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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Learn to speak the language of money.

It’s not common to talk about money with our friends and family, and it’s not a mandatory subject in schools. Yet, it’s extremely important for us to be educated in the basics of this field. Finance affects all of us whether we want it to or not. Step #1: Learn to speak the language of money.

The game.

Money is often referred to as a game, and we have to participate in this game, so we’d better learn how to play it, or we will lose. It’s that simple. The first step to learning the skill, is to know the language so we don’t get taken by words that don’t make sense to us. It’s wise to be able to have educated conversations with people in finance. To do so, we must understand what they are saying, just like understanding a foreign language. The words, number systems, and associated meanings, are the tools needed to navigate the conversation.

Be wise, don’t be tricked.

We can’t rely on our adviser (if we have one) to teach us everything we should know, they don’t usually have the time. We certainly shouldn’t rely on banks. As financial institutions, they have their own agenda. In fact a bank will tell you your house is an asset, but not tell you it’s ‘their’ asset – that’s part of the game. Often we make decisions based on opinions handed down from past generations. Times have changed, so what was a good idea for our parents and grandparents, may not still apply.

Being uneducated in this game is the biggest financial risk we can take, yet it’s in our power to grasp it. Learn step one the same way you learn any language: go through some workbooks, chat with people who speak it well, take a course, try a “Word of the day,” and then immerse yourself. Start small, make a move and get in the game.

Take action: Here are a handful of terms to look up and get you started on financial literacy… fiduciary, valuation calculation, short a stock, book value and market value, equities and bonds, cash flow forecast, cap rate, EBITA, index, derivatives, futures, dividends.

:: Inspired by Robert T. Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant: Guide to Financial Freedom.

 

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Risking rejection can lead to surprising opportunities.

No one likes to be rejected, but on the flip side, most people don’t like to do the rejecting either. People generally feel good when they get to help others.

The rejection connection

If we go beyond just asking for something, to making a connection with the person we’re asking, it’s possible they still won’t say, “Yes” to our request. However, they might help us find another solution instead, one we haven’t thought of on our own. Perhaps they’ll connect us with someone who will say, “Yes,” or maybe they’ll give us a portion of what we seek.

Engage the person by explaining why we are asking. And, if we can make the reason beneficial to them, even better. For example, let’s say we’re in line at a coffee shop and realize we’ve forgotten our wallet. We could just leave, or we could ask the person in front of us to buy us a coffee. Explain we’ve forgotten our wallet and that we’re much more pleasant to be around once we’ve had caffeine.

The stranger may reject us, or they could give us a bit of money. Maybe, the person behind us overhears, happens to have reward points for a free coffee that day, and gives them to us.

Unforeseen possibilities

If we risk rejection, we might somehow get that coffee. Plus, who knows what opportunities will come up if we see that person again the next morning? The connections we make can be worth the risk of rejection.

Take action: Ask for something from a stranger. Engage the person by explaining why you want it and how it will benefit them, even if their benefit is as simple as helping you get over your fear of rejection. It’s an authentic reason. Start small and get comfortable with this vulnerability. See where it leads you.

:: Inspired by Jia Jiang’s TEDx Talk, What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection.

 

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We have more energy than we think.

A major excuse for many of us to not do something we know we should do, is that we’re too tired at the moment, or we don’t have the energy. Energy management is important. Knowing what part of the day we naturally have the most energy, getting the right amount of sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly, all help us manage our levels of effort. Plus, it’s important to take breaks, reset, and enjoy life.

However, sometimes we use lack of energy as an excuse to sit on the sofa, snack mindlessly, and watch tv. Here’s a question for those of us that are using the word “relaxing” instead of “procrastinating”: If there was suddenly a ferocious tiger thrown into your living room, would you find the energy to get off that sofa? Yes, of course!

Or, if we are at the gym and think we are not strong enough to go faster on the treadmill, by picturing that same tiger chasing us, we can be motivated to turn the treadmill up a notch. Almost always guaranteed, we have more energy in us. It’s time to stop using tiredness as an excuse.

The key here though, is to know when we are using it as an excuse, and realize when we need to adjust our routines for healthier energy management. Try giving it your all for a week and see if you feel better or worse. If it invigorates you, know that you were previously justifying procrastination, and mentality bring out that tiger. If you feel closer to burnout, it’s time to make some energy adjustments.

Take action: If you’re using fatigue as an excuse, change your thoughts from “tired” to “go time”. Building up stamina can take a little while, so start with simple switches. Such as, go for a walk instead of watching tv, stand up to have a phone conversation, or cook instead of ordering takeout.

:: Inspired by the interview with Olaniyi Sobomehin on The Art of Charm podcast.

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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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