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How to Un-Clutter Your Mind and Stay Focused on Life Essentials

How to Un-Clutter Your Mind and Stay Focused on Life Essentials

After my graduation, I decided to not to pursue my Master’s degree: I wanted to start a business right away. I was pretty sure that 2 years of MBA studies might not be the right choice if I could already start creating and getting experience from tiny businesses, which could save me from my hatred of predefined learning systems that would produce just one more industry laborer .

Everything comes with a price however, and starting a business without much experience and without a circle or sequential learning that could take it further is risky.

You know it’s risky, but you might not be aware of just how risky it is. That’s when your mind begins to guide your thoughts. Of course, this article isn’t about business itself, but the correlations between business and instances in which you try to do, and be, something different from the norm, strongly relate together.

When you strive to be different, your thoughts are trying to find a way to feel different, safe, and yet totally relevant.

What clutters your thought process anyway?

Our mind is programmed to survive and generate. We are not really adventurous by nature unless adventure tucks itself into our lives—we’re happy if life passes happily, but there’s this contradiction: When you’re in the generation phase of your life, where you have high levels of creativity, you also have high levels of hormones running through your body, telling you to do something different; something that makes you stand out, stand tall.

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When you’re in the survival phase of your life, you are continuously working towards survival—you just want to do what’s necessary and nothing more. A new-born child is in the survival mode, just like a senior citizen is.

Problems arise when your mind is torn between the two, mixing one priority with another. That’s what happens with young adults, who want to do something great in life, but simultaneously, the world around them is trying to teach them survival.

For a moment, the world around them might advise (or even force) them to shut off their creativity and work towards survival, if not greatness.

Is your life suffering because of your ghost thoughts?

When that kind of confusion happens, there are five ghosts that disturb your thought process. When you’re on the path of self-discovery, these mental situations emerge:

1. Resentment: Nothing seems perfect. People are not the way you want them to be, situations are totally opposite and your mind is guiding you the other way out. It even encourages you to quit and lead a punished life.

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2. Jealousy: Jealousy and Guilt often go together. You want to be something but you don’t want others to be what you’re not!

3. Guilt: You see people around you getting ahead in life, but you still feel that you’re going nowhere. It literally pushes your thoughts fast forward and makes you think about what isn’t going to be okay and how everyone else is doing fine.

4. Depression: When you aren’t allowed to do what you want to do, or can do, this ghost strikes.

5. Fear: Society wants you to be different. It appreciates differences, but the very reason it does that is because people surround themselves with cultural and social bonds that help people survive.

Fear discourages you, makes you feel incompetent, makes you notice all you lack. It disturbs your simplified thinking making it more diverse and logical. You can’t ignore these “ghosts: they make you anxious and overwhelmed, but you have to face them anyway. Every level of success demands a certain amount of work, and demands that you be willing enough to ignore these 5 ghosts of fear. Are you ready to pay for what it has to offer?

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After graduation, I began to study social psychology. These ghost thoughts kept appearing time to time, but, every day, I would start anew, and somehow survived them. Somehow, I’ve learned to ignore them. I learned to ignore the very reasons I should quit and go back, and thankfully, I’m not the only one who did this! There are hundreds more and many more to come!

How to ignore these 5 ghosts thoughts and stay focused

Be passionate. It sounds simple, but really that’s all there is to it: be obsessed. There’s nothing more.

I can’t tell you what to be passionate about, but I’m sure there is one thing you can’t resist doing, no matter what the cost of doing it may be. You’ve to experiment: via trial and error, you’ll find the activity you most enjoy doing. One way to determine where your passion lies is by procrastinating, of all things.

Suggesting that you procrastinate might seem like pretty dumb advice to give someone who’s already in chaos, but even in the mists of the worst procrastination, you’re doing something—when you are procrastinating, be aware that your passion is silently guiding your actions: the things you do when you procrastinate are probably the things you should be doing for the rest of your life. This isn’t necessarily because you’re passionate about it, but because your mind virtually ignores the ghost thoughts when you’re immersed in what you’re doing.

What you should learn from these ghost thoughts?

Ghost thoughts are simply a mode of survival psychology that’s created at the back of your brain. These thoughts pop up in an attempt to keep you safe, and  to keep you from taking on that adventure. If you give in to them, you’ll have to wait a long long time before you get anywhere in life.

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After graduation, I started giving interviews, and applied Ramit Sethi’s Briefcase Technique (Similar to Nap Hill’s technique on getting the perfect job you want, as described in Think and Grow Rich). I appeared in about 57 interviews over next 3 years, and my love for social psychology pushed me to cross the limits and figure out a technique that you can use whenever these brutal ghost thoughts appear.

I call it ” The Thought Stream Method“.

“The Thought Stream Method”

Here’s how you do it: keep a diary in which you can write down your day-to-day activities, and try to make a habit of doing so every evening, before you go to bed. Make two columns. Contemplate what you’ve been thinking all day, and then list your everyday thoughts in the left-hand column, and what you really need to focus on in the right column.

Here, you are actually streaming your thoughts out of your mind as you write and creating new, positive streams of incoming thoughts through subconscious notifications. With less than 5 minutes of work every evening, you’ll get up fresh and focused every morning. This technique may seem far too simple, but it does require quite a bit of daily work. Usually, it takes around a week or two to settle your mental disputes.

Ultimately, the best way to un-clutter your mind is to be utterly passionate about your goal. I could teach you a hundred techniques to help you focus, but if you are not passionate enough about a goal, you’ll lose track easily.

Featured photo credit:  Swallow in front of the sun via Shutterstock

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7 Simple Steps to Build a Successful Mindset How to Un-Clutter Your Mind and Stay Focused on Life Essentials How to Cultivate Willpower? 4 Simple Ways to stimulate your abilities to achieve your goals. How to Revamp your Life and Stop Procrastinating in Two Months

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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