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Chinese New Year: How To Make This Your Most Successful Year Ever

Chinese New Year: How To Make This Your Most Successful Year Ever

London, U.K. 10:00 PM

I was in London speaking at a corporate event when the monkey handed the reigns to the rooster. Yes, I’m talking about one of the most important and celebrated days of the year for 1.5 billion people — the Chinese New Year.

It seems that the only time I feel like running is when I travel. Not a good recipe for staying in shape, but a simple and easy way to explore the city, take in the sights and clear my mind. The logical destination on the eve of this new year was to head down to Chinatown in the City of Westminster and take in some of the festivities.

I had plenty of time to think along the run, as the destination was 10 km away. As this was my first run in over a month, it was slow.

I began to think about the Chinese New Year after a couple of kilometers. I thought about its rich history, dating back to the 14th century, why and how it started and some of the myths and folklore that have carried on through the ages. Then, I asked myself, “I wonder how many people truly adhere to the beliefs that stem from the origin of this day.” And, more importantly, how do those beliefs impact the way people live their lives today?

One after another, a tsunami of questions and thoughts kept crashing through my brain.

With all the consulting work and speaking I do around the world, I see one constant that cripples people in every culture – fear. Fear of job loss, fear of making a simple decision, and even fear of communicating with someone in person. Fear stems from lack of belief – especially in oneself. It promotes poor performance, diminishes company culture and stifles our ability to creatively solve problems.

For many of us, we have more than ever before. Yet we are more uncertain, fearful and miserable than ever before – both personally and professionally.

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After a brief stop for some oxygen relief, I began reflecting on how important our beliefs are in shaping our outcomes, desires and successes in business and in life.

But first, some very interesting history…

Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is based on the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar, which means New Year’s Day can vary between January 21st and February 19th. Also known as the “Spring Festival,” this year the party starts on Saturday, January 28th and continues until the Lantern Festival, 15 days later.

Each Chinese New Year is characterized by one of the 12 animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac.

The Rat. Ox. Tiger. Rabbit. Dragon. Snake. Horse. Goat. Monkey. Rooster. Dog. Pig.

There are many myths as to why and how each animal was chosen. There may also be variations in the animal representing the year depending on which version of the Chinese zodiac someone follows. Still, each animal has symbolic characteristics given to it by the ancient Chinese.These animal attributes come in six contrasting pairs that are harmonized, like yin and yang, and are the primary factor governing the order of the zodiac. It is believed that your animal has a huge influence on various aspects of your life — personality, future, career, love and general luck.

If you’re familiar with western astrology, the major difference between the two is that each house (animal) in the Chinese zodiac is one year in duration instead of one month. This means that according to Chinese beliefs, people who were born in the same year have similar traits, as opposed to the Western belief that those born during the same month-long time frame have similar traits.

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Are You a Rooster?

This year is said to be the year of the rooster. The rooster is the tenth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac sign. The Years of the Rooster include 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, and 2029…

The Rooster is the embodiment of dependability and punctuality. For ancestors who had no alarm clocks, the rooster’s crowing was significant, as it could awaken people to get up and start to work. It is said that people born in a rooster year are independent, honest, and competent but can be emotionally volatile. (Aren’t we all? Emotionally volatile that is :))

But…

As luck would not have it, the year of your sign is believed to be one of the unluckiest years of your life, according to Chinese astrology. Sorry, roosters.

If you’re not a rooster you can check out which animal you are below based on the year you were born.

  • Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
  • Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
  • Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
  • Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
  • Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
  • Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
  • Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
  • Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
  • Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
  • Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
  • Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
  • Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

Once you’ve found your animal sign, feel free to indulge on one of the thousands of astrology sites to see if your animal is representative of who you are and what the year ahead may have in store for you according to Chinese astrology.

Will You Be Successful In The Year Ahead?

Back to beliefs.

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Do you believe in luck? Routines? Superstitions? Spirituality?

Black cats, breaking mirrors, lucky Jupiter, pregame songs or lucky socks?

Belief is a state of mind. It’s hard to describe or articulate, especially when there’s little or no empirical evidence toward justifying its existence or consistency of truth. It’s purely subjective and can trigger many emotions.

Four words come to mind when I see or hear the word belief —confidence, opinion, acceptance and trust (COAT). These are the building blocks of who we are, how we think, what we say and why we do the things we do.

I do believe that there are external forces that are constantly working for and against us which are beyond our control. Like when and where we were born.

We didn’t have a choice.

I also believe that our internal force, or belief system, is more powerful than any external forces out there.

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And, we do have a choice in defining who we are based on the circumstances that are presented to us.

No matter what your beliefs are, whether you believe in Chinese astrology or not, the Chinese New Year gives us all an opportunity to reflect and become more self-aware. The world, for many of us, is one that is out of control — one that is  living constantly in a hyper-reactive unconscious state. One that sacrifices freedom for traditionalism.

There is nothing wrong with following traditional beliefs— if this serves you well. If it doesn’t, then question it. Tune your beliefs to something that does. Uncover which ones are moving you forward in a positive way and which ones are holding you back from the true essence of who you are. Now is the time to change the latter.

It starts with a central belief. A belief that you control the life you were given — not someone, some app or something else.

Xīn Nián Kuài Lè (Happy New Year) (新年快乐)

“Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái” (Wishing you a prosperous New Year ) (恭喜发财)

Featured photo credit: Craig Gauthier. via media.lifehack.org

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Craig Gauthier

Author, Speaker, Strategic Adviser, Consultant

Chinese New Year Chinese New Year: How To Make This Your Most Successful Year Ever

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

Memory plays an integral role in our lives, both in the short and long term. If you’re wondering how to improve memory, I’m here to tell you that there are natural and effective ways to do so.

Despite what you might think, improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it.

Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve memory efficiently and reduce the risk of memory loss.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts, and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder, then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. Research suggests that the more information and distractions you receive, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory[1].

Fortunately, meditation can help.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which, in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

While any amount of meditation will do something to help your memory, one study pointed out that “8 but not 4 weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores”[2].

Therefore, if you’re looking for the most benefits, try sticking with a meditation practice for at least 8 weeks.

However, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get Plenty of Sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then it’s likely that you’re not able to remember well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities, including your memory.

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If you want to learn how to improve memory, how much sleep should you be getting?

Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation[3], you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things[4].

If you want to improve memory, get plenty of sleep.

    Maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!), but if you care about improving your long and short term memory, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

    Try these three things to naturally improve your sleep cycle:

    • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
    • Don’t eat too late
    • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

    Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

    However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory.

    3. Challenge Your Brain

    When was the last time you challenged your brain?

    I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or under-sleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and memory games.

    To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

    Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-solving ability, and memory.

    There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

    • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

    If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

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    Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it; try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

    4. Take More Breaks

    When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctly remember working all the hours under the sun—and many under the moon, too!

    At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat, and tears.

    However, if you want to know how to improve memory, taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative, and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

    Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

    One 2011 study from the University of Illinois concluded that “the brain is built to detect and respond to change…and prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”[5].

    This is based on something called the “vigilance decrement.” This can be applied to many things. For example, we often don’t notice the feeling of clothing touch our bodies because our brain becomes accustomed to the sensation. However, if you change clothes, you’ll likely notice the difference in texture and temperature for a few minutes.

    When you take a break from memorizing information, it refocuses your attention and energy, leading to increased focus overall.

    It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart, and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

    Basically, make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

    5. Learn a New Skill

    I love this quote, as it’s 100% true but frequently overlooked:

    “Learning never exhausts the mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci

    From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

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    Let me give you an example of this:

    Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day, many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

    Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

    The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you rather than letting you work in your own way.

    Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction into learning a new skill (computer coding).

    It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career, and the ongoing learning made the call center job much more bearable.

    Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus, and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking out new information. When learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly becomes a habit, too.

    If you want to know how to learn something new every day, check out this article.

    6. Start Working out

    If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

    Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory[6].

    Regular physical activities increase blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. A well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

    Even if you don’t have much time, research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines[7].

    Interested in getting started?

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    Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

    • Join a gym
    • Join a sports team
    • Buy a bike
    • Take up hiking
    • Dance to your favorite music

    7. Eat Healthier Foods

    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

    This applies to your brain, too.

    The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health, as well.

    Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery, and dark chocolate. But any fruits, vegetables, or foods high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory. Here’re some ideas: 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

    Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain, leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

    If you want to improve your mental health, eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

    • Turmeric – Helps new brain cells grown
    • Broccoli – Protects the brain against damage
    • Nuts – Improves memory
    • Green tea – Enhances brain performance, memory and focus[8]
    • Fish oilFish oil supplements can increase your brain power

    Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

    Also, remember that your brain is about 75% water, so dehydration can have a huge effect on the way your brain functions. Stay hydrated if you really want to improve memory!

    Final Thoughts

    I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be helpful for you.

    You don’t need to implement them all, but you can try out the ones that appeal to you.

    But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory and avoiding cognitive decline, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested.

    More on How to Improve Memory

    Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

    Reference

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