Posts Tagged improve life

What Could You Do With Six Months?

29 June 2012

Six months.. a short enough time. Long enough, however, that six month goals don’t grant instant gratification. That makes it tough to keep working towards those goals every day- it’s tough to keep working when you don’t notice much change right off.

What are your goals? What could you do with six months, just doing a little each day? Much?

Imagine you’d read this six months ago and decided that day to start doing a little thing each day.. what would your life look like now? Let’s say I decided to become better at chess and played one hour a day for six months.. Depending on how long each game is that would be 1-4 games a day for a hundred eighty days. One game might not make much of a difference. Ten games might help. A hundred games.. you’re going to be better than where you started. After an average of two games a day for six months I’d have played over three hundred and you’d better believe that I’m going to be head and shoulders over where I began.

Find something you want to be better at and try to find some time to work on it every day! Short post today, I’m off to play some chess.

How Can I Reforge Negative Habits?

21 June 2012

Often the struggles I face feel like they are permanent, and I’m going to suffer from them endlessly without hope of overcoming them. I’m getting better and better about working through them however, and I’d like to share some of the mindsets and techniques I’ve changed or begun implementing that have helped me the most. I’m sure my readers are problem-free and this won’t apply to any of them at all. Who really knows though, maybe I had a twin and we were separated at birth and he’s facing these same problems. Don’t worry, Evil Twin, we will get through this together.

When I speak of ‘struggles,’ I’m referring to the habits and behaviors that hurt us that we may not even realize we have. Habits like constantly putting yourself down, or procrastinating, or even something like sleeping through your alarm every day. Everyone has their own obstacles they face and whether they are big or small, they can be incredibly challenging to overcome. It’s a rare person who can wake up in the morning and decide “From this day forward, I’m never going to procrastinate again.” The reason these habits are so tough to break is that we do them without thinking (duh, habit) and so we often don’t even realize the habit is there in the first place.

I still have plenty of bad habits to work through but I have already defeated quite a few! Looking back through my experiences, these are some common changes I had to make to my thoughts, feelings and actions in order to alter my habits once and for all. In these examples I’ll use the next habit I plan to break and reforge- stop sleeping in every day.

Consider What I Want to Change-

You can’t change anything if you don’t know what it is you’re changing, right? This can be as deep or shallow a process as you want to make it. If you were to tell me “I want to wake up on time every day,” that’s great! You have a goal, and we can work with that. If you have the time or energy you could dig deeper and find out WHY you want to make this change. Using this example, it could be “I want to wake up on time every day BECAUSE my business depends on me starting my work when I say I will- when I start my day late, I miss calls and appear unreliable.” This method of assigning a reason (a WHY) gives your goal more relevance to everyday life than it otherwise might. If you’re following along with your own habit, jot down what you’re wanting to change and your WHY.

Mindset and Thoughts-

Consider the habit you wish to make or break. How do you feel about it? What are your thoughts when you think on it? If that’s confusing then think about the first thing someone else with your habit would say if you asked them to change it tomorrow. Continuing my sleeping-in example; When I think about waking up at six a.m. every day my first thoughts are “That’s so EARLY!” or “There is no way I could do that.” My initial feelings are that of anxiety as I imagine the mental battle I know I’m going to fight tomorrow morning, and fear at the thought of losing that battle.

Once you’ve figured out how you feel and think about your habit and have written those down, take a good look at them and wonder why you feel or think that way. “That’s so EARLY!” Who says it’s early? Early compared to what, to whom? Early in the day, sure- but if you worked graveyard and sleep 3-8, would waking up at 8.p.m be considered ‘sleeping in?’ Of course not- you only slept five hours. So clearly “early” is not a time in the day, but more likely the assumption that seven-eight hours of sleep is not going to happen. When my first thought is “That’s so EARLY,” I’m not talking about the time my alarm goes off. I’m mostly just admitting my intention of not going to bed before 10-11 at night. Now I take my objection ┬áturn it into a phrase that absolutely commits me to a course of action yielding results. “In order to wake up at six a.m I am committing to going to bed at 10pm each and every night.” If you’re following along, take notes. In addition to the “early” objection, you’ll recall I mentioned thinking “There’s no way I could do that.” This one is easy- take any statement that is just generically negative and reword it to be positive and add “Because I’m awesome.” In this example- “I can absolutely do that, because I’m awesome.”

Actions and Behaviors-

These are easier, you’ve already done the hard part. Consider where you are, and what your goal is. What are three things, no matter how small, that you could do each and every day to build towards your new habit? Habits are formed over time and with repetition, so a small change you repeat every day will be much more helpful in the long-term than a big change you make a few times a week. Your actions can be words you say to yourself out loud, emailing yourself a reminder each day, rewarding yourself for your actions yesterday, etc. For my case, I’ve decided my three things are

  • Say out loud “I am going to bed at ten, and waking up tomorrow at six” (Announcing my intent out loud makes me feel more accountable to myself).
  • Set an alarm on my phone to go off at 9:30p.m (to give myself enough time to wrap up what I’m doing).
  • Prepare my morning’s coffee in advance, so only the ‘on’ switch lies between me and the living world (Turns morning coffee into a more instant gratification).


Repetition and Consistency-

Once you’ve dialed in a new mindset and thoughts, decided on some actions and have targeted new behaviors, the next step is application. Repetition and Consistency are your biggest allies here my friends, this is what makes and breaks habits. If you have your own system for applying then kudos, but this is the method I’m planning on using myself: Look over your notes, if you have them. Find a few note cards and label them “Mindset and Thoughts” and “Actions and Behaviors.”

On your “Mindset and Thoughts” card, write out your corrected objection and positive statement that we went over earlier. If you’re my Evil Twin, it should read “In order to wake up at 6a.m every morning, I am committed to going to bed at 10p.m each and every night. I can absolutely do that, because I’m awesome.” On your “Actions and Behaviors” card, write out the action steps you’ve committed to taking every day in a bullet format just as I’ve done above. Use these cards to remind yourself of your goal, the reason for your goal, and the steps you’ve put into place to reach that goal. Stick them to your bathroom mirror, glue them to your forehead, whatever- but look at these cards as often as possible to cement in your mind what you are doing and why you are doing it. Do these things every day without fail (remember, you’re absolutely committed) and while it will be hard at first, it will get easier and easier over time until your old negative habit is reforged into a new positive one.

You may not think a habit is hurting you. So what if you sleep in an hour every day? ‘Who cares’ you think, ‘It’s not like anyone is going to think less of me for it.’ Well my dear reader, that’s probably true. Staying up an hour later to watch TV and waking up an hour later every morning may not change the world. But how do you feel when you wake up when you said you would? I can’t speak for you I suppose, but I certainly feel much less groggy and a much more pleased with myself than if I lounge in bed for another hour after my alarm goes off. What would you do with that hour? What could you do with an extra hour a day for the next six months? A hundred eighty hours could go a long way.

Be Positive

16 November 2009

When I get sad, I stop being sad, and be awesome instead.

My favorite quote from my favorite TV show, How I Met Your Mother. I heard this and really took it to heart. Negative thoughts cloud our minds and make us doubt ourselves when we really shouldn’t. It sounds cheesy but I believe it’s absolutely true. Instead of being negative, think about all the things you’ve done exceptionally well lately. Take the time to be impressed with yourself. You don’t need to go around and brag about how awesome you are because people probably won’t be THAT interested, but you can certainly think it and believe it. A true change in mental health like that is something that friends, family, and coworkers will notice, and you will feel ten times better about yourself to boot.

So, how do you make this change? At first it’s hard, because it doesn’t sound like it would work, but I honestly decide when I wake up every morning that my day is going to be awesome. After a while, it becomes easier and easier. Now it’s almost like flipping a light switch. Being positive is a mindset, and it’s one that you get to choose. If you let environmental factors like your breakfast getting burned or being late for school affect your mindset, then your mood might be as consistant as a rollercoaster. Up and down, left and right, maybe a hairpin turn or a loop here and there. If you can start your day off as positively as you can, with a good thought, or an optimistic feeling, then you will have that initial good mood to get you through the not-so-great things that might happen during the day.

If you find that you’re just bummed out and can’t get out of your slump, I have something for you to try. Do it when you’re alone though because you’re going to feel like an idiot, but I guarantee this will help. Stand up as straight as you possibly can, and reach your arms straight out to the side like you’re being pulled in half. Then tilt you head back and look straight up and the ceiling and put on the biggest, goofiest smile you can. You’re going to feel silly, but hold that pose for thirty seconds or so. While you’re doing this, think about something positive, or funny. It it doesn’t put you in a good mood by itself, it will at least get your mental state to a point that you can start to feel better about life in general and get you started on flipping that mental switch.

Your decisions are your own to make, and being positive or not is a big one.