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A Guide to Letting Go of Stress

April 15, 2019 - 6:00am
By Leo Babauta

We all deal with stress on a daily basis — whether it’s the stress of being busy and overwhelmed at work, having to deal with personal crises, traffic, relationships, health, finances … stress can be a big part of our lives.

And stress has some strong effects: it makes us less happy, less effective, less open-hearted in our relationships, it tires us out, makes us less healthy, and can even create mental health issues if it rises to levels of anxiety.

So let’s look at how to let go of stress, whenever we notice it.

What You’re Struggling With

Why do we get stressed out, feel anxiety or feel overwhelmed?

Because we want the world to be calm, orderly, comfortable, and the world isn’t going along with those wishes. Things are out of control, not orderly, not simple, full of interruptions and unplanned events, health problems and accidents, and things never go as we planned or imagined.

But this is the way the world is — the stress comes not because the world is messy and chaotic, but because we desire it to be different than it is.

We have ideals for how other people should be, how we should be, how everything around us should be. These ideals aren’t a problem — the is that we are attached to these ideals. And this attachment causes us stress.

The good news is that we can let go of our attachment, and the world doesn’t need to change one iota. We can let go, and in doing so we let go of our stress.

How to Let Go of the Stress

Let’s say you’re experiencing a moment of stress right now.

Something isn’t going the way you’d like, things are chaotic or overwhelming, someone isn’t acting the way you’d like, you’re worried about something coming up.

The first practice is to drop into your body and notice how the stress feels, physically. Be present with the feeling — it’s not a problem to have stress in your body, it’s just a physical feeling. You can observe the physical sensation, just be with it. This can be your whole practice, and it only has to take a few moments.

The second practice is to notice the ideal, or your narrative about the situation. What’s causing this stress in your body? You have some ideal about how the world should be, how the other person should be, how you should be. And the world, the person, or you are not meeting that ideal. Notice that right now. Notice what you’re saying to yourself about it: “They shouldn’t act like that, I don’t like this, I’m such a screwup and not worthy of love.”

What do you say to yourself? Is this a familiar narrative? Notice that the ideal and the narrative are causing the effect of the stress, anxiety, fear, feeling of overwhelm. They aren’t serving you very well.

Also notice that they are completely fabricated by your mind. You created this ideal and the narrative. They are harming you, and you made up this dream. That’s nothing to beat yourself up about, but just to recognize. The good news: If you created it, you can let it go as well.

The third practice is to let go and just be. What would it be like to be in this moment without the ideal and the narrative? You’d be at peace. You’d be present in this moment. You’d be free. Perhaps more loving (to yourself or others).

Ask yourself what it would be like to not have the ideal and narrative. See if you can feel what it would be like, just for a moment. In that moment, you are free. You can relax, open your mind beyond your self-concern, and just be.

This is a state of openness that you can drop into in any moment. Just notice the sensations of this moment — the sensations of your body, of your surroundings. Notice the other people in your life, and their beautiful hearts. Notice how amazing it is to be alive right now, what a gift it is to have sight, hearing, taste, a body. What a privilege, what a joy!

You don’t have to be grateful and joyous in every moment, but this freedom of dropping ideal and narrative, and being at peace … it’s always available. Even in moments of chaos, you can be free, and even appreciate the beauty of the chaos.

Focus as an Antidote for Wanting to Do Everything

April 8, 2019 - 6:00am
By Leo Babauta

I have a problem, and I think most people do as well: I want to do everything.

OK, not actually every single thing, but I want to do more than I possibly can:

  • I want to do everything on my long to-do list, today
  • I want to take on every interesting project
  • I want to say yes to everyone else’s requests, even if I know I’m already too busy
  • I want to travel everywhere, and see everything that’s interesting
  • I want to try every delicious food, and I always want more of it (and I always eat too much)
  • I want to watch every interesting TV show and film
  • I want to read everything interesting online
  • I want to take on a lot of interesting hobbies — each of which would take me many hours to master
  • I want to spend time with everyone I love, with every friend — and also have a lot of time for solitude!

Obviously, this is all impossible. But I bet I’m not alone in constantly wanting all of this and more.

There’s a term for this in Buddhism that sounds judgmental but it’s not: “greed.” The term “greed” in this context just describes the very human tendency to want more of what we want.

It’s why we’re overloaded with too many things to do, overly busy and overwhelmed. It’s why we’re constantly distracted, why we overeat and shop too much and get addicted to things. It’s why we have too much stuff, and are in debt.

Greed is so common that we don’t even notice it. It’s the foundation of our consumerist society. It’s the ocean that we’re swimming, so much a part of the fabric of our lives that we can’t see that it’s there.

So what can we do about this tendency called greed? Is there an antidote?

There absolutely is.

The traditional antidote to greed in Buddhism is generosity. And while we will talk about the practice of generosity, the antidote I’d like to propose you try is focus.

Focus is a form of simplicity. It’s letting go of everything that you might possibly want, to give complete focus on one important thing.

Imagine that you want to get 20 things done today. You are eager to rush through them all and get through your to-do list! But instead of indulging in your greed tendency, you decide to simplify. You decide to focus.

Let’s talk about the practice of complete focus. It can be applied to all of the

The Practice of Complete Focus

This practice can be applied to all of the types of greed we mentioned above — wanting to do everything, read everything, say yes to everything, go everywhere, eat all the things.

Identify the urge: The first step in this practice is to recognize that your greed tendency is showing itself. Notice that you want to do everything, eat everything, and so forth. Once we’re aware of the tendency, we can work with it.

See the effects: Next, we need to recognize that indulging in the greed tendency only hurts us. It makes us feel stressed, overwhelmed, always unsatisfied. It makes us do and eat and watch and shop too much, to the detriment of our sleep, happiness, relationships, finances and more. Indulging might satisfy a temporary itch, but it’s not a habit that leads to happiness or fulfillment.

Practice refraining: Third, we can choose to refrain — choose not to indulge. The practice of refraining is about not indulging in the greed tendency, and instead pausing. Noticing the urge to indulge, and mindfully noticing how the urge feels in our body, as a physical sensation. Where is it located? What is it like? Be curious about it. Stay with it for a minute or two. Notice that you are actually completely fine, even if the urge is really strong. It’s just a sensation.

Focus with generosity: Then we can choose to be generous and present with one thing. Instead of trying to do everything, choose just one thing. Ideally, choose something that’s important and meaningful, that will have an impact on the lives of others, even if only in a small way. Let this be an act of generosity for others. Let go of everything else, just for a few minutes, and be completely with this one thing. Generously give it your full attention. This is your love.

Clear distractions: If necessary, create structure to hold you in this place of focus. That might mean shutting off the phone, turning off the Internet, going to a place where you can completely focus. Think of it as creating your meditation space.

Practice with the resistance: As you practice focus, you are likely to feel resistance towards actually focusing and doing this one thing. You’ll want to go do something else, anything else. You’ll feel great aversion to doing this one thing. It’s completely fine. Practice with this resistance as you did with the urge: noticing the physical sensation, meditating on it with curiosity, staying with it with attention and love. Again, it’s just a sensation, and you can learn to love it as you can any experience.

Let go of everything, and generously give your complete focus to one thing. Simplify, and be completely present.

You can do this with your urge to do all tasks, read all things, do all hobbies, say yes to all people and projects. But you can also do it with possessions: choose just to have what you need to be happy, and simplify by letting go of the rest. You can do the same with travel: be satisfied with where you are, or with going to one place and fully being there with it.

You don’t need to watch everything, read everything, eat everything. You can simplify and do less. You can let go and be present. You can focus mindfully.

If you’d like to train in this kind of focus, train with me in my Mindful Focus Course.

The Beautiful Mornings Challenge: Create a Sacred Morning Routine

April 3, 2019 - 6:00am
By Leo Babauta

Our days are filled with chaos, busyness and noise — often with very little time for intentional activity, quiet, solitude, mindfulness.

But we can intentionally create that lovely, mindful space that we crave.

Today I invite you to join me and a thousand others in my Sea Change Program as we launching into the Beautiful Mornings Challenge, which is about creating simple, lovely morning routines, and waking just a little earlier to make space for those intentional activities.

It’s about creating some space for meditation, reflection, movement, writing, or anything else you’d like to have room for in your life. And finding some space in the mornings for that, a sacred space that takes advantage of the quiet and beautiful light of the mornings.

Here’s how the challenge works:

  1. Week 1: You pick one thing to do in the morning and wake up a little earlier to do it. There will be additional instructions for this first week, but the idea is that we’re easing into it. We don’t need to have the “perfect” morning routine to get started. Btw, this week could just be 5-10 minutes earlier than your usual wake time (20 minutes at the most). So pick a small task to fit into that. Things you might pick as your one thing to do: meditation, writing, yoga, journaling, writing, reading, or really anything that you’d like space for in your life. You cannot use the time for going on your phone or browsing the Internet.
  2. Week 2: You pick a second thing to do in the morning, and wake up a little earlier than last week. Again, wake just 5-10 minutes earlier, and ease into it. Pick another small task. Now we’re waking 10-20 minutes earlier each day, and doing two small tasks.
  3. Week 3: You make this a mindful, sacred space. Instead of waking earlier and doing a third task, this week you’re going to take some time to adjust to the new wake time, and make this a sacred space where you practice mindfulness. We’ll go more into this in the article for this week.
  4. Week 4: You wake just a little earlier, and perhaps choose a 3rd thing to do. Like the first two weeks, you’ll wake just a little earlier (5-10 minutes) and choose a third thing to do for your beautiful morning routine. You’ll keep practicing your sacred space and mindfulness from the previous week.

So it’s that simple … slowly wake a little earlier each weeks (for 3 of the weeks) to make space for something you’d like to have in your mornings. And spend a little time making it a sacred space where you practice mindfully.

If you join the Sea Change Program, you’ll get:

  • Articles to help you move through this monthlong challenge
  • A live webinar with me, where you can ask questions
  • A supportive community on Slack (including the recommended option to join a small team for added accountability)
  • A library of video courses and articles to help you change any habit

Join Sea Change today (free for 7 days, then $15/month).

Develop the Powerful Habit of Mindful Focus

April 1, 2019 - 6:00am
By Leo Babauta

Creating a life of focus, purpose and mindfulness is a tough thing these days. If you’re like me, you want to bring forth your gifts to the world, but you’re pulled in a thousand directions, plagued by overwhelm, distractions, a ton of messages and emails, and so many obligations that it’s causing you to put off doing the important work you want to do in life.

You would like to:

  • Be more mindful and find a greater sense of focus in your life
  • Be more effective in your work and life
  • Achieve a sense of peace and calm amidst daily uncertainty
  • Accomplish projects without getting waylaid and distracted by a thousand other directions

Unfortunately, it’s not always so easy. The Demons of Chaos stand in your way:

  1. Other people’s demands, and a pile of emails and messages
  2. Distractions from social media and other online comfort foods for the distracted mind
  3. Putting important things off because of the uncertainty & discomfort of them
  4. It’s not easy dealing with these difficulties, and finding the mindful focus you’re looking for.
Trust me, I understand

I’ve worked with many people as a teacher and coach, and I know from personal experience (including my own life), that most of us just go about our daily lives like this. We’re doing our best but in the end having a difficult time coping with the distractions of technology, the chaos of our work and personal lives, the uncertainty that lies in everything we do.

We struggle to find focus, and find the practice of mindfulness elusive on a day-to-day basis. Amidst all of this overwhelming chaos, we can often get stuck in indecision and procrastination.

We want a greater sense of meaning in our lives, a greater sense of empowerment and control, but aren’t sure where to find it or how to get there.

The Mindful Focus Course

I’ve created Mindful Focus Course just for this very common problem. In this four-week video course, we will look at:

  • Understanding why we get distracted, why it’s so difficult to find focus, why we procrastinate, and why we get plagued with indecision
  • How to structure your day and environment for greater clarity, focus and meaningful contribution
  • How to create a focus ritual and train ourselves to stay with important tasks in mindfulness
  • How to deal with our most common obstacles, like interruptions, emails, and the urge to run to distraction
  • How to simplify your day and create a more deliberate pace
  • How to cut out distractions

But this isn’t just a bunch of video content … this is real daily training, designed to help you actually create greater mindful focus in your life. I’ve designed it after my own personal training, and after training many others in these methods.

Features & Benefits of the Course

The Mindful Focus Course features:

  1. Four week-long modules (plus an intro module to help you get set up for success), each featuring short, easily digestible video lessons.
  2. Daily training to implement each module’s core ideas.
  3. My recommended daily structure and rituals for greater focus and mindfulness.
  4. Bonus videos: morning routines and my favorite tools for focus

This course has been designed to bring important benefits to your life:

  1. A greater understanding of the forces that bring us to distraction, indecision, and procrastination
  2. Create a greater sense of empowerment over the chaos and distractions in your life
  3. Get better at not putting off important things, and accomplishing important projects
  4. Find a sense of focus, clarity and mindfulness in your life
  5. Find simplicity, calm and a sense of deliberate pace
It’s Not Easy, But You Got This

Committing yourself to training like this isn’t easy. A four-week commitment might sound like a lot … but consider how important your work in the world is. Consider how a lifetime of improved, mindful focus will benefit not only you but those you serve, those around you, anyone who is close to you.

Devoting yourself to this kind of training is never easy, but you are someone who isn’t afraid of the difficult, and who has taken on the discomfort of putting yourself out there in the world to serve others. Your heart is bigger than a little discomfort, and you are up to this challenge.

I believe in you, and would love to work with you.

Take Action Now

Sign up today to get access to this training, which I believe is life-changing.

Enrollment for this course is just $99, for a lifetime of focus. But if you sign up by April 15, 2019, you can get 10% off the course — use the discount coupon “early-bird” (without quotes) in the checkout cart.

Sign up for Mindful Focus Course here.

Money-back Guarantee

I fully stand behind this course, and give my personal guarantee that it will be worth your money. If you’re not fully satisfied, just ask for a full refund, you don’t have to give an explanation.

A Guide to Habit Resilience

March 28, 2019 - 6:00am
By Leo Babauta

I’ve coached thousands of people who want to change habits, in my Sea Change Program, and I’ve found there’s a key difference between those who actually make changes and those who don’t.

That key difference is what I like to call “habit resilience.”

Habit resilience is the ability to bounce back when things don’t go as you planned, to stay positive, to encourage yourself, to forgive yourself, to be loving and compassionate with yourself, to shake it off and start again afresh. To learn and grow from struggles.

The opposite of habit resilience is getting discouraged when things don’t go as planned, beating yourself up, trying not to think about it when you mess up, ignoring problems, complaining, blaming others, deciding you can’t change, hardening your low or harsh opinion of yourself.

Let’s look at one example:

I want to change my eating habits, which is pretty tough to do … so I set myself a plan to eat oats for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and scrambled tofu with veggies for dinner. Great! But then during the week, I have to go to a work get-together, a family party, a 3-day trip to New York, and then my daughter’s birthday party. All the plans went out the window on those days.

So at this point, I can give up, beat myself up, ignore the problem … or, if I’ve developed habit resilience, I can shake myself off, make some adjustments to the plan, give myself some love, encourage myself, and start again, keeping a positive attitude the whole time. The second way of doing it will result in long-term change — if you can stick with it, there’s no change you can’t create.

That’s just one version of habit resilience, but you can see the difference between the first option and the second one is huge.

So how do we develop habit resilience? Let’s take a look.

Developing Habit Resilience

The good news is that you can develop this marvelous quality or skill of habit resilience. Actually, it’s a set of skills, but they can be developed with some practice.

Here’s how to develop habit resilience:

  • Loosen your hold on expectations. When we start to make changes in our lives, we often have unrealistic expectations. Six-pack abs in four weeks! But when we actually try to hit those expectations, we usually fall short. At least, at first. Over the long run, we can often make greater changes than we think we can. But over the short term, the changes are small, and not very orderly either. Change is messy. So just expect things to go less than ideally. Don’t be too attached to how you expect things to go, so that when your expectations aren’t met, you can just take it in stride.
  • Learn the skill of adjusting. If your diet plan doesn’t go as planned, it’s not necessarily a fault of yours — it’s the fault of the method or plan. How can you make it better to accommodate your life? Maybe you can get some accountability, set up some reminders, get rid of junk food from you house, and so on. There are a thousand ways to adjust a plan or method. When things go wrong, look for a way to adjust, don’t just give up.
  • Practice self-compassion and forgiveness. This is so important, but most people have the opposite habit — when things go wrong, we often beat ourselves up, are critical and harsh. Those kinds of reactions are unhelpful and can keep us stuck in old habits for years. Instead, we need to learn to be kinder to ourselves when we don’t measure up to what we hope we’ll be. When we let ourselves down, it’s important to forgive ourselves. Be compassionate, seeing our own suffering and wishing for relief from that suffering. Wishing for peace for ourselves. Being loving to ourselves, no matter what we do.
  • Don’t ignore problems, face them with kindness. That said, being forgiving is very different than just pretending it didn’t happen. If we’ve gone off our exercise plan, or stopped meditating … don’t just ignore the problem, not wanting to face it. Instead, turn towards the problem, and look at it with kindness. It’s like if you have a crying child — is it better to ignore the child and just hope that they’ll shut up? That will just lead to more pain for both of you. Instead, give them a hug. Acknowledge their pain. Give them love. Be there for them. And do the same for yourself when you’re having difficulties.
  • Learn to encourage yourself. I wrote recently about the importance of encouragement vs. discouragement … we need to practice this regularly. When you falter, can you be encouraging to yourself? Can you stay positive in the face of failure? Can you look at it as another step in your growth, instead of failure?
  • Find encouragement from others. In the same way, we can get encouragement from other people. Being in a program like Sea Change, with other people who are there to encourage you, is a good way to find that support. Ask for help from friends and family. Find a good friend who will help you get back on track, with love. We are not alone — lots of others know what it’s like to struggle, and are willing to support us when we’re struggling.
  • Learn perseverance — keep coming back. Stay positive when things go astray, and just keep coming back to the habit you want to change. Want to quit smoking but you backtracked when your father died? Get back on it as soon as you’re able. Come back with even more resolve. Commit yourself even deeper.

Can you feel that if you practice these skills, you’ll handle any difficulty that comes your way? That your path to change might be bumpy, filled with obstacles, but nothing will stop you if you keep a positive attitude, keep coming back, keep being loving and compassionate with yourself?

This is habit resilience. And it will change your entire life, if you practice.

The Deep Uncertainty of Meaningful Work

March 25, 2019 - 6:00am
By Leo Babauta

A man I know wanted to create a non-profit organization that was going to help give people a voice who don’t have that voice in our society.

He felt really strongly about this issue, and knew that this would have a big impact on people who he cared deeply about.

But he kept putting off starting.

He was like a million others who want to do meaningful work: write a book, fight for those who are powerless, create a startup, code a phone app that could change lives, volunteer at a charity, launch a business that has a heart. We put off doing this work because of deep uncertainty.

This man, like many of you, wasn’t sure if he could do it. He wasn’t sure how to go about doing it. He was worried that people would judge him, worried about what they might say. He didn’t know what path to take, was overwhelmed by how much there was to do, discouraged that he kept having to start over.

These are just a small subset of the doubt, fear and uncertainty we all face when we think about doing something meaningful.

So this man made a list. Everything he had to do. He picked the first thing on the list, and told himself he’d do it tomorrow.

Tomorrow came, and it turns out he needed to organize all the files on his computer. Oh, and clean his desk and also his bedroom and kitchen. Once these things were done, he’d be all clear to go.

He started the next day, but wondered if he was using the right tools. He did a search and spent the day researching the best tools for what he needed to do. That lead to a lot of other research, so that he didn’t feel he was procrastinating.

The tools research led him to research a bunch of other things, and he felt good doing this research. He spent weeks in the research phase — not tackling the things on his list but just reading and searching and taking notes. He told himself he was doing the meaningful work.

He decided he needed to get back to that first task on his list, so he told himself to do it tomorrow. Tomorrow came, but he decided to check his email first, to see if anything important was in his inbox. He also answered messages, checked some news websites, answered some more emails, started organizing all the things he had to do, and paid some bills. That lasted several days. If he got all these things clear, then he’d be ready to work on the non-profit.

You can see where this is going. He found lots of reasons not to actually do the meaningful work. He was feeling worse and worse about himself at this point.

But the people who he wanted to serve are those who continued to suffer. He himself was in a pretty comfortable life, other than the angst of not taking action. But those who he wanted to help were still suffering, because he couldn’t face the uncertainty.

The story isn’t over yet. He’s still avoiding the uncertainty … but it’s possible he’ll turn and face it. Practice with it with full mindfulness. Be absolutely courageous and present with it. And then begin to open up to it, letting it transform him like a fire transforms metal. It’s difficult at first but he can relax into it and fall in love with it.

The key is to open up to the deep uncertainty of the meaningful work. Recognize it as a necessary component of that work, not something to be feared or hated or avoided, but embraced and loved. It’s like the uncertainty of falling in love — how boring would a relationship be without the shakiness of that uncertainty? We can learn to recognize the uncertainty of our meaningful work as the thrill of exploration, falling in love, adventure, learning, creating, playing, or serving those we love.

Devoting ourselves to those we love helps us to open up to the uncertainty, to relax into it, because we allow our minds to open beyond the smallness of our self-concern. We see that there’s more to this than worrying about our own comfort, and realize that the most meaningful moments in our lives were achieved with discomfort, and that wasn’t a coincidence — the uncertainty and discomfort are a necessary component for us to do anything meaningful.

We can train in this. With love.

This is the training I’m doing myself, and helping more than a hundred other trainees with in my Fearless Training Program. The deep uncertainty of meaningful work. It’s the best place to train, because your own transformation can help you do the work that impacts thousands of others.

A Simple Mindful Method to Deal with Tiredness, Loneliness & Stress

March 21, 2019 - 6:00am

“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.” ~Byron Katie

By Leo Babauta

A loved one has been going through a hard time, dealing with tiredness, stress, and loneliness, and my heart goes out to them as it does anyone going through such struggles.

They can break your heart, these difficult emotions.

But beyond compassion, what I tried to help her with is a fairly simple method for dealing with these difficulties mindfully. I offer it to you all as well, as something to practice and test out.

Here’s the method, to practice if you’re feeling stress, frustration, loneliness, sadness, tiredness:

  1. Notice that you’re feeling this difficult emotion, and notice how it feels in your body. Bring a sense of curiosity to the sensations, just being present with them for a moment.
  2. Notice what thoughts you have in your head that are causing the emotion. For example, you might be thinking, “They shouldn’t treat me like that” or “Why does my job have to be so hard?” or “These people are stressing me out! Things should be more settled and orderly.” Or something like that. Just notice whatever thoughts you have. Maybe write them down.
  3. Notice that the thoughts are causing your difficulty. Not the situation — the thoughts. You might not believe that at first, but see if you can investigate whether that’s true.
  4. Ask yourself, “What would it be like if I didn’t have these thoughts right now? What would my experience be right now?” The simple answer is that you’re just having an experience — you have feelings in your body, but you also are experiencing a moment that has light, colors, sound, touch sensation on your skin, and so on. It’s just an experience, a moment in time, not good or bad.
  5. In fact, while this experience is neither good nor bad, you can start to appreciate it for what it is, without the thoughts. Just seeing it as a fresh experience, maybe even appreciating the beauty of the moment. Maybe even loving the moment just as it is.

Obviously some of these might take some practice. But it’s worth it, because while you might not be able to get rid of tiredness (some rest would help there), you can let go of the thoughts about the tiredness that are causing you to be unhappy. You might not be able to get rid of the loneliness, but you can let go of the downward spiral of thoughts and emotions that make the situation worse.

And just maybe, you can find some incredible love for your experience in this moment. Yes, you feel tired, but you can love the tiredness, and everything else in this moment, without needing anything to change.

The Underestimated Importance of Encouragement in Habit Change

March 18, 2019 - 6:00am
By Leo Babauta

When we’re trying to change a habit — whether its exercise or meditation or writing or quitting smoking — there are two key factors whose power most people don’t understand.

The two factors are encouragement and discouragement.

Let me walk you through an example. Michael wants to change his diet, and so he creates a healthy meal plan for himself and commits to sticking to that plan for a month.

Here’s are some typical key points within that month of habit change:

  1. He starts the first day, and has a healthy breakfast as planned. He feels encouraged by this good start!
  2. He has a healthy lunch too, and feels encouraged. But then eats a couple donuts that were in the office, and feels really discouraged. This might cause him to eat a burger with fries in the evening, which will get him further discouraged.
  3. He asks some family and friends to keep him accountable in a private Facebook group, and they agree. He feels encouraged! He starts again.
  4. When he eats a healthy breakfast, not only does he feel encouraged, he gets even more encouragement when he gets to post his success to his Facebook group. From this point on, every time he posts his successes, he feels encouraged, and it helps him to keep going.
  5. The weekend comes, and he goes to a couple parties and does not stick to the meal plan. He feels discouraged. He stops posting for a few days on the Facebook group because he feels bad.
  6. Not posting to the group makes him feel even worse. He is discouraged. He keeps eating bad, and gets more discouraged with every meal.

As you can see, the factors of encouragement and discouragement are the two key elements of the journey above. The more encouragement he gets, the better he’s likely to do. The more he feels discouraged, the less likely he’ll be to stick to things.

Luckily for us, we can do things that increase encouragement and decrease discouragement!

Ways to Increase Encouragement and Drop Discouragement

It’s not important to get this all perfect. We can all tolerate a bit of discouragement, and overcome struggle. But the more we can move in the right direction of getting more encouragement, the better our chances of success.

So let’s look at some great ways to increase encouragement:

  1. Get support from others (including joining my Sea Change Program) for your change — report to them regularly, ask them to encourage you.
  2. When things go astray, talk to yourself with encouragement. “You can do this! Get back on track, take the smallest step.” And so on. It’s a key skill.
  3. Put up motivational quotes, inspiration, success stories.
  4. Chart your progress. Show how far you’ve come.
  5. Reward yourself (don’t use food if you’re trying to change your diet, don’t use buying things if you’re getting out of debt).
  6. Mindfully enjoy the actual habit (like finding mindful gratitude as you exercise).
  7. Do the habit with others (go for a walk with other people).
  8. Give yourself stickers.

As you can see, these can be small encouragements. But they make a huge difference.

Some ways to decrease discouragements:

  1. When you mess up or go off your plan … note when you’re feeling discouraged. Reframe this moment as less of a “failure” and more of an opportunity to practice two key habit skills: encouraging yourself and starting again. If you work on these two skills, you’ll get really good at changing habits.
  2. When you miss reporting to people, note your discouragement. Reach out to one person and ask for support and encouragement. Tell them you’re embarrassed you haven’t been reporting, and commit to doing one small step.
  3. When you’re overwhelmed and feeling discouraged, focus on the smallest next step.
  4. When you have a habit streak going (which is encouraging when it is happening), but then the streak breaks (it goes from 47 days in a row to 0!) … notice the discouragement. Instead, think of the cumulative days you’ve been doing the habit, instead of the streak. Notice how much progress you’ve made.
  5. When you feel like you’ve let yourself and others down, practice self-compassion. This is a truly great habit skill to practice.

There are other good ways to decrease discouragement, but the main method is to notice when you’re discouraged, and find ways to encourage yourself, to reframe it as an opportunity, to practice self-compassion, to ask for support, to pick one small step and start again.

How to Do Your Scariest Tasks of the Day, with Joy

March 12, 2019 - 4:27pm
By Leo Babauta

In my Fearless Training Program, one of our members talked about how she gets a lot done during the day, but inevitably puts off her two scariest tasks, and doesn’t get them done.

Does that sound familiar to you? Putting off the hardest tasks of the day is a common affliction for most of us.

That wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing, except that this often means the most important work doesn’t get done. The most meaningful work, our passion project or dream, keeps getting pushed back to another day.

Our days are too precious for this. We treat them like an unlimited resource, but how many do we have left? None of us know. But we do know that it’s a limited number, and they are incredibly valuable.

So how do we change this habit? We stop running from the fear and start moving towards it. We let it become our training ground.

Let’s look at how to train.

Creating a Sacred Training Container

It’s important not to take this lightly. We have age-old habits of putting off our scary, hard tasks, and just saying, “I’m going to change” is not enough.

We have to take this seriously. The way to do that is to create a container for our training. Think of it like a boxing ring where you train, or a yoga mat, or a meditation hall. It has boundaries that make it special, and that keep you in the training area.

Think of this as a sacred space. It’s sacred because you have elevated it above all the other ordinary things you have to do for the day. In this special space, you are going to go towards your fear, and allow your habitual patterns to shift.

Here’s how you might create that container:

  1. Have a time of day when you train. Just as if you were going to go to a dojo to train — set a time. Will it be first thing in the morning, or right after lunch? Block it off on your calendar, set an alarm, and tell others that this is your training space.
  2. Have a place set aside for this training. If it’s computer-based work (like writing or doing your finances), move to a different space to work on your laptop — like at a coffee shop or a different room in your house than you use to do your usual daily activities. You should move into this space each day and feel that this is your training space.
  3. Create a starting ritual, where you set your intention for the training session. As you start, instead of just rushing to get the task done, pause. Take a moment to be intentional about how you enter this space and start training. Think of it as a sacred space. Set an intention for how you’ll practice during this training session — will you show up fully, and work with devotion?
  4. Let there be only one thing you can do during this session. While you’re in this training container, this sacred space … let yourself do nothing but the task you’ve chosen to do. For me right now, that’s writing this article. I don’t allow myself to switch to other tasks, to check my phone, to clean my house, to do anything but this single task. Let this be your most important rule. This sacred space is for nothing but training in uncertainty, pushing into fear, opening up in the middle of chaos with joy.
  5. Pour yourself into it, with devotion. Now do the task you’ve been putting off, pouring your entire being into it. Do it not only for yourself, but for the love of those you serve. For example, I’m doing this out of love for all of you, my readers. You might do it for your team members, your customers, your family. What would it be like to do this fully, with complete devotion? Do we ever pour ourselves into tasks like this?
  6. Close out with a bow of gratitude. Set a timer for this session (it only has to be for 10 minutes, even 5 if that’s too much), and when it goes off, allow yourself to close out the practice. Don’t just rush into the next task in your day. Close it out as if this were the end of a special meditation, an important martial arts training session. Bow to the practice, and to yourself, out of gratitude. Make this feel special. Actually, we can bring this specialness to every activity.

That’s the training container. Can you feel how this would elevate your training, to create a container like this?

How to Train, with Joy

Training in doing the things that scare you doesn’t have to be torture. In fact, it can be joyous.

To start with, what’s the scariest thing on your todo list? Pick that for your training session today, and create the container as we talked about above.

Then try these ideas to bring joy to the training:

  1. Play some music. As you start, feel free to play some music. Brew some nice tea. Light candles if you like. Do what it takes to make this a pleasant experience. Music can even make the training fun.
  2. Drop into your body. The training becomes a meditation if you drop your attention into your body, noticing the uncertainty you’re feeling, the physical sensation of it. Where is it located in your body? What does the sensation feel like? This is the training, to be present with the fear, the anxiety, the resistance, instead of running from it.
  3. Stay with the sensation, with curiosity. Bring a sense of curiosity to the sensation, exploring it like it’s the first time you’ve ever had this experience. What is it like, right now? Can you stay with it for longer? Can you find gratitude for it? Can you be open, relaxed, even joyous with it?
  4. Dance with the chaos. Feeling this uncertainty, you can begin to dance. Literally, you can dance — let your body move to the music as you do the work. But also figuratively — you are playing with this uncertainty, dancing with the chaos, having fun with whatever you normally run from. Let it be a game, let it be joyful, let it be an adventure.

Keep doing the task that you find scary, that you would normally put off, but do it with this sense of mindfulness, of dancing, of curiosity and gratitude and relaxation and joy.

The Two Most Powerful Ways to Create a Healthy Eating Pattern

March 7, 2019 - 7:00am
By Leo Babauta

While most people want to find a way to eat healthier, they are up against forces stronger than they understand.

Sure, we’d like to eat healthier — but then why do we keep failing? Why are most of us getting heavier over time, despite our best efforts?

To figure out a better method, we first have to look at the powerful forces we’re up against. Then firm our resolve, and try one or both of the powerful methods that I describe below.

The Forces We’re Up Against

Let’s say you’d like to eat a healthier diet … think about what you’re up against:

  • You wake in the morning and are hungry and in a hurry — you know you want to cook something healthy with vegetables, or maybe some oats with fruits and nuts, but it’s too much work and takes too long. So you eat a quick bowl of cereal or grab a pastry at the coffee shop.
  • You want to get a salad for lunch but there’s a party at work and there are a lot of unhealthy options right there in front of you, very tempting. Or perhaps your co-workers invite you to lunch and you can’t resist getting the burgers or fried foods they’re eating.
  • You want to avoid sweets but then you go to a family gathering and there are delicious desserts passing in front of your nose all day long, and you just go for it.
  • You’ve been disciplined about eating healthy for a few days, but at night your cravings for snacks get the best of you and you just pig out. This is your body’s hormone signals at work, telling you to eat because it doesn’t want you to drop below a certain level (your bodyfat set point).
  • You are tired, you had a hard day, and you want to just comfort yourself with some snacks (comfort foods).

I’m sure at least a couple of these sound familiar to most of you. Maybe too familiar — you might have been struggling with these for years.

The forces we’re up against are powerful:

  1. Lack of time and energy, so we opt for convenience
  2. Social forces that cause us to do what others are doing
  3. Tempting foods are too hard to pass up very often — this is a combination of high-reward foods and depletion of discipline
  4. Our bodies signaling that we should eat when our bodyfat starts to drop (bodyfat set point)
  5. We use food to reward or comfort ourselves, and this is an ingrained habit from childhood

Most of us can’t beat all of these really strong forces all the time. And so we win a few battles but lose the war over the long run.

What can we do against these powerful forces? Are they unstoppable?

No, we can overcome them. It will just take more focused effort than we usually believe when we say, “I’m going to start eating healthier, tomorrow!”

There are two powerful methods that can help us overcome these forces.

Powerful Method #1: Change Your Environment

Most of the forces above can be overcome with a complete change of our environment. Now, I understand that many people aren’t in complete control of their environment (teenagers, for example, or people living in a family) … but we can still make some changes that will help.

The more of these kinds of changes we can make, the better we’ll do against the forces above. See if you can make more changes than you normally would consider — sometimes when there’s a will, there’s a way to make it happen.

Imagine this: you go through your day with only healthy options to choose from, and you have healthy meals already prepared (you made them on Sunday). You wake up, grab a healthy breakfast, take your healthy lunch to work, avoid the unhealthy places your coworkers eat and instead read a book and eat your delicious lunch. You have healthy snacks packed for the afternoon when your energy starts to dip, and when you get home you have a healthy dinner to heat up and enjoy. At night, you have fruits you can eat if you get hungry.

With your environment changed, you will default to healthy most of the time. Then when you don’t have a choice, you can just do your best, and not worry too much about it.

Some changes to consider making to your environment:

  • Get rid of all unhealthy food in your home, and only have healthy options. If you can’t do this completely, do it as much as you can. Talk to the others in your home and ask for their helpl.
  • Plan out some healthy meals and prepare them in advance on Sunday.
  • Have healthy snacks available to you whenever you might get hungry.
  • Bring a healthy lunch to work. Find a nice spot to enjoy this meal.
  • Find some restaurants with healthy options that you can go to if you want to go with friends. Tell them not to let you order anything but the choices you’ve chosen ahead of time.
  • Prepare or buy something healthy to bring to parties or family gatherings. Avoid hanging out near the unhealthy stuff.
  • Plan ahead and have healthy stuff to bring for when you travel.
  • Have healthy options available at work, and avoid places where they have unhealthy stuff.
  • Get your friends and family to join you on your quest for healthy living. Start a challenge. Ask for their help. Don’t get frustrated if they don’t join you or don’t stick to it.

These are just some ideas. You might come up with others, but these are some examples of changing your environment to support a healthy change. It’s more important than we often realize.

Powerful Method #2: Get Some Support & Accountability

The next most powerful thing you can do to make a change is to make it social — get friends, family and/or co-workers to give you support, join a challenge with you, or hold you accountable for the changes you’d like to make.

This is true for any habit, but it’s especially true for eating habits. That’s because our friends, family and co-workers are often the biggest influence on us when it comes to eating. If they are trying to make us eat dessert all the time, we will have a hard time resisting that for very long. But if they’re eating healthy meals and snacks with us, or at least encouraging us to do so, we will probably do a lot better.

Some suggestions here:

  1. Join my Sea Change Program to get some support and accountability — we’re doing the Healthy Eating Challenge right now, and it is set up to help you be a success.
  2. Create a challenge and see if friends and family will join you. Or make it a challenge for your office.
  3. Get an accountability partner or two, and report to each other every day. Or at least every week.

I highly suggest you join us in the Healthy Eating Challenge in Sea Change — I’d love to have you.

Three Other Things We Can Work On

While those are the two most powerful methods of change, there are a couple things that are also pretty important, that I should mention:

  1. Change your coping mechanisms. A problem that many of us have is that food is our way of coping with stress, feeling bad, and so on. It’s been that way for years. To overcome this old habit, we have to find new ways of coping with stress, anger, sadness. When those feelings come up, you have to consciously choose to deal with them in a new way: talk to someone, go for a walk or a run, take a hot bath, have some tea, meditate. Do this consciously for awhile and soon you won’t need the food to cope. The same is true for rewarding yourself for hard work, by the way.
  2. Practice self-compassion. What do we do when we feel bad about ourselves? Again, we often cope by going to our comfort foods. But instead, we can start to practice self-compassion. Do this regularly and you won’t need the food to feel better as much.
  3. Practice mindful enjoyment of healthy food. People don’t like to eat healthy food if they think of it as a sacrifice, of eating food they don’t like just because it’s good for them. Instead, try to be mindful as you eat the food, and find something to enjoy about the experience. Can you slowly learn to adore the taste of fruit, of avocadoes, of greens sauteed in garlic and olive oil? Eat slowly, mindfully, and with joy.

These might sound like a lot of changes to make, and they are. But you don’t have to do them all at once. Make it a project to do some of these changes each week, slowly practicing the new coping mechanisms, slowly changing your environment, slowly getting more support and accountability.

This is doable. You are worth it.