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The Promises We Make to Ourselves

The Promises We Make to Ourselves


    Each day offers us a new promise.  A new beginning. A chance to do better and be a better person at home, work, and everything else in between. We set goals for ourselves to accomplish.  It starts off good.

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    But then the kids wake up, the phone rings, the emails come through, Facebook and Twitter messages come in, a conference call occurs, lunch happens, client meetings, and then next thing you know, it’s dinner time. Time to relax. Sip a good cup of tea, a cup of coffee, wine (or whatever your choice might be), and then bedtime.  We then lay our head down on our pillow, look up in the dark room and think to ourselves:

    “What did we really accomplish today? What happened to our promises to ourselves? Sure, we were busy, but did we get the right things done?  Did we forget or just talk ourselves out of our vision to do better today because we were too busy?”

    In this post, I’ll share with you three ways to change this routine.

    Write it down

    Keeping yourself accountable is one of the best ways to see measurable results.  Think of one to three things you want to do differently and write them down.  This is the “what”.  It could be anything at all, like I want to run a 5k, I want to learn how make sushi, I want to become a better public speaker, etc. From there, write down why this goal is important to you. It might seem foreign or bizarre, but it will feel good after you do it. Next, write down where you need to be in order to accomplish those things you wrote down (i.e., the gym, a community college course, at home, etc). Then, write down when you believe you can accomplish these things and jot down key milestones you want to accomplish along the way (i.e., rewarding yourself for finishing week 4 of an 8 week running course).  Be honest with yourself in your time commitments. Finally, and most importantly, write down how you are going to feel when you finish.  How will your spouse feel?  How will a business partner feel?  Knowing how you’ll feel is almost more important than knowing what you want to do because it enables you to clearly define the outcome.

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    Check it off

    Create a chart.  Nothing fancy.  In fact, make one that you can physically check off.  It will feel better!  On this chart, you’ll check off every day that you plan to accomplish this task.  For instance, if I promise myself I will run three times a week so that I can run a 5k, I will check off each time I do it.  When I get to week 4, I’ll have a place that shows I’ve accomplished a key milestone.  All too often we get caught up in “which app should I use” but I assure you, simple pen and paper will win here – and if you put it in a place that you will always see, it will help keep yourself accountable.

    Review what you’ve accomplished

    Each week, review the checkmarks on the chart.  Did you accomplish what you set out to do for that week?  What few things went right for you?  What challenges did you have?  What could have gone better or differently? What did you learn about yourself during this process?  Writing a log at the end of each week helps you to “think out loud” about the things that will help you.  When you successfully complete those one to three things (because you can!), reward yourself.  You’ve honored your commitments.  Write down how it feels and then compare that to what you wrote down in the beginning.  Do you feel the same? Better? Different?  How has your life changed, if any, as a result?

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    If you follow these three steps, each day won’t just be a chance to do better or become better … you will be better as a result! You will be able to go through the course of your day more confident, and when you rest your head on your pillow and look up in the dark room and think to yourself about what you accomplished during the day, you can smile and sleep better!

    (Photo credit: Child with Raised hand Making a Promise via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on August 21, 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. Hello promotion, here I come!
    • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. No, thanks Alzheimer’s; you and I are just not a good fit.

    So how to train your brain to learn faster and remember more?

    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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.

    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.

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    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!

    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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