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Tired of not taking action? Give your brain a good workout!

Tired of not taking action? Give your brain a good workout!

With all of the excellent tips you can read on the web, I would bet that you could probably write your own blog article on how to get the body, relationship, or career you want.

 Drink lots of water. Praise more, scold less. Visualize. Don’t be afraid to ask. Practice gratitude.

And yet, you may still feel stuck in certain areas of your life. Why? Because you are not taking the actions you know you should take.

Maybe you vow that you will spend 10 minutes each morning meditating. When the time comes to actually sit down and close your eyes, however, you just don’t want to. You find a dozen other things that you just have to get done instead, like check one more email. Sound familiar?

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You can wrestle with “self-discipline” all you like, but the truth is that there are very real mental processes in your brain that keep you from taking action. So today, I am going to delve into (a simplified version of) what these processes are, and how to design more beneficial ones so that you can take action and have the life you want.

On one hand: Your voice of reason

One of the regions of your brain responsible for making rational decisions is the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is like your voice of reason. It is great at understanding the consequences of our actions, like “if I eat this cake tonight, I will feel terrible tomorrow.” If you gave the megaphone to your PFC, you would likely be closer to living your dream life by now.

On the other hand: The fear monger

But not so fast. There is another part of your brain that is the champion of fear and annoyance, called the amygdala. Whenever something comes up that scares or annoys you, the amygdala raises a raucous. It tells you “don’t ask that girl out, she will just reject you!” or “I don’t feel like getting out of bed!” If you gave the megaphone to your amygdala, you likely wouldn’t get as much done, but you sure would stay safe and sound.

Their relationship

The PFC decides when you should listen to the amygdala (“yes, back away from that rattlesnake.”) and when you shouldn’t (“no, get out of bed NOW.”). When it comes to our dreams, a strong PFC “calms down” the amygdala and makes sure that we take the right actions; a weak PFC does not, and the amygdala gets to call more of the shots.

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So the key to taking the right actions is to strengthen your PFC. Pretty simple and cool, huh?

How do you do that? Here are a few ways:

1. Label it.

Acknowledge what the amygdala is saying, like “I feel scared because…” This improves your objectivity about the situation, giving the PFC a helping hand, and it also doesn’t confront the amygdala in a way that will “aggravate” it further.

2. Dismantle fear in steps.

Maybe a certain action, like giving a presentation, scares you tremendously. Instead of jumping into the deep end by volunteering to speak at the next all-division meeting, which would trigger an all-out amygdalar upset, break the journey into steps. Start by speaking up more at group meetings. Then present to a small group. Bite off pieces that keep your amygdalar response small and manageable by the PFC.

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3. Don’t remember.

Stop using your mind to store To Dos, like “get eggs on your way home,” or “remember that tomorrow is Jen’s birthday.” They cloud your thinking, and will deprive your PFC of the energy and focus it needs to properly regulate the amygdala.

4. Exercise.

Yes, that magic cure-all. It’s been shown that attention and self-control increase after strenuous aerobic exercise.

5. Meditate.

Like #3, meditation clears excess chatter from your mind so your PFC can make decisions in peace and quiet. Granted, this is a bit of a Catch-22 if you are having a hard time “making yourself” meditate in the first place. But even a small step here can yield big dividends for your PFC.

If you want to be living your dream life, it’s time to make your PFC work up a sweat and assert its dominance over your amygdala. Just like any other part of our bodies, it really doesn’t have to be any more difficult than, say, working out our leg muscles to become a better runner. You just need to practice it to master it!

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What mental exercises will you take on to strengthen your PFC so that you can take action? Write me a note and share!

Featured photo credit: Brain Machine in Newcastle, Apr-2013/Mitch Altman via flickr.com

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. Many good habits to have will enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and getting ready for work. 

Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without thinking twice. Your unconscious daily habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

  • Habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed.
  • Good habits to have to be more successful, like eating healthy, exercising, and reading books.
  • Habits that are harmful, like procrastinating, smoking, or overeating.

Good habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

While much of the emphasis falls on bad habits to break, it’s just as important to focus on good habits to have and cultivate in your daily routine.

Here, we’ll talk about 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to place yourself in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

2. Be Grateful for What You Have

It’s not uncommon to waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

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Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Try writing a list of things you’re grateful for each day in a gratitude journal, or make it a habit to say one thing you’re grateful for when you sit down to dinner with your family.

3. Smile

Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

Now, here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile, or what’s called a Duchenne smile, is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional, and mental peace of mind.[1]

Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. However, once you adjust yourself by putting on a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

4. Start Your Day With a Healthy Breakfast

Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[2]

If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to “break your fast” with healthy foods every morning.

This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

5. Exercise Daily

One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles on a daily basis. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift tons of weights. You only need to engage in activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body, trying to squeeze in at least 15 minutes every day.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[3] He said:

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“I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.”

He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

6. Manage Your Time

Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way toward impacting your achievement.

Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life[4].

Good habits to have: Time management tips

    So how do you manage your time effectively?

    Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events:

    “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

    And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme layout:[5]

    • Monday – Management
    • Tuesday – Product
    • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
    • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
    • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
    • Saturdays – Taking off
    • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

    No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

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    Check out more time management tips here: 7 Effective Time Management Tips To Maximize Your Productivity

    7. Set Daily Goals With Intentions

    Everyone has goals, whether they relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

    Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on, but when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

    Here’s the main truth: Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

    “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

    8. Seek Inspiration

    It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

    A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning (after meditation), watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

    Establish what Anthony Robbins called the “hour of power.” Determine how many minutes you spend, but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

    Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, puts it this way[7]:

    “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivate me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. Becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

    9. Save Steadily, Invest With All Prudence

    I can’t exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

    However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your funds and be wise with them. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself up for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

    If you’re looking for a simple way to save money, check out the following video:

    10. Budget and Track Your Spending

    Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said:

    “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

    It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

    Budgeting is a good habit to have, and it can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future instead.

    The Bottom Line

    Endeavor to start developing good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you will achieve your goals.

    More About Cultivating Good Habits

    Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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