A simple smile can change the world.

Have you ever had a stranger compliment you as they passed by? Or someone you barely know appreciate that you’ve done something well? How about a genuine smile, or a, “Good morning,” from an unfamiliar person?

It makes us feel good, shifts us out of our thinking patterns, and can set us up for a good day.

Now consider how many times we’ve done it for others, we can all spread more kindness in this manner.

Some people are harder to connect with than others. Maybe we have set patterns that we can break, for instance, we never say, “Hello” to a security guard we see regularly at work and think it would be odd to start. Or we think it would be strange to compliment a taxi driver on his driving, because that’s just not what’s done. Or how about a conversation with the outcast parent at your daughter’s ballet class who always sits by herself?

We don’t know what others are going through and what state of mind they are challenged with. A simple smile, or a few nice words can sometimes snap someone out of their negative thoughts and into a better place.

It can be like, The Butterfly Effect where one small kindness can lead to better thoughts, which can lead to better actions, and then better habits, and a better life.

Or maybe our smile goes to a “pay it forward” type of person. If the cab driver we complimented gets a lift in his mood, he might next pick up a school teacher and share a kind word. The school teacher may then be extra encouraging to her students, who then go home and have a good evening with their families.

People do bad things when they are feeling bad, and we can deter them by making them feel good. A simple smile is a small gesture that can have an incredible impact.

Take action: “Hugging is fully returnable.” It’s more than just a cute saying, a good hug can have massive benefits for people. It can relieve stress, give us security, build trust between the huggers, and increase our human connections. Become a good hugger by thinking of the benefits you’re giving the hugged.

:: Inspired by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen’s book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit.

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The 4% rule for our retirement number.

Many people avoid finding their retirement number because it seems too complex. But, it can actually be easy to get a rough idea of the amount we want to have saved before retiring. The 4% rule works for most people, most of the time. If we use this simple math as a base, we can then adapt it to our own circumstances, such as using a 3% rule if we want a higher level of security.

Start here: Based on your current annual budget and lifestyle, what amount could you happily live on for income post-retirement, in today’s dollars? Remember your post-retirement spending will likely be less than what you spend in your working years. You should have debts, including your mortgage, paid off by then. Children should be independent. You’ll no longer be saving for retirement, and you may have figured out how to have a fulfilling life with fewer expenses. Plus, at a certain age government benefits will kick in; find out how much you can expect and subtract that from your future annual income.  

Got a rough idea? To figure out what you should have invested, multiply your future income by 25. Let’s use $50,000/year as an example. Multiply that by 25 and the amount to save is $1,250,000.

Here’s how the 4% math works: If your average investment return is 6%, and you minus 2% for inflation, that leaves 4% to withdraw annually, without touching your principle. Of course, these numbers are only rough estimates, but it will give you a goal to work towards. We multiplied by 25 because that’s the mathematical number that matches 4%. If you want to base your plans on a more secure 3% rule, then multiply by 33.3.

Take action: If your number feels daunting, remember you can brainstorm to figure out how to get on track. Don’t forget the magic of compound interest, if you start saving now. Or, you could live in a less expensive city. You can’t count on surprises, but it’s possible an inheritance may be in your future. If you’re in good health, semi-retirement is a great option that can be enjoyable and contributory. Or, you can build a side business that gives you a somewhat passive income. There are so many ways to be golden in your golden years.

:: Inspired by millennial-revolution.com’s article, How much is enough?

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Spend consciously. Know where your money goes.

Need a fancy breakfast sandwich and high-end latte to kick start your day? Go for it. Want a pair of designer shoes that are well made and you’ll wear regularly for years? Bring it on.

Spending consciously is not about being cheap, or denying ourselves life’s pleasures. It’s far from a mindset of lack or scarcity. It’s about awareness and making choices that align with what’s important to us.

Many of us spend beyond our means, not because we can’t afford things, but because we don’t pay attention to where our money goes. No one wants to start their day with interest payments and bank fees, yet those undesirables can add up to be extremely expensive. Worse, they can cause stress, block us from spending on things we actually enjoy and restrict us from some of our life options.

So, those little trinkets or sale items that we buy for ourselves or as gifts? It’s time to stop and ask, do I really want this item, or just have an urge to buy? Was I dreaming of it for days, or did it suddenly pop up in front of me?

If we look around our home at all the stuff that we don’t use – clothes, shoes, books, coffee mugs, tools, decor, old food, etc., we can see what’s been holding us back from a great vacation, or an investment, or time off between jobs.

Take action: Try adding up how much interest and unnecessary fees you pay each year. Include mortgage interest, auto and student loans, bank fees, and what you pay on credit card debt. It could easily add up to $8,000 every year. Next, look around your home and roughly cost out what you spent on all the things you could easily live without. Now that you are more conscious of the monetary trade off, focus on spending only on what’s worthwhile to you.

:: Inspired by Ramit Sethi’s book: I Will Teach You to be Rich.

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Four money blockers that keep us broke.

We’ve all grown up with beliefs about money, and if we haven’t yet extracted them from our subconscious, those beliefs may be holding us back. Beliefs are often blind-spots that cause us to unconsciously act in certain ways. If we look at our net worth, we’ll see the sum result of our money beliefs. Here are some common stories that you may be telling yourself:

  1. “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Of course it doesn’t, but by focusing on a lack of money, we’ll get more of the same. Even a simple phrase such as, “I can’t afford that,” puts us into a scarcity mindset, which effects our decisions. Try replacing it with “I’d rather spend my money on _____, so that I can feel _____.”

  2. “Money is the root of all evil.” Money is a tool. Greed and self-serving power is evil. But, money can help us be generous and nurture ourselves and others. If we say things like, “It’s not about the money,” it’s likely that we relate to money negatively and avoid it.

  3. “I have to work harder to earn more.” Wealth is not directly proportional to effort. Yes, some effort is needed to produce money; we can’t manifest it without action. However, the popular hustle and grind mindset best serves business owners telling their employees how to perform. Plus, when money is hard earned, we tend to keep a tight grip on it. We can’t profit from our money, if we are not willing to let it go.

  4. “I’m not good with money.” If we believe that handling money is complicated, then we are likely to over complicate our process. Maybe we have too many accounts, or a tricky budget, or rely on someone else to take care of it for us. However, just like we can learn any new skill, we can learn to be good with money.

Take action: Acknowledge and accept that you have beliefs that hold you back. Get curious about what’s not working for you and replace the old thoughts with new stories, such as “I am a money magnet.”

:: Inspired by Amy Porterfield’s podcast, #181: Eliminating Money Blocks with James Wedmore.

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One word that will change your life.

Swap “I have to…” for “I choose to…”.

Have we forgotten that we have free will? Over time, we tend to allow ourselves to be conditioned by our environment. We can forget that we have a choice. Our life gets taken over by unconscious decisions.

Are there times when you feel like you are just existing? Or feel trapped by circumstances? We have options. If fact, we have countless options. We can live by choice, rather than by chance.

Most of us use the term “I have to…” when explaining what we plan to do. For example, “I have to go to work,” “I have to meet my friend,” or “I have to pick up groceries.” We actually don’t have to do any of these things. Consciously or not, we choose to do them.

Using “I choose to,” reminds us that we’re making it a priority. If we start to question if it still feels like a good choice, then we can reconsider how we are living our life. The altered phrase prompts our mind to recall that we are the ones in control, deciding what’s important. It promotes empowerment.

Take action: Here are the above common phrases turned into possible choices: 1. “I have to go to work,” could switch to “I choose not to go to work. I’ll take a year sabbatical now, and push back my retirement by a year if I need to.” 2. “I have to meet my friend,” can become “I choose to meet my friend because I want more fun in my life.” 3. “I have to pick up groceries,” can be “I choose to delegate the grocery shopping to my kids tonight.”

:: Inspired by Hal Urban’s book, Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things that Matter.

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How to apply our strengths to more areas.

Our strengths are transferable, we have more skills than we think.

Do you hit every deadline, but often arrive late to events? Or maybe you’re a wiz in the kitchen, but don’t realize your creative ability. If we recognize our strengths in one discipline, we can use them to grow in other areas.

Step 1: Identify what skills you’re struggling with, for example; relationship building, communication, dedication to a goal, or perhaps eating well. Step 2: Recognize what your strengths are by analyzing the areas where you are getting desired results. Be specific. Step 3: Approach your challenges with a focus on applying your strengths.

Here are 5 common examples of transferable skills between work and home life:

1. If we tell great stories to our kids at bedtime – we can dissect the key story elements and use those same skills to pitch a client.

2. Many of us are supportive team members at work, chipping in when someone needs help, and contributing our skills with enthusiasm. Surely then, we can find a dedicated way to help our family members. Or if we’re caring at home, we can bring that human connection to work.

3. Do you do quarterly evaluations with your manager to set goals and problem solve? Why not book regular evaluations with our loved ones, asking them to rate us on important relationship needs and get feedback on how we can grow.

4. If we can figure out what works well in our relationship with our best friend – maybe it’s openness and trust – we can bring some of those characteristics to other relationships, including co-workers.

5. Skills developed managing a household translate very well to managing a team. Planning, prioritizing, time management, budgeting, and communication are important both at home and work. Parental leave can be an asset to your work life.

Take action: To apply your strengths, you first need to know your strengths. Ask for opinions from people who know you well in various areas of your life. Pay attention to compliments you get, they are likely unique to you. Grab a list of characteristics online and do a self evaluation. Recall situations that have energized you and figure out what charged you up. Note what annoys you about others and invert it; your strength might be the opposite. With these exercises, you should see some key personal strengths emerging. Now double down on them.

:: Inspired by The Art of Charm’s podcast interview with Olaniyi Sobomehin.

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People pleasing is not so pleasant.

The word “pleasing” is misleading. People pleasing is actually quite negative. Think of it as trying to control what others think, seeking praise, and taking an easy way out.

We say yes to the wrong things because we want someone to think that we are nice, kind, helpful, generous, etc., but in actual fact, we’d rather do something else. These dishonest actions are manipulative. Plus, an attitude of “I do so much and you don’t appreciate it,” hurts relationships.

If we say yes to someone so we can avoid conflict, that often means we need to say no to something important, in order to accommodate the first request. And if we’re with someone who is trying to accommodate us, we will likely annoy them by not saying what we want, requiring them to guess and often be wrong. Doesn’t sound so pleasing anymore does it?

After that reality check, know that there’s plenty of hope for those who say yes to things that don’t align with what’s important to them. In fact, when we are not overburdened and stressed by pleasing, we can actually be more kind, generous, and contributory.

Feel uncomfortable saying no or stating what you want? That conflict may be only in your head. It’s not likely the other person is invested as much as we fear. They may accept a simple no, but if we feel we need to give a reason, there’s nothing wrong with saying that we want to focus more on our hobby, family, career, education, health, whatever is important to us. No excuse required.

Plus, saying no often gains us respect as someone who sticks to our values, has control of our life, and prioritizes who and what is important to us.

Take action: Next time before saying yes, ask yourself if the request is in line with your values, and what you’ll need to give up for it. Get better connected to your emotions as a warning sign. Will saying yes make you feel resentment or joy? And practice your possible answers before requests come up.

Inspired by Amy Morin’s book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.

 

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Pay attention to your attention.

We are bombarded with millions of external distractions every day, and the internal chatter in our minds can be even louder. If we can learn to block out the noise and focus our thoughts on worthwhile ideas, we’ll be able to achieve greatness.

Intense concentration gives us incredible ability, and it’s a skill we can develop. Just like a brain surgeon who has spent years developing her ability to focus in order to perform surgery, we too can learn to control our attention, so that we can also perform at a high level.

Concentration improves critical thinking, helps us analyze and question, and increases our ability to solve complex problems.

People who meditate are already on their way to developing this skill. Even if we don’t meditate, we can still learn from an entry level exercise for the practice: Sit comfortably in a non-distracting environment. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Light a candle, place it in front of you and stare at the flame. Whenever you catch your attention wandering, bring it back to focus on the flame. If we do this daily, we’ll eventually find that we master it, and that level of concentration can then be applied to meaningful areas of our life.

Take action: Diligently performing the flame exercise to strengthen our concentration will be easier if your body is supportive of your mind. Attention takes energy, so be sure to get the right amount of sleep, eat well, and physically exercise. It’s a good idea to stretch out before entering stillness.

:: Inspired by Bob Proctor’s book, The ABC’s of Success.

 

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“Showing up is 80% of life.”

This headline quote about the importance of, “showing up” is often attributed to actor/director Woody Allen, who may not have done any scientific research to come up with 80%, but instinctively knew that the biggest part of making something happen, is very simple.

So often we over think what’s required to achieve what we really want, and when we make things complicated, we put mental blockers in front of ourselves.

We don’t need to have all the answers, often, we simply need to stop making excuses and show up. It’s that first step towards starting something that makes the most difference. But not just starting it once and forgetting about it, starting it every day/week/month/year – just keep showing up and things will happen.

Want to be academic? Show up in a class. Want to be fit? Show up at a gym. Want to be a better parent? Show up where your kids are. Regularly. Being in the right environment will trigger action and before you know it, things will start progressing.

Our surroundings can be profoundly inspiring, and when we are around other like-minded people, their energy can motivate us to do the thing we showed up to do. So if we just show up where we want to be, we’ve already done the hard part.

But, we can’t just show up anywhere – we need to make sure we are showing up in the right places. If we are going to put our energy into motion, that action needs to be in line with our vision for ourselves, and who we want to be. Only then will we get that 80% boost in life for just consistently showing up.

Take action: Choose an event that you are going to show up for this week and mark it on your calendar. Can be as simple as a Webinar, or as challenging as attending an event to help mend an important relationship. And then, you guessed it… actually show up.

:: Inspired by Carrie Green’s book, She Means Business: Turn Your Ideas into Reality and Become a Wildly Successful Entrepreneur.

 

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Have faith in being able to figure it out. Whatever “it” is.

Think of a time when you wanted something so much your heart ached. I bet you figured out a way to make it happen. Teenagers are really good at finding a way to make things happen, so maybe we should think back to that time. Like, when we wanted to meet someone we were attracted to, or went out with friends even though we had no money, or found time to party when we had exams. We ignored excuses and figured out how to do it.

The skill is already in us, and we can still do it, if we honestly want something enough. It takes creativity, determination and discipline, and most of all, it takes faith that we will be able to figure out how to pull it off.

We start by being honest about what we truly want, not what we used to want and not what others want for us. Then think about who we might become if we do figure it out. Connect with this sense of being to find a deeper purpose, and use that as motivation. It will help bring courage when it gets tough.

Consider all the excuses we might encounter along the way. What could hold us back that we need to resolve? It’s often lack of money, time, and skills. Then brainstorm many ways (at least 20) of how we can conquer those obstacles and make it happen. Don’t edit ideas at this stage, no matter how far fetched they may be. Decide on a first step, and take it. Put thoughts into action and start the ball rolling, trusting that when we hit a roadblock, we’ll figure it out.

Take action: Start talking about your dreams and goals to people who can help you figure out how to make them possible. There are lots of people who will be naysayers. Use their words as motivation and a jumpstart on what you’ll need to figure out down the road.

::  Inspired by Marie Forleo’s Oprah Supersoul Session, Everything is Figureoutable.

 

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