Find potential in all opportunity.

We often see other people’s success and think that they started with a better opportunity than we’ve been given. Sometimes that’s true, but often we overlook the potential that is right in front of us. We tend to think that we’re getting a bad hand while others get all the good stuff. Here are three common excuses we may be familiar with: 1, at work we may think that our co-worker gets assigned better projects than we do, and dismiss that she actually got a similar bad brief, but her work turns into greatness because she’s been extra resourceful. Or 2, in a book club, our friend may stand out by having a very interesting point of view influenced by an article he read. We may not have liked the assigned book, but we could have researched new angles as well. Or 3, maybe we use a friend’s highly recommended contractor for a renovation, but instead of getting a beautiful, new bathroom, we end up not happy with the work. We forget that our friend has had more experience working with contractors than we have, and we could have asked for help in that area. Sure, sometimes our opportunities in life are not great, but they all have potential if we can figure out how to get more out of them.

In the mentioned work example, some tasks can be done twice, once by doing it as it’s been requested, the second time by breaking the rules and being ultra creative. There’s a good chance the final piece will land somewhere in between. In the book club case, brainstorming inspiring, fresh ideas can help us enhance the opportunities we receive, and a bit of extra research can bring surprising results. And for renos, asking questions and having a deep curiosity can not only help us figure out how to improve a condition, it can also lead to new levels of expertise through the power of collaboration. It’s too easy to just think that other people get better opportunities, and not put in the effort required to make what we have acquired, great. It’s not about the hand we’re dealt, it’s about how we play it.

Take action: Find value in what you do. Sometimes a task feels menial and not worth your time, but if you reframe it, you can turn it into an opportunity. Plus, these sorts of circumstances tend to have a snowball effect, in that, if you perform well consistently, the opportunities in front of you will grow more favorable.

Inspired by Paul Arden’s book, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be.

How to connect, in the connected world.

Technology has changed the way we build relationships. As humans, relationships are just as significant to us, as they’ve always been, but the ease of tech has lured us away from in-person conversations. We’ve become more solitary and have fewer interactions with the physical people around us. To be properly fulfilled, we still need an intimate form of connection, like the old-school conversations. On the flip side, tech can also enhance our relationships; but, it’s not about how many friends, fans, or followers we have, it’s about the people who would miss us, if we stopped connecting. Many of us use social media to broadcast what we are doing, few of us use it to share our deep thoughts, and even less of us share our views within a dynamic conversation with other engaged people. Until we get to this level, we are not truly connecting. Creating value, building trust, and putting in the emotional effort are hard because it’s the unknown. It means taking a risk of being judged, getting negative feedback, and being vulnerable. To put our self out there, in a way that invites others to connect back, means giving up control. One-way broadcasting online is relatively easy, so for many of us, that’s our default (likes and hearts are too insignificant to be considered conversation). Connecting in a good relationship takes time, effort and vulnerability, whether online or in-person. If we are brave with these connections, we will eventually be rewarded.

Take action: Get involved with an online community and reply to a comment – agree, disagree, give an example or expand a thought. Jump in to a conversation that you feel strongly about, and ask an open question, instead of just broadcasting one-way. And then bring that new experience to someone in person.

Inspired by Seth Godin’s book, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?

SmartLife is launching an online mindset course! Find out more, but hurry. Admission closes Sept. 28.


Fall in love with good habits.

Remember those teenage-type feelings, down deep in your belly, when you first fell in love with someone? The excitement, the newness, and the anticipation triggered joy and inspiration in us. And as a result, we started taking better care of ourselves, prioritized differently, and had a more positive outward expression. Anticipated love is an extremely powerful motivator. So if we can figure out how to tap into those same feelings now, when we think about who we want to become, we can have the same enriching thoughts towards the new habits that are required to achieve our goal. Since we’ve felt it in the past, our brain already knows how to react to those joyful thoughts, and can wake up our biological systems that work with the feeling of desire. Our brain can fire the neurons that can reconnect the synaptic triggers associated with those positive thoughts. For example, lets say we want to be a health-oriented person. If we can think about our ideal self in the same way we’ve yearned for love, our cells can kick in to craving those good chemicals again. It’s true that it’s easier to fall in love with other people than with a new routine, but healthy habits can lead to a lifestyle that involves plenty of love, and that’s where we should focus. Tapping into positive feelings that our mind and body are already familiar with, can make new habits a lot easier to commit to, and can even turn into a long term relationship.

Take action: Over time, new habits will feel more natural. Along the journey, just like falling in love, try rewarding yourself with praise, fun, romance, and commitment. For example, if you are falling in love with healthy living, sneak away from work for a bit to go for a walk in the sunshine. Or go on a date that requires physical activity, like rock climbing or hiking.

Inspired by Joe Dispenza, D.C.’s book, Evolve Your Brain.

How do you tackle change?

On a scale of 1 to 10, do you resist change (1), or seek it out (10)? Some people really struggle with change and take time to analyze a situation, to the point of stalling the inevitable, before getting on board. They waste their effort in worry when they could be spending that time shaping the change to their benefit. Others relish newness and can’t wait to jump in – they may even want to shake things up just for fun. They get excited about exploring new possibilities, but often forget how it affects the people around them. Yet, successful change happens when everyone is aligned. If we’re the type to resist change, we should keep in mind that we are pushing against the inevitable; evolution will always happen and we can’t stop it. It’s better to spend our time analyzing the problem/solution to make sure the change is for the better and know how we can work with it to our benefit. Go with the flow and put our effort into making sure it’s flowing in a good direction. If we’re in a situation where we need to implement change, we should keep in mind that the hardest part of it, is not the mechanics, it’s figuring out how to make the change ideal for all involved, and then leading others to embrace it. The more people affected, the more alignment and coaching will be required. Whether it’s a change in work processes, where we live, or our lifestyle, we need to make sure we include enough time and communication for others, in our implementation plans. Only when everyone affected by the change joins forces, and the transformation favors all, will the change truly be effective.

Take action: If you generally resist change, try doing something different today, for the sake of getting more comfortable with it. For instance, just a switch in your morning routine. If you love change, try coaching someone resistant to try something new. Remember, the key is to align interests.

Inspired by Thomas Reibke’s Creative Mornings talk, Shut Up and Listen


Strive for confidence, not cockiness.

Confidence comes from knowing that when we are faced with a situation, we will be able to figure it out. It grows out of humbleness: when we recognize how much we can learn by putting work and effort into mastering a situation, instead of thinking we already know what’s best, we will stay flexible and adjust to all possible scenarios. When we know we can tackle what’s thrown at us, then we will have confidence. Cockiness, on the other hand, is inflexible. It grows from arrogance and entitlement. It blinds us, so we don’t recognize when a situation isn’t working, and leads us to stubbornly continue down the wrong path. To strive for confidence, not cockiness, we need to keep an open mind. Life can be unpredictable, we don’t ever know it all, and others may have different perspectives that can enhance our own knowledge. Confidence means being able to seek out, recognize and adjust to new information, persevere, and believe that we will figure out our best approach as we proceed. That confidence only comes by being open to learning from many sources, and being flexible in all scenarios.

Take action: Think back to a time in your life that was difficult. Did you think everything was going to be great, only to have things crash down on you? What signs were there leading up to the situation that you ignored? In future, pay attention to those signs, adjust your strategy, and figure out a better approach.

Inspired by Tim Grover’s book, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable.

Innovate by asking: why, why not, what if, and how.

Five year olds ask a lot of questions, but as we grow up, we generally skip this step and jump to finding answers or solutions immediately. However, that child-like inquiry is important. Asking the right questions can be far more useful when looking to go beyond the norm and be innovative. Asking questions is the way deep thinkers tackle problems and it works well for daily life as well. If we ask the right questions, it leads to a deep analysis and a better understanding of an issue, then sets up a challenge for us, a puzzle to solve. So what are the right questions to ask? The ones that stir up interest and inspire us to think differently. “Why” questions are a good start and something we’re familiar with from preschoolers. First, start questioning the seemingly obvious, and then questions the answers that come from that process. Repeat this “why” questioning, going deeper each time, until you get to something interesting. Then move to “why not” questions to start exploring options and possibilities. Next, “what if” questions can stimulate thinking in combinations, mixing ideas together to get the best of each. Lastly, draw on the exploration already done with the previous three questions, and start action by going into “how can we do things better” inquiries. This four-part method can be used for simple daily issues, or complex problems that take years to solve.

Take action: For your next problem to solve, make a game of it and jot down as many questions as you possibly can. Don’t edit, just let it flow fast and see if you can get to 100, that’s about 25 for each of the four questions.

Inspired by Warren Berger’s book, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas

It’s great to be the big fish, even in a small pond.

The experience of being better at an activity or an action than our peers, is not only confidence building, it can also push us further. Knowing that people depend on us to step up, or competing with someone who pushes us to grow, challenges us. Mentally we are stimulated in ways that we don’t get if we’re middle of, or lower in the pack. Yet, we often forget this concept when deciding what categories we want to belong to, whether the groups are high-end schools, elite sports clubs, or top-tier companies to work in. When performing with people well above our level, it feels discouraging, frustrating, and may cause us to give up pursuing our goal completely. If we are great at playing baseball, and are suddenly recruited by the ‘Yankees’, would we jump at the chance? Probably yes, but if we don’t play at that advanced level, we’ll be benched most of the time, and not have a good experience. If we drop down to a team that’s more suitable to our skill level, we’ll probably make some great plays, get more time on the field, and feel like a hero. Knowing the difference between a good stretch challenge where we fit and can excel, and reaching beyond our range to an arena that will crush us, can be tricky to navigate. Take ego, emotion and social status out of the equation to make a good decision and find the best fit.

Take action: Prioritize personal fit over socially high-level opportunities. It’s exciting when we’re given new challenges, but look for the ones that will stretch your ability and help you grow. Avoid the ones that will stress you out to the point of giving up on them.

Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Gratitude is extremely powerful.

It’s common to overlook the importance of a heartfelt “thank you.” Even though we like being on the receiving end of gratitude, we often forget how important it is to give it to others. This tip is not only a reminder to give thanks to people around us, but to also take daily moments to appreciate ourselves, and our accomplishments so far. Ever have trouble falling asleep at night because you’re focused on how things could be better? Bedtime is a great time to switch our thinking to gratitude for something we achieved that day, even if it’s a small thing. These thankful thoughts will calm our minds and put us in a pleasant state, while setting up our subconscious to move towards positivity. One caveat, this attitude is not to say that we should just be thankful for what we have. Gratitude is not about settling for less than we’re capable of. In fact, acknowledging things we’ve done well can actually get the ball rolling to do more things well. For instance, if we reflect on how we made a really delicious family dinner and felt connected to the ones we love, we’ll feel joyful and encouraged to do it again and maybe add to it. If instead we fixate on how we over-cooked the potatoes, we may figure out how to make better potatoes but not be motivated to do it again.

Take action: Having a gratitude jar is a great way to remind yourself of what to be thankful for. Step 1: Reflect on a moment, and pull out something about it that you are thankful for. It doesn’t have to be a good moment, in fact a good challenge is to pull gratitude from a difficult situation. Step 2: Write the appreciation on a piece of paper and pop it in the jar. Repeat this regularly and review the contents of the jar frequently. And don’t forget to express this gratitude to others involved.

Inspired by Kristin Wong’s Lifehacker article, Why Gratitude Makes You a Happier Person.

Take proper care of the goose, to get the golden eggs.

Aesop’s fable is a good lesson for us. In it, a farmer has a goose that lays a golden egg each day. Over time the farmer grows rich from selling the eggs, but also becomes greedy and impatient. He decides to kill the goose and cut it open, to get to the eggs faster. Of course in doing so he loses both the goose and the future eggs. It’s also common for us to grow greedy and impatient with our own metaphorical geese – our relationships, as well as with our self. We may go through a sprint of high production and start to expect that we can maintain that pace, without taking care of ourselves, and relationships with others. For example, it’s not unusual for marriages to start off strong. Then gradually, as we neglect our spouse’s needs, we wonder why all the loveliness isn’t there anymore. Or we can’t understand why our child doesn’t listen to us, but we haven’t put in the effort to listen to her/him over the years. The opposite can also be a problem. If we excessively pamper ourselves, or spoil others too much, there will be laziness, disharmony, or disrespect, and no golden eggs being produced. We need a balance of both, taking care of the goose and making sure the eggs are being laid.

Take action: Are you getting what you feel you should be getting from yourself, your family, and/or people you work with? Consider if you’re taking the time to balance and nurture your relationships properly. Is your child disobedient, or your spouse ignoring you, or do your co-workers seem lazy? Instead of thinking they just don’t care, take a look at your own input into your relationship with them, and spend time appreciating their point of view.

Inspired by Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.

Trade complexity for simplicity.

Many of us live very complex lives. Some complexity is necessary and serves a purpose, But most of us have areas in our lives that are more intricate than they need to be, and can be simplified. Simplification creates space for good things to appear. It enables us to think more clearly, and it makes it easier for other people to connect with us. There are numerous ways to move towards straightforwardness. Some key areas include; prioritization, decluttering, and saying, “No” to situations. 1, Prioritization – the key here is to keep in mind our values and goals, then cut out activities that don’t align. For example, it’s common to consume way more media than is useful for us; TV, articles, newsletters, etc. If we cut back here, we’d have more time for family. 2, Decluttering – it’s generally easier to feel calm when we’re surrounded by a peaceful and tidy environment. An unblocked mind can be created with a clear physical space, so we should pair down the number of materialistic objects we accumulate. We can try taking something out of our home, for every item we bring in to it. 3, Saying, “No” – this concept is about avoiding complexity in all the forms that it comes. By avoiding complicated relationships, we open up to meaningful connections. By staying away from chaotic routines, we can appreciate precious moments. And by saying, “No” to the little things that we don’t need, we create space for purposeful thought.

Take action: If you can’t communicate something simply to someone else, that’s a good indication that you’re involved in something that is too complex. If they can’t easily repeat back your situation, consider if you are overthinking it, or if it’s more complicated than it needs to be. Then figure out how to simplify or streamline it, or if it’s useful for you at all.

Inspired by Leo Babauta’s article, Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life.