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Here's to living your Best Day Ever. Every day.

Choose Happy

Here's to living your Best Day Ever. Every day.

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The best time-management strategy is the one you’ll use

When you think about staying on track with your goals, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A lot of people would say, “I need to get motivated” or maybe, “I need more discipline.”  It turns out, researchers have found that neither motivation nor discipline are the determining factors that make some people follow through on their goals while others don’t. In a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, researchers measured how frequently people exercised over a two-week period when given exercise as a goal. The researchers randomly assigned 248 adults to one of three groups.  Group 1 was the control group. Participants were asked to keep track of how frequently they exercised over the next two weeks. Before they left, each person was asked to read the opening three paragraphs of an unrelated novel.  Group 2 was the motivation group. These participants were also asked to keep track of how frequently they exercised over the next two weeks. Then, each person was asked to read a pamphlet on the benefits of exercise for reducing the risk of heart disease. Participants in Group 2 were also told, “People who have stuck to a regular exercise program have found it to be very effective in reducing their chances of developing coronary heart disease.”  Group 3 was the intention group. To ensure that Groups 2 and 3 were equally motivated, Group 3 also read the motivational pamphlet and got the same speech as Group 2. Then Group 3 was also asked to explicitly state their intention to exercise by completing the following statement: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].” After receiving these instructions, all three groups went on their way. Two weeks later, here’s what the researchers found: In the control group, 38% of participants exercised at least once per week. In the motivation group, 35% of participants exercised at least once per week. But in the intention group, 91% of participants exercised at least once per week! Simply by writing down a plan that stated exactly when and where they intended to exercise, the participants in Group 3 were much more likely to follow through. It turns out that the thing that pulls out both motivation and discipline and turns them into real-life action is having a plan for implementation. On the website of behavioral psychology expert James Clear, he cites 100 separate studies in a wide range of situations that reached the same conclusion: “People who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals.” One reason this works, Clear says, is that when our goals have defined times and spaces, our life’s events and environments become the cues that remind us to follow through on our plans. Just making these plans in our heads isn’t enough. We need to write them down—and we need to refer to them often. Otherwise, they’ll disappear into the ether of our busy lives. How we write down our plan doesn’t matter all that much, so long as we do, in one way or another. As a rule, whatever is easiest for you to do is also the best way for you to do it. Experiment a little until you find the method that’s right for your needs and personality. Google calendar is an option, if online planning works best. If you do use an online calendar, consider also writing your plan on paper, either before or after you put it online. Why? Because research indicates that when we write something with pen and paper (versus using a keyboard), the movement of our hands triggers a brain reaction that makes our words stick more easily in our memories. The Best Day Ever Weekly Scheduler notepad (in either vertical or horizontal formats) is a fun and handy way to get it down on paper.   The world is full of daily planners, but the best time-management planning system is the one you will actually use!   Photo by Alexa Williams on Unsplash

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The best time-management strategy is the one you’ll use

When you think about staying on track with your goals, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?...

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Embracing the Power of the Trudge

On Friday the13th (yes, actual Friday the 13th) in March 2015, the boiler that heated my family’s home unexpectedly exploded. In the process, it took out walls, ripped out natural gas lines, and ruined the furniture and belongings in multiple rooms. Seven fire trucks and 42 firemen responded to the emergency. It was a disaster. Since the nanny cam caught the explosion on video, our drama soon made national news. I had a one-year-old and a three-year-old, my then-husband and I both had demanding jobs to manage—and no house to live in. During the months after the explosion, we had to move five times while coping with all the insane demands of our life. Fortunately, we gradually got past that crazy chapter of our lives, the kids stayed healthy, and (rather amazingly) neither my husband nor I missed a single day of work. If we had stopped to think about the immense challenges we faced, we would have been overwhelmed and been stopped in our tracks. The only way we coped was breaking down the craziness into smaller, manageable tasks, and then dividing them up between us. We made a master list of everything that needed to be done, and we passed it back and forth to each other. Since our house was cordoned off during the investigation, we couldn’t get to our closets, so someone had to buy clothes for all of us to wear. Someone had to deal with the insurance company. Someone had to meet with the people at the bank to get a loan to bridge the gap until the insurance money came in. If one of us had a busy week, the other took lead on our master list. Ultimately, by taking one slow step at a time, we both got through it with our sanity intact—and we ended up in a house we like even more than the one we lost. Most of us like to think of life in terms of great adventures and amazing achievements, but many times, success is simply the product of doing the same thing—the same tactic, the same practice, the same exercise, the same tedious little task—over and over, day after day. It sounds boring, but it’s also comforting when you’re in the middle of a crisis or during those times when life seems overwhelming. Believing in the power of the slow trudge can get you over even the steepest challenges.  Smalls steps add up to a big difference The power of the trudge can do amazing things in your life, too. For example, if you want to have physical health, you’re not going to run a marathon one weekend and then sit on the couch the rest of the year. Instead, you’ll need to move every day. If you want to have a company that has fantastic customer service, you can’t sit down and answer all your customer emails once a year; you have to answer them every single day. Great things happen when you do small steps that are compounded by the power of time. This approach will get you through the crises in your life, but it’s also great for when you want to improve your life in a variety of ways. Your job may seem so challenging and exhausting that when you come home all you want to do is slump down on the sofa and watch TV—but small steps don’t require that much energy. By doing one or two small things every day, you can transform your life. For example, a few years ago I went back to school for my nutritional therapy certification. The baby steps toward that goal consisted of studying at least 20 minutes a day. Twenty minutes a day was the litmus test for success or failure. Many days, I studied more than 20 minutes, but so long as I was consistent about at least those 20 minutes, I knew I would ultimately reach my goal. Consistency is powerful. Best-Day-Ever success comes from all those tiny consistent steps, one after another, when you’re tired, when you’re bored, when you’re sad, no matter what. Let’s say you have a goal of eliminating sugar from your diet. Instead of saying, “I’m quitting all sugar,” you could say, “I’m not going to have regular sugar in my coffee. I’m going to downgrade to honey, and I will not eat refined sugar in the form of candy.” That’s your goal. That’s it. Do that for a month. Do it for six months. Then do it for a year. By that time, it will have become a habit and you can set yourself a new, slightly more challenging goal if you want to. You’ll be healthier than if you had done nothing—and you are far more likely to be consistent about small, manageable goals than if you had set yourself an impossibly high mountain to climb. The power of the paperclip (yes, paperclip!) Author James Clear shares a simple yet powerful strategy for utilizing the power of the trudge. In 1993, 23-year-old Trent Dyrsmid was a rookie stockbroker who surprised everyone by making immediate progress toward success, thanks to two jars and some paper clips.  Every day he would start with 120 paper clips in one jar, while the other jar was empty. At eight o’clock in the morning, he started making calls, and each time he made a phone call, he would move a paper clip from the full jar to the empty jar. For the rest of the day, he just kept making calls until all the paper clips had been moved from one jar to the other.  After a year and a half of making 120 calls every day, his book of business grew to $5 million in assets. Within a few years, other firms were recruiting him because of his success, and eventually he got a new job where he was making $200,000 a year.  Trent earned his success one paper clip at a time. The paper clips gave him a visual cue that helped him commit to the same small act over and over and over, day after day. Consider using the paper clip strategy to motivate you for the slow trudge. And remember—even though the trudge can get boring, it’s also hopeful. Just do this one small thing, every day, and it will change your life.   Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

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Embracing the Power of the Trudge

On Friday the13th (yes, actual Friday the 13th) in March 2015, the boiler that heated my family’s...

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You Can’t Divorce Discipline from Success

Discipline is what makes success look easy Success isn’t some amazing good luck people stumble across. It doesn’t just happen, and it’s often not the result of some special skill or ability. But success requires something important, something that’s available to you, too—discipline. Discipline is the secret sauce to success; it’s the behind-the-scenes magic that makes success look easy.  And it’s anything but easy. If you happen to be a working parent, your mornings are probably filled with the pandemonium of childcare, cajoling, spilled coffee, and mad-dashes to school drop-off. (I know mine are!) Then, I spend a full day at work doing whatever it takes to support my team, lead the company, and make a difference. Dinner happens. Family time happens. Cleaning up after the kids go to bed happens. And the next morning, the whole cycle starts again.  This would make anyone feel stressed and overwhelmed. Some days it does! It can be a struggle at times not to wallow, “My life is just too much. I’ll never pull off everything I have to do. I just can’t.” Those are the days when I remind myself that I have the freedom to choose to live a different story. To do that, I choose to activate daily discipline. Willpower is like a muscle“Willpower” is often used as another word for the kind of discipline I’m talking about. Psychologists define it as the ability to “delay gratification”—in other words, you do something you don’t want to do now, so that you can get something you want later on. According to an American Psychological Association survey, the No.1 reason people give for not making healthy lifestyle changes is: “I don’t have enough willpower.”  People talk about willpower as though it were something similar to a musical talent or the ability to curl your tongue—you’re either born with it or you’re not. If you don’t have it … oh well, too bad. It turns out, though, willpower is a little like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Like a muscle, it can also get exhausted, so you need to take care of it. It uses a part of your brain, scientists say, that has to be replenished the same way the rest of your body does—with sleep and healthy foods. When you have to use all your powers of self-discipline in one particular area of your life over a long period of time, you may find it harder to control yourself in other areas of your life. For example, in one study, people who were asked to control their emotions were more likely to spend money on unnecessary items, while other who were told to resist sweets tended to procrastinate more. Scientists have also found that certain activities can drain a person’s willpower, such as sitting through a boring meeting while resisting the urge to fidget or doodle or yawn. According to some researchers, resisting the urge to check our phones, e-mail, or social media accounts is another constant factor that depletes modern-day willpower. The human brain was not set up to deal with all the immediate gratification that’s offered online. Quick hacks to strengthen willpowerThe good news, though, is that there are tricks to help you strengthen your willpower. (It’s a little bit like distracting your inner toddler.) Here are a few I’ve come across that usually work for me: Find something that puts you in a good mood. Scientists asked a group of people to use up their willpower by resisting a particular temptation. After that, half the group received unexpected gifts or watched a funny video (things likely to put them in a good mood). The other half of the group simply rested during the same period of time. Compared to people who just rested for a brief period, those whose moods were improved did significantly better in resisting another set of temptations. Clench your muscles. Studies say that exercising control over any body part causes you to become more disciplined in other facets of life. You could clench your fist, squeeze your eyes shut or tighten your calf muscles  Meditate. We all know that meditation is great for a lot of things (like managing stress and increasing mental focus), but some recent research indicates that even a short period of meditation can help build willpower. Don’t let yourself get hungry. When we’re hungry, our blood sugar drops, and when our blood sugar levels are low, scientists have found that we have less willpower. Don’t just grab a candy bar, though, which will make your blood sugar spike and then plummet. You need to eat the right kinds of food—plenty of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats—to keep your blood sugar steady. Distract yourself. Sometimes willpower isn’t about forcing yourself to do something; it’s not allowing yourself to take the easy path. Distraction can help with this type of willpower struggle. Just put a timer on and do anything else for 20 minutes. This is often how long a craving sticks around. After 20 minutes, you might be ready to move on from whatever was causing you to want the cookie, the drink or to skip the dishes in favor of Netflix. John Pierpont said, “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” It takes discipline every single day for any successful person to get out of bed and do all the things that need doing in a busy day. Most people, if given the chance, would rather sleep in than do all the things it takes for a successful day. That’s one of the features of discipline: it’s something you do over and over, day after day. You slip up some days. And then you get right back to it the next day and the day after that, deciding morning after morning how you want to live that day. Make It PersonalOn a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being next to nothing, and 10 being lots and lots), how would you rate yourself when it comes to how much discipline (or willpower) you have? Are there some areas of your life where you would rate yourself higher in terms of discipline? (For example, maybe you’re good at exercising but not so good at saying no to junk food. Or you’re terrible at turning the television off at night, but you jump out of bed every morning for your meditation time.) Make a list under each of these two headings: DISCIPLINE SUCCESSES                DISCIPLINE CHALLENGES Now look at these two lists and ask yourself: Why is discipline easier in some situations than in others? What makes the difference? Now ask yourself: Can I use these insights to move at least one item from the “challenges” column into the “successes” column? If so, which ones and why? Next, take some time to think about this: Is a physical reason—tiredness, lack of sleep, or poor diet, for example—making it harder for you to have willpower in certain situations? Which items in your “challenges” list might become easier if you made certain changes in your lifestyle—and what would those changes be? Over the next month, practice using discipline to tackle at least one item on your “challenges” list. Write down which behavior you’re going to address with willpower. Describe the changes you will make in your life to help you do so. Notice if it becomes easier or harder as the days go by. (You should expect it to become harder before it comes easier. Like all muscles, the willpower muscle “hurts” when you first start to exercise it!) Photo credit: "Discipline" bench - Trophy Point at the United States Military Academy at West Point by Dave Lowe

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You Can’t Divorce Discipline from Success

Discipline is what makes success look easy Success isn’t some amazing good luck people stumble ac...

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Burning the ship: When your greater success depends on walking away

In 1519, the Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortés and his 11 ships landed on the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula in what is now Mexico. They were far from home, and many of them must have been scared of the unknown world they encountered—so their hearts must have really sank when Cortés announced that he was burning the ships. Retreat was no longer possible. They had to commit totally to Cortés’s vision. We all cling to something that makes us feel safe. We postpone action until we no longer feel fear, or we make merely shallow attempts never designed to succeed. To truly achieve the level of success we each desire, there are times when we need to “burn the ships.” Business coach Travis Roberts recommends looking at the following “ships” to determine if one of them needs burning: Your current job: Are you so comfortable where you are that you’re afraid to step out of your rut and try something new, something that might be more creative and fulfilling, something that would align your life more closely with the things you value most? Do note, however, that “burning your ship” does NOT mean quitting your job without a safety net. Your field of employment: Have you been dreaming of a career change? Do you tell yourself, “It wouldn’t make sense to do that”? Maybe you invested years and money getting the education this field requires. Maybe it just seems too scary to walk away from financial security and try something else. But does this field make you feel disconnected from the values you hold most dear? A bad business deal: Sometimes we stick with a bad business relationship, determined to make it work, because we don’t want to admit that we made a mistake. If there’s a relationship like that in your professional life, ask yourself: Why can’t you let it go? Would it be better for everyone concerned if you burned this ship? The same principles hold true for our personal relationships. An unrealistic dream: Sometimes we can’t let go of a dream, even though life keeps telling us it will never come true. It’s one thing to keep working against the odds in order to achieve something great—but it’s another thing altogether to keep trying something for which we truly lack the abilities or resources. Make sure your goals aren’t just fantasies that are impossible to achieve. Be realistic enough to burn a dream  that could be getting in your way of discovering a practical way to match your values with your goals. Keep in mind, though, that the point of “burning” these “ships” isn’t just to give up and die. Cortés burned his ships so he and his men would be freed from ties to the past, able to commit themselves without reserve to the future. We, too, need to examine ideas that could be holding us back, motivations that are no longer relevant or goals, and even those goals that aren’t serving us any longer. When we identify and free ourselves from those things, we will be able to give our all to becoming the best we can be in our personal and professional lives. Photo credit: Diego D’Ambrosio on Unsplash

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Burning the ship: When your greater success depends on walking away

In 1519, the Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortés and his 11 ships landed on the shores of the Yu...

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Choose to be optimistic

Choosing to focus on the best in yourself and in others is powerful behavior that creates positive results. Studies show that almost all successful people are optimists.

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Choose to be optimistic

Choosing to focus on the best in yourself and in others is powerful behavior that creates positiv...

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