It makes sense. Life is hectic. Schedules are full. Sometimes, you feel like you hardly have a second to brush your teeth, much less have time to sit down and enjoy a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend. And so important decisions get pushed further and further into the future.
That’s fine in some cases. Do you need to decide how to organize your garage right now, at this very moment? No, probably not.
But with something like your finances, procrastination can cause disaster. Why? Because time is the secret ingredient for building wealth. The sooner you start saving, the greater your money’s growth potential. Likewise, the sooner you get your debt under control, the more manageable it becomes.
And with your money, the stakes couldn’t be higher. After all, it’s your future prosperity and well-being that could be at risk. Procrastination is downright dangerous.
That urgency, however, doesn’t make it easier to start saving. In fact, you may have noticed that finances suffer more from procrastination than anything else.
There’s a very good reason for that. Procrastination is driven, above all else, by perfectionism. Failing feels awful, especially when you know the stakes are high. Your brain sees the discomfort of trying to master your finances and failing, and decides that it would feel safer to not try at all.
It’s a critical miscalculation. Making an attempt to master your finances can at least help move you closer to your goals. Procrastinating never does.
Think of it like this—50% success is better than 0% success.
The key to beating procrastinating, then, is to conquer the perfectionist mindset and fear of failure. It’s no small feat. Those habits of mind are often deeply ingrained. They won’t vanish overnight. But there are some simple steps you can take, like…
Break big goals down into small steps. This relieves the overwhelm that many feel when facing important tasks. As you knock out those small steps, you’ll feel empowered to keep moving forward.
Don’t go it alone. Procrastination thrives in isolation. Seek out a friend, loved one, or co-worker to help hold you accountable and share the load—even if it’s just a weekly check-in to see how each other are doing.
Work in short, uninterrupted bursts. Set a timer. Put down the phone. Work. After about 15 minutes, you’ll notice something strange happening. Time starts to either speed up or slow down. Distracting thoughts vanish. The lines between you, your focus, and the task at hand start to evaporate. You feel awesome. This is called a flow state, and it’s the key to productivity. Make it your friend, and you’ll probably notice that procrastination becomes rarer and rarer.
Now that you know the cause of procrastination, try these tips for yourself. Set a 30 minute timer. Then, break your finances into tiny action steps like checking your bank account, automating saving, and budgeting. Work on each item in a quick burst until you’ve made some progress. Then, talk to a friend about your results!
Just like that, you’ve made serious headway towards beating procrastination and building wealth. Look at you go!
And it’s true. Knowledge is power because it shows you how to act. The more informed your actions, the more likely they are to be fruitful and effective.
Here’s another quote you’ve probably heard a few times—“Know thyself.”
Why? Because there’s no greater power than power over yourself. The more you know yourself, the more capable you’ll be to shape your actions, your habits, and your destiny.
This couldn’t be more relevant than when it comes to money matters. The more you know about your financial habits and tendencies, the better equipped you’ll be to control your financial future.
Here are some ways to know thy financial self.
Like any other part of your life, emotions can affect money. They’re especially important to be aware of because they can cause you to act in ways that are counterproductive financially.
For example, have you ever felt anxious about checking your bank account?
Or felt a craving to blow some money to de-stress?
Or swelled with pride when you see how much you’ve saved?
Those are all emotions, and they’re all related to money.
So the next time you’re spending money, or checking your bank account, or pinching pennies, take a moment. Breathe. Notice how you’re feeling. Those emotions can give you valuable information that can help you make better financial decisions in the future.
Feelings almost always lead to thoughts. For instance, anxiety about looking at your bank account could lead to an internal conversation like this…
“Can I afford that? Oh, I bet I can’t. I WAY overspent the other day at… whatever, I never have enough money. I keep meaning to spend less, but I just can’t stop myself. Why do I even bother?”
See what happened? A feeling of anxiety led to a negative thought—that you can’t control your finances.
So what do you think about money? And that doesn’t mean your “opinions” about the economy, your take on billionaires going into space, or the NFTs are the fine art of the future] you share when you’re chatting with friends. It means the thoughts that flow through your mind whenever you encounter money in daily life.
Take a few moments right now and notice those thoughts. Are they positive? Are they negative? Are they neutral?
Just like a feeling almost always leads to a thought, so does a thought almost always lead to an action.
Those actions might be to ignore, or repress, or give in. But one way or another, thoughts will result in actions.
This is where budgeting helps. It’s like creating a journal of your actions, which are a window into your thoughts, your feelings, and who you are.
Notice lots of new shoes, designer handbags, or suddenly having more blingy watches than days of the week? These can reveal a facet of your financial self—maybe you think that taking advantage of every sale at the mall (i.e., buying things you don’t really need) will relieve feelings of anxiety.
Or maybe you’re penny-pinching so much that you’re surviving on peanut butter sandwiches and hating every bite. That could reveal either a hearty resourcefulness in lean times, or an unfounded worry about going without.
Or maybe you’re mindlessly wasting your dollars with nothing to show for it. Think hundreds spent on games on your phone, getting food delivered every night, or joining that fancy wine club all your friends are in. Perhaps this reveals that you are actually afraid of your finances, so afraid, in fact, that you can’t face reality.
The more you know about your financial self, the better equipped you’ll be to control your finances. You’ll see habits that you need to curb, and habits you need to cultivate.
Simple advice, but it goes a long way. Knowledge is power!
That’s not just your morning alarm, set for 6:15am each and every darn weekday.
It’s a starter’s pistol. The rat race has begun.
The rat race is a behavior experiment. Scientists condition rats to run races, solve puzzles, complete mazes, do tricks, reproduce, not reproduce, and a host of other feats.
How? By dangling a treat in front of them. Perform the tasks. Get the reward.
Many are caught in a human rat race. They’re told that to be an adult they need a credit card, a car, a mortgage, and a 9 to 5 job.
So they jump through the hoops, solve the puzzles, and perform the tasks to get that treat—their paycheck.
That paycheck gets consumed by their basic needs, their payment plans, and their lifestyle.
And the cycle continues. Jump through hoops. Get paid. Spend. Jump through more hoops. Ad infinitum.
Bigger “treats” help—like a bonus or a raise—but only for a little while. Eventually, they get consumed by increasingly extravagant spending. It’s why people with high incomes stay trapped in the rat race.
The result? You keep running a pointless and repetitive race that leads nowhere.
Is it any surprise, then, that there’s a “great resignation” happening? Or that businesses can’t find employees?
Maybe it’s because people are finally waking up to the truth—they’ve been playing someone else’s game. They’ve been making someone else rich. And now they’re ready for a new and better opportunity.
There’s nothing else like it to seize your attention. It’s hard to look away from a trainwreck. It’s even harder when you’re the one driving the train.
Failure leaves you reeling. It forces you to ask a critical question—”what went wrong?”
The answer can reveal some powerful truths.
It reveals truths about your process. Maybe your strategy for carrying out business is flawed and needs to be retooled.
It reveals truths about your assumptions. Flawed strategies stem from faulty assumptions. What are you assuming about people or the world that led to your failure?
It reveals truths about your character. Assumptions don’t appear from nowhere. They’re shaped by experiences and core beliefs about what’s right, wrong, and how the world works. Failure exposes those character forming beliefs like nothing else.
Simply put, failure cuts right to the core of who you are. And that can be a powerful and positive experience, if you’ll listen to it.
So get out there. Drop the ball. Spill some milk. Botch something.
And don’t be afraid to call it like it is—when it’s clear that you’re failing, acknowledge it and jump ship.
Then, ask yourself “what went wrong?” Be brutally honest. Take notes. Adjust as needed. And then get back out there.
You’ll find that you’re far stronger than you’ve been led to believe, and that you grow more resilient the more you attempt.
So here’s to failure. May you have enough that it paves the way to your greatest success.
You just need the practical know-how to overcome your fears and start the journey.
The goal of this article is to empower you to take bold action.
So turn off the YouTube self-improvement videos and fire up Google Docs. Here’s how to choose the right side gig for you.
Passions can make excellent side gigs. Why? Because they leverage skills you currently have, and are already commanding your attention and interest. Those are critical ingredients for success.
It doesn’t matter how niche or obscure your hobby might be. Write it down. In fact, the more oddball your interest, the more potential you may have to monetize it.
Simply put, can your skills solve a problem for people? If so, then you have a potential client base at your fingertips.
Those problems may not seem obvious at first. But you may be surprised by what people will pay for your service or product.
Not knowing how to play an instrument is a huge roadblock for music lovers.
Lacking time to decorate, clean, and organize is a persistent dilemma for type A personalities.
Social Media illiteracy is a massive headache for older people starting small businesses.
All of those problems are opportunities to boost your income, if you have the skills to solve them. It just takes some time and creativity to identify problems.
But here’s the catch—there might be hundreds, or even thousands, of others seeking to solve the same problems as you. In fact, your competitors might already have a well-established grip on your target market.
However, if your skills or niche are highly specific, you could have a rare opportunity on your hands that no one is fulfilling, or that no one is fulfilling well. You could eventually scale your side gig income to replace your day job!
This leads to a critical principle for deciding which side gig is right for you…
Opportunity lies at the intersection of high demand and low supply.
The more people demand a service, and the fewer competitors already providing it, the greater your likelihood of success.
There’s just one factor left to consider…
Starting a business requires a combination of time, effort, and money. No exceptions. The question is whether—and when—the rewards will outweigh the costs.
Starting a car manufacturing business? Good luck—you’ll require a huge amount of capital, and won’t see profits for years.
Refurbing curbside furniture with tools and skills your grandpa left you? Hats off—your startup costs are almost zero, beyond some time and energy.
Which side gig fits these parameters for you? Whatever it is, let’s chat about it. We can discuss what it would look like for you to start pursuing it today!
In 2020, the self-improvement industry was estimated to be worth $10.4 billion in the United States.¹
But here’s the catch—most of the advice you get from self-improvement gurus is either really simple or so generic as to be useless.
So here are five completely free self-improvement moves you can make that can actually help you feel better, starting today.
Sunlight, especially in the morning, offers a host of benefits, including…²
• Stronger eyes (just don’t look straight into the sun!)
• Healthy weight loss
• Stronger immunity
• Boosted emotional well-being
• Higher quality sleep
As a rule of thumb, try to get sunlight before noon for between 5 to 30 minutes. Don’t wear sunglasses or view the sunlight through a window, and get out of the shade for maximum results.
That’s it. Spend 5 minutes each day in the sun and see if you notice results!
Getting better sleep can transform your life. It can improve everything from mood to focus to your ability to build muscle.³
But it’s often low on the priority list. How many times have you heard your overachieving friend say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”?
Don’t be like them! Implement these simple strategies to get the rest you deserve…
Above all, aim for 8 hours of sleep each night!
Let’s face it—self-improvement can swiftly become counterproductive. At first, you get that rush. You’re setting goals and crushing them. You’re noticing improvements in mood, your productivity, your physique. It’s like the answer you’ve been waiting for!
But reality slowly settles back in. You start noticing inefficiencies in your routine. Bad habits creep back in. The world is still on fire. You’re still human.
That’s where you have a choice. You can throw yourself deeper into the self-improvement rabbit hole, optimizing every moment in the hope that one day, you’ll finally feel “okay”.
Or, you learn the ultimate self-improvement technique of them all—self-acceptance. Sure, you make tweaks and deal with problems. But you acknowledge that, at the end of the day, you’re still human. You take the good with the bad. You do your best to treat other people—and yourself—right.
So wake up tomorrow and get some sun, first thing. Before bed, dim the lights well in advance and turn on the fan. Wake up and see how you feel. And if these tips don’t fix all your problems (they probably won’t), don’t sweat it—celebrate your progress, and remember that you’re still human. And that’s a good thing, because that means you’re, well, you!
¹ “$10.4 Billion Self-Improvement Market Pivots to Virtual Delivery During the Pandemic,” John LaRosa, MarketResearch.com, Aug 2, 2021 https://blog.marketresearch.com/10.4-billion-self-improvement-market-pivots-to-virtual-delivery-during-the-pandemic
² “Sunlight and Your Health,” Poonam Sachdev, WebMD, Feb 22, 2022 https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-sunlight-health-effects
³ “Surprising Reasons to Get More Sleep,” Rachel Reiff Ellis, WebMD, Jun 12, 2021 https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/benefits-sleep-more
Much like physical health, financial health can be affected by binging, carelessness, or simply not knowing what can cause harm. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – as with physical health, it’s possible to reverse the downward trend if you can break your harmful habits.
A household without a budget is like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly and – sooner or later – it might sink or run aground in shallow waters. Small expenses and indulgences can add up to big money over the course of a month or a year.
In nearly every household, it might be possible to find some extra money just by cutting back on non-essential spending. A budget is your way of telling yourself that you may be able to have nice things if you’re disciplined about your finances.
Credit cards always seem to get picked on when discussing personal finances, and often, they deserve the flack they get. Not having a budget can be a common reason for using credit, contributing to an average credit card debt of $6,913 for balance-carrying households.¹ At an average interest rate of over 16%, credit card debt is usually the highest interest expense in a household, several times higher than auto loans, home loans, and student loans.²
The good news is that with a little discipline, you can start to pay down your credit card debt and help reduce your interest expense.
No matter how much income you have, money can be a stressful topic in families. This can lead to one of two potentially harmful habits.
First, talking about the family finances is often simply avoided. Conversations about kids and work and what movie you want to watch happen, but conversations about money can get swept under the rug.
Are you a “saver” and your partner a “spender”? Is it the opposite? Maybe you’re both spenders or both savers. Talking (and listening) about yourself and your significant other’s tendencies can be insightful and help avoid conflicts about your finances.
If you’re like most households, having an occasional chat about the budget may help keep your family on track with your goals – or help you identify new goals – or maybe set some goals if you don’t have any.
Second, financial matters can be confusing – which may cause stress – especially once you get past the basics. This may tempt you to ignore the subject or to think “I’ll get around to it one day”.
But getting a budget and a financial strategy in place sooner rather than later may actually help you reduce stress. Think of it as “That’s one thing off my mind now!”
Taking the time to understand your money situation and getting a budget in place is the first step to put your financial house in order. As you learn more and apply changes – even small ones – you might see your efforts start to make a difference!
¹ “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 12, 2021 https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/
² “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa
Hours of dedicated learning, training, and mentorship are required to move from amateur to expert. But who has the time for that? Most of us are still figuring out our careers or how to be a better parent or partner. With our busy lives, acquiring an additional skill—no matter how beneficial or fulfilling it may be—can seem like a fantasy.
It turns out that there are some simple steps you can take to jumpstart your learning process. Here are some tips for quick skill acquisition!
Skills are typically composed of smaller processes. For instance, playing a song on piano requires a few different abilities. You must be able to move each finger to the right keys at the right time, you should probably know how to read music, and possess a sense of when to play more loudly or softly. Trying to play a song without some command of those capabilities can feel overwhelming or impossible!
That’s why it’s useful to start with the end product and work backwards to discover the little skills you need to master. Once you see the micro-processes involved, you can start working forward. This might feel silly at first. Jumping between the same few notes over and over again until you’ve got them down isn’t the most glamorous endeavor! But it lays the foundation for a more complicated and satisfying skill that will pay off in the long run.
It’s easy to think making progress will be a straight line. We’re building up our little skills, getting better and better with each practice session. But pretty soon we hit a wall. There’s a problem that seems we can’t overcome. We might even start backsliding or feeling like we’re getting worse!
Don’t sweat a roadblock. It’s perfectly normal to hit a plateau when you’re trying to acquire a skill. Take a break from practice, go for a walk or take a nap, and get back to it with a fresh perspective. You might be surprised by how much learning occurs when you allow your brain to relax and process.
As nice as it sounds, multitasking simply does not work. There’s overwhelming evidence that it actually slows down your brain and wildly reduces efficiency.¹ Multitasking must be avoided at all costs when you’re trying to quickly learn a new skill. Try setting aside some undistracted time every morning or evening for a few weeks to work on your skill. That means leaving your phone in another room, turning off the TV, and telling your family that you’ll be busy for a while. Get in the zone and start practicing!
An hour every evening for a month won’t transform you into a Picasso. You’re not shooting to be a virtuoso. Instead, these tips and strategies may help you quickly acquire competence in just about anything you set your mind to. So draw up a list of some skills you want to develop and start learning!
¹ “Multitasking is dead. Monotasking is better for our health, relationships and productivity,” Wendy Rose Gould, Today, May 13, 2022, https://www.today.com/health/mind-body/multitasking-bad-productivity-monotasking-rcna26968
But it doesn’t have to be like this. The morning hours can be times of relaxation, focus, and self-improvement. Here are a few practical habits that can take your mornings from pointless to productive!
Go to bed early. Stayed up too late watching just one more episode of your favorite show? Don’t expect to wake up feeling motivated. A productive morning starts the night before. Try to stay away from screens before going to bed (at least one hour) and make sure you turn in at a reasonable time. You may also want to dial back when you wake up. Having a quiet hour or two before everyone else wakes up is a great way of freeing up time to invest in things you care about. Just remember that your new sleep schedule will take some time to adjust to!
Exercise first thing. One of the best habits to fill your new-found morning hours is exercise. It’s a great way to get your blood flowing and boost your energy. Plus, the feeling that you’ve accomplished something can help carry you through the day and boost your confidence.
Prioritize your tasks. But let’s say you’ve started getting up an hour and a half earlier and you work out for 30 minutes. How are you going to spend the next hour before you start getting ready for work? One great habit is to start planning out your day and prioritizing your tasks. Write down what specifically you want to accomplish and when. You might be amazed by how empowering it is to make a plan and to see your goals on a piece of paper. Start off with your biggest task. The morning is when you’re at your peak brain power, so commit your best efforts to the hardest work. The feeling of accomplishment from knocking out the task will carry you through the smaller things!
Mornings don’t have to be rough. Incorporating these tips and habits into your daily routine can help make the first hours of the day a time you look forward to. Start inching your alarm closer towards sunrise and use that extra time to absolutely crush your day!
Have you fallen into a rut of living the same day over and over again, rehashing the same information and thinking the same thoughts? Maybe you’re bored and looking for adventure or intellectual stimulation. It turns out that there are actually a few things you can do to consistently push your mental capacities and become a lifelong learner!
Good writing is magical. It can transport us to distant lands and introduce us to incredible worlds and characters. But reading can also transform our minds, especially when we encounter new and challenging ideas. We’re able to overcome the limitations of our own imaginations and experiences and see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Surveys have shown that almost all successful people, regardless of their backgrounds, read extensively.¹ And it’s no wonder; the ability to assume appreciate perspective is incredibly powerful. But what should you be reading?
Not all reading is created equal. Romance novels about vampires and werewolves might count as brain “junk food”. It also might be best to avoid a 19th-century philosophical treatise right out of the gate!
Instead, explore entry-level books about topics you don’t know a lot about. Dip your toe into new subjects and see if they spark your interest! You can always move to more advanced work on the subject from there. On the other hand, you can find new opinions and perspectives on topics that you’ve already mastered. How is your field changing or evolving?
Conversation is another great way to encounter new ideas. Chances are that you’re surrounded by vast amounts of knowledge sitting untapped inside your friends and family. You just need to know how to extract it! The keys are to listen seriously and ask real questions based on what you’ve heard. Most of us are more consumed with what we’re going to say next than with what the other person is saying. Honing in on what you’re hearing and trying to develop questions as you listen helps you understand what they’re saying and fuels your curiosity. It’s a virtuous cycle where everyone benefits!
But the key to both of these lifelong learning strategies is to focus intensely. That means when you’re reading or taking a class, turn off your phone and absorb what’s right before you. Engage in conversation intentionally, asking real questions based on what the other person is saying. You might be surprised how tricky both of those things can be at first! But stick with it. Those learning muscles will grow stronger and stronger until you’re brimming with information!
One final tip: always ask why. Don’t just ponder something to yourself. Ask someone who might possibly have an answer! And don’t be vague. Be as precise and specific as possible when you ask your question. The best thing about learning is that you can potentially keep learning forever! Learn to love the process of learning, and you might be amazed by how far your brain power can go.
¹ “A self-made millionaire who studied 1,200 wealthy people found they all have one — free — pastime in common,” Kathleen Elkins, Insider, Aug 21, 2015, https://www.businessinsider.com/rich-people-like-to-read-2015-8
Having flaws in your work pointed out to you can be a stressful experience and seriously affect your mood and self-image. Even criticizing someone else’s performance may make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.
But criticism is incredibly important. When done correctly, it can empower us to improve our weaknesses and maximize our strengths. But first, we have to learn how to receive criticism well and not let our egos get in the way. Here are a few ideas!
It’s easy to react poorly even to the best intentioned criticism. There’s an emotional leap we make where something simple like “I think this could be said better” gets interpreted as “you’re dumb and made a dumb decision and will always be dumb.” But that’s often our own emotions or insecurities talking and unnecessarily connecting dots. Next time you’re facing criticism, try taking a deep breath and pausing before you respond or react. You can also take that pause to reframe the situation in your mind. Is this really your boss seeking to degrade and destroy you or is this an opportunity to learn and improve?
One of the key factors in how you handle criticism is how you value yourself. Even gentle advice can deeply hurt someone who has a low estimation of their worth. To them, it may seem to confirm their suspicion that they’re really not that useful and that they should probably just give up. The same goes for people who are dependent on praise and approval. Criticism can make them feel like they have to perform like a superhuman to earn the approval of the person criticizing. Until they do that, they’ll be a nervous wreck!
The key to overcoming these barriers is to understand that you have value in and of yourself. Part of that worth comes from your accomplishments and skills, but some of it comes down to your mindset. What do you tell yourself about yourself? Have you really studied the art of self-confidence? Start developing the skills it takes to know your own worth and watch as your attitude towards feedback changes!
It’s also worth remembering that not all criticism is created equal. There’s some feedback that might not be worth taking seriously whatsoever. Your nagging grandmother, your impossible to please friend, and your nitpicking coworker are probably not the best places to turn for useful critiques and advice. But bosses, experts, and mentors? That’s where you need to put aside your pride, remember that you still have value, and actually listen.
You might be surprised how these simple steps can transform your perspective on criticism. Suddenly, the advice and critiques of others seem less like threats and more like opportunities. There’s so much wisdom walking around in your peers and mentors. Learning how to handle criticism like a pro opens up access to a whole new world of experience and ideas that just might change your life!
Some people seem to be born with an eye for the new and the unexpected and the exciting. There’s nothing wrong with conventional thinking; you probably don’t want a doctor or nurse known for an avant-garde attitude! But there are times when we’re confronted by problems without obvious solutions. We have to think outside the box to overcome and make progress. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to approach life more creatively. You might not become a Van Gogh, but these tips might come in handy the next time you encounter a roadblock.
Experts can be a touch boring, especially when they keep lording their knowledge over you at dinner parties. But they can also be a huge source of inspiration, if you know how to talk to them! Instead of zoning out or looking for a way to interject your own opinion, start listening for opportunities to ask questions. Look for things you don’t understand about what they’re saying or an idea that strikes you as interesting and ask them about it. And when they’re done explaining it, try repeating it back in your own words. You might be surprised by the connections that your brain starts to make. Plus, the person you’re talking to will feel valued and appreciated!
Boredom births creativity.¹ It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense when you think about it. Your brain likes to be busy. Watching paint dry or reading the phonebook is so dull that (if you actually did those activities) you’d spontaneously start exploring new ideas just to pass the time. Your brain is never less inhibited or less constrained than when you’re performing a mundane task. Clear out some time in your schedule for a boring activity. Maybe (safely!) try voice recording your ideas in the car on your commute to and from work. You might find a long shower is the perfect time to brainstorm and think through problems. Get creative and do something monotonous!
If your schedule is already full and you’re constantly on the move, picking up a hobby might seem kind of pointless. But a hobby can teach you important lessons about creativity that you can’t learn anywhere else. You might learn that performing a beautiful song is composed of dozens of little micro-movements and components that all take time to learn and master. You might learn that painting a stunning landscape starts with a single brushstroke. And you might learn that out-foxing your opponent in chess comes down to your burgeoning ability to imagine a dozen possible outcomes and responding well when things don’t go your way. Clear out some time, talk to an expert, and start creating something just for fun!
Convention is the biggest enemy of creativity. We’ve all had ideas that we’re afraid to share or voice because we think people will think we’re stupid. But being creative is all about seeing potential where no one else can. And that by default means some folks are going to shoot you looks. Overcome all of that by expressing your wildest ideas first. Come out of the gate with a barn burner. Listen to serious feedback and criticisms, but don’t be afraid to voice your ideas. You might just stumble on something brilliant!
These tips may not transform you into a generation-defining sculptor or wordsmith*. But they might just spark the creative edge you need to see problems in a new light and find opportunities where others see danger. So make some time, start some conversations, pick up some hobbies, and start dreaming!
*Please let me know if this article does happen to make you into a generation defining artist of any kind!
¹ “How boredom can make you more productive and creative,” Ivana Fisic, Clockify, Jun 22, 2022 https://clockify.me/blog/managing-time/boredom-can-make-you-more-productive-and-creative/
Our lives are full of actions that we’re almost unaware of. Many of them just help us get little things done more efficiently. But some habits can have a huge impact on our lives in either a positive or negative way. Here’s a quick breakdown of how habits work and ways to “trick yourself” into better behavior patterns.
We’ve looked at why the brain likes habits in a previous article, but it’s worth reviewing again!
Your brain craves efficiency. It looks for the path of least resistance when it comes to using energy. Making decisions takes a lot of brain power. Too many choices in a day can leave you feeling mentally exhausted, so your brain looks for ways to cut corners. It starts automating little decisions that you make repeatedly. Brushing your teeth, tying your shoes, and checking your social media are choices you’ve made so often that your brain stops consciously weighing in and seems to just spontaneously make you do them.
So that’s why your brain likes forming habits. But the mechanics of how a habit forms is essential if you’re trying to upgrade your unconscious behaviors!
A habit can be broken down into three basic components. It starts with a cue. That’s any kind of trigger that makes you want to do something. Actually performing the action suggested by the cue is called a routine. Following the routine usually results in some kind of reward, either physical or psychological.
So let’s say you’ve developed a habit of eating a cookie with your morning coffee. You wake up, put on the pot, and brew a delicious cup of joe. You instantly start craving the cookie when you smell that medium roast goodness. That’s the cue. You reach into the jar, grab the biggest chocolate chip cookie you can get your hands on, and take a bite. That’s the routine. And the tingling joy and comfort you feel when that life-giving treat hits your tongue? That’s the reward that brings you back morning after morning. But the consequence might be that you’ve put on a few unwanted pounds in the last couple of months.
It’s easy to see how certain habits can lead to some undesirable outcomes. We tend to form habits around anything that rewards our brains, whether it’s junk food, caffeine, or dangerous substances. But our brains also like things such as observing progress and accomplishing goals.
How can we use this to encourage good habits? Here are a few ideas: Start really small: Break your desired habit down into pieces and try to regularly perform each one. You might be surprised by how good it feels to accomplish something, which can prompt you to make more and more progress. Reward yourself: Some activities are very rewarding in the moment. But not everything that’s good for you leaves you feeling accomplished right away. Try something like only playing video games after 30 minutes of reading! Be patient: Habits don’t form overnight. You’ll probably mess up before it sticks. Don’t sweat the little failures and keep trying until that habit becomes second nature!
You can also use this knowledge to break bad habits. Try to identify the cues associated with the habit and avoid or eliminate them. Also, consider ways that you might actually be rewarding yourself for bad behavior. It’s worth asking friends and sometimes professionals for insights into your habits!
Have you considered the role your surroundings play in your everyday life? It turns out that one of the easiest ways to bring about change in our lives is actually to change our environments. What if the layout of your bedroom or the distance from your desk to the kitchen was impacting your productivity and decision making? There’s plenty of room for each of us to improve. Here’s how and why making some changes to your environment works.
Making decisions is draining. (Heard of “decision fatigue”? It’s real!) We can only make so many choices per day before we start to run out of steam and need a rest. But we’re faced with countless choices every time we wake up! Should I go back to sleep? Should I shower or brush my teeth first? What will I wear to work? Should I try out that new shortcut to the office? It can become stressful for your brain to struggle with a choice every time one of these little prompts presents itself. That’s why we rely on decision shortcuts called habits.
A habit is just a routine that you regularly perform. Most of the time we don’t even notice that we’re engaging in a habit because it’s second nature to us. And there’s a reason for that. It’s your brain saving energy by going on autopilot to perform an action without having to make a decision. That way you can use the bulk of your mental power on unique and important problems that might pop up during the day, not on thinking about when you should brush your teeth!
What does your brain’s love of shortcuts have to do with your environment? Let’s look at an example.
Your alarm clock is right next to your bed. It goes off every morning at 7:30am. It doesn’t take you long to figure out that you can smack the snooze button and go straight back to sleep with hardly any effort. Before long you’re hitting the snooze button every time the alarm goes off without even thinking about it. You’ve trained yourself to sleep in later by making your alarm easier to turn off. But what if your alarm was on the other side of your room? What if to silence it you had to stand up, walk over, and hit a button? That simple change could give you the jolt that you need to wake up and get your day started on time!
Take a look at your surroundings and ask yourself what kind of behavior it encourages. Is it more convenient for you to grab a soda from the fridge or fill up your water bottle? When you work at home, are you in the middle of distractions like the kids playing or too close to the TV? At work, does your office layout lend itself to productivity or socializing with your co-workers?
It might take some legwork to get started, but try to arrange your life in a way that makes wise decisions easier. You might be surprised by the results!
Almost no one will tell you that you should care what others think. Instead, you hear platitudes like “marching to the beat of your own drum”, or “just do you.”
You might even hear something counterintuitive like, “People will like you more if you don’t care about their opinions.”
What? You should stop caring about what others think so they’ll like you more? It’s a bald-faced contradiction at best, deceptively manipulative at worst.
The simple fact is that, unless you’re a diagnosed psychopath, you’ll care what others think about you. And that’s a good thing. It can stop you from alienating people in your life with bizarre decisions or unnecessary antagonism.
But is there such a thing as an unhealthy obsession with the opinions of others? Yes! Analysis paralysis, social anxiety, and unmeasured decisions can all result.
But that shouldn’t lead to a fluffy kitchen countertop quote about “one’s own sweet way.”
Instead of jettisoning all your social concerns, try this—prioritize your values over all.
Let’s say that one of your values is maintaining healthy relationships. That requires care about what someone else thinks of you—without their love and respect, the relationship is doomed to fail.
But you may discover other values, like protecting the well-being of the ones you love. That might mean making hard decisions that, in the short-term, lower the opinions of others.
This isn’t just advice for your personal life—it can benefit your career as well.
For instance, if you’re an employee, you should care about your boss’s opinion of you. That doesn’t mean being a doormat or suck-up. It simply means that you would do well to pay attention to their instruction, make sure you’re on top of things, and show them you’re honest, responsible, and a hard worker. This may lead to a promotion, a raise, and being known as a reliable team member.
The same is true for entrepreneurs. It’s hard to land and keep clients if you’re oblivious to their feelings toward you.
That’s not an excuse for tolerating mistreatment by customers, which is common among new entrepreneurs. Instead, it’s a call to know your own worth, to discover what you value, and then actually serve your clients.
The takeaway? “Don’t care about what others think” is short-sighted, selfish advice.
Instead, explore your values. Discover what matters most. And build your life around those principles. They’ll bring far greater cohesion—and happiness—than ignoring other people and running head-long into the void.
Why? Because boredom is profoundly uncomfortable. You can’t ignore it. That itch for something—anything—to fill your attention, your imagination? That’s boredom.
Think about how far people will go to avoid boredom. One study found that it can be so unbearable that most people would rather endure an electric shock than sit alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes.¹
Why do people move to new cities, fly across oceans, skydive, paint masterpieces, or create businesses?
Boredom is a good thing. That’s why always trying to instantly cure it will hamstring your creativity.
Think about the thing you’re probably holding in your hand right now as you read this. It’s the ultimate boredom killer—your phone. Any craving for something new can be instantly extinguished with a viral cat video, trending makeup tutorial, the latest game release, or that life-changing self improvement prompt that will get you out of bed earlier tomorrow.
The solution? Put your phone down and make space for boredom. Block out 15 minutes a day for absolutely nothing. Stare at the wall. Twiddle your thumbs. Above all, let your mind wander. You may be amazed by the thoughts, ideas, and visions you develop to occupy your time.
What great things will you allow your boredom to drive you towards?
¹ “The Unexpected Value of Boredom for Well-Being and Creativity,” Jeffrey Davis M.A., Psychology Today, Jun 30, 2022, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tracking-wonder/202206/the-unexpected-value-boredom-well-being-and-creativity
It’s claimed that doing this can boost your mood, enhance metabolism, and increase focus. One experiment even found that ice baths and breathing exercises can reduce the impact of illnesses like E. Coli.¹
But why? And more importantly before you dive into a frozen lake, how?
The science of cold showers and ice baths is actually pretty simple.
Cold showers suck. They feel terrible. The first drops of arctic water that blast your back or face seem to turn off your brain. Your heart starts racing. Your vision may get blurry. You start thinking, “how can I make this stop?” In other words, you enter full on survival mode.
And that’s one of the best things you can do for your body.
Why? Because your body floods with chemicals to make sure you survive.
Dopamine levels soar. That’s the chemical that makes you pursue goals, like getting out of the shower alive.
Adrenaline surges through your body. That’s the chemical that makes you want to move and scream and focus and escape.
Your body starts torching calories. That’s so it can maintain a stable body temperature.
And those chemicals and processes persist once you turn off the water. That fight-or-flight response gets replaced by a profound sense of calm focus that can last for hours.³
That’s not counting the mental toughness benefit. Every time you step into that stream of cold water, you’re training yourself to endure something unpleasant. You strengthen your ability to overcome fear and to do hard, yet beneficial, things.
There are some critical factors to consider…
Eventually, you’ll get used to shock and minimize the benefits. According to Andrew Huberman, a Stanford professor, you should aim for 11 minutes in cold water per week.²
Diving into a frozen lake on your first day could lead to panic and even death. Start with an uncomfortable, but safe temperature in your own shower in your own house, and build up your tolerance.
Cold showers are perfect if you need to eliminate muscle soreness. But it also impacts muscle hypertrophy, slowing growth. So if you need to quickly recover from workouts, take cold showers. But if you’re trying to gain mass, opt with your normal shower routine instead.
Cold showers provide a host of benefits, from boosting your mood to aiding in weight loss. But it’s important to start slowly and increase the intensity gradually to avoid any negative consequences. So if you’re looking for a way to improve your mental toughness and boost your productivity, add a cold shower to your routine. Just make sure you do it safely.
¹ “MR ICE: Men’s Health Chills With Iceman Wim Hof,” Alex Harris, Men’s Health, 27 Apr 2022, https://www.menshealth.com/uk/health/a758182/big-read-mh-chills-with-iceman-wim-hof/
² “The Science & Use of Cold Exposure for Health & Performance,” Andrew Huberman, Huberman Lab, May 1, 2022, https://hubermanlab.com/the-science-and-use-of-cold-exposure-for-health-and-performance/
³ “Cold Shower for Anxiety: Does It Help?” Kristeen Cherney, Healthline, June 22, 2022, https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/cold-shower-for-anxiety
Research has shown time and again that your work environment plays a critical role in your level of focus, analytical thinking, and creativity.
So if you have the freedom to do so, here are a few ways to spice up your workspace to maximize productivity.
It turns out that standing desks aren’t just a fad—they can actually boost productivity.
According to Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, research has shown that halving your sitting time at work can…
And best of all, you don’t need a fancy contraption to make it happen. Simply stack some boxes or books to lift your computer and monitor—voila! Now you have a standing desk.
At the start of your day, increasing your light exposure can boost your focus. Why? Because your body and brain are conditioned to respond to sunlight. It’s a powerful trigger that your day has started and you need to get it in gear!
So first thing, go outside and sit in the sun for a few minutes. When you’re in the office, turn on overhead lights, lamps, and ring lights. If you can, work by an open window. You might be surprised by the impact it has on your alertness and focus.
Just be sure to tone down the intensity as the day wears on so your body knows it’s time to settle down, relax, and hit the hay. Bright light exposure when it’s too late can be detrimental to sleep, especially looking at your phone less than an hour before you want to go to bed. The light shining in your eyes tells your body that you need to stay awake.
You read that correctly. The height of your ceiling can help you toggle between analytic mode and creative mode.
High ceilings tend to promote creativity and brainstorming. Low ceilings promote analytical thinking.
It’s called the cathedral effect, and for good reason. Think about how you would feel stepping into the Chartres Cathedral vs. say, your basement. One creates awe, wonder, and an appreciation of beauty. The other forces you to zero in on only what’s in front of you, like that load of laundry you forgot about.
So as a rule, try to do your creative thinking in high, open spaces. Do your analyzing in closed, dull, non-distracting spaces.
Try one or two of these strategies over the next week and see if they impact your productivity. I’d love to hear about your results!
Maybe you used the credit card to buy something you didn’t really need, even though you’ve sworn it off time and time again.
Maybe you found yourself clicking checkout, even though you promised to stop online shopping.
Or maybe you just found yourself discouraged by the number in your bank account… again.
Either way, you’ve had a financial relapse—you did something to set back progress with your goals, even though you knew better.
It sucks. It’s enough to make you throw up your hands and quit.
But here’s the truth—it’s part of the process.
Research suggests that there are six steps to changing behavior…
Pre-contemplation Contemplation Preparation Action Maintenance Relapse
Why is relapse the final step? Because it’s an opportunity. It reveals the limitations in your strategy, unnoticed behavior triggers, and above all, new areas for growth.
This is good to acknowledge, but it’s a far cry from how relapses make you feel. They feel like proof positive that you’ll never change, that you didn’t change. You fell back into your old behaviors.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that relapses merely point you to deeper truths about yourself… and what you’re capable of.
So next time you feel down about a hard-to-break financial habit, give yourself some grace. Examine what happened, and integrate what you learn into your strategy.
Consider meeting with a financial professional to chat things through. They can help you process what happened, refocus on your goals, and create a strategy to prevent future relapses.
And if you feel like you’re stuck in harmful financial habits that you can’t break, book a meeting with a licensed and qualified mental health professional. They can help you identify patterns, understand their origins, and develop steps for change.
¹ “Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model for Social Workers,” Yeshiva University, May 11, 2021, https://online.yu.edu/wurzweiler/blog/prochaska-and-diclementes-stages-of-change-model-for-social-workers
This isn’t to talk bad about your brain—it’s like a supercomputer ceaselessly working to make sense of the world and keep you safe. The trouble is, sometimes it does this by coming up with shortcuts that feel like they should make sense, but can lead to serious errors.
These mistakes are sometimes called mind traps. They can derail logical thinking and lead you astray. And they can have a big impact on your money.
Here are some of the most common money mind traps, and how you can avoid them!
1. All or nothing thinking. This is a classic example of the “great” being an enemy of the “good”. You might feel that unless you can go all out on saving and building wealth, you might as well do nothing. Go big or go home, right?
It’s an obviously flawed line of thinking. Saving even a little is always better than saving nothing. But the temptation not to is still very, very powerful. Why? It might be because of anxious or perfectionist tendencies. Anything short of perfection seems like failure. And that sense of failure is so uncomfortable that it seems safer to not even start.
But here’s the truth—you’ll never go big unless you start small. Waiting for the stars to align, or even to get all your ducks in a row, will result in permanent inaction.
The solution? Commit to save $20 per month (or whatever amount works with your budget). Read one blog article about money. Follow just one money influencer. You might be surprised by the difference that even just a little change can make!
2. Magical thinking. For example: “I’ll start saving when I get a raise.” Spoiler—you won’t.
Why? Because you didn’t start saving after your last raise. What would make this time any different?
This is magical thinking. This time is going to be different, even if you do nothing different. It’s the hope that circumstances will change on their own, and with them, your behavior.
The solution is to be proactive. If you want to save more money, you have to take action. That might mean reworking your budget or setting up automated transfers into savings. It might mean looking for ways to make more money. But whatever it is, do it now. If the “present you” won’t do it, neither will the “future you”.
3. Catastrophizing & personalizing. Have you ever opened your bank account and thought “This is the end of the world?” It’s happened to everyone at least once. Suddenly, you realize you’re far closer to zero than you realized. Worst of all, you’re not sure why.
To be clear, that’s NOT the end of the world. There could be plenty of good reasons why you’ve spent more this month, and there are plenty of ways to get your financial house back in order.
But that’s not how it feels. It feels like defcon 3. Surely this means that you’ll default on the mortgage, lose the car, and ruin your future.
And that catastrophizing almost always leads to personalization. You start blaming yourself. How could you let this happen again? What’s wrong with you? Those negative voices are off to the races, and it can feel impossible to get them under control. And it’s all because you’re looking at your bank balance with no plan.
The solution is to step back, take a breath, and remember that it’s just a number. It does not define you. Sure, you need to take responsibility for your actions. But follow your train of thought. Where are you jumping to conclusions? What are you assuming? If you can catch yourself in the moment, it’s a lot easier to calm those anxious thoughts before they get out of control.
Mind traps are dangerous because they’re so believable. They seem like rational thoughts, but they’re really just faulty logic that can lead to costly mistakes.
The good news is, once you’re aware of them, you can start to catch yourself in the act. And with practice, it gets easier and easier. So next time you find yourself thinking you have to go big or go home, or that your finances will magically fix themselves, or that you’re a failure, take a moment. Write down your thoughts. And then ask yourself—is this really true? Or is it just a mind trap?