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How to Create a Non-Optional Mindset

How to Create a Non-Optional Mindset

    Towel throwers and ball droppers

    People often ask me why it is that they seem to have so much trouble sticking with their commitment to changing certain behaviours and habits; doing what they need to do to create the results they want for their life. Even though they desperately want to change something about their existence, it seems that invariably there comes a time when they simply stop whatever it was that they started. They drop the ball. Throw in the towel. Put the cue in the rack.

    Start-stop-aholics

    Why we do that is a very relevant question for most people because the vast majority of us have a history of starting and stopping certain behaviours. Time and time again. Things that we should do consistently, but for some reason, we don’t. In reality, most of us know what we need to do. And for a while, we do it. Then we stop. Again. And then we start. And stop again. I’ve said repeatedly in my workshops, we’re champs at almost doing stuff. Masters of incompletion. We have enough reasons to do it, we have the time to do it (despite what we tell others) and we certainly have the potential to create amazing results, but for some reason we seem to be start-stop-aholics.

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    A few (seemingly irrelevant) questions:

    Q. Why do you take a shower each and every day? (please tell me you shower every day!)

    A. Because programmed into your ‘how-to-live-your-life’ hard-drive is a command that says you must wash every day. For you, it’s not an optional behaviour, it’s part of your normal running pattern. As a result, you have no motivational problems and no discipline issues when it comes to your personal hygiene (I hope). It’s just a thing you do on auto-pilot. The thought of not washing doesn’t occur to you because cleanliness is one of your non-negotiable habits.

    Q. Why do parents change those stinky nappies (diapers) with no hesitation and no motivational problems? Surely that’s gotta be one of the least enjoyable and desirable tasks?

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    A. Because there is nothing in their child-raising ‘program’ (the one running in their head) that tells them that wiping their kid’s butt is optional. It’s simply something which needs to be done. They don’t give themselves the option of not doing it. Again, another non-negotiable in their daily routine.

    Q. Why does the mother run into the burning building with no hesitation to save her child?

    A. Because in her mind there is no other option. No-brainer.

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    Q. Why do so many of us who want to get in shape (whatever that means for us individually) fail to do so, even though we know exactly what to do, and why we should do it?

    A. Because we haven’t made the relevant body-changing habits non-negotiables in our life. On some level we still consider optimal eating and consistent exercise to be optional. Of course we do, otherwise we’d never have the start-stop problem.

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      Too many of us are out of shape (physically, emotionally, financially, professionally) because we haven’t made certain behaviours and habits non-negotiables in our life. You know the ones I mean. Somewhere in that lump on top of your shoulders you still consider some things to be optional, that’s why you continue to go around in circles in certain areas of your life.

      You may not even be aware of your ‘optional mindset’ but if you have a history of almost getting things done, then I’m talking to you. Do you like ending up in the same place all the time? Didn’t think so. Until you and I make those occasional behaviours, non-negotiable habits we won’t see forever results and we won’t see genuine change.

      You know what to do.

      More by this author

      Craig Harper

      Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

      The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

      The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

      Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

      your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

        Why You Need a Vision

        Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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        How to Create Your Life Vision

        Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

        What Do You Want?

        The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

        It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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        Some tips to guide you:

        • Remember to ask why you want certain things
        • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
        • Give yourself permission to dream.
        • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
        • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

        Some questions to start your exploration:

        • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
        • What would you like to have more of in your life?
        • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
        • What are your secret passions and dreams?
        • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
        • What do you want your relationships to be like?
        • What qualities would you like to develop?
        • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
        • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
        • What would you most like to accomplish?
        • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

        It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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        What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

        Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

        A few prompts to get you started:

        • What will you have accomplished already?
        • How will you feel about yourself?
        • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
        • What does your ideal day look like?
        • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
        • What would you be doing?
        • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
        • How are you dressed?
        • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
        • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
        • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

        It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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        Plan Backwards

        It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

        • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
        • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
        • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
        • What important actions would you have had to take?
        • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
        • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
        • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
        • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
        • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

        Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

        It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

        Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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