?

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

When you find your path, and you know what needs to be done, you must not be scared.  You need to find the courage to make mistakes.  Mistakes lead to disappointments and defeat in the short term, but they also teach you what you need to know in the long-term.  Mistakes are the tools life uses to show you the way forward.

Someday when you look back over your life you’ll realize that nearly all of your worries and anxious fears never came to fruition – they were completely unfounded.  So why not wake up and realize this right now.  When you look back over the last few years, how many opportunities for joy did you destroy with needless fear about making a mistake?  Although there’s nothing you can do about these lost joys, there’s plenty you can do about the ones that are still to come.

6.  How have past rejections lowered my self-confidence?

NOT believing that you CAN is the biggest trap of them all.  If you don’t know your own greatness is possible, you won’t bother attempting anything great.  Period.

All too often we let the rejections of our past dictate every move we make thereafter.  We literally do not know ourselves to be any better than what some opinionated person or narrow circumstance once told us was true.  Of course, this old rejection doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough; it means the other person or circumstance failed to align with what we have to offer.  It means we have more time to improve our thing – to build upon our ideas, to perfect our craft, and indulge deeper in to the work that moves us

Don’t let old rejections take up permanent residence in your head.  Kick them out on the street.  Realize that you sometimes you have to try to do what you think you can’t do, so you realize that you actually CAN.  And sometimes it takes more than one attempt.  If ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work out, don’t fret; the alphabet has another 25 letters that would be happy to give you a chance to get it right.  The wrong choices usually bring us to the right places, eventually.  You just have to believe in your own potential to get there.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” and “Relationships” chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

7.  When did my life fall so far out of balance?

Be diligent and committed to what you’re trying to achieve, but also make sure you leave time for pleasure and exploration in other areas of your life as well.  It is not enough to succeed at one specific goal or to conquer one particular area of expertise; you also have to take part in the different, beautiful dimensions of your life… while you can, while there’s still time.

Lift your head up from your work every now and then and take a long walk, hold hands with your beloved, go fishing, spend time with your friends, swim, bask in the sunlight, try something new, meditate, breathe deep, or sit quietly for a while and contemplate the goodness around you.

In other words, balance yourself – work diligently toward your goals and dreams, but don’t ignore every other aspect of your life.  Keep your mind fresh, your body active and alive, and your relationships nurtured.  Do so, and the things you want most in life will come more naturally.

Afterthoughts

Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to ask enough of the right ones that ultimately leads you to an understanding of yourself and your purpose.

You can spend your life wallowing in fear by avoiding the obvious, or asking negative questions like, “Why me?”  Or you can be grateful that you’ve made it this far – that you’re strong enough to breathe, walk and think for yourself – and then ask, “Where do I want to go next?”

Your turn…

We would love to hear your perspective.  Please pick one or more of the seven questions above and leave a comment below with your answer.

related: 7 reasons why you’re not maxing out your potential

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