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Last Updated on August 27, 2019

20 Ways to Strive for Excellence in Life

20 Ways to Strive for Excellence in Life

Most of us are trying hard to juggle it all in life: career, work, family, and self-care. We believe that in order to be our best selves, we should “get the most out of it”, and be on the ball in all fields of our lives.

Although this article deals with excellence, you might be surprised that I am not urging you to be at the top of the game in every single aspect of life. Instead, I would like to invite you to excel in those fields where you really can make a difference, so that when you move on, you shall have left behind a better world for those who follow.

This is an invitation to find your voice and leave a mark in the world; an invitation to surpass the average and aim for higher levels of excellence; an invitation to tap into your talents more deeply than before and turn yourself into a radiating powerhouse. It is time to live your purpose in life and share your unique, beautiful gifts with all other beings.

In essence, excellence is the very opposite of perfectionism. Perfectionism is losing your true self in the demands of society, and trying to emulate a person who is not you and whom you can never become. Excellence, on the other hand, is becoming the center of your own universe, and from that grounded, centered position, shining your light into the world by using your unique talents.

Living a life of excellence takes effort, but at the same time is rewarding and gives you energy so that you can keep up your work. Here are 20 ideas that you can implement to strive for excellence:

1. Identify Your Values

To make the right choices in your life, you need to know what truly matters to you.

Keep a list of your core values, and write your observations on how you and others live according to these values as well. Revisit your list often to focus your energy on what you value most in life.

2. Stand up for a Cause

Sometimes we’ll hear something in the news that seems to pull a string deep inside of us—we feel that the cause at hand is truly worth to fight for.

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Express your opinion, and become active. Whether it is protecting animal rights, fighting street harassment, or ending the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, find what truly makes you tick and throw your weight into the battle.

3. Truly Listen

Connect to others by listening to their story. Hold your advice and similar experiences, and go deeper into the experience the other person is telling you, sensing his/her emotions and reactions. In this way, you will learn more about other people; about their needs and values.

This guide can help you become a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

4. Feel Your Emotions

Stop muffling your emotions underneath a big blanket and putting your fake-happy-neutral face all the time. Learn from children, who are sad, happy, excited and tired over the course of less than an hour. This is Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them).

Feel what truly goes on within yourself, and simply accept it.

5. Be a Cycle

Ebbing and flowing, turning in cycles and circles—that is the rhythm of both our planet and our lives.

Society, however, seems to think that life is a ladder that we need to climb, step by step. Instead of trying to go up, up, up all the time, learn to live with the cycles of the moon and the seasons, and feel the waxing and waning energies in yourself.

6. Meditate

Meditation is the single most powerful personal development tool out there, so practice it daily. Cling to your meditation practice when times get busy and the going gets tough: those are the moments when you need it the most.

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If you’re new to meditation, take a look at this article: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

7. Journal

Journaling improves your mood and your productivity. Here’s how: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)

So let your thoughts out on a sheet of paper or your screen, and use your journal as a place to reflect on your day, your progress in life and all observations from the day that might need to leave your mind so that you can relax.

8. Define Your Limiting Beliefs

What is holding you back? What cultural conditioning is keeping you from stepping out from the crowd? Do you think you can’t do it because you’re too old, because you haven’t gone to college or because you are a woman?

Define your limiting beliefs, and then release them into the wide open: How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs That Hold You Back from Success

9. Practice Gratitude

Learn to be grateful for all positive experiences that come across your path on a given day. Keep a list of 10 things that you are grateful for, every day. When dark days are upon you, be grateful for your health, for life, for your pet… anything that can give you a little spark.

If you need a little reminder about what to be grateful for, here it is: 32 Things You Should Be Grateful For

10. Smile

Light up your face and the heart of another person with a smile. There’re many benefits of smiling. Sadly enough, smiles nowadays can be misinterpreted as an attempt to seduce someone, an expression of naivety, or even dumbness.

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Put smiling back where it deserves to be: an expression of joy and positive feelings and a way to connect with other humans.

11. Show Compassion

Stop judging others when they make mistakes or hurt you. Instead, try to put yourself in their shoes, and think: “There I go, being rude/inattentive/etc.”. By thinking along these lines, you understand how all human beings are similar; how we all have are flaws and bad moments that can be forgiven.

12. Learn from Your Dreams

First, learn how to remember your dreams. Write down your dreams too: How Keeping a Dream Journal Can Change Your Mindset

Then, start to analyze the symbols that occur in your dreams and explore your subconsciousness. I don’t believe in the lists of dream symbols that you can find online—I think that every person’s subconsciousness makes different connections between our experiences, and thus brings forth these symbols from a different background in each individual.

13. Teach

Use your unique gift to teach others. Spend time with people who try to learn your language, share a craft that you master, organize a workshop about a new software package at work or volunteer at a local school—the options for teaching are as abundant as the diversity of talents among us all.

14. Face Your Demons

What happened in your past that left a rotten piece in your heart? When you feel like the time is ready, fasten your seat belt and face your demons. Only when you can address the darker parts of yourself can heal your past and move more freely into your future.

15. Take up a Difficult Task

Step forward when a difficult task is handed out. Lean into the opportunity, choose the spotlight, be realistic, and discuss with your mentor or coach what you are about to take on. Ask others for advice and help, and don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake.

Still not sure if you should take up a difficult task? Take a look at this article: Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

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16. Celebrate Your Body

Your body is beautiful, regardless of your size, shape, and medical condition. Celebrate your body by giving it wholesome foods, time to exercise (just like caring for your dog means letting him out for a walk), and additional care, such as massages and sauna visits.

17. Honor Your Intellect

Find the boundaries of your understanding, and explore from there. Take up an online course, join a conversation group, solve difficult puzzles—anything that gets your mental machinery going and feels like a challenge is a good way to honor your brain.

Also try these 15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain.

18. Forgive

Forget past transgressions and forgive yourself, your loved ones, and everyone else. A very powerful way of letting go of grudges and negative feelings is to practice meditation on forgiveness and loving-kindness.

Here’re also some tips to help you learn to forgive: How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide)

19. Focus on Being, Not on Having

Consumerism is the blood of our economy, but with scarcer resources, the time has come to define ourselves based on who we are instead of what we have.

20. Ask Yourself Every Day: “Did I Give the Very Best of Myself to the World?”

Stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself: “Did I give the very best of myself to the world today?”

If the answer is “yes”, explore what motivated you and how you feel at the end of the day. If the answer is “no”, don’t beat yourself up, but reflect on what happened today that took you out of your balance.

More About Living Your Best Life

Featured photo credit: Azrul Aziz via unsplash.com

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Eva Lantsoght

Eva is a university professor and a professional structural engineer. She writes about achieving excellence and success in life on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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