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Psychology + Self Improvement In the 21st Century
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How to Change Your Relationship with Stuff: Recognizing There’s More to Life Than Material Things

February 19, 2017 - 4:00pm

“I wish everyone could become rich and famous so they can realize it’s not the answer.”

Jim Carrey


What’s your relationship with stuff like?

Are you someone who is always seeking more things – whether it be a new car, new phone, new TV, new video games, or new clothes? Do you find it hard to just be happy and content with what you have?

You’re not alone. In much of today’s culture, we are told to glorify our possessions and material goods. And the more we have, the more “successful” we think we are.

This idea that “more stuff = more success” didn’t come out of nowhere. According to Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, our materialistic culture started at the beginning of industrialization and automation when we began to see a huge boom in commercial goods and nation-wide wealth.

In much of the Western world, we have an abundance of stuff. We have more products available to us at cheaper prices than ever before – and this can be a huge blessing, but also a huge curse.

Nowadays corporations bombard us with countless commercials and advertisements telling us that we need their new products and services to be truly happy. Every year there’s a new gadget that becomes the next fad – and we all want to have that gadget so that we don’t feel like we’re missing out.

This material abundance has fed into the whole “keeping up with the Joneses” mindset, which is when we constantly compare our fortunes with that of our neighbors – and we’re always trying to “one up” our neighbors by getting the next best thing before they do.

This materialistic mindset can be very unhealthy. It teaches us that material goods are the only real measure of happiness and success, and that can often distract us from other areas in our lives that are much more important.

As a kid, I’m not afraid to admit that I grew up a bit spoiled. My parents were very fortunate and they would often get me the newest toys and gadgets for holidays and birthdays.

I remember my relationship with stuff being very paradoxical at a young age. I would crave getting some new video game, but then when I finally got it I would quickly grow bored of it and want the next new thing.

This is the paradox of materialism – it creates an endless craving where we never become satisfied. As soon as we get what we want, we find something new to set our eyes upon. We are wired to be dissatisfied.

Can you relate to that feeling when you finally get something new and it immediately loses its appeal? It’s almost as if the seeking of these material goods is more important to us than the actual material goods themselves.

And this makes sense when you realize that a lot of our drive for material goods is based on how it affects our perceived social status. We end up seeking that new car not because we really want it, but because we can’t wait to show it off to our neighbors.


Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life – families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker – all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less.

The documentary is currently available to stream on Netflix and Amazon.


How to Change Your Relationship With Stuff

Do you think you need to change your relationship with stuff? Here are valuable tips and guidelines to help get you started:

  • Pay attention to your relationship with stuff – A good first step to take is to just simply step back and evaluate your current relationship with stuff. Do you crave buying new things a lot? Do you often go shopping on the weekends or engage in “retail therapy” to improve your mood? Look around your home: Do you think you own too much stuff?
  • Focus on values outside of material things – One big theme throughout the documentary Minimalism is that our obsession with material goods often distract us from things in life that are more important, like taking care of our health, doing things that truly make us happy, or building on our relationships with actual people. If you place your “relationships with stuff” over your “relationships with people,” it may be time to reevaluate your values and priorities.
  • Ask yourself, “Does this add value to my life?” – To create a more minimalist perspective, we should look at all of the things we own in our lives and ask ourselves if they are really serving a purpose or function. One valuable tip I share in Organized Home, Organized Mind is from Marie Kondo, who advises we pick up an object and ask ourselves, “Does this add joy?” If the answer is “no,” it might be an object worth getting rid of.
  • Minimize your consumption of commercials and ads – Our culture often has a major influence over how we choose to our lives, so it’s important we remain mindful of the cultural messages we are consuming on a daily basis. If you watch a lot of TV and see a lot of commercials, or if you consume a lot of media that glorifies fame and wealth, those messages can often be changing your perspective and making you feel like material goods are more important than they really are. Try to find ways to avoid commercials by recording your favorite shows and skipping the commercials, or installing an adblocker on your web browser. It could make a big difference.
  • Collect more experiences, not more stuff – One interesting discovery in recent psychology research is that buying experiences is better than buying stuff. While a new TV will eventually grow old and lose its novelty value, a new memory can stick with us forever and keep giving us joy. We can often enrich our lives more if we focus on collecting experiences rather than collecting stuff.
  • Understand there’s more to happiness and success – The whole point of minimalism is to change your relationship with the stuff you own and realize that material possessions aren’t everything in your life. It doesn’t mean you need to get rid of ALL of your material possessions – that’s not practical nor desirable. If you have a book collection and it brings you joy, then by all means keep your book collection. Minimalism is more about changing your perspective about material things rather than trying to live alone in the woods with nothing but a backpack.

These are really great guidelines if you want to start to change your perspective about the material things in your life.

Over the years, I’ve become much less obsessed over material things than I was when I was younger. While I don’t consider myself a “minimalist” per se, there are a lot of valuable lessons we can learn from the minimalist movement that can improve our relationships with the stuff in our lives and improve our overall happiness.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things is a really great documentary if you’d like to learn more about the minimalist movement and what it can teach us. It follows minimalist experts like Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus as they travel the country teaching others “how to be happy with less.”

The film also includes a lot of great insight from a wide-range of professionals, including psychologist Rick Hanson, neuroscientist Sam Harris, sociologist Juliet B. Schor, blogger Leo Babauta, journalist Dan Harris, photographer Tammy Strobel, and many more.

It’s definitely worth checking out or recommending to friends who you think may benefit from a more minimalistic mindset.


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Keeping It Simple: The Emotional Benefits for Children in Sports

February 17, 2017 - 5:34am


Scholars often cite competition as the driving force behind important advances and developments in civilization.

That doesn’t make it easy, though. After all, everyone experiences some wins and losses in life, along with the lessons that come with them. With this in mind, how does one of the most popular forms of competition—sports—affect the emotional development of children?

The answer to this question is significant because children will be inheriting our world when we’re gone. Knowing whether sports can help or damage them should affect how we raise and prepare them for the day when they become leaders and game-changers.

Fortunately, psychologists have conducted several studies. We’re here to summarize some of them for you.



The Good

Because excelling at sports requires a commitment to time and the ability to formulate strategies, children who play can learn to think critically. Also, those who commit long-term (as opposed to only occasionally) nurture the stamina necessary for overcoming obstacles and practice taking the initiative. Furthermore, they can fight depression and teach children to juggle many challenges, activities, and responsibilities.

This is to say nothing of the more obvious benefits—figuring out how to win graciously and cope with losses, deepening a sense of respect for fair play and rules, and learning to be kind to others.

All of these skills are crucial for succeeding in every possible endeavor in the real world. They are best developed in team sports, such as basketball, soccer, football, or baseball. Such sports require cooperation and persistence, thus providing ample opportunities for children to foster the qualities we’ve discussed.


The Bad

There is a shadow for every ray of sunlight, however. The dark side of competition and sports is that when kids feel a huge pressure to do well, they could become overwhelmed. They may respond to this feeling by falling into depression or even lashing out at their peers as bullies.

For that reason, it’s essential for parents and sports administrators to present the element of competition in a non-threatening way. This might be by practicing basketball hoops in the family yard, or even organizing a weekly sports night at home. It must be clear to a child that his or her worth or chances of fulfillment and success are not dependent on winning games.

As long as competition remains lighthearted, children stand to gain significant emotional benefits from playing sports. All you have to do is keep it simple, and the complex but highly rewarding processes of the human mind will take care of the rest.


Further Reading

Holt, N. L. (Ed.). (2008). Positive youth development through sport. New York, NY: Routledge.

Theokas, C. (2009). Youth sport participation: A view of the issues. Developmental Psychology, 45(2), 303-306.

Zaff, J. F., Moore, K. A., Papillo, A.R., & Williams, S. (2003). Implications of extracurricular activity participation during adolescence on positive outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Research, 18, 599-630.

Zarrett, N., Lerner, R. M., Carrano, J., Fay, K., Peltz, J. S., & Li, Y. (2007). Variations in adolescent engagement in sports and its influence on positive youth development. In N. L. Holt (Ed.), Positive youth development and sport (pp. 9-23). Oxford, England: Routledge.

Zarrett, N., Fay, K., Li, Y., Carrano, J., Phelps, E., & Lerner, R. M. (2009). More than child’s play: Variable- and pattern-centered approaches for examining effects of sports participation on youth development. Developmental Psychology, 45(2), 368-382.


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Spiritual Emptiness

February 16, 2017 - 1:13pm

This is a guest post from Brady’s Eyes over at Eyes of an Addict, a fantastic site that aims to normalize mental health issues like addiction, trauma, and PTSD. Check it out!


Voids.

They’re meant to be filled.

As human beings, we often experience that feeling of “emptiness.” Often this is covered with numerous material goods, which may help at the time, but does not last very long. Some people may resort to substances to try fill the void, others may resort to relationships, food, sex, gangs or even isolation.

More often than not, we would find that the void we so desperately try to fill cannot be filled by escaping or through external physical means. It cannot be fulfilled by change of demographics. We may try changing who we are in an attempt to fit in and even if we achieve a new feeling of belonging, the emptiness remains. The void remains. More often than not, the voids we seek to fill is because of our soul’s natural spiritual craving.

Now before we go any further, I am not referring to any set religion, although I feel that religion is a form of spiritually, I think it’s important to realize that religion may be effective for some, but it may not be effective for all.

Personally spiritually is having that external higher being I can rely on. An unexplainable higher power that helps me and serves as a reminder that, no matter what, I am not alone. Knowing and accepting that I can sometimes not do everything on my own and that I do need help. Putting one’s pride aside and asking for help is one of the most humbling experiences. It is a close-ness with a higher power of your understanding.

Spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves.

Spiritual Values

The way I see it, the void may not necessarily be caused by the lack of spirituality, because spiritually is a very broad concept. It’s what spirituality represents for me. So the void is not necessarily due to a lack spirituality itself, but by the lack of spiritual values.

Spiritual values often guide us and assist us to live a clean and healthy life. A happy life.These include values of honesty, of kindhearted-ness, of humility, of compassion, of love, forgiveness, tolerance and many other positive values.

One of the most powerful ways to grow our spirituality is to reassess our core values.

Now I don’t want to debate about what spiritually is, as this is a very broad topic and I will go into that in more detail in an upcoming post, the main intention for this post is to hopefully create self awareness. One of the scariest moments for myself was when I fully believed that I am living a value filled life.

    I was then asked the question by a close friend; “Okay cool, so what are the values?”

I found myself very uncomfortable, muttering, stuttering and started shouting out a whole bunch of nonsense that I thought was the “right thing to say.”

    “Uhm… Honesty, integrity, er.. love”

    A close friend of mine simply said;

    “I don’t believe you”

It was then that I came to realize that I did not actually have a defined set of spiritual values that I strive to live by on a daily basis!

More importantly, I realized that the spiritual values I strive to live by is not the crap that comes out of my mouth. It’s what everyone else sees. So I can have a defined set of spiritual principles I strive to live by. That gives me a goal, something that I know I need to work towards. But what really counts is how others see and experience these values. My value may be compassion and love for all, but if others do not experience this, then I may need to reassess and see where I might be failing.

Perhaps I claim to have unconditional love and compassion as a value, yet I hold onto deep and dark resentments and as a result the values aren’t actually lived fully, as a result, this prevents me from living out my values of unconditional love and compassion to the fullest.

    What are your values?

    Have these values been defined?

    More importantly, are you living out these spiritual values to the best of your ability?

    Is there anything holding you back from living out these values which needs to be attended to?


If you want to check out more post from Brady’s Eyes check out Eyes of an Addict.


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You’re Afraid of Negative Thinking – And It Makes You Weak!

February 15, 2017 - 4:28pm


One big indicator of mental health is not fearing any single thought you may have.

It’s easy to become obsessed with our thoughts – especially what we consider “negative thinking.” We try to wrestle with these negative thoughts inside our heads, or push them down so they just go away and we no longer have to think about them anymore.

But this aversion to “negative thinking” is actually a tremendous weakness.

If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve engaged in a lot of “negative thinking” over the course of my life. And many thoughts I’ve had were just downright scary, grotesque, and obscene – thoughts I probably wouldn’t want to share with anyone.

I used to believe that I had to completely eradicate this type of thinking from my life. I saw every negative thought as a symptom of my corrupt and sick mind, and I kept trying to find a cure so I’d never think a negative thought again.

However, my perspective on “negative thinking” has changed a lot since that time.

What I’ve come to realize is that it isn’t always the content of my thinking that needs to be fixed or changed, but my response to my thinking that makes all of the difference.


The myth of “cognitive agency”

One of the most important findings in psychology is the myth of “cognitive agency.”

Cognitive agency is the idea that we have complete control over our thoughts at anytime and that we can consciously change them whenever we want.

Nowadays most psychologists recognize that we only have control over a small part of our minds at any one time, but most of our mental activity takes place unconsciously.

If you’ve ever tried meditation, or just observing your thoughts as they unfold, you’ll often find that random thoughts seem to pop in and pop out without much logic or reason. This is a fundamental aspect of our minds that can be very important to accept.

The myth of “cognitive agency” is one topic I covered in my article 7 Ideas in Psychology That Must Die, and it’s one of the most important things I’ve discovered throughout my self growth.

In self help circles especially, we often believe that our thinking is something that we have complete control over – and that we can just change our thinking on a whim – but this false belief actually makes us weak and incapable of accepting how our minds actually work.


Your mind is just playing

Our minds are designed to play with new ideas and imagine hypothetical scenarios.

Dreams are one of the best examples of this. Most of the time there is no real logic or reason behind our dreams, because it’s our minds just throwing together different experiences and trying to prepare for imaginary situations that will likely never happen in the real world.

Driving a monster truck through the city with Hulk Hogan? Throwing toys at a T-Rex in my living room? Showing up to school naked while riding a skateboard?

These are just some of the things my mind has cooked up on its own while I’m dreaming, but none of them ever seemed very relevant or practical to my life (I don’t even skateboard!)

The point is: Your mind likes to play and create just for the sake of playing and creating. It’s like a child with a bucket of red paint, a white wall, and no adult supervision – eventually, it’s going to create a mess.

This creative aspect of our minds can be both good and bad. It can become a source of inspiration and motivation (like when we imagine all the good things that can happen to us), and it can also become a source of sadness and despair (like when we imagine all the bad things that can happen to us).

However, if you recognize your “negative thinking” as just a byproduct of your mind’s inherent creativity, you begin to realize that there’s nothing actually wrong with you – it’s just your mind doing what it does best.

Recognizing this playful nature of our minds plays a big role in my article Free Won’t: Why You Shouldn’t Take Any Single Thought Too Seriously.


How to respond to “negative thinking”

Once you accept that “negative thinking” is just a part of how your mind works – and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with you – you can then take a step back and choose how to best respond to this type of thinking.

Here are 2 main pathways for how to respond to negative thinking:

  • Make Note and Disengage – Tell your mind “That’s an interesting thought you had there,” and let the thought just pass you by. You don’t need to think more about it. You don’t need to dive into the depths of your mind to figure out where every single “negative thought” originates from. Just thank your mind, let it knowing your paying attention, and move on. If anything, think of it as a temporary “mental hiccup.”
  • Play Along and Engage – “Negative thinking” is also worth engaging in from time-to-time. Your mind can often bring things to your attention that you’ve been ignoring – and just because it doesn’t feel good to think about something doesn’t mean it isn’t worth thinking about. Ask yourself, “What is this negative thought trying to tell me? Is there something I can do about it?” Play along with the thought for awhile – it doesn’t mean you need to act on it, but it might be worth entertaining before you dismiss it.

Acceptance is the foundation to both of these pathways when it comes to managing our negative thoughts. It isn’t until you fully accept a negative thought that you can choose whether to properly “engage” or “disengage.”

Clearly, there is no point in pretending our “negative thinking” doesn’t exist when it actually does – we need to be honest with ourselves – and even the most positive minds in the world have their fair share of negative thoughts.

By trying to ignore or deny the “negative thinking” in your life, you are only making yourself weaker because you’re not allowing your mind to do everything it is naturally designed to do.

As I point out in Reframing Your Dark Side: Embracing Your Shadow is Key to Genuine Mental Health, our negative thoughts and emotions can often serve an important purpose in guiding our lives. And although we may not realize it, we’d often be lost without them.

When you try to only think positively, it’s like a bird trying to fly with only one wing – we need to accept both the “positive” and “negative” to have an honest, balanced, and fully functioning mind.


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How to Have an Eco-Friendly Christmas

February 9, 2017 - 10:07am


During the holiday season, Americans have a skyrocketing trash output of about a million extra tons of garbage every week. From food shopping to gift shopping and decorating, you can see the trash output increase in your own home. There isn’t any question that the holidays are a magical and fun time for those who celebrate.

What’s better than attending parties, buying and giving gifts, cooking up your best dishes, volunteering and sharing in a sense of community? There isn’t any other time of the year quite like it. The spirit is contagious. Gratitude is a wonderful feeling. Still, we all want to do our part to have a more eco-friendly Christmas.


Decorating

1. Use food as decoration. It is biodegradable after all. Since food is a big part of the holidays, it can be used as table centerpieces. Think persimmons, cranberries, even pinecones.

2. Use LED lights. Looking at Christmas tree lights can be spellbinding; it is a sight to behold. Even as adults, Christmas tree lights evoke warm and fuzzy feelings. And, you can still have Christmas tree lights – just use LED holiday light strands. They consume 70 percent less energy than incandescent ones. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Energy– it only costs $0.27 to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days. In comparison, it costs $10 for incandescent lights. Fun fact: Did you know the first Christmas trees were lit up with candles? Talk about a fire hazard.

3. Stay away from inflatables. These decorations are fun, but they can cost around $2-$9 per month in energy costs. You can limit your energy use by displaying decorations such as ribbons, wreaths and other decorations that don’t consume energy.

4. Use extension cords. Some decorators use string lights to lengthen holiday displays. All that does is consume more energy. It’s much more eco-friendly and energy-efficient to use extension cords.

5. Use automatic timers. Don’t leave your lights on all night. No one will notice them when everyone is asleep. Set the timers to turn them off when you hit the sack.


Preparing food

1. Buy local produce as much as possible. For starters, the food will be fresher and taste better. Plus, they require less transportation– which, helps to conserve fuel and reduces carbon emissions. Look for local farms that produces local turkeys, hams, cornish hens, chickens or the proteins of your choice.

2. Use glass or ceramic pans for the oven. These types of pans heat faster than metal ones. As a result, you can set the temperature 25 degrees lower than the recipe suggests. You also want to stay away from disposable pans and disposable plates, plastic flatware, and Styrofoam cups.

This is the time of year to break out the good china and use cloth napkins. They are easy to wash and can be reused over and over again. In addition, they take up little storage room until next year. When it comes to beverages, serve them from pitchers or gallon jugs instead of individual bottles or cans.

3. Use a slow cooker. For side dishes and small meals, slow cookers, microwaves and toaster ovens are much more energy-efficient than the oven.

4. Keep the oven closed when cooking. What happens when you peek? Ovens lose a lot of heat, and then, use more energy to heat back up to the right temperature. It's better to turn on the oven light, and look through the window.


Shopping

1. Look for gifts that are eco-friendly. Ask a retail associate to help you. If you are shopping online, it is as simple as typing “Eco-friendly gifts” into your search engine of choice.

2. Look for energy-efficient electronics. Many of our loved ones would like electronics for holiday gifts. Search for the items that promote energy efficiency. A quick note: laptops require 50 to 80 percent less energy than a desktop.

3. Buy ENERGY STAR® appliances. Just look for the logo, as it is easy to find. These models can decrease energy usage up to 40 percent.


Keep the pests away

With all the cooking and sweets, you might notice a few unwanted roommates. The best way to keep bugs out of your home is with ultrasonic pest repellents. They work remarkably well, without the damaging and harsh fumes that come with extermination. Not to mention, they are much safer for our pets. They are also non-toxic.

One of the most popular ultrasonic pest repellents on the market is the Crave Greens plugin, which can be found on Amazon. Although, there are many to choose from. Read the reviews and descriptions before purchasing. You want to get the most effective plugin for your needs.


Prefer to travel?

The holidays are for enjoying your time off. Sometimes, that calls for a travel adventure. To keep it eco-friendly, choose one of these greener destinations.

1. Costa Rica. This country is known for its eco-conscious boutique hotels. The country also has a sustainability policy, which relies on most of its electricity to be produced from hydro-electric dams.

2. Galapagos Islands. These islands are located over 600 miles off of the coast of Ecuador. They are also almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. Moreover, around 90 percent of the islands are designated as national parks.

3. Bhutan. This country is deliberately developing tourism slowly in an effort to preserve their natural resources and protect their culture. They also have a set tourism tax that is returned to the communities. You will find breathtaking wildlife in its many conservation areas.

4. New Zealand. Who can forget the amazing scenery in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies? In fact, 20 percent of the country is made up of natural parks. Why not spend Christmas surrounded by natural landscapes or going whale watching?

5. Slovenia. Its capital, Ljubljana, was voted the European Green Capital of 2016. It states that it is the first European city to move towards zero waste. They have installed special bins that charge users based on how much waste is disposed. Furthermore, its city buses run on natural gas.

As you can see, you have many options for enjoying an eco-friendly Christmas. They aren’t difficult to follow or implement. Plus, you’ll lose the guilty conscious of having too much waste or using too much energy.


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The Three-Step Daily Checklist for a Calmer, More Balanced Life

February 9, 2017 - 6:14am


Plain and simple, stress has become synonymous with our day-to- day lives.

But is that healthy?

It’s only natural to get bogged down with financial burdens and personal hardships that take their toll on us mentally; however, what happens when you have trouble bouncing back?

From home to the office and beyond, stress follows us everywhere we go and can be dangerous to our health and well-being if we allow it to build too much. The numbers don’t lie in regard to the widespread pressures of society and their potential dangers:

  • 77% of the public regularly experience physical symptoms related to stress
  • 33% of people believe that they are living with “extreme” levels of stress
  • The annual cost attributed to stress-related health issues exceeds $300 billion

Maybe you’re tired of your job. Perhaps your romantic relationships aren’t where you want them to be. The question remains: how can you take a step back and stop being so stressed all the time?

The solution for many isn’t a miracle pill or a long-term vacation. Instead, consider taking some smaller steps day-by- day to embrace a simpler, balanced life. The subtle changes you make today can reap huge benefits for you mental and emotional health down the line.

Take a look at the following list and see which principles you can start applying to your daily life.


Make The Most of Your Mornings

How you decide to start your morning is instrumental to how your mood will be for the remainder of the day. If you constantly wake up exhausted, sluggish and annoyed, you’re obviously off to a poor start.

In response, you need to make sure your morning routine ticks the following boxes:

  • Stop smashing the snooze button: strive to instead wake up naturally or train yourself to get up at your first alarm (otherwise you run the risk of destroying your quality of sleep).
  • Make sure that you’re comfortable and not waking up with any aches or pains: if you constantly have cricks in your neck, for example, it’s probably time to start shopping around for a new bed.
  • You should never feel rushed in the morning: it may be necessarily to start going to bed earlier or waking up earlier to make this happen.

On the flip side, the successful habits of so-called “morning people” include giving yourself time in the morning to read, make your own breakfast and get in some light exercise. Also, you should take a few minutes every morning to assess your daily goals and look forward to the day ahead versus scrolling through your phone or freaking out over the morning news.


Divide Up Your Day

As you go through your daily routine, whether that be at the office at home, you should try to practice mindfulness as means of assessing your decisions in a level-headed manner. In other words, you should strive to think about even the smallest of your decisions to ensure that you’re not putting yourself in a stressful situation.

For example, mindfulness might mean making the conscious decision not to rush to McDonald’s for lunch because you’re trying to lose weight and you know that such a meal would ruin your diet. Perhaps you receive an email from a co-worker that makes your blood boil and you want to respond angrily; however, by taking a step back you realize that doing so would be a rash decision with harsh consequences.

Being mindful is about being aware of your own actions and understanding their long-term implications. Don’t rely on snap decisions, but instead take the proverbial chill pill and think before you act.


There’s Always Time for You

Day after day, you should make it a goal to spend at least one hour per day doing something that you want to do. Productive activities such as jogging or reading a book are deal; however, time spent doing anything you enjoy can indeed be valuable.

Similarly, you should make it a point to give yourself something to look forward to each and every week, whether it’s a weekend vacation or trip to movies. Doing this helps you understand that happiness is always around the corner and that even the most tedious days will pass.

Don’t let stress get you down. Take the steps to make your days more manageable by starting off on the right foot, practicing mindfulness and making time for yourself. You may be surprised at how quickly you notice changes when you shift your mindset.


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How to Make Content Creation NOT Boring

February 9, 2017 - 5:45am


Let’s be real, not every business or industry is exciting. Think of dry cleaners, an insurance agency, a tax office and more. These are the types of businesses that make more people say “oh,” rather than “ooh.” Yet, being sexy is not a requirement for achieving profits. Plus, every business needs a constant flow of prospects and customers.

In today’s society, that can be achieved through online content. Your blogs, web copy, social media posts and videos are methods for helping customers find out more about your business. This survey shows that 61% of customers feel better about a company that produces content on a regular basis. In fact, many prospects find out about a company through content.

Yet, how many times have you tried to write content only to realize how boring your niche is? You know you need to produce content, but how can you make it more exciting? The only way to do that is to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. You really just need to understand your readers’ pain points, then provide them with the right solutions. Here are a few tips to ensure your content is not boring.


Helpful things are not boring

A 2013 Charbeat study showed that most readers only read around 60% of a piece of content. They skip the other 40%. Why are they only reading about half of the content they find interesting? It could be short attention spans, but it could also be that they don’t find your content useful. In order to stop being boring, you need to become genuinely helpful.

It helps when you provide content that people actually need. This includes writing educational content that is relevant to your audience. To illustrate, if a self-employed consultant wants to learn how they can get the most deductions on their taxes, you might write an article on that. It would not be boring for people searching for that type of information. If you're worried about it coming off as lackluster, focus on make it as educational as possible.


You don’t need to put too much thought into it

If you spend all day doing research, you’ll never get to writing. You need to do just enough research to answer they why, who, where, when, what and how. If you can answer the traditional WHs, then you can create a compelling post. You might be surprised when your content generates more traffic than breaking news. Some topics will always be interesting.


Convey your expertise

As the business owner, you are the expert regarding your industry. Don’t rely on someone else to come up with topics for you. This is especially true when you are the only person who understands the intricacies of your business. If you don't understand your business better than anyone, then you are probably in the wrong business. As a result, you should be coming up with the topics for your target audience. Keep it to topics that are:

  • Relevant
  • Reflect your brand
  • Engaging for your current or potential ideas

Exciting topics are created by industry experts – that is you.


Write like a human

While it’s true that you are an expert, you don’t want to add too much business jargon. People need to understand and relate to your content. Write naturally so that it is easier for readers to comprehend your message. Think of how you are conveying your message. Does it sound like you got hit over the head with a briefcase? Would you talk that way in real life? Why make your content difficult to read when it could be quite simple?


Think like your readers

If you were visiting your blog, as a prospect, what would you like to see? What types of topics would interest you? What types of questions would you need answered before making a purchase decision? If you can’t come up with answers, ask a friend for some input. Try to sell him or her one of your products and services. Then request some questions. You might immediately come up with interesting ideas for exciting content. Here are some other questions to ask:

  • What problem can I solve?
  • What would happen if a prospect does not buy my product or service?
  • Why would someone be interested in my company?

When writing your content, you should use the above questions as a frame of reference. To stand apart from your competition, you want to focus on what could happen if a customer does not purchase your products or services.


Make it specific

You want to be helpful, you want to write like a human but you also want to be specific. Consider specific examples and scenarios that you can share with your reader. You can do this much more easily after you have put yourself or a friend in your readers’ shoes. There are massive amounts of generic content online. You can find hundreds of variations on titles such as “How to Boil an Egg” or “How to Find a Date.” They are just so broad that they don’t resonate with anyone.

To make your content more exciting, have a specific angle on a popular topic in your industry. You want to address specific points that helps to solve a problem for your readers. So, yes, you will attract a particular read. But, that is the point. If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. Use each piece of content as a platform for attracting a specific customer. This way, your readers will be more inclined to peruse through the entire piece as opposed to only 60%.


Get emotional

Hey, we all get emotional sometimes. We like it when we realize we’re not alone. So, in your content, don’t be afraid to share emotion. Make your readers laugh, or tug at their heartstrings. Yes, this can be done even in boring industries.

Content is a must, but it is more than just copy. It should bounce off the page. Don’t limit your ideas through words. Address problems, paint a picture, relate to your audience, write the way you speak. If you do these things, you’ll find that writing content is also more exciting because you are engaging yourself.


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Keep a “Jar of Awesome” for When You Need an Extra Boost of Motivation

February 1, 2017 - 5:36pm


Can you name 3 victories you’ve had in your life over the past year?

For many of us, it can be difficult to reflect on our past and recall positive memories. This is due to a strong negativity bias in our minds – which is why when we reflect on our past we often replay the negative memories and not the positive ones.

But our past can be a very healthy source of motivation and inspiration, especially if we focus on the right parts.

In Tim Ferriss’ new book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, Ferriss shares a great tool for self improvement that he calls the “Jar of Awesome.”

The “Jar of Awesome” is a jar filled with tiny notes that remind us of our small victories and positive experiences.

Then when you find yourself down and needing an extra boost of motivation, all you need to do is pick out a random piece of paper from your “Jar of Awesome” and you’ll be instantly reminded of a positive experience from your past.

The ability to easily recall positive memories and identify the “small wins” can be a very important aspect of happiness and well-being.

For example, one recent study published in Psychology and Psychotherapy shows that recalling positive memories can help improve our mental health and boost positive emotions.

The “Jar of Awesome” helps us to cultivate more gratitude by reminding us of the many things in our lives that went well. It can also be a fantastic source of motivation and inspiration – by reminding ourselves of our “success stories” from the past, we feel more capable to continue creating new “success stories” in the future.

Here’s Tim Ferriss on how he uses his “Jar of Awesome”:




Check out Tim Ferriss’ new book Tools of Titans if you’d like to learn more awesome self improvement tools, techniques, and exercises.


How to Create Your Own “Jar of Awesome”

Here are simple step-by-step instructions on how to create a “Jar of Awesome” of your own and how to use it to maximum effect.

  • Find an empty jar and several pieces of paper.
  • Start by writing down between 5-7 “small wins” in your life.
  • Write each “small win” on its own piece of paper, then place it in the jar.
  • Create a label for your jar and title it “Jar of Awesome.”
  • Keep your jar on your desk (or wherever you do most of your work).
  • Whenever you need an extra boost of motivation, pick a random paper from the jar and read it to yourself.
  • Give yourself a moment to reflect on the “small win” and let the positive emotions surface.
  • Put the paper back in the jar once you’re done reflecting.
  • Whenever you have another “small win,” write it down and add it to the jar.
  • Keep adding to your collection. The more “small wins” you have saved, the more positive memories you have to draw from and be inspired by.

The “Jar of Awesome” can be a very powerful tool for motivation and inspiration. The more you build on it and the more “small wins” you add to your collection, the more powerful it will be.

This is important because we often don’t remember the many “small wins” we have on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. By taking the time to write them down and save them somewhere, you are creating an excellent source of motivation for yourself, especially during tough times when it may be difficult to remind yourself how awesome you can be.

So try it out for yourself and create your own “Jar of Awesome!”


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Positive Delusions: Do We Need Them to Reach Our Full Potential?

January 29, 2017 - 12:51pm

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Les Brown


No matter what you believe about yourself and your capabilities, at least part of it is probably full of crap.

Our beliefs are very flexible and subject to change on a whim. And our perception of ourselves is often just an exaggeration of what’s currently unfolding in our lives…

When something bad happens to us (like failing an exam), we might begin to believe, “I’m an idiot.” And when something good happens to us (like acing an exam), we might begin to believe, “I’m a genius.”

But if our beliefs about ourselves are so flexible and subject to change, how accurate are they?

In many ways, our beliefs are inherently delusional. We rarely have perfect information or perfect knowledge about ourselves or reality as a whole – so our minds help “fill in the blanks” and “make up a story” about ourselves that makes sense to us.

While these stories we tell ourselves are often “make believe,” they still have very real world consequences in our lives.


The stories you tell about yourself

If you go on a first date with someone and embarrass yourself, you might begin to tell yourself the story that “I’m just not good at dating. I’m weird. No one will ever like me.”

And that story is going to influence how you act in the future…

If you truly believe that story about yourself, it will make you more hesitant to go on another date, or more fearful of meeting new people, or stop you from seeking out relationships entirely.

But…what if you take that same experience of failure and tell yourself a different story?

Maybe when that first date doesn’t work out, you instead tell yourself:

  • I just need more experience with dating before I get better at it.
  • I just wasn’t compatible with that specific person.
  • I just wasn’t feeling well that day and was in a bad mood.
  • I would’ve hit it off better if they gave me more of a chance.

Are any of these stories completely true? Maybe, maybe not.

However, at least these stories give you more of an opportunity to learn, grow, and continue to move forward in your life.

In that sense, even if they aren’t completely true, could these stories be considered “positive delusions?”

You don’t exactly have any hard facts or evidence that “I’ll get better at dating” or “I just wasn’t compatible with that person,” but those beliefs are certainly more productive than “I just suck at dating altogether and people hate me.” Right?


Positive delusions

Many really successful people, whether they be actors, musicians, athletes, or CEOs, tend to have “positive delusions” about themselves.

What I mean by “positive delusions” is that they overestimate their potential, even when there is no evidence or facts that support this estimation of themselves.

When you first pick up a guitar and try to play it, you’re likely going to suck at it and sound awful. But the people who believe “I can do this. I can learn. I can improve. I can be really awesome at this…,” they continue practicing until one day they actually ARE good at playing guitar.

“Positive delusions” can be a type of self-fulfilling belief, where our beliefs play a role in how we act and the results we get out of life. Sometimes, you need to cultivate a certain belief before that belief becomes true.

I remember my younger days when I played baseball and my coach would always say “You have to believe you can hit the ball before you can hit it.” It’s simple advice that even a child can understand, but it touches on a fundamental truth behind success.

The simple truth is that if you don’t believe something is possible, then you’re not going to look for ways it can become true. That’s not magic, that’s logic.

In psychologist William James’ classic book The Will to Believe (which you can get the Kindle version for free), he discusses this same phenomenon on how our beliefs are sometimes required before they become true.

In one of my favorite sections from the book, he explains how we often need to believe people will like us before they actually will like us:

    “Do you like me or not? Whether you do or not depends, in countless instances, on whether I meet you half-way, am willing to assume that you must like me, and show you trust and expectation. The previous faith on my part in your liking’s existence is in such cases what makes your liking come. But if I stand aloof, and refuse to budge an inch until I have objective evidence, until you shall have done something apt […] ten to one your liking never comes. […] The desire for a certain kind of truth here brings about that special truth’s existence; and so it is in innumerable cases of other sorts.”

This is just one example of why a belief is often required before a thing becomes true, even when that belief isn’t supported by current evidence.

Do I really know if someone is going to like me or not? Do I really know whether I will succeed or fail at something? I do not – but it’s healthy to assume that belief if I’m going to give myself a chance.

We often think of delusions as being negative, misleading, and destructive – but I think you can see how they can also be positive, motivating, and productive.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we should completely ignore our reality and become mindlessly optimistic. But every now and then, we need to take that “leap of faith” before we can reach our full potential.

One could argue that a belief in a God or supernatural power can also be beneficial in this same way. We may not have any evidence that this supernatural power exists, but the belief in a higher power can often motivate and inspire us to become a better person.

In conclusion, “positive delusions” can be a very practical and beneficial thing that is often required if you want to bring out your best self.


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5 Psychological Triggers That Make You a Better Businessperson

January 26, 2017 - 5:22pm


Whether you’re brand new to the business world or a seasoned vet that feels that they’re losing touch in the digital era, fear not.

Standing out in business has always been about relationships: not even Internet marketing can change that.How you treat people, either online or face-to- face, will ultimately make or break your company.

Think about Dale Carnegie’s self-help classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie understood that success was based on influence; likewise, influence is based on giving people what they wanted on a psychological level. You may have a pristine product and a massive budget, but it all comes to nothing if you don’t understand the psychology of your customers

This rings incredibly true online where competition is absolutely fierce. For example, see how you stack up against your competitors from an SEO perspective. If you think that you and your site are up to snuff, you may be surprised.

If you feel like your digital presence is flat-lining, perhaps it’s time to start making yourself more attractive to your traffic by understanding what makes them tick. The following cornerstones of buyer psychology will not only make you more compelling to your audience, but also stand out from other players in your space.


Trust

The importance of trust cannot be overstated: nobody will listen to you, let alone buy from you, if they can’t trust you. Considering that we thrive in a marketing world full of scammers and anonymity, today’s buyers are naturally skeptical towards new businesses and brands. Breaking down the trust barrier takes many shapes and forms, such as…

    • Coming across as genuine and personable versus cold and calculating (provide service with a smile)
    • Presenting your business as a resource versus a sales pitch (be careful in your marketing copy
  • Showing off your personality through taking a different approach to doing business versus your competitors (a relaxed tone versus a suit-and- tie vibe)


Reciprocity

Similarly, one of the best ways to serve your customers is to give them something in exchange for little more than their time and interest. Reciprocity is one of the overlooked keys of modern Internet marketing. For example, giving away free e-books or courses shows that your brand is looking to lend a helping hand. Likewise, such lead magnets are a great way to build your audience.


Social Proof

As noted earlier, trust is hard to come by for modern brands. Instead of telling your prospects that you’re worth a million bucks, perhaps it’s time to start showing them. Social proof in the form of ratings, reviews and testimonials serve a sort of billboard for your brand. The more you leverage such proof from satisfied customers, the more likely you are to build it in the future.


Authority

Today’s buyers want to hear from experts, plain and simple. Does that mean you have to be in business for decades before your prospects will give you the time of day? Absolutely not.

Coming off as an authority in your industry isn’t rocket science. Practices such creating content and informational products (the aforementioned e-books and courses) represent prime ways to show off your knowledge.

Being an authority doesn’t come down to age, but rather your ability to lend a hand to others and provide worthwhile advice to your prospects.


Storytelling

Finally, one of the most subtle yet significant ways to drive interest in your business is by telling your story.

Whether it’s an “About Me” page or blog post that details your humble beginnings of why you’re in business in the first place, there’s only one you. Use your unique experience to your advantage, ideally to inspire others.

Don’t sell yourself short: succeeding in business doesn’t come down to dollars and cents, but rather how you approach your prospects. By understanding the triggers that make your potential customers tick, you become more attractive to buyers and set yourself apart from the competition.


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How to Avoid Psychic Scams

January 23, 2017 - 12:59pm


How to identify real psychics?

What is the difference between real guiders and scams?

It is indeed shocking that the psychics industry has a lot of frauds and there are several scams which occur every day online and there are millions who fall a victim to this. One out of every four psychics who operate online is genuine and other three are somehow conducting a scam. This will throw light on a clearer idea of several fake psychics conducting scam and harassing innocent people in real need of help falling prey to these evil self-proclaimed psychics. Looking into the future, we desperately need to differentiate between real guiders and scams.

The real psychics are really not happy about the fact and why these scams are happening online and what are these frauds getting by conducting such scams. This is hampering the trust of the people and the genuine psychics are also suffering due to this. Well, the frauds are greedy and want to make money by unfair means. Thus, they are pretending as psychics which they are actually not. To these several evil fraudsters operating online, the desperate needs of the several out there mean nothing to them. They are not at all bothered about the emotions of the several people out there who desperately need psychic help. So, here are certain tips to find out the real psychics and to avoid the scammers.

Following are the differentiations between the genuine psychics and the fraudsters:

1) There are lots of the fake psychics who operate online and ask for your date of birth or your star sign demanding that they would provide an amicable solution to their problems in life. They very trickily ready the astrology updates from any newspaper and then make it sound in different wordings and scam the people.

2) The fake psychics will ask you about the country where you reside and the social status they have. Knowing that they will tell certain generic things based on the information provided by you and demand their claim for fame.

To set an example if someone says that he or she stays in India and in which state and city they reside, you may make a picture of what kind of lifestyle they can be leading. By using some tricks from the book of Sociology, they will give you predictions that will seem to be real but there is no magic in this. These are the techniques which the fraudsters used to scam the general public who are in desperate need of help. But there’s nothing to panic because there are solutions available like Best Psychics App in IOS for iPhone.

3) There are several times the fraud psychic will tell that there are certain evil spells and black magic on your near and dear ones for which they may suffer a lot in the near future. This will indeed be a worrying factor for you and you will be desperate to hear solutions from them. Thus, you will be inclined to costly solutions which they prescribe. The worst part is that those solutions are bogus and do not work at all.

4) Another major tip as advised by the experts is that there will be many fraud psychics operating online who falsely claim for fame by saying that they have worked and given solutions to several Hollywood stars but actually none have heard about their name ever. Only what they have is an online site by which they operate. If you are coming across such psychics online, this is obvious that you are dealing with a fraudster who is trying to conduct a scam with you. You should always be careful and identify such spams while in a search for a psychic. There are Best Psychics App for Google Play that are available.

5) The fraud psychics will never be very keen to face a lot of questions. What they will do is will first ask you a lot of questions regarding your life and then make a conclusion based on your lifestyle and other things that you have revealed about yourself. They absolutely do not have any in-depth knowledge about their clients and will only make airy-fairy future readings which is not of much use to you. These is one of the major signs that you are talking to a fake psychic online.

6) There are several psychics who operate offline and they observe the customers on their clothing and the jewelry that you have been wearing. Basis on that they can guess your lifestyle. Also the way you walk and talk is being observed by them and they can guess on your lifestyle. Depending on that, they will form perceptions of you and will tell you about you and your future. Also do not reveal about your job status, earnings etc. which will give them ideas.

7) Also do not reveal about your personal lifestyle in front of a psychic whether online or offline. The fake psychics will always try to ask you multiple questions and on the basis of that they will give you answers to your queries. Also they have some bogus tricks which they try to implement and then make readings which will actually be fake and no use to you. They will try to manipulate you from various angles and then then fool you. They will also try and ask you about your family members and form ideas about your background and then try and give you answers based on that.

8) So, be careful in picking the best psychic out of the many of the best online psychics and be careful so that you do not fall victim to a fraudster who is operating a scam online. There are instances of millions of people losing their money to such fraudsters and this has become a major scam. This scam is operating worldwide and there are lot of people complaining in various consumer sites about their bad experiences with the various fraud psychics and thus nit requires to pay a lot more attention while choosing a genuine psychic.

9) Patients should also take note that these types of fraudulent gangsters those who are spoiling the names of genuine psychics will ask exorbitant fees from them. So, guys those who are planning to enter these types of premises should do some research about them.


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How to Spot the Early Signs of Depression

January 22, 2017 - 3:34pm


Mental health issues are said to affect 1 in 5 Americans every year, and 1 in 3 over a lifetime. Forms of depression are among the most common mental health conditions. However, whether it is short term, reactive depression, or things like post-partum depression and persistent depressive disorder (when depression lasts for over 2 years), people are afraid to speak out when they have a problem. It’s often hard to recognize the signs of depression, as it’s not talked about as much as it should be, and so a common response is “just cheer up.” It’s important to recognize that depression is so much more than just feeling sad. Here are some warning signs to look out for, in yourself, and your loved ones.


Loss of Enthusiasm

This is often one of the most obvious signs that it’s more than just sadness. A loss of enthusiasm or interest in things you once enjoyed is often a symptom of depression. This can be anything from no longer wanting to take part in a hobby, to not wanting to spend time with friends. A loss of sex drive is also incredibly common when you are depressed.


Tiredness

Insomnia can accompany depression. Over thinking, worrying about the day ahead, or panicking about not getting enough sleep can keep you awake long into the night, even if you are physically exhausted. Or on the other hand, someone with depression may sleep for longer than usual, and wake still feeling fatigued.


Eating

Both loss of appetite and over eating are symptoms of depression. Eating disorders are also very common, so look out for any signs of behavioral changes around food.


Aches and Pains

Symptoms of depression can sometimes be physical. You may feel constant aches and pains, get mouth ulcers, headaches or stomach aches. Our bodies all react differently to emotional stresses and a lack of sleep, so keep an eye out for any unexplained aches and pains.


Short Attention Span

Those with depression can find it hard to concentrate, even on simple things like reading a book, or watching a TV show. Your mind might wander, and you’ll find you’ve totally lost what’s going on. This can be accompanied by feelings of restlessness and irritability, not being able to settle on a task, or not understanding instructions.


Negative Mood

You might find that as well as feeling unhappy, you also have feelings of worthlessness and low self-confidence. You could feel like you aren’t good enough, and that people shouldn’t waste their time on you, or that you need to be alone, as to not force your presence on others. This can lead to feelings of guilt. You might also feel a tremendous sadness, and not be able to explain why.

If you are worried about any of these symptoms, it’s important to do something about it. Acting as soon as you spot the early signs of depression can make a huge difference. If you are worried about a friend or family member, try to speak to them, or seek advice from a professional about what you should do. Just try to be there for them, without pressuring them to talk. Be a friend.


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Holistic Treatments for Daily Stress

January 17, 2017 - 3:04pm


Stress is a normal part of each person’s daily life. It isn’t even something that is entirely negative. Stress can help increase focus, boost learning and memory, and help create a sense of self-confidence. Unfortunately, too much stress can have a detrimental impact on an individual’s health and well-being. There is a fine line between what is a healthy amount of stress and levels that will cause negative medical and emotional consequences. Even more confusing is the fact that this line is different for each person. Therefore, it is possible to put processes in place that will help reduce stress levels on a regular basis for optimal health.


Meditation

Meditation has been popular throughout the world for millennia but it has only been in the recent past that the medical community has begun to explore the neurological benefits of a daily meditative practice. The results have been astounding and have led many people to pick up the practice even if their spiritual or religious beliefs do not require it.
There are now numerous books, programs, and phone applications that will teach people how to effectively meditate. Some promote simple breathing techniques that can be performed as needed or as part of a daily routine. Others are more complex and require visualization.


Medical Qigong

Medical qigong is another ancient practice that has only begun to surface in the western world and experience scientific validation. It is sometimes described as active meditation. Instead of sitting still and focusing on breath work, the practice incorporates simple postures that flow from one to the next in fluid motion. It is intended to open up joints, muscles, and tendons in order to allow the energy to flow more efficiently throughout the body.

Studies have shown significant levels of stress reduction in participants who participated in qigong activities. There have also been benefits in agility and flexibility that have helped patients suffering from pain. As with meditation, the benefits appear to be broad in scope.


Nature

Most people notice that they feel happier when they are surrounded by nature or natural elements. While much of this is anecdotal, science has recently begun to quantify these results. Studies have shown that walking in a natural environment for as little as 90 minutes can dramatically reduce immediate stress and help prevent long-term depression. However, it can be difficult for people who live in urban environments to find access to natural settings. This makes it especially important for those people to bring natural elements into their personal environments. This can be a small water fountain placed on the desk, beautiful fresh flowers in a vase, a small plant to tend to, or even a dish of beautiful stones or shells.


Music

The ability of music to help mitigate stress is one that is unique to everyone. Some forms of music, such as a slow classical piece, will relax most people while music with a quick beat will typically help people feel more energized. However, the exact selection that will be most effective will depend entirely on the person’s personal preference. Listening to someone else’s favorite tune can cause more stress for the person if it is not stylistically similar to their own personal preferences.

Managing one’s stress levels doesn’t have to be something that happens in a therapist’s office or with the use of a prescription. While these options may be necessary in some instances, there are numerous holistic methodologies that have been proven to be beneficial in the reduction of stress and which are certainly worth exploring.


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Gifts with a Personal Touch

January 10, 2017 - 12:47pm


Are you big on giving gifts? For many of us, that is one of the special parts of holidays… any holiday. All of the shopping for thoughtful and personalized gifts, wrapping them, and then watching the reaction of the intended recipient as they open them. One of the best times for personalized gifts is right around the corner, too… Valentine’s Day. Here is a look at the importance of personalized gifts and a few gift ideas.


Roses

Yes, roses are an old standby when it comes to Valentine’s Day gifts, but when you give them a personalized touch, like a box of luxury roses from Roseshire, it brings them to a whole new level. Roseshire is a company that is dedicated to producing the most extraordinary roses in the world. Their roses are superior in both quality and beauty. They have spent many years to develop a process for their roses that guarantees freshness. They are cut in the field by sustainable growers and delivered right to your door in a gorgeous Roseshire trademarked box.

Your significant other will fall in love with you all over again when they get this personalized gift.


The Art of Gift Giving

Some people have no idea what to give as a gift so they end up giving their significant other the same thing year after year. That doesn’t mean that you don’t know enough about your partner, though, it actually means that you are nervous about finding the perfect gift. The more that this person matters to you, the more you will worry about it. Yes, there is an art to it. It varies from person to person too. The trick lies in finding out what is truly important to the other person and finding something in that arena. For example, if they are a fan of a particular book or author, try to find a first edition copy for them.


Why a Personalized Gift?

Personalized gifts can be the ideal way to make your gift stand out from all of the rest. They can turn an average gift into one that has meaning and will be cherished for years to come. When a gift has been personalized by your creativity, your recipient will become more attached to it. A personalized gift that recognizes either their successes or milestones, or a special moment between the two of you will be something that they will love to show off to other people. It will also let them know that this gift was made specifically for them and wasn’t just something that was picked up on the way home.

Most of you have probably heard that it is the thought that counts. There is actually a bit of truth to that. You can make the next gift you give count by making it one that is personalized and by doing this, let the recipient know that you have spent time and energy on finding a thoughtful gift just for them. You also won’t need to worry about them getting the same gift from someone else.

Also, once the holiday, birthday, or event is over, the recipient will go home and go through the gifts that they received. In time, they will forget about who gave them what and after they have entertained themselves with them for a while, they will either be relegated to a closet or become another dust catcher. But, a gift that is personalized will be one that stands out from the rest. It will have pride of place in their home and their thoughts.


Personalized Gift Ideas

There are so many things that you could get as a personalized gift. Consider getting something as a keepsake that is engraved or etched. For example, if the occasion is Valentine’s Day, a wedding, or a bridal shower, consider something like a wine glass or the like with the names of the couple on it. This is also a great idea for baby showers. The same thing holds true for embroidered items.

You can also get them the one item that they have mentioned in passing as something that they would love to have. This shows that you have been listening and paying attention to them.

The bottom line is that if you put just a bit of thought into the gift to make it something that will be special to them, it will show and be greatly appreciated.


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Dealing with Life One Day at a Time

January 10, 2017 - 12:28pm


There are many factors that can contribute to a burnout. Raising a family, running a household and having a full-time job in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment are just some of the common scenarios. For many women, they begin to feel a sense of anguish and defeat. When this happens, many other feelings begin to emerge, such as depression, loss of appetite, anxiety, sleeplessness and the inability to get motivated. Whether you experience one or all of these symptoms, you may very well be on your way to a burnout. The good news is that with a support staff in place and a rehab center you can and will recover.


Know the warning signs

Early detection is key to preventing a nervous breakdown. For you, if you’ve had on and off overwhelming feelings for some time that take over, you may want to address them with a professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist. This in no way labels you as crazy, it just means that you are in need of release. You need someone you can open up to and remove the bottled up feelings. Maybe your day starts and ends with diaper changes, or you have an insurmountable workload. Whatever your situation is an outside ear, unbiased and unaffected by the problems, can give you sound advice on how to best deal with your situation. If you know something isn’t quite right with you, that you aren’t your normal self, getting outside help will prevent you from losing your job and your family.


Stress and your health

I’m sure you’ve heard it before but, it’s worth repeating. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t take care of anyone else. The statement may sound selfish, but if you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that it’s true. When you feel good about you, it emanates to others around you.

Working around the clock 24/7 isn’t good for anyone. You need downtime. Creating time for you will give you the freedom you need. Private moments are important for your sanity. Take a long walk, sign up for classes at the gym or read a good book. At a rehab center like Sandy’s Place, you’ll have access to various programs that induce relaxation. It’s not what you do so much as it’s having the time to spend on you. Find an outlet to release your stress and you’ll improve your overall health.


Working and enjoying your vacation

When you’re an executive and you leave for vacation often times the workload can pile up beyond your belief. When you return you spend the first few days catching up and sorting through files, returning calls and addressing issues. Sometimes it may not seem worth the trouble to even go away on vacation. A way to improve this situation and end the cycle is to appoint a qualified person or persons to continue with your work in your absence. This way when you return you’ll just get filled in on what happened instead of trying to dig through a pile that seems never ending.


Learn to delegate work at home and at the office

When you take on every task because you need to be in control, you give up living. Your time is spent handling everything at home like the shopping, cooking, cleaning and taking care of children. Then there’s your day at the office where you’re on call for every problem. It’s too much. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. You do not need to do it all nor can you. Sooner or later it will catch up to you and when it does it will be life altering. Instead, learn to trust others to do some of the work, it may not be done the same way you would do it, but that doesn’t matter. If you begin to step away from a few chores and tasks you’ll find that at the end of your day you feel good.


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The Best Psychology and Self Improvement Articles of 2016

December 28, 2016 - 3:00pm


Time flies when you’re learning, growing, and improving. This is officially the 7th year of The Emotion Machine and it was easily one of our best yet.

As many of you know, every year I try to put together a “best of” collection. This year it was incredibly hard for me to choose a “best of” because I’m so proud of the many articles we published in 2016.

However, I buckled down and finally chose 18 awesome articles that I think reflect the very best of The Emotion Machine over the past year. Did you miss any of these?

Check out our best psychology and self improvement articles of 2016!

1. Systems vs. Goals: Why Sustainability is More Important Than Temporary Success

Goals are often temporary changes, but systems are long-term. If you want to make a sustainable change in your life, you need to approach it as a systematic change.


2. Why No One is Normal and How to Focus on Individual Uniqueness

What does it mean to be normal? As it turns out, being “normal” is a very rare thing and being “different” is way more common. This is the key principle behind individuality.


3. Undeniable Presence: How to Create a Powerful Aura Around Yourself

What does it means when someone has a “presence” or “aura” about themselves? How can we build an undeniable presence for ourselves?


4. Meditation Is a Type of Technology, Like a Telescope or Microscope

Meditation isn’t magic, it’s a type of technology. Like a telescope or microscope, it can help extend our awareness toward things we aren’t usually conscious of.


5. Destroy Your Ego Before it Destroys Your: How We Make Bad Situations Even Worse

Confidence is a very valuable trait to have, but an unhealthy ego is often an unjustified sense of confidence that can end up destroying us.


6. The “Five Whys” Exercise: How to Recalibrate Yourself During Periods of Turbulence

There’s no such thing as a life without a little chaos and turbulence. The “Five Whys” exercise is a great tool for recalibrating our values during these difficult times.


7. How to Plant Powerful Ideas in People’s Minds That Actually Take Root and Grow

Our memory is a fickle thing. Only a small percentage of information we are exposed to we actually remember. How can you make your ideas more impactful?


8. How to Communicate Your Feelings Without Becoming an Emotional Manipulator

It’s important to be open and honest when you communicate your feelings to others, but we also have to be careful not to turn ourselves into “emotional manipulators.”


9. Body Language Is More Revealing Than Words: How to Read People More Clearly

Our body language can often be more honest than our words when it comes to communicating our true thoughts, feelings, and intentions.???????


10. How to Be a Skeptical Thinker About Facts and Statistics You Find on the Internet

We’re constantly being bombarded with facts, statistics, and graphs on news sites, blogs, and social media. How can we be a more skeptical thinker in the face of all this information?


11. The Power of a Checklist: How to Stay Disciplined and Avoid Stupid Mistakes

In our increasingly complex world, how can a simple checklist help us stay focused and avoid making silly and stupid mistakes?


12. How to Destroy Performance Anxiety and Deliver an Award Winning Show Every Time

Do you have performance anxiety when it comes to public speaking, job interviews, or first dates? Check out these must-know tips to help you “steal the show” every time.???????


13. Why It’s Worth It To Pay The Costs of Being Yourself

“Being yourself” isn’t easy. It means being upfront and honest about who you are, and that entails the possibility of getting judged by others. While “being yourself” has real costs, the reward of being true to yourself is well worth it.?


14. How Culture Influences Our Minds in Profound Ways We Don’t Even Realize

How does culture influence our minds and how we see the world? Psychologist Richard Nisbett shares his extensive research on the difference between “Western” and “Eastern” minds.


15. The Disintegration of the Community: Why We Feel Alone Even When Surrounded By People

Do you feel like you’re a part of your local community? If your answer is “no,” you’re not defective, this is actually how many people feel today.


16. Hive Mind: The Synergistic Effects of Being Around Really Smart People

A group of smart people can often feed off of each other and become more than the sum of their individual parts. They bring out the best in each other – and this is just as true for a business or organization as it is for a nation as a whole.


17. Effective Altruism vs. Feel Good Altruism: How to Make a Bigger Difference in the World

We often want to do good in the world, but we don’t know the best way to do it. What’s the difference between “effective altruism” vs. “feel good altruism?” How can we make our efforts to improve the world more impactful?


18. The Origin of Us: Campfires As The Bedrock of Human Civilization

Campfires provided an important evolutionary step in “group-bonding” that likely influenced the development of society and civilization as a whole.

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These are the best psychology and self improvement articles published at The Emotion Machine in 2016.

There’s a lot of amazing information and insight here, so I recommend at least taking a quick glance at all of these.

Thanks to everyone for all your love and support this year. Let’s keep learning, growing, and improving into the new year!


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4 Life Skills to Start Working on Today

December 21, 2016 - 2:26pm


Introduction

The new year is upon us, and along with the celebrations comes a time for looking inward and focusing on what is truly important in life and how you want to improve in the new year. All of us have weaknesses and strengths. We all have a natural tendency to want to improve, yet it’s hard to make changes sometimes.

We are creatures of habit, by nature. We are human and humans all make mistakes. The road to progression is often met with road blocks: challenges, mistakes, misfortune.

However, you are telling yourself a big fat lie, if you say, “it’s just who I am, I can’t change.” Yes…YOU CAN! You can learn how to improve. You can learn how to have greater happiness and satisfaction in life. You can take your weaknesses and make them strengths if you want to.

If you aren’t sure where to start, which areas of your life to work on first, let me suggest four life skills that are worth working on today. I believe that mastery of these four skills will greatly enhance your life. They will also lay the ground work for upward movement and will become the building blocks for future success.


4 Life Skills to Start on Today


Life Skill #1 – Self Confidence

How do you feel about yourself today? If you looked yourself in the mirror, would you see someone that you liked, or someone that you aren’t the biggest fan of? Are you comfortable with what you have accomplished so far in life, or do you wish you did more?

Confidence, in its simplest form, is a believe and trust in yourself. Learning how to believe and trust in yourself can take some time…but I promise it is absolutely worth it!

If you are currently struggling with your self-image, then take a deep breath…exhale…and get ready to make some changes.

Place to Start: Understand Who You Really Are – The road to becoming confident in yourself begins with understanding who you really are. You were born with strengths and capacity to do GREAT THINGS. You have the gifts to be able to handle the life that you are living.

Take some time to learn more about who you are, what you like and dislike, and your strengths and weaknesses. The overarching idea here is to find out more about yourself, which will help you get on a better path towards greater self-confidence.


Life Skill #2 – Money Management

Money management can be a broad topic. If you are struggling with your financial life, I would recommend starting with the basics. Learn how to budget, how to save money, and how to get out of debt. A lot of us are living life with financial burdens, and along with those burdens comes stress and anxiety. It’s a big deal.

If you can learn how to properly manage your money, then you will be relieving a huge financial headache. You will also help set yourself up for a better life with greater savings and spending power. This will ultimately give you a better life experience over all.

Place to Start: Set Some Goals – Goal setting is powerful! It helps you to come up with a game plan to take your current weaknesses and make them strengths. When you are ready to make financial progress, then start by setting some reasonable goals that will help you stretch. Whatever those goals are, write them down, work on them, and watch as you start to improve.


Life Skill #3 – Problem Solving

Life is hard. As part of life, we are all prone to experience problems, trials, heartaches, pain, etc. Learning how to be a good problem solver will help better your life. Why? Because many of the problems that we experience in this life are self-inflicted (not all, but many).

Learning how to solve these problems ahead of time will remove the heartaches and pain before they even become a problem. Problem solving can be a skill that takes a while to master, but if you can master it, you will get your life back on track before you experience the negative side effects of self-inflicted wounds.

Place to Start: Identify the Issue – If you can identify the issue, you will be one step closer to solving the problem before it occurs. Identifying a problem can certainly be a difficult task. So start by looking inward and trying to detect the root problem. What is the problem really? Spend some time on this, and make it count. Once you have identified the issue, you will be able to take steps to remedy the issue.


Life Skill #4 – How to Listen and Communicate

We all have someone close to us that just doesn’t know how to listen. Don’t be that person! Learning how to listen to others will greatly impact your life. Others will respect you and naturally want to be around you more.

Communication is a tough skill to master. It’s something that we do every day of our lives, but it is often overlooked. While it is hard to master, it can pay some serious dividends down the road.

Place to Start: Stay Positive And Never Give Up – On your road to better listening and communication, don’t worry about making mistakes. There’s no shame in making a mistake or two. We all come short of our goals…no one is perfect. Stay positive and never give up. Truly listening can be hard, and as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect”.


Conclusion

Yes, we are creatures of habit; however, when it comes to personal development, you don’t have to just go with the norm. You CAN change! You can become a better person. You definitely have the gifts and talents that you need to change your life for the better.

You can become someone who has confidence, who keep their financial life in check, who knows how to solve problems, and who can effectively listen and communicate with others. Consider how much better your life would be if you were a master of these four important life skills. These four life skills are worth working on today! Don’t let the new year slip by… take advantage and reap the rewards.


Extra Resources


Biography:

After spending six years in the accounting, retirement, and financial realm, Jacob turned his attention to teaching others about important life skills. He works with clients one on one, in addition to teaching others through his website PowerOverLife. Jacob currently lives in Gilbert, AZ with his wife and 1-year-old daughter.


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Reaping the Rewards from Relationship Advice

December 15, 2016 - 11:23am


Facing relationship challenges on your own could be daunting. You want to make a decision, but you are afraid you are making the wrong move. The best thing to do is to seek for help from someone who can provide the best relationship advice possible. Even if you have to pay someone to help you with the burden of your hearts, it is perfectly fine. Here are some of the benefits that you will get should you decide to ask for help from someone regarding relationships.


You don’t have to trust your own instincts

You may be the best person to make judgments about your own relationship because you know all the details, but there are times when you just can’t trust your instinct. It is usually clouded with biases. This is true especially if you are at the peak of your emotions. As a result, you make the wrong decisions. You will just regret it later when it is too late to change anything. Therefore, if someone provides advice, you can weigh those arguments and use them in making your personal decision.


You learn from other people’s experiences

In asking for advice, you don’t just get generic information about love and relationships. Usually, people give advice based on their personal experiences. This helps a lot since as the adage goes, wise are those who learn from their experiences, but wiser are those who learn from other people’s experiences. You don’t have to go through the same problem on your own especially if you can listen to what others have to say and learn from them. There might be some similarities that you can learn from.


You buy time before you make a decision

Talking to a relationship expert also means buying time to calm yourself down. It helps a lot since you can make crazy decisions when you are too happy or too sad. Emotions usually overwhelm our ability to make good judgment. If someone is there to talk to you, even if the advice does not make sense, it will at least help you relax and let your emotions subside. By the time you are to make a decision, you know that you are fully prepared to do it.


It feels good to share about your deepest thoughts

Speaking with a relationship expert to seek for help on love is not just about listening to what they have to say. It is also revealing a part of yourself to them. They can only provide the best advice possible if you are willing to be honest if sharing your thoughts and emotions with them. In the end, even if they don’t provide the right advice, you will still feel better. You know that you have shared a part of yourself to others instead of keeping the burden to yourself. If you don’t have friends who are immediately available to share your feelings with, these relationship experts will be there for you.


Perhaps, you’ll make the right decision

After listening to the love advice reading, you might be able to reach the best decision possible. There is no guarantee that you will. Of course, nothing is certain when it comes to love. However, you will at least have an informed choice and not just something based on your own biases and overwhelming emotions.

These are just some of the reasons why you have to get relationship advice now. There are people who are willing to provide help any time you need them. Rest assured, these relationship experts are deeply concerned about your future and in the kind of decisions you make for yourself and for the one you love.


Additional resources

  • The Most Important Relationship Advice You’ll Ever Receive
  • 30 Questions to Ask Yourself If You Have Doubts About Your Relationship

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    The Power of Choosing Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

    December 14, 2016 - 3:21pm


    We are all here on this planet searching for something, evolving, waking up. In a world where we are trying to survive everyday struggles, wouldn’t it be wonderful for us to have more joy in our lives as we learn our lessons and gather experiences? How would your life change if you were happier? How would you change?

    The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World helps us to understand how to attain joy and teaches us that we are here to thrive, not just survive. It’s an empowering dialogue between the Dalia Lama and Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop of South Africa that underscores the concept that our happiness really does lie within ourselves and that we have the power to create a more blissful reality.


    Why read yet another book on joy?

    We’ve heard this before but what sets this dialogue apart from much of the existing literature is not only the content, but also the process in which it is presented. The dynamic between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu is instantaneously uplifting as they use respect, authenticity, and humor to interact with one another and impart their wisdom on such topics as the obstacles and pillars of joy. There is a lightness to the heavy subject matter that helps us, the reader, absorb, process, and hopefully incorporate into our every day lives. Not only do they teach us how to create more joy in our lives, they are living examples of it.


    The path from suffering to lasting happiness.

    This book illustrates is that we have the power to transform our suffering into joy. It is not easy; it requires going into the wounds and feeling those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, and then shifting our perspective to that of forgiveness, or gratitude, or compassion, or love. One might long for a specific formula, one that is directionally linear where we can check off certain boxes along the way, but it’s a squiggly line as we work through the many layers of feelings and looping thought patterns we’ve internalized since childhood.

    Click here to check out a free visual summary of The Book of Joy presented by InstaRead.com. You can see a small sample of it above.


    Mental immunity.

    That being said, if one is committed to the process of replacing destructive thought patterns with ones that are healthier—ones that focus on things such as compassion or love instead of anger or fear, then you are well on your way. The Dalia Lama and the Archbishop refer to this as Mental Immunity, which doesn’t mean we need to be Tibetan Monks to achieve joy, but it does require shifting our perspective, accepting where we are at, and doing the internal work to get to a place of compassion and gratitude in order to reach a more enlightened state.


    Find meaning in the experience.

    One way to get through our suffering is to find meaning in our experiences, whether it is heartbreaking grief, a physical illness, past trauma, or everyday stress and frustration. When we are consciously committed to finding the lessons in a given hardship we are more likely to feel as though the pain was worth it, which in turn provides us with a sense of purpose for the suffering. Furthermore, we are more likely to not repeat a harmful pattern of thinking or behaving. In doing so we honor ourselves, the experience, and find the higher perspective for it. We can then work it through, and become more aware should the issue arise once again. And it likely will just to test us on our progress, but according to these two men we are now more equipped to remain in the state of Joy.

    The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World is a new book by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. It reveals a powerful dialogue between these two spiritual giants on what it means to find joy and happiness in the world.


    Drop into your heart.

    The Archbishop goes on to say that joy is a not only a state of mind but a state of the heart as well. The authors highlight compassion as a wonderful way to stay in our hearts. Sometimes humanity can be in so much fear and anger that this leads to a disconnection from one another and ourselves. This is highly destructive to our well-being. Many psychologists posit that disconnection is even the leading cause of addictions. If we tend to focus solely on our own pain and struggles and lose the space to have compassion for others we run the risk of interacting with others in harmful ways. By understanding that we are all connected, we all experience the spectrum of human emotions and hardships, we can better relate to one another and form more authentic and healing relationships. It is important to note here that having compassion for ourselves and what we are experiencing is very healing, and leads us to a more joyful state of being.


    There’s even more…

    These are just a few concepts that the Book of Joy asks us to consider. It also highlights the importance of forgiveness, generosity, humility and humor and demonstrates how we can get to make the changes to be in these states of being. The psychological and spiritual content of this book are presented in a, well, joyful way, and one that does not come off as blaming or shaming. or preachy. The dialogue is easy to read and inspires the reader to do the internal exploration or self and make positive changes in our hearts and minds as we learn how to transcend our suffering.

    ___

    Sameena Khan is a Clinical Psychologist, Writer, Holistic Lifestyle Consultant, and Alchemist. Her intuitive psycho-spiritual work helps others explore and work through their psychological, emotional, physical, and overall energetic blockages in order to live a healthier and more joyful life. You can visit her here on Facebook.

    Sameena is also a Content Manager at Instaread, a genius app that provides key takeaways and summaries of best-selling books.

    “Learn something new today!”


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    7 Secrets to Choosing the Right Tools for Achieving Your Goals

    December 8, 2016 - 7:26am


    We all know the importance of setting goals for ourselves, but many people haven’t realized the great value a good goal setting tool can offer. Selecting the right tool or setting up a right goal tracking system, not only can help you clarify and organize your goals, but more importantly, it can significantly increase your chance of reaching them faster with less effort.

      1. Select tools based on your goal types The first step in deciding on a goal setting system is to identify what kind of goals you are setting. Is it a personal development goal, a business goal, a career goal, or a health or fitness goal? Different goals call for different goal setting methods. You will want to pick tools that are specially designed for your type of goals. Sometimes it helps to use different tools for goals of different types.

      2. Select tools that are comprehensive and easy to use Secondly, it’s critical to select a system that is easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of time to learn and setup. This cannot be over emphasized. A goal setting tool is to help you focus on your goals, how you achieve your results, not on learning to use myriads of features, or anything else. If a system is too difficult to use, you’d do better without it.

      However, “easy to use” does not mean it has to be simple. A lot of people think that a pen and paper based system is easy to use, but what they don’t realize is that it doesn’t support many of the important aspects of goal setting and progress tracking, that are required to successfully manage your goals. It may seem easy at first, but it usually becomes very tedious and cumbersome after a while, and can be a major stressor for your goals.

      3. Select tools that help you set SMART goals A goal that is set based on SMART model (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) has much higher possibility of being accomplished. Choose a system that helps you set goals in a SMART way and you can take advantage of all the benefits this principle provides.

      4. Select tools that support taking actions Also important is that a good goal setting system must support and motivate you in taking massive action. Without action, no matter how smart a goal is set and how well it’s managed, it will never be achieved. It’s that simple. We must take action, massive action if so required. So make sure your chosen system has great task management features.

      5. Select tools that help you review progress Another important feature from a good system is the function to help you review your progress and to keep things on track. This is usually accomplished through an integration of goal and task management, and a journal feature. Keeping a journal for your goals is a great way to help you stick to them and also motivate yourself.

      6. Select tools that help you visualize goals For certain goals, visualization is a great motivator. Whether you believe in “The Laws of Attraction” and “Creative Manifestation” or not, to be able to see your goals’ outcome, and to constantly keep that vision in mind are always helpful in motivating yourself to reach them. Pick a tool that has a vision board function and makes it easier for you to do visualizations.

      7. Select tools that help you build habits Finally, choose a system or tool that can help you form new habits. Many of our goals require a change in our behavior and mind-set patterns. This can only be done through forming good habits that help make these changes happen more easily.

    No matter what goal setting tool you choose, don’t get discouraged if a particular tool doesn’t seem to work for you. Just find and try another tool. It’s all part of the process in ultimately reaching your goal, especially for those hard and difficult ones. The most important thing is to keep trying and never quit, and always know that as long as you don’t quit, you ARE making progress.


    This is a guest post by Harry Che. Harry is a web entrepreneur and experienced software developer. He is the founder and CEO at GoalsOnTrack.com, which is an online service helping people reach goals in life by working smart and doing less. Visit http://www.goalsontrack.com to learn more how it can help you with your goals.


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