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Lifehack.org Readers Respond: What’s Your Inspiration

Lifehack.org Readers Respond: What’s Your Inspiration
What Inspires You?

Last week, I asked lifehack.org readers:

Lots of people are starting to think about the New Year and what they’d like to accomplish. What they could use is a bit of inspiration, so what that in mind: What inspires you?

As always, your answers were insightful and thought-provoking, and pushed a little bit beyond what I had thought I was asking — forcing me to rethink my own answer.

When I wrote the question, I intended to reply by describing some of the everyday things that spur new ideas for me. For instance, I read a lot of blogs,magazines, and books about writing, and while I rarely find any advice I can use directly, what I get out of them is the energy and drive to sit down and write. I suppose they make me feel like a writer, which in turn makes me act like a writer, by writing.

Some of you shared this source of inspiration, or something much like it. Ryan, for isntance, wrote:

My source of inspiration comes from creating a positive environment around myself by frequently reading books on topics like business success, wealth creation, inspiration, self improvement, browsing sites like lifehack.org, putting up inspirational posters around the house and office, and listening to motivational podcasts! I believe that surrounding myself with such materials keeps me motivated and inspired to achieve my goals!

Chris also found inspiration in books, particularly Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick (which I am also a big fan of):

This book explores why some ideas we remember and other ones we forget and then tries to teach how to communicate more effectively so that what we say sticks.

I am trying to figure out how to apply it to the group I manage at work, in my podcast, in my blogs, etc.

A couple of readers found their inspiration in the words of the greats. Gadget Badger says:

Especially those I admire the most, like Gandhi (”you must be the change you wish to see in the world”), and B Franklin(”Observe all men; thy self most”).

Andrew’s even put up a page full of motivational quotes.

A few of you looked into the question al little deeper and pulled out a human element I wasn’t thinking of when I wrote it. For example, Salawi says “What inspires me are the real success stories that I hear every day.” Pelf, too, wrote of being inspired by others’ successes:

I am a grad student, and whenever I spend time getting to know a lecturer or a Professor, I am inspired by their success stories, and I tell myself that I want to be like them one day.

This reminds me of something my father used to say to me (and that I used to blow off, which is maybe why he stopped saying it…). He’d tell me that to be successful, the most important thing is to surround yourself with successful people. I’m pretty sure he meant that the best thing to do is to learn from people who are already successful, but now I think there’s something else: the success others enjoy motivates and inspires us — especially when we see how very little divides us in all out humble humanity from the successful people, in all their humble humanity.

Rebecca finds her inspiration not from others’ successes but from setting up her own, using the idea of SMART goals (see the first tip):

My resolutions are based on a measurable, achievable and near-term (6 months in this case) goal that is a step on the path to something larger.

I used to make resolutions about losing weight or getting in shape, but frankly they would fall apart every year. This year my resolutions are in support of a bigger goal, but broken down into reasonable chunks that let me see clearly what I am working toward and what the world will be like when I get there.

But what really got me were the people who reached deep inside and found their inspiration in the goals and purpose that shape their lives. For example, Steve Nguyen finds inspiration in helping others, and in doing it well enough to build his career and life around:

My inspiration is my desire to want to help people become better in their lives and in their jobs, in particular, those in the academic fields (e.g., teachers/professors). My inspiration also comes from my pursuit of the freedom to one day be my own boss – to be able to run my very own consulting business.

What gets me up everyday is loving my job and loving the idea that I get paid to work to help others & to help guide them through the challenges in life. That, for me, is so satisfying on so many levels.

That’s a quote I’d hang on my wall!

And Phil describes a process of self-examination similar to one I worked through myself this year (and that ultimately led me to start writing for lifehack.org):

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I had a bit of a career setback earlier this year and spent some time over summer thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life. I drew up a list of the things I most enjoyed doing at work, and those I least enjoyed. Then I decided to try to earn my living from doing those I most enjoy, whilst either eliminating or better managing those on the other list.

For me, writing came out top, closely followed by education and coaching. The upshot was that I’ve started work on co-authoring a website dealing with happiness in the workplace.

Inspired by Steve and Phil, I want to talk reconsider my own answer. For me, inspiration comes from the lives I touch — and hopefully help to make a little bit better. As a teacher, it comes from the students who look to me for answers — whether to academic questions or just the questions young people have about life. As a step-parent, it comes from the children who look to me for guidance, acceptance, and love. As a writer, both here and in my academic work, it comes from the readers who find a way to deal with a problem. As a partner, it comes from the woman whose life I share. It’s not so much that these people count on me, but that they have, for a variety of reasons, chosen to involve me in their lives, and to work with me in creating our shared humanity.

And that’s pretty inspiring.

So inspiring, in fact, that I’m going to do a favor for Kevin, the commenter who said he found his inspiration in proof-reading, pointing out a spelling error in the question as it was first published. For his inspiration, I’ve corrected that error in this post — but purposely left a new spelling error!

Hope it helps!

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How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

His motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • He riles up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

Becoming the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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