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Forget Resolutions: If You Only Do One Thing to Get Ready for 2014, Do This!

Forget Resolutions: If You Only Do One Thing to Get Ready for 2014, Do This!
Many people, stuffed full of Christmas goose, spend the last week of the year mulling and ruminating over what worked and what didn’t and how they hope the next year will be better.

The problem is, without the right structure, there will be too many loose-ends, and too much unfinished business. Without new goals, and new ways of tackling them, 2014 will almost certainly be a Groundhog Day version of 2013.

Making resolutions without a good structure for reflecting on the previous year is like putting icing on a mud pie.  Sure, the resolutions look good, but the foundation is still muddy.

I’ve been using 12-day process with CEOs, celebs, and entrepreneurs for two decades called ‘Reboot Your Life.’  It takes just a 20-30 minutes each day and structures your reflections, ruminations and goal setting so that the past is in the past, and the goals, dreams, and vision for the coming year are do-able.   

“Reboot” is just twelve 30-minute sessions and adds up to less than a day.  Investing a day to make the next 364 outstanding seems to me a no-brainer.

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Nevertheless, people are people, holidays are holidays, and people want to chill.  I’m often asked if there’s a “light’ version?” (Why would you want a “light version” of something as important as this? Go figure.)

But here it is.  If you do no other “work” on 2014 this holiday period, do this:

Step 1: Create a list of areas of your life that you care about.

In one sense, you are “just” going to make a list, but there is a huge trap here: making this list is not a descriptive process, but rather a creative one. What do I mean?

You already have five or six things you care about: a job, friends, and maybe children, hobbies, and school. There is some value in listing those and setting goals, but the gold is to be found by looking more deeply. By creating a new category, you declare that you are going to pay attention to that category in a new way.

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Some examples are:

1)      You may not have a category called health or finance, but there are minimum levels of attention needed to live well (and long), and very high levels of excellence are possible in such categories.

2)      You may have other neglected areas. I sometimes find very successful people who neglect (not willfully) friendships or extended family due to their high-demand schedule.

3)      Adding an area can enrich your life. Perhaps ‘culture’ (maybe Bieber, maybe WWF, maybe Wagner,  or crafts fairs/ museums). Perhaps ‘being of service,’ or ‘learning something just for the sake of learning it’, or picking up a new hobby (or reconnecting with an old one).

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4)      There might be “stuff you just do” where you would be inspired by a new level of achievement or focus. Play golf? Take five shots off your game. Kids like sports or music? Find them the best instruction you can. Married? Make “Spouse” a category and make that category inspirational (to them). Enriching an area might be adding an absurdly distant goal (like me doing a 10k when my previous best distance was a 100m.)

5)      You should have at least two work categories: “Career” and “Job.” Career is the management of your long-term productive activities, which will include (at least) skills building, brand building, networking, and having a plan for either your next promotion or retirement. “Job,” meanwhile, is an uninspiring description, so choose another one that is more descriptive. If you are a “portfolio person” (as I am), you may have several. I have “Writer” and “Consultant” categories now.  When I ran a company, I had “Chairman” and “Rainmaker” categories, with different goals in each.

Some areas pretty much everybody has, some are areas people sometimes miss and are deeply enriching, and some can be quite specific to your life.  Here is a table of things to choose from, but make this specific to you!  You should come up with 8-12, some of which you already have.

‘Standard areas’‘Enriching areas’‘Specific areas’
Well-being, healthGiving backDream vacation
FinancesCultural enrichment (could be fine art, could be WWF)Habitat for Humanity service
FamilyCommunity serviceSecond home
EducationPoliticsInternational travel
Primary relationshipChurchSoccer coach
FriendsSpiritualityGolf league
Home (the house or apartment)TravelPTA role
CareerSports
JobHobbies

Step 2: Rate 2013 in each area on a scale of 1 to 10 in the next column of your page

If “10” is deliriously happy and grateful for every second, and “1” is “I would not wish this on my worst enemy” where are you?   Go with your gut, but take off the rose-colored glasses if you wear those, and take of the mud-stained glasses if you wear those. (There are people for whom “okay” actually means “horrible,” and people for whom “horrible” actually means “okay.”)  Get honest with yourself.

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Step 3: In each area, jot down a few words or a sentence that answers the question, “What does a ‘10’ look like?” (This should also take about 15 minutes.)

By doing this, you create a vision for excellence in each area.  This creates a clarity of purpose and a new level of ambition that can make every area of your life extraordinary.

There is more to do.  The “whole enchilada” is eleven more days like this, but this gets you in touch with reality, and gives you a general sense of where you need to go.  Most people who do just this feel a renewed sense of aliveness and passion.

.Productivity tip:  Don’t let this be something you will ‘get to’.  Just reading this will do you no good.  Block off 30 minutes in your calendar to do it this week.

And have a great 2014!!!

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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