Jan 23, 2008

20 Simple Tips to Defeat Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts are the enemies of victorious life. Since our life is very much determined by our mind, our thoughts can make or break our life. Negative thoughts will distract your focus from the important and drain your energy. At the end, you will no longer have the ingredients necessary for success. Knowing how to overcome negative thoughts may make the difference between victory and defeat.

I believe there is an important principle at work regarding negative thoughts, and that is:

Attention is self-reinforcing.

If you give attention to negative thoughts, they will get stronger and stronger. What seems like a small matter in the beginning may become monstrous at the end. What you should do is breaking the vicious cycle by shifting your focus to something positive. You can then reinforce this positive attention until you completely defeat the negative thoughts.

Here I’d like to share 20 tips to defeat negative thoughts mostly based on this principle. Not all tips are suitable for all situations, so choose the ones that work for you. Here they are:

1. Realize that you only hurt yourself with negative thoughts. Don’t let them trick you.
2. Decide that you will live your day with happiness and not let negative thoughts steal it.
3. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m a positive person. I won’t let negative thoughts control me. I’m a winner in life.”
4. Read positive quotes. You can go to Quotations Page or ThinkExist and browse the topics. Or, if you want random quotes, you can go to Random Quotations.
5. Never say negative words in your conversation.
6. Change the tone of your thoughts from negative to positive. For example, instead of thinking “This problem is too difficult” think “This problem is cool and challenging”.
7. If you think negatively about someone, remember positive things about that person. Shift your attention to the positive side.
8. Smile. It’s more difficult to think negatively when you are smiling.
9. Walk and act confidently. Good body language helps you have good thoughts.
10. Pray or meditate. Spiritual peace and calmness is among the most effective ways to overcome negative thoughts.
11. Gather with positive people. Be careful not to choose the wrong people or the situation will only get worse.
12. Take a nap so that you will wake up with a fresh mind.
13. Read an inspiring book. Spiritual books often do well.
14. Go out and appreciate the beauty of the world around you.
15. Sing a cheerful song.
16. Make yourself comfortable with failure. Failure is the stepping stone to success, so don’t be afraid to fail.
17. Have realistic expectation. Accept the fact that people could make mistakes since nobody is perfect.
18. If you think negatively about a situation, decide that you won’t give up even if the worst happens. Prove yourself to be a tough opponent. You are a winner.
19. Accept yourself and be comfortable in who you are. You can’t be perfect but neither can anyone else.
20. Help someone. Shift the focus away from yourself and do good to others.

Jan 16, 2008

Recover Your Abandoned New Year’s Resolutions

Statistically most people who start new year’s resolutions drop them by the third week. Regardless of whether it’s because they take on too much or go into them with good intentions but little knowledge of how to achieve them, people need not abandon their resolutions so easily at the first obstacle. Below are suggestions on how to turn things around and restart those resolutions.

Decide on just one resolution

It’s common practice for people to come up with a large collection of resolutions. Big mistake! You simply can’t give 100% commitment to your efforts if it is all spread out between a number of goals. Furthermore, as soon as you hit a rough patch with one resolution (and you surely will), the resulting drop in focus and motivation will have a knock-on effect on your other resolutions. So determine which resolution is most important to you and will make the largest difference to your life, then concentrate purely on that one.

Work out why you failed

Why did you drop your resolutions? What got in the way? There is no point starting up your efforts again if you don’t deal with the immediate obstacles in your way. It could be something as simple as having taken on too many goals (as discussed above), a lack of understanding of effective habit building practices, or it could be something much deeper. For instance, you may be trying to quit smoking yet you are surrounded by fellow smokers all day. Alternatively, you may want to lose weight but you still have a fridge full of burgers and chips.

Break down the resolution into small chunks

View your new year’s resolution with a different perspective. Consider it as a project and break it down into appropriate next actions. That way you will have a much more clear idea of what you are trying to achieve and by having the resolution broken down into manageable chunks you only need to take on as much as you can manage.

Break the timescale down too. Just because it’s a new year’s resolution, doesn’t mean you have to think in yearly terms. If you have a resolution to regularly go to the gym, think about what a reasonable target would be weekly. For instance you could start off aiming to just go to the gym once a week and then when you are settled with that, expand to two days a week.

Accept that you will stumble along the way

Resolutions aren’t an all-or-nothing situation. However, because they are viewed as a once a year deal and get covered so often in the media around the holiday season, they can get built up in people’s heads leading to overly optimistic expectations. It’s important to be realistic about your resolutions and realize that you will come across hurdles along the way. Effective new year’s resolutions aren’t about trying to stay on the bike, it’s about climbing back on again after each fall.

Jan 11, 2008

Resolution Makeover: 5 Things To Consider When Setting This Year’s Goals

There are five basic things to consider when deciding on your resolutions:

Reflect on what you’re doing with your time, and ask yourself whether things need to be readjusted. Make time to do the things that you really want to do—spend time with your loved ones, make a phone call instead of sending a quick birthday wish in an email, write, read, take a bubble bath. There’ll never be enough time to do everything, but there’ll always enough time to do what’s really important (yes, a bubble bath is important!).

Like time, the inability to manage money is often due to perspective. If you value saving more than spending, you will save more and spend less. Decide what you really want to use your money for. Instead of making the resolution simply to “spend less,” “save more,” or “pay credit cards down,” make a specific goal. Set a goal of x amount of dollars to go on that trip. Know exactly how much you are trying to save each month (realistically!), rather than making an arbitrary end of the year amount or vague statement of where you want your finances to be eventually. It’s easier to put off saving until tomorrow when you don’t have a specific number you are working towards.

Consider the direction of your career. Since you spend most of your day working, you better be doing something you like. Is this what you really want to do? Will this particular job lead you to where you want to be? Don’t get stuck in a place that doesn’t satisfy your aspirations for yourself. Resolve to take your career into your own hands, no matter how scary it might seem.

Having supportive and fulfilling relationships will do more for your well being than any kind of “success” in your career or money in your bank account. Resolve to spend more time with the people you love and who love you, give freely, offer help, and be gracious.

Your health will be what allows you to pursue any of the things mentioned above. If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, low energy, or any other ailments, then eating better and getting more exercise has to be a priority. Don’t resolve to stop smoking because you’re “supposed” to. Do it because you value your health and understand that your well being is important to those you love.

I hope your 2008 resolutions will be a list of things that make you very happy. Have fun doing them!-(zen)

Jan 4, 2008

Choose your 2008 word?

How to Choose Your Word for 2008

Look through the list below if you need some guidance. Get quiet over the next few days. And pick a word for the year.

Just one word. That’s all.

Then, hold that word in your mind throughout the year, and let your word guide you to take action.

For instance, let’s take one of the examples above. Let’s say you are one of the many people who would normally choose “Get Organized.” You look around to see clutter and crap all over your life. You’re tired of the chaos. So, you think, “I need to get organized. That should be my Resolution this year.”

But then you read this blog. You decide to try it.

You sit with your clutter. You spend a few days pondering words that will inspire you. You realize in an “Ah-Ha!” moment that you tend to cling to lots of things. You’re scared to let go. So you choose the word “Release” because it inspires you in a bigger way than “Get organized.”

So, every time you approach your clutter you remind yourself of that word. “Release,” you say softly. You start to let the clutter go. Eventually, you realize that you’re still holding on to lots more than just physical clutter. You realize that you hold onto resentment at old relationships. “Release,” you remind yourself. You realize that holding on is affecting your diet and health. “Release” applies to some of the extra weight you’ve gained as well. Throughout the year, you can see clearly how much you hold on. “Release” is your touchstone. It grows you throughout the year. It becomes your guiding force, not your harsh standard.

What word to choose?

Many people know immediately which word resonates with them. For others, a little contemplation is required.

I’ve compiled a list of possible words below. As you read through them, see if one stands out for you. It’s tempting to choose four or five, believing that you can do it all! (Or that you’re too messed up to narrow your flaws down to one helpful word!) I recommend that if you can’t choose just one, narrow it down to no more than three.

One is ideal. It gives you focus. If you master that one word, you can choose another one in June.


10 Productivity Tips are Better Than 101

There are many popular mega-lists out there nowadays (75 Ways to Boost your Self-Esteem, 101 Ways to Open Firefox, 503 Ways to Make Your List Longer). But often, these lists have too many "filler" items, and many items have such diminutive returns that I'd rather just have a list of their ten best items. So in that vein, here is a list of what I consider my favorite productivity tips – ten in all. Feel free to add your own favorites (and then maybe we can get to 101).

1. Make Lists and Finish Them – Write down goals for the day, the week, and the month -- using a simple Hipster PDA or a giant whiteboard will do. And more importantly, get it done (i.e., be willing to stay up until 2AM to finish that blog post you had on your list).

2. Blackout Your Communication – A common methodology of writers, block off a chunk of hours, lock the door, shut down the email and cell phone, and force yourself to work on your task list. And when you feel like you're getting nothing done, don't give in – force yourself to keep working.

3. Don't Sleep with Unanswered Emails – It's understandable if some emails require a short wait, but for the most part, always try to answer emails the same day. Besides just "getting it done," it builds a healthy rapport with your correspondents.

4. Prioritize Commitments - Decide what's important and what's not. Then decide if low-priorities are killing the high-priorities. If so, drop some of the commitments and don't take on any more.

5. Start Gap Tasking – Unfortunately, life is still full of commutes, long lines, and waiting times. This is a great time to do a bit of reading, phoning, or note-jotting (just beware of becoming the annoying cellphone-talker in the supermarket). Personally, I like having a moleskine and something to read at all times (either a magazine like Inc. or the RSS feeds on my Blackberry).

6. Socialize Positively – There's something about being around positive and motivated people that fires up productivity in oneself. Not only do you get chances to bounce new ideas off others, you will often get encouragement and perhaps a little competitive drive from such interactions.

7. Just Launch It – No project is ever really complete. So instead of playing the perfectionist and continually investing time and effort into dozens of revisions/additions, just launch the project as best you can. Not only will you feel like you've accomplished something (which feeds into a productivity boost), but you'll also quickly know what revisions/additions are the most pertinent.

8. Discipline Your Waste – Most people have some sort of recreational "vice" -- movies, video games, Wikipedia, family (okay, just kidding about that last one). The problem usually isn't the participation in such activities, but the lack of knowing when to stop. Sometimes, it may take the cancellation or the uninstallation of a service to be more productive.

9. Try Acting Like a Business – Both designers and developers alike tend to enjoy relaxed environments that usually include a Wii, casual wear, and maybe an Airzooka. Freelancers can be even more laid back, usually sporting pajamas and living in paper-piled offices. Unfortunately, slackness in your clothing and office space often leads to slackness in your work. Try cleaning the office, increasing the lighting, and wearing semi-casual wear. See if your productivity increases...

10. Show Up – Building anything of value is never easy. Just "showing up" day after day is often the hardest part of any project. Always be the most reliable person you know...

Jan 1, 2008

How to Slow Down Now (Read Slowly)

In our rush-aholic world slowing down seems subversive. In the workplace we have to be “seen” to be working. Even though doing a task more slowly can often produce a result faster, many of us get caught up in unnecessary meetings and tasks. You may be suffering from too much speed. After all, you are reading this. We humans are not always-on, efficient machines that can run seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. Burning the candle at both ends results in, well, burnout.

Humans need rests, relaxation, and recreation. We need time to think about things, to clear the mind, and to have fun. But to a person overburdened with claims on her time, fun seems only a distant remembered state of mind.

Slowing down is a way to incubate, conserve, and harvest our energy, not about relief from boredom by just watching more TV or going shopping. You may have to confront boredom at first. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.

Don’t slow down quickly
If you’re a rush-aholic and want to slow down, your first impulse may be to try too hard and expect instant results. Making a change takes time and isn’t always easy. Expect a period of some discomfort. Many people who retire from an active life feel themselves at a loss. Hyperactivity is often a defense against boredom, and the fear of slowing down is really a fear of confronting yourself.

Workaholism may be the only socially condoned disease. Numerous books have been written about workaholism in America. In Japan there is an expression for death by overwork: Karoshi (Kah-roe-she).

If we let it, work can take over our lives. Work is of course necessary, but the problem is taking it too far. You decide what excess is for you. Having drive is a self-actualizing positive attribute, but being driven, being compelled to work long-hours, is soul destroying.

Josef Pieper’s seminal book, Leisure: The basis of culture written in the 1940’s warns us against what he calls the “Total World of Work.” We need leisure to rest, create, relate, and think. Our culture drifts toward destruction when we worship mindless know-how.

It’s odd that we have so much material wealth in America, but so many of us are dissatisfied and unable to enjoy. When everything is about work we are far less likely to do a good job. And of course, all work and no play, makes Jill a dull girl.

Slowing down has the reward of honoring the unique you, and being present for yourself and others. And what’s more, you just may discover the joy in enjoyment. You don’t need to do it alone, that’s why getting a slow coach can help through your transition to a more balanced life.

If you choose to work long hours (maybe you are self employed) then you are in control. But if you work long hours out of fear that if you don’t you’ll be demoted or fired, then that’s a recipe for burnout.

Slowing down, even a small amount, can help you be less demanding, less impulsive, and more patient with yourself and others. If slowing down makes you more considerate of other people, you’ll be even more likable than you are now.

A thought experiment
It’s your time. It’s your life. You can think of time as an investment. So take just a few minutes to imagine now.

Try this thought experiment. If you took tomorrow off and spent it by yourself, what would your day be like? How would you feel? For this experiment you’ll do nothing of practical value. You won’t use it to get things done.

The above is only a thought experiment. Just thinking about your day, what will the early morning be like? Where will you be at mid-day? Can you describe the place you imagine yourself to be? How do you anticipate your feeling at being alone?

Now try thinking about how you would spend half a day. Remember, this is not time to achieve a goal. You can spend your half-day with other people doing anything you like. How would you feel during this time, and how would you feel afterward?

Slow hour
If the thought experiment above took only a few minutes, could you actually take an hour to slow down? What would it be like to spend an hour completely free from any pressing matter?

I asked an assembly of management consultants (a highly-scheduled group) if they schedule unstructured time. None did. But what would it be like for you to take a slow hour?

The idea behind a lunch hour was that it gave one time for rest, sustenance, and renewal. But this practice has disappeared from many workplaces. Your slow hour could be as easy as assigning importance to this precious time. Make sure you keep a date with yourself. How would you use your slow hour? Would you be tempted to fill it up with striking things off your to-do list, or would you be able to slow down? Do you have to try it and find out? Would you feel guilty about taking care of yourself?

Slow calm
More haste, less speed, or haste makes waste are a well-known sayings. When under pressure, the ability to act slowly and deliberately is a benefit. The wise carpenter measures twice and cuts once. Taking time to read the map instead of blindly heading off in what you guess might be the right direction makes sense.

Thinking and considering before acting takes a level of impulse control that’s missing when we become overly stressed. Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If, is about keeping your head when all those about you are losing theirs. Maintaining a sense of calm when others are stressed and panicking is not easy. Slow is not about being lazy.

Slow eating
How many of us have heard our mothers tell us not to gobble our food? Children eat like animals until they are civilized. We eat and run. The slow food movement started in Italy as a backlash against fast food, but that is another subject. Current wisdom has it that eating slowly can help you lose weight. Taking your time to chew your food releases the nutrients. It’s easy to overeat, but slowing down can help.

In America, we talk about being full up after a meal. Food is seen as fuel. You are more likely to eat quickly if you eat alone. You are more likely to eat quickly if you are working at the same time. When we gulp down food our stomachs don’t have a chance to digest it properly, nor signal to our brains that we are satiated.

Taking a break between courses or eating smaller portions and waiting, eating with others, and taking time to digest what you eat is a good way to practice slowing down.

Exercise slow
If you’ve ever tried to lift weights at the gym, you’ll know that doing it very slowly is far more demanding than doing it quickly. The idea of weight lifting is to build muscle. However, it’s common to see people rush through their routines counting repetitions, as if more is better. If they went more slowly, and used less weight they would get the result they are after more quickly. Ken Hutchins, founder of SuperSlow, invented a fat burning weight protocol that has weight trainers lift weights very slowly in order to get fast results.

My qiqong (Chi-Kung) practice of twelve slow and graceful repetitions of eighteen movements helps me develop a sense of calm. I’ve been doing this daily practice for many years and it’s easy, and promotes balance, and flexibility. If I want more of a workout, I simply slow down more.

When we slow down, we notice more. Noticing your breath is an easy slow exercise. That’s all, just notice how you are breathing. What could be easier?

“Multi-tasking is a moral weakness”, is of course all in fun. It’s impossible not to multi-task to some extent. Our bodies are alive with electro-chemical reactions. We are constantly breathing, thinking, and monitoring our internal and external environments. Yet we can choose to do fewer things in order to concentrate better.

When driving we can choose to drive safely, not to answer the phone, or listen to the radio, or talk to passengers. We can choose to just drive. Slowing down can teach us to notice more of what is going on around us.

Slow attention
Slowing down helps give our full-attention to what we are doing. Like full-attention Zen, slowing down can put us in the zone, or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience).

Try walking more slowly. Pause before responding to questions. Speak more slowly. Does this feel awkward? Why?

Slow down now
Personal energy, attention and time are limited. By slowing down we can use these better to our advantage. Slowing down is counter-intuitive. It’s not easy to go against the grain no matter how much sense it makes. But you don’t have to do it alone.

Bottom-line: Slow down, but keep on moving NON-STOP!

Start 2008 with a bang

Ask yourself this question this new year’s day:

What is the one goal, if completed this year, that could change everything?
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