Don’t forget to have fun!

We’re engaged with these tips because we’re striving for a fulfilled life, reaching our goals, and living to our potential. That’s a lot of hard work! For those of us who are taking it very seriously, here’s a reminder to take breaks, play, laugh and have some fun.

Working too hard, or intensely for too long will throw us off balance and have negative effects. We’ll end up in a spiral of not being able to think in a non-linear, free-flowing, divergent manner.

Creativity happens in a rested mind, that’s why we often get great ideas in the middle of the night, or during our morning shower. When we get stuck focusing on one way of thinking, we need a distraction.

Humour and fun are fantastic diversions; they break tension, put our minds at ease, reduce stress, connect us with others, help to make life enjoyable, and are essential for good mental health.

Laughter may even reduce physical pain, by producing endorphins, enhancing respiration and circulation, and improving our immune system. As nineteenth-century humorist Josh Billings said, “There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun.”

Take action: Watching a funny movie or going to a comedy club are great, but looking for ways to personally let go takes more creativity. Try anything out of character for you: wear a T-shirt with a funny saying, do a funny dance in public, have a random conversation with a stranger, try a harmless prank, and definitely learn to tell a good joke.

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

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Stop seeking unhealthy relationships.

We probably know at least one person, maybe it’s ourselves, who questions “Why can’t I find a decent man/woman?” Someone who keeps dating the same sort of person over and over, and yes, going a little insane doing so. Or maybe they break up with someone, get back together, and then do it again.

We can blame an overpowering cocktail of biological chemicals in our body that draws us towards the familiar. We follow our cells’ chemical needs of trying to maintain their current state. If we’ve repetitively experienced enough anger, victimization, or insecurity that it feels like it’s become part of us, then our biological structure, will actually seek out that negativity, so that it can stay in its comfort zone.

Our body avoids change in order to conserve energy for when we need it. So we have to let our body know that we need it. A new way of thinking will enable our brains to send our new signals internally, disrupting the comfortable patterns we’ve gotten used to.

We may think we are in tune with our feelings, but our body’s chemical composition causes us to feel like returning to our norm, and our emotional memories from the past make it difficult to evolve. These factors then affect our thoughts, continuing the feedback loop, and dictating our actions.

If this sounds like us, it’s time to break the cycle. Our “type” may not be healthy for us. Having “chemistry” with someone is not always a good thing, stop seeking it.

Take action: A new perspective can help break you out of patterns. Try something new, such as travel somewhere that will challenge you to explore a hidden aspect of yourself, hang out with people who have different interests than you, or pick up a new hobby or sport that will teach you new skills.

:: Inspired by Joe Dispenza, DC’s book, Evolve Your Brain.

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Rethink retirement. Incorporate it into our working years.

If we’ve lost interest in our job and we’re just hanging on till retirement, thinking we’ll have the freedom to do nothing, then it’s time to give our head a shake. Finding balance between enjoying the present and setting ourselves up for the future can be tricky, but if we’re not enjoying the journey, then we’re missing the point.

Most people need to be productive and continue to grow, even into their later years. Instead of thinking of retirement as an end goal, if we think of it as a shift, or transition phase in life, we are more likely to consider opportunities that will keep us contributing to society, instead of withdrawing from it.

And for many of us, we’ll continue to need an income source. Maybe that will come from investments that grow over time and we’ll have learned to manage well. Perhaps our current side hustle will be more profitable in the future. Or ideally, we’ll have set up a business that rakes in money with limited involvement from us.

These examples all require that we start well before retirement, but here’s the good news: if we plan to be productive in our later years, we can take time now to explore our long-term purpose. If we’re not racing to being jobless at 65, then why not rethink our financials, and give ourselves space to find what work is meaningful to us, that will also provide long-term payments.

Take action: Could your current hobby grow into an income generating skill? If you like baseball, you could consider becoming an umpire. Love baking? Connect with some events. Travelling turn you on? Try some seasonal work in another country. There are plenty of enjoyable activities that can help financially in later years. Find something that excites you and start experimenting with it now.

:: Inspired by Tim Ferris’ book, The 4-hour Work Week.

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Keep on keepin’ on.

That old 70s saying still holds true. Forward momentum, no matter how small a step, is inspirational, motivational, and unlocks possibilities.

Too often we get stuck on a problem because we’re trying to assess the entirety of it. All we really need to do is have a rough idea of the end goal, and then move forward in one small way.

We can only guess how things will unfold for us when we plan our course. Until we start to implement, we won’t know for sure, how things will pan out, and where we’ll need to pivot. Often it’s best to act, assess, act, assess, and so on, rather than expect to have a complete plan before starting to execute.

Imagine a chess game where a player waited to plan the whole game before making a single move. The game might not ever start. Taking action can help us see what further options we have. This move enables us to test the waters to see if we like our path so far, or need to change course for something unexpected.

Even if the action doesn’t go well, we’ll still have learned something and be ahead of where we’d be if we stood still. Plus we’d have had an interesting experience too. Instead of stalling because we’re hung up on getting everything right, we could just plan the next few maneuvers and start going. We need to trust ourselves to figure it out along the way.

Take action (pun!): Is there a project you’ve stalled on, or a goal that’s been sidelined? Think of one small thing you can do today to move it forward and then do it. Even if that small step is simply to schedule a time for the next step. Just keep moving and eventually the best path will reveal itself to you.

:: Inspired by Dr. Max McKeown’s book, #Now: The Surprising Truth About the Power of Now.

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Cut back your obligations, guilt-free.


Photo: Sanjeevan Satheeskumar

Kudos to those who have already mastered this time-saving, energizing, yet respectful skill. For the rest of us, who smile through events we wish we didn’t attend, here are three easy ways to non-offensively say, “No thank you.”

1. Nip it in the bud. Say, “No” from the start. Don’t leave a friend hanging by saying, “I’ll check my calendar.” That’s not respectful of their time or their desire to bring friends to an event. Don’t worry about not liking all the same things they like, but do be kind enough to let them know.

2. Be honest and polite, no lame excuses. Respect your friends’ opinions and explain that yours is different. If you honestly say that you don’t want to go to a medieval fair because you don’t like make believe, you’ll not only get out of the immediate request, but future ones too.

3. Set a personal policy and make it known. New Years is a great time to set policies because friends often ask if you have resolutions. We can set their expectations by saying, “I now have a personal policy against going to karaoke bars, lending money to friends, baking for fundraisers,” or whatever it may be. Remember it’s our own policy so we have the control to adjust it at any time.

When we do get an invite we want and like, it’s extra important to show appreciation. A thank you note goes a long way in letting people know that we care a great deal for them and like to spend time with them, at mutually enjoyable events.

Take action: Care about how your actions make others feel, not what they think of you. Figure out which obligations are important for true support, caring and love, and if you’re attending for those reasons, then do so with gusto. Then don’t feel guilty for politely, and pre-emptively if possible, declining the rest.

Inspired by Sarah Knight’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.

Start each season with an experiment.

Experiments are small, fun, about discovery and great for expanding our thinking. They are not about success or failure, so they don’t carry the weight and expectation that often comes with starting something big.

If we tell someone we are experimenting with a new side business, they are more likely to be curious about what we are learning, or what we hope to get out of it, rather than if we’ll make millions. Although failure is becoming more acceptable in our society, it still carries negative connotations, and fear of it can block us from trying new things.

When using the term experiment, we’re not expected to have all the answers before we start. We’re only expected to learn along the way, resulting in very little pressure. Experiments can be small enough to last only a few hours, such as being a guest in a new book club. Or larger to take a few months, such as doing a freelance consulting job on the side of our regular work.

Depending on what we discover, we could then choose to build on the knowledge we learned from the experiment, and make it part of our daily lives, or not.

Our world is changing fast, so we need to give things a shake, to keep up and discover new possibilities for ourselves.

Take action: Ask yourself “What would happen if I tried…” and fill in the blank with 10 different ideas that you find by looking around, watching other people, or recalling actions you’ve always been drawn to. Picture the possibilities and narrow down your list to a few that you think you’ll enjoy and are feasible. Then start experimenting for the sole purpose of discovery.

Inspired by Sam Walton and John Huey’s book, Sam Walton, Made in America.

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The difference between taking and receiving.

At a young age we were taught about the importance of giving, and hopefully, that has stuck with us as adults. We should still value giving, especially to people who have less than us, not just with material things, but intangible ones too.

How often though, do we give something because we want to get something? Or give because we think we owe, or feel obligated? Or abandon goodness altogether, and just take for selfish reasons?

And, here’s a question that will be tricky for some: do we give without receiving? There’s a balance that needs to be maintained for the ebb and flow of giving and receiving. If we mostly give, we’ll not only attract takers who connect with us for selfish reasons, we’ll also do a disservice to our good relationships. Without receiving, we deny others the ability to give and feel good about it.

So what’s the difference between taking and receiving? Receiving is a gift in itself. If we are gracious and appreciative to people who need to feel that they are contributing to our relationship, then we are not taking. Instead, we are giving them balance, independence, and confidence.

To gage how much to receive before it becomes taking, watch the giver’s face, read their body language, and empathetically listen. To help set boundaries if our generosity is enabling takers, ask for what we need in order to feel balanced. And if we are in the taker category, humbly start giving. Each relationship we have will vary, so we need to evaluate each situation separately.

Take action: Get more balanced when it comes to giving and receiving in your relationships. This action requires both parties to participate, and contribute, not 50/50, but appropriately for each. Trust your gut to gage what amount feels good. If one side is resisting, have a discussion and get on the same page before the next opportunity arises.

Inspired by Kabbalah.info’s article, Perceiving Reality: Giving and Receiving

Achievement needs fulfillment to be successful.

The science of achievement vs. the art of fulfillment…
Reaching goals and achievement is hard for sure, but it’s somewhat scientific, in that there are rules to follow. Whether in finance, health, relationships, career, or other areas, we can get the information required, and form the habits needed, to achieve what we’ve set out to do. Focus on the objective, take massive action, measure and tweak to stay on track, and model someone who’s already great at it. That’s the “science of achievement.”

More important than accomplishing, is the “art of fulfillment.” Achievement and fulfillment don’t always go hand in hand. Think of the late Robin Williams, an incredibly high achiever who still suffered. And there are plenty of examples of unhappy, but well accomplished people.

Fulfillment is an art that is particularly difficult for people who are high achievers because of their tendency to focus on measured, controllable outcomes.

Instead, if we focus on learning, how we are growing, and what we are contributing to others, while heading towards a goal, we’ll be more likely to enjoy both the process and the result. Fulfillment comes from knowing how to stay happy, even when things don’t go as hoped.

Take action: When goals appear to fall off the rails, recognize if you are in a suffering state of mind: frustration, anger, overwhelm, sadness, stress, etc. Allow the discomfort and process it, but for no more than 20 minutes. Then replace those thoughts and feelings with more fulfilled ones, such as happiness, love, awe, passion, and appreciation. Problems are better solved from a positive state of mind.

Inspired by Marie Forleo’s MarieTV episode with Tony Robbins: What it Really Takes to Change Your Life.

How do we be present? Ask the experts: children.

We once knew how to live in the now, be our whole selves, and be fulfilled. As children, we were masters of wonderment. We did not worry about what others thought, or about lacking, being less than perfect, or trying to achieve greatness, because we were already great.

We could literally stop and smell the roses, or be in awe of an ant carrying food to its home, without desperately trying to clear our minds of worry and be present. We were proud of who we were and wanted someone to watch every time we awkwardly learned a new skill.

We think as adults that we’re supposed to teach children the ways of the world, but what if it’s the other way round? What if children are here to teach us? We’ve set up a society that inhibits our true selves; it’s no longer appropriate to cry in public, dance in the middle of the street, make prolonged eye contact with a stranger, or run around naked on the beach.

Our parents taught us to be appropriate, and we now teach the next generation. So how as adults do we unlearn rules, and get back to freedom? We give up our power, our control, and our superiority, then ask a child to teach us.

Take action: It’s common to think that giving up control over children will instantly lead to chaos. Find a balance, try it for half an hour. Ask a child to show you how to play, or how to create, or how to imagine. Let them be the expert.

Inspired by Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s Oprah Supersoul Session, The Awakened Self

Make your personal goals a priority.

There is controversy over how to best set up a to-do list, or for that matter, if to have one at all. Here’s an approach that many highly successful people use.

The key is to start our list the day before, about midway through the day, when we are on top of things, but not exhausted. This list should start with only three important tasks, and one being the absolute, must-do priority.

The tasks should be achievable, broken down to take up to 45 minutes of our time, so not a complete goal, just steps towards our objective. Ensure that the tasks are in line with your values.

They should also be scheduled in, with a deadline, for example: “Contact key client by 10am.” Most of us work well to deadlines. We should try to accomplish our most important task first thing, before the daily emergencies kick in. Then, tackle the next two items that are significant to us. Only after our top three tasks are complete, should we consider the less important list items, or other people’s priorities.

Take action: It’s important to know what our own priorities are, as opposed to what other people want us to do. If you are not clear on your values and goals, or don’t have a vision for who you want to be, make that number one on your list.

Inspired by Jason Selk, Tom Barton and Matthew Rudy’s book, Organize Tomorrow Today: 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life.