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Published on April 2, 2020

15 Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn for a Good Mindset

15 Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn for a Good Mindset

Life is filled with lessons. Some of them can be learned through experience. Some of them must be learned the hard way. But many of them can be learned from others. Here’s a great list of life lessons that can help you grow into a better version of yourself, day by day.

1. Live a Life True to Yourself

The single most common thing people regret when they near the end of their lives is this: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

When I look back on my life, I want to look back and be grateful for having honored my dreams. I don’t want to look back on a long list of unfulfilled dreams, thinking about how I should’ve/would’ve/could’ve — but never did.

Most people don’t even honor half their dreams, let alone all of them, and they end up going to their death-bed knowing that it was their own decisions (or indecisions) that determined a destiny bursting at the seams with unfulfilled dreams.

You are the author of your destiny, so write the story you want to live, regardless of how fictional it may or may not sound to someone else. Lead a life that’s true to you. Dream big, and don’t settle for less than you’re capable of.

2. Express Your Emotions

I’m not afraid to let myself cry. You shouldn’t be either. It’s okay to let yourself feel your feelings, rather than pretend like they don’t exist. It’s possible to let life’s moments touch you without allowing them to hurt you.

It’s also important to express your emotions to others rather than suppress them in order to avoid ruffling anyone’s feathers, or to keep them inside for fear of embarrassing yourself.

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3. Better Done Than Perfect

My favorite excuse for my lack of action and initiative used to be perfectionism. I’d puff up my chest and say, “I’m a perfectionist, that’s why I haven’t launched XYZ-thing yet.” But in reality, “I’m a perfectionist” really means “I’m a coward.” Don’t hide behind this cloak of comfort known as perfectionism. Call it what it is: fear. Then, launch and learn. The first iPhone was a touch-screen brick full of glitches. Today, it’s thinner than ever and keeps getting better.

4. Settle for More

The only difference between you and someone you envy is that they decided to settle for more in life than you did.

5. Find Something in Life That Pulls You

You can only “push yourself” for so long before your body, mind, and spirit toss their hands in the air and say, “F-this, I’m out.” When you keep pushing yourself to do something, it feels like something you have to do. But when you’re pulled by something, it feels like something you get to do.

Me? I’m pulled by my obsession with learning about personal development, success, and motivation — and then sharing what I learn to inspire people around the world to live up to their highest potential on a daily basis. This is one of the things in life that juices me up and gives me purpose.

6. Go for Walks

Not as inspiring as the first few, I know. But a brisk morning walk has been one of the most eye-opening habits I’ve ever decided to develop. No joke. Every morning, I go on a 15-20 minute walk outside. For the first half of the walk, I think about what I’m grateful for and envision how I’d like my day to play out. For the second half of the walk, I just walk — and that’s it.

It’s the second half of my morning walk during which I’ve had some of my best ideas and all-out epiphanies of my life. There’s something about being outside in nature — without any specific intentions other than enjoying a nice walk and observing nature’s boundless beauty — that re-energizes me and gets the good vibes flowing. Give it a try.

You can learn more about the benefits of walking in nature from this article.

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7. Happiness Comes From Solving Problems

It’s not the suffering of the problems that leads to happiness. It’s the solving of the suffering. Happiness is also a choice (which we’ll talking about in more detail in the final life lesson). We can choose happiness every day of our lives, rather than imagining that we will eventually, someday, be happy. Stop saying, “Someday I’ll be happy when I can get X or do Y.” Instead, start choosing to be happy right now — on a moment to moment basis — regardless of what’s going on in your life.

8. Develop a Growth Mindset

The essence of this life lesson — developing a growth mindset — for me means this: Hard work trumps talent every day of the week. The growth minded swimmer who works hard, day in and day out, will surmount his naturally talented opponents.

People that constantly complain, blame, and refuse to take responsibility for their lives do not have a growth mindset. Growth-oriented people don’t blame the economy for their lack of wealth; they pick up a book so they can learn how to create their own. Growth oriented people don’t allow their failures to define their identity; they learn from them and come back stronger as a result.

If you want to develop a growth mindset, focus only on that which is within your control. Let go of everything else.

9. Develop Selected Disciplines Into Habits

No list of life lessons would be complete without mentioning words like “discipline” and “habit.” Though seperate in meaning, disciplines and habits ultimately intersect with one another to form the foundation for achievement — regularly working at something until it regularly works for you.

When you discipline yourself, you’re essentially training yourself to act in a specific way. Stay with this long enough and it becomes a habit. In other words, when you see people that seem like they’re super disciplined, what you’re really observing is people who conditioned a handful of habits into their lives.

Bottom line? Success is in actuality a short race — a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over. So here’s the trick if you want to create a habit — you’ll need to use your will-power/discipline juice in the beginning. This is hard. But keep at it.

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According to research, it takes, on average, 66 days to develop a discipline into a habit. This number might vary for you depending on your situation, but remember that it’s not something that you can do overnight. But it is possible. And once you turn a discipline into a habit, you become better at it and it becomes easier to execute.

10. Be “Regular and Orderly”

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

The quote above was written by a French novelist named Gustave Flaubert, and the reason I love it is because it so elegantly (and violently?) explains how putting certain systems in place can free up tons of bandwidth and energy that you can put into doing deep work, or whatever else you care about. Put the important stuff in your life on autopilot so that you don’t have to think about it when it’s time to do them.

For example: there’s no use bantering back and forth with yourself every morning about whether you should get up at 6 am and hit the gym, or whether you should skip your workout and sleep in for an hour. This is wasted energy you could be putting into your most important work. Just decide ahead of time whether you’re going to do it or not — and then do it!

Use the power of habit (see life lesson #9) to get yourself moving in the right direction. Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.

11. Be Present

Presence is power. I’d rather be fully present with my wife (or whoever) for five minutes than be partially present for fifty minutes. Full presence means being fully there, locked-in. Not looking at my phone. Not thinking about what I’m going to say when she’s done talking. Just full, total presence. It’s powerful.

In a similar vein, it’s just as important to be present when we’re with ourselves. Try noticing the things you’re not used to noticing: the way you’re stomach rises when you breathe, how nice it feels when the cool wind touches your cheek, that annoying feeling you get when your foot falls asleep, etc.

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12. Communication Is Your #1 Skill

The ability to clearly communicate your ideas to other people is the most valuable skill you can ever develop. Learn to communicate your ideas orally as well as in written form. Also, learn as many techniques as possible: how to write with brevity (short-form), how to write long-form, how to use gesticulation, articulation, tonality, etc.

13. Combine Short-Term Pessimism + Long-Term Optimism

Becoming a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist means you understand that most of what you try (over the short-term) will not work. But that’s okay, because eventually (over the long-term), you’ll find something that does.

14. Write It Down, Make It Happen

Write down your goals every day. Just take out your journal, and write down what you want. Two big reasons this is helpful:

  1. Awareness: It keeps your mind aware of what you want;
  2. Self-motivation: Writing down your goals everyday helps you hold yourself accountable towards making them happen.

15. Read Every Day

The greatest way to get the greatest ideas is to read, read, read. There’s this great quote that goes like this:

“Books are the hardbound drug of my choice.”

Plus, the only side effect of reading is a positive one — the more you read, the more ideas you get. Read something every day to expand your mind, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. Hopefully these life lessons have inspired you in some way, shape, or form to better yourself because at the end of the day, we’ve all got room for improvement.

Featured photo credit: Elle Cartier via unsplash.com

More by this author

Dean Bokhari

Author, Entrepreneur, Podcast & TV Host

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).

The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.

And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money[1].

And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.

Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.

So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.

Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation

“To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”[2]

Generally speaking, we all need motivation.

An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.

Why? It’s simple.

There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.

If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?

Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.

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The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation[3]. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.

When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.

Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it[4]:

“Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.

If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams

Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:

Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation[5].

One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.

Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point[6].

By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.

Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”[7]

In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.

Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.

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6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation

So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?

There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.

1. Self-Efficacy

The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982[8]. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do[9].

Find intrinsic motivation with self-efficacy.

    It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills[10].

    Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.

    You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

    2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose

    Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you. What is intrinsically rewarding for you? 

    And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”

    Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:

    “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”

    Inspirational, isn’t it?

    Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.

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    3. Volunteer

    Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism[11].

    When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.

    4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something

    A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it[12]. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.

    But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.

    Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.

    For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.

    Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.

    5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)

    The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci[13]. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation[14]. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

    There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).

    If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.

    All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .

    6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason

    Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically[15].

    The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.

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    A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.

    The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for.

    And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.

    Final Thoughts

    Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:[16]

    “If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”

    Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.

    Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.

    In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.

    And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?

    Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.

    More Tips to Boost Motivation

    Featured photo credit: Juan Ramos via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research
    [2] Contemporary Educational Psychology: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
    [3] Scientific American: The Science of Lasting Happiness
    [4] The Guardian: Is the secret of productivity really just doing what you enjoy?
    [5] European Journal of Business and Management: Impact of Employee Motivation on Employee Performance
    [6] Adam Grant : Impact and the Art of Motivation Maintenance: The Effects of Contact With Beneficiaries on Persistence Behavior
    [7] Grand Valley State University: The Effect of Rewards and Motivation on Student Achievement
    [8] Encyclopedia Britannica: Albert Bandura
    [9] Pinterest: Self-Efficacy Theory
    [10] Educational Psychologist: Goal Setting and Self-Efficacy During Self-Regulated Learning
    [11] University of Minnesota: The Motivations to Volunteer: Theoretical and Practical Considerations
    [12] Harvard Business Review: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To
    [13] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
    [14] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being
    [15] Nick Tasler: How some people stay motivated and energized at work—even when they don’t love their jobs
    [16] Harvard Business Review: One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?

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