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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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Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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