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5 Ways to Build Your Boldness

5 Ways to Build Your Boldness

We all want to live bolder lives. This doesn’t mean being brash or obnoxious.

I define boldness as doing the right thing for your life, despite the fears and discomforts that are part of the process of changing and growing.

Some people have a bucket list; I have a discomfort list. I have been on a five-year journey to dismantle my comfort addictions, systematically defining what actions I do and don’t do in order to avoid feelings and experiences that are uncomfortable to me. In the process, I have overcome countless personal and professional obstacles, freeing me up in ways I could have never imagined!

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I am a typical human being, made up of the same stuff as everyone else. But when a normal person faces the truth of their comfort addictions, it’s amazing what that an altogether normal person can accomplish! Here is a list of some of the things I have achieved as a result of embracing discomfort in my own life. (And funny enough, several of these items are, in fact, bucket list items for me. See what I did there?!)

  • I have written two books, the latest of which was published by McGraw-Hill.
  • I lost 25 pounds.
  • I learned to dance the East Coast Swing and am now working on the rhumba.
  • I started taking jazz piano lessons and recorded a solo piano CD as a Christmas gift for my clients.
  • I have traveled to Germany, France, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Italy and throughout North America.
  • I threw out the first pitch at a San Diego Padres game.
  • I grew my business revenue by 300%.
  • To top it all off, I am currently enrolled in a “learn to play ice hockey” class. This dream/discomfort was especially difficult to embrace since I did not know how to even skate when I started! Not knowing how to skate when one is age 5 is one kind of discomfort. At my age, it is something else entirely.

Bottom line: I am having the time of my life because I embrace discomfort! Here’s how I’ve done it and how you can too.

1. Find a Victory

Start small. Boldness is like a muscle that needs to be developed a little at a time.

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Find some small discomfort you can overcome right now. (Ex: sending an email, making a phone call, filling out a form…choose a small, doable task.) Do this one small thing and then celebrate the intentionality of your achievement. And just like that: you’ve started embracing discomfort! Way to go!

2. Make a Discomfort List

Start by being honest about what holds you back. What have you not accomplished because it’s just uncomfortable? What task or conversation makes you cringe when you think about it? What goal has been haunting you for years? What do you regularly procrastinate on because it’s not fun? It is important to identify these opportunities by writing them all down, big or small. Make a list. It won’t be pretty, but it’s necessary. Just get it all out.

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3. Prioritize Your Discomfort Targets

Choose the most minuscule discomfort from your list and move it to the very top.

Build from there, ordering the list from the merely pesky discomforts to the epic ones. You don’t want to start with “repair the disrupted relationship with my father.”

The items at the beginning of your list should be more along the lines of “thin out the junk drawer in the kitchen.”

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4. Make a Decision BEFORE the Discomfort

The process of embracing discomfort doesn’t start with external actions. It starts with the internal work of rearranging your brain and making a decision. So before you start on even the easiest task on your list, the most important thing to do is to make sure that your mind is right. Do this by deciding RIGHT NOW to tackle that first discomfort at a designated time. If you wait until the moment you are faced with a discomfort (you go to open the junk drawer and it’s so crammed full you can’t even get it all the way open) your mind will give you a thousand reasons why you should not tackle that task right then. So, schedule the time to act on a small discomfort right this minute and resolve in your mind to do so! In addition to the decision to act at a specific time, also decide what your positive mindset will look and feel like when that time comes. As is your brain, so will be your actions.

5. Celebrate the Successes!

As you build your boldness muscle a little at a time, stop to appreciate any and all progress along the way. You’ll find that every success propels you to your next success, especially if you take the time to recognize your progress and celebrate it.

Humans are complex beings…and we’re also not. A little recognition and celebration goes a long way in inspiring us to keep on keeping on. If you give yourself kudos for success (even small success) you’ll find yourself actually wanting to embrace the next discomfort. It’s just how we’re made!

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Embracing discomforts in your life in order to be bold is crucial to professional success and a life well-lived. In the wise words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Life is either going to live you or you are going to live it. Stop and look around at your own life, choose boldness, and don’t miss it.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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