Constructive thinking beats positive thinking.

Constructive thinking beats positive thinking

Our attitude is the one thing in life we can fully control. We can be a victim of circumstances, or victorious over them, by choosing our own mental outlook. Our frame of mind can set us up for expectations of success, which leads us in that direction, enables good decisions, and often comes to fruition. A positive disposition shows in our character, and attracts more of the same sort of people into our life.

However, many of us confuse “positive thinking” with “wishful thinking,” which ultimately is just a temporary mask covering our true thoughts and leaving us emotionally stuck.

The term “constructive thinking” may be more suitable, because it implies open mindedness and growth. We all have hardships in life, we can choose to manage them constructively, learn from them and grow mentally stronger. Constructive thinkers are aware of negativity, use it to assess and work through underlying problems, and then let it go when it’s no longer useful. They are careful about what they allow to manifest in their brain. They choose thoughts that build strength and lead to growth.

Take action: Everything that seems doom and gloom has an optimistic, hopeful and positive side to it as well. Definitely challenge yourself to find the sunny side, but also take the time necessary to deal with the negative feelings. Accept them, mentally process them, learn from them, and as soon as they no longer serve you, then let them go and get back to positivity.

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

 


 

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Make meaning as well as money.

Make meaning as well as money

Money is very important in our society. In fact, a significant way to avoid increasing the poor population, is by making sure we can support ourself, and our family. But, happiness requires more than just money. We’re also here to enrich this world.

One of the greatest factors for work satisfaction is feeling that we are spending our time with a purpose, we’re creating value and meaning. So here are some thoughts to ponder… Can we shift our work life towards being more rather than having more? Can we find a purpose greater than ourselves in what we do? When we leave this world, will there be a legacy that we’ll be proud of?

Great companies and workers give a valuable service to their community. Their profit and pay comes through enriching lives. Happiness and financial success should be by-products of building value in this world. The two aspects can work hand-in-hand, rather than be opposite ends of the spectrum.

This servitude approach can be applied to an enormous range of jobs – from taking care of city streets, to teaching, to having meaningful conversations with colleagues, mentoring, or creating a product that solves a problem. Focus on how you’re contributing, beyond your basic job description.

Take action: What value are you creating for people through your work? Try focusing on how you can increase that value until you feel a greater pride in your worth, and others are noticing too. Once you’re giving more and enriching people’s lives, then ensure the financial reward is on par with your work’s value. Be generous with your giving, and enable others to be generous too.

:: Inspired by Robin Sharma’s book, The Saint, the Surfer, and the CEO: A Remarkable Story about Living your Heart’s Desires

 


 

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Higher housing costs = fewer job options.

Higher housing costs = fewer job options.

Our housing choice is likely the biggest financial commitment we’ll make. Yet, so many of us blindly choose the route of buying the greatest home we can, over a commitment-light renting/investing combo. We don’t consider how it can become an anchor in our careers.

We may grasp the “house rich, cash poor” meaning, but we also need to think on the flip side – the pressure it puts on our work life. Most of us spend so much time working, that we really deserve the freedom to be able to take career risks, and shape our work lives to something that makes us happy.

High housing costs can make us feel like we’re stuck in our jobs because we don’t want to jeopardize steady pay, and then default on our mortgage. A need for what we perceive as financial security, means we are less likely to take time off to find what would make us happier. It’s scary to risk shaking things up to improve our current situation, or to contemplate a lesser paying job that would allow us more personal time. If we reduce our consuming level, and housing can be a huge consumption, we are in a better position to improve our work lives.

Here’s the kicker; we may even make more money in the process. If we know we can walk away from a job at any moment, we’ll approach it differently. We’ll get better at setting boundaries, and defining what we will work on, with whom, and by when. We may be freer to speak our mind and express concerns, and take risks that could could lead to greater opportunities.

Even if we are currently working our dream job, over time it can change. So instead of thinking of working smarter so that we can afford a better life, think of living smarter so we can afford a better job, which in turn of course, should lead to a better life.

Take action: Find and interview people who have work lives you admire and see if there’s a connection to their personal financial security. Maybe it’s a freelancer who chooses their clients wisely, and leases a small apartment. Maybe it’s a teacher who rents out their home while travelling for a sabbatical year. Or someone gutsy in the office who’s had several promotions and won’t settle for less than they are worth.

:: Inspired by Alex Avery’s book, The Wealthy Renter.

 


 

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Use “empathetic listening” to deeply connect.

Empathetic listening leads to deeper connections

Empathetic listening is similar to active listening in that they both enhance engagement and a connectedness between the people involved. However, when someone is emotionally attached to an issue, we need to go beyond active listening to truly understand them. That means going beyond a two-way conversation and encouraging one person to fully express themselves and feel understood.

Both empathetic and active listening methods require reading body language and other non-spoken forms of communication to find deeper meaning. For empathetic listening, we don’t try to form our reply or next question in our head while the other is talking. Nor do we try to relate from our own perspective, or solve their problem from our point of view.

To truly see the world from another’s way of thinking, we not only need to get inside their head, we also need to understand their heart and soul. It’s about understanding how they feel. This takes time and patience and is not something that we can control or direct. We need to let go of our self-serving desires, and open up to being influenced by them, which means we will be vulnerable like they are. It’s not until we fully understand how they feel and what really matters to them, that we can help them find a meaningful solution.

Take action: Empathetic listening can be very difficult at first because you don’t have trust already built in this area. It gets easier over time, but initially, you may need to be upfront and say that you are trying to fully understand how they feel without “fixing” them. Note to parents: this method really helps when trying to connect with teenagers.

:: Inspired by Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

 


 

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Too small to fail.

Kaizen: Tiny actions for big results

The Japanese term, Kaizen, refers to using small steps to accomplish large goals. We may be used to building upon small successes, but Kaizen goes further. It goes into tiny actions that seem trivial and are too small to cause resistance.

Our brains are programmed to resist change. We survived as a species by being able to assign very little energy to repetitive tasks. When we introduce something new, it induces fear or stress, and the amygdala part of the brain becomes alert and goes into fight or flight mode. In this mode, it allocates the majority of our energy to reacting to the change, and restricts functions such as rational thinking.

Sometimes the change can be perceived as excitement instead of fear so it doesn’t set off amygdala alarms. It’s common to have some success starting a new habit, until the excitement wears off, and then not be able to rely on rational thinking to continue. It’s because the amygdala kicked in and transferred our energy to fight or flight mode.

So here’s the trick to not activate that automatic response… Make the changes tiny, and repetitive, until it’s so normal our brain craves it. For example, exercise for one minute a day for a week. Then add a second minute for another week. Keep adding minutes on a weekly basis until you hit the desired amount. Be careful to keep it effortless and not go too fast.

Be sure to give your brain enough repetition at each tiny stage to lay down the neural network required to make the change easy. Repetition, even for a few seconds, signals the brain to start committing cells to the new behavior. You’ll know you’re ready when you start doing the action without thinking about it.

Take action: Not sure where to start? Ask your brain, it loves questions. Just remember to keep it small, and you may need to give it processing time. Here are a few example questions… How can I remind myself daily to drink more water? What can I do today to grow my relationship with ___? Where can I find time to add more learning into my routine?

:: Inspired by Robert Maurer, Ph.D.’s book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.


 

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Use design-thinking to expand options

Design-thinking is a problem-solving process that’s been used globally for decades. It involves 5 steps which at their simplest can be described as: 1. Research. 2. Ideate (brainstorm). 3. Plan. 4. Prototype. 5. Iterate (tweak).

Step one is all about asking questions that lead to a full understanding and defining the right problem. Often what we set out to solve, evolves as we dive deeper. Done well, this stage will set us up for the whole process.

Then step 2, brainstorming for a large quantity of diverse options, can produce better and more innovative results. The key is to not edit ourselves at this stage. Just express ideas non-stop without blocking anything that seems too far fetched. This brainstorm can continue over several days and it’s a good idea to ask others for their ideas as well. Once we have a large quantity, consider what jumps out, brings us joy and energizes us.

Now we can narrow it down and plan some details on how to make the stand out ideas possible. Test drive a few ideas. Figure out how to experiment and get some feedback in your areas of interest. You have to actually execute part of it (prototype it), to be able to understand the details and nuances. Be continually iterative. That is, every time we hit a roadblock, tweak the direction and revise the path.

Take action: For those of us considering a shake up to our work life, here are some thoughts to get us started… What would we do if money were no issue? How could we make a positive social impact? What value can we add to the world? What countries/cities would we like to work in? What skills do we have that could make us lots of money? Are there any companies we’d like to work with? What if we started our own business? Is there an evolution to what we currently do? What kind of people do we want to work with? Can an interest or hobby bring us an income?

:: Inspired by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’ book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.


 

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Do what you’re good at, the passion will follow.

Do what you're good at, the passion will follow.

The phrase “Do what you love, the money will follow” has sent many people chasing unrealistic dreams and feeling lost when they don’t come true. Or worse, causing a standstill while trying to discover their true passion.

For example, maybe we love playing baseball, but there are very few of us who have the ability to actually turn that passion into a successful career, that we will get paid for. More attainably, we could build a career around our passion, such as being an umpire, baseball retailer, or work in a stadium. For some, that direction will turn out well. However, others will feel completely unfulfilled.

For many people, turning the love/money phrase around to focus on our abilities, instead of our passions, is likely to be a faster track to happiness. Finding something that we are good at, adds value to the world, and that we enjoy well enough, has a better chance of growing into something we love to do, than trying to monetize our immediate passions. As we develop our skills, we are likely to enjoy them more and more, to the point that we become passionate about them.

Yes, it’s true that we should do what we love, but the money doesn’t always follow, and our current passions may be better as a hobby instead of a job. It’s our abilities that can attract money and the key is to develop skills that are not only in demand, but that we enjoy enough to grow into a passion.

Take action: Make a list of about 20 things that you are good at, such as analytical thinking, socializing, planning, or creating. Ask people who know you to help – they may see strengths in you that you under appreciate. Then circle the ones that you would enjoy doing long term, as in you could happily do it daily, for years. Take what stands out and think about what project you could work on with these skills. Start small and grow your ability in that area. If your passion starts to follow, keep going. If you don’t like it, tweak it and try again, until you feel you’re on a good path.

:: Inspired by Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.


 

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Nobody is smarter than everybody.

Collective intelligence

Groupthink can be harmful, but collective intelligence can bring out the best in this world.

With the incredible amount of data now available at our fingertips, hoarding knowledge no longer holds much power. Being knowledgeable is has lost its association with being smart. In fact, if you’re not freely sharing your knowledge, it can be seen as holding society back.

There’s a great appreciation for diverse views that we can only get when people individually share their opinions. Collective intelligence comes from the consensus of these individuals, but consensus is not necessarily a majority vote, it’s about finding the best feasible solution.

The key here is to ensure that each person’s diverse view is taken into account. It can be inspired by, and build off other ideas, but must stay individual and unique.

Collective intelligence can be incredibly beneficial, but we need to be wary of its antithesis, groupthink, where a few people influence a group in such a way that instead of getting differing perspectives, we get irrational decision-making. Groupthink is often characterized by one big ego backed by the energy of many sheepish followers. Collective intelligence, on the other hand, benefits from a network of perspectives, and is known for solving the world’s biggest issues, such as eliminating disease.

Take action: Wikipedia is an excellent example of collective intelligence, but it can work on a small scale as well. Next time you need a second opinion, try getting a third, fourth or fifth opinion from people who will have different perspectives. Then make your decision based on the consensus, that is, the best workable solution for your situation.

:: Influenced by Rod Collins’ book, Wiki Management: A Revolutionary New Model for a Rapidly Changing and Collaborative World.

 


 

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

For productivity, take care of the goose to get the golden egg

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 common for us to grow greedy and impatient with our own metaphorical geese – ourselves as well as our relationships.

For example, we may go through a sprint of high production and start to expect that we can maintain that pace, without taking care of what enables us to achieve. Or, it’s not unusual for marriages to start off strong. Then gradually, as we neglect our spouse’s needs, we wonder where all the loveliness went. Perhaps we can’t understand why our child doesn’t listen to us, but we haven’t put in the effort to understand her/him over the years.

The opposite can also be a problem. If we excessively pamper ourselves, or continually put other people’s wants ahead of our own needs, 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 yourself and your relationships properly. Are you achieving your personal goals? Is your child disobedient, or your spouse ignoring you, or do your co-workers seem lazy? Instead of thinking the world is against you, take a look at your input into your goals and your relationships.

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

 


 

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30% more productive

Quick video: Cut 2 things to be 30% more productive.

I love this productivity hack so much, I made a video to explain it. I’ve been doing it and cannot believe how much I’ve accomplished… 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA7NzFT-yQU

 

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Are you actually, really, truly open to learning?

Education is all around us, always.

Education is all around us, always. The most successful people seek out knowledge continuously, because they are humble enough to know they don’t know it all.

Many of us have a fear of exposing what we don’t know, wanting to appear smart. But asking questions, being curious, and digging into someone else’s perspective, is how we gain personal and specific knowledge. It’s how we go beyond what we can look up on Google.

Michael Jordan, for example, may seem far from humble on the outside, but he’s been known to say that his greatest skill is being teachable. His greatness comes from listening to what people tell him, taking what he learns and putting it into action.

Another extremely successful person, Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, was constantly scoping out his competitors to find out if they knew something he didn’t. Instead of thinking he knew the best approach already, he learned as much as he could and then experimented with it.

This openness sounds easy enough, but when someone less experienced than us gives us instruction, do we get defensive? How about someone with different political or religious views? We can only truly argue for our own beliefs when we fully understand the opposing view.

However, it’s also important to learn from the right people, figure out who has been successful by putting their knowledge into action, and be a sponge with them. Be careful of those that just talk without experience.

Take action: What’s your learning score? Out of 10, how much effort do you put into learning from books? And, spend time with mentors? Learn from your competitors? Attend seminars? How much money do you put into learning? Feel free to add other approaches. The average of these ratings is your learning score. Can you improve it in the next 3 months?

:: Inspired by Tai Lopez’s 67 Steps. (Yes, he’s that annoying guy with the Lambo’s, but like this tip says, if we stay open, we can learn a great deal.)

 


 

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