Quick – What’s the best free thing in the world that most people usually refuse to accept? That’s right, it’s good advice. We have all been there. Heck, sometimes we ignore our own selves when it comes to good advice. Since I absorb every self help and motivational book, video, and podcast I can find, I decided to set down a list of things I would tell my best friend – and then follow that list myself. Feel free to come along.
Do Something Today That Your Future Self Will Thank You For
I have not been able to trace down the author of that quote, but it is quite powerful. Every single day of your life, do something that will bring you more knowledge, improve your skills, move you towards a goal, etc. If you do a little bit each and every day, that effort will begin to add up in your life and bring you a happier and more fruitful future.
This could also be thought of as planting a seed each day. Take that cooking class. Open that business you are passionate about. Learn to code a new computer program. Go on that vacation with your family or your best friend. Spend that extra time with your loved ones. You are essentially investing in a happier you.
Start Saving and Investing Today
Compound interest is your friend. And who doesn’t want to earn interest on their interest? The earlier you get started saving and investing, the more independence and freedom you will have in life. While money doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness, the freedom and independence it provides actually does. Saving and investing money can be confusing and, therefore, scary. The best way is to automate the funds to go to various places so you never miss the money from your paycheck. Here are some good ways to get started:
If you have access to a retirement plan at work, utilize it now. If not, start an IRA. Then increase the amount you contribute to it every year. You will never miss the increases if you automate the deductions, and you will be building an impressive net worth. (Be sure to use an experienced financial planner or do your own homework before allocating those funds.)
Open an online savings account and set money to automatically transfer to it each month. (We opened up a Marcus online account and have been happily stashing money in it every month for a while now. We are saving money every month with absolutely no effort on our part.)
If you would like to go further, index funds are recommended by virtually all investment gurus. The Vanguard 500 Index is generally considered a good investment because it covers 500 of the biggest and best established companies around. It also has extremely low fees and can easily be bought through your own personal brokerage account. You can purchase EFTs one share at a time or you can buy directly into the fund for an investment of $3000 or more. You can open a Vanguard account here. To learn more about the Vanguard 500 Index click here.
Be Who You Really Are
Remember: “If I want to be free, I’ve gotta be me.”
This quote was originally by Bill Gove, but is frequently repeated by Bob Proctor, who was one of his disciples. It reminds us to always live the most original version of us. Don’t settle for just okay in your life when you can be extraordinary instead. Never think about the things you can’t accomplish, but focus on what you CAN accomplish instead. Another famous man (Henry Ford) said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t – Either way you are right.” Every day people accomplish things that were not possible, which tells me that almost anything is possible if you want it badly enough. Don’t stop growing and improving yourself every day.
Read Think and Grow Rich Every Year of Your Life
Most super successful people read as many books as possible each year. Some actually read a book each week. However, the quality of each book matters. Think and Grow Rich has become the bible of success for many people around the world because is has proved its worth over the decades since it was first published.
There are many other classic books out there to help you along your journey. I personally like anything by John Assaraf or Bob Proctor. You can also find tons of videos by them and many others on YouTube that are inspirational and life changing.
Forgive Everyone for Everything
We humans are a grudge holding bunch. Secretly, we love to revel in the terrible things that bad people do to us. Only, there’s really no such thing as a “bad person” but only bad things done by imperfect humans. You have already heard the spiel about forgiving others so you can feel better yourself. Forgiveness is for you, not them. That is completely true. But the best and most unselfish thing to do is forgive them for both of you. We are all in this together, so sometimes you have to forgive others for being human. While you are at it, extend that same courtesy to yourself.
You Don’t Need To Be Perfect
Sometimes it is easier to forgive others than ourselves. Mistakes happen to everyone and no one can ever be perfect everyday in every way. Enough said.
Live in the Present, Not the Past or the Future
This is also known as mindfulness and it has been one of my personal downfalls. It took me years to learn how to do this. I literally used to spend around 90 percent of my waking hours worrying about things in the past I couldn’t change or imagined things in the future that mostly never happened. It takes some time to retrain your brain, but you can learn to enjoy your present moment in life. And what a difference it makes!
Exercise and meditation are two of the best ways to accomplish mindfulness, as well as monitoring your thoughts and redirecting back to the present when your thoughts slip to the past or future. Of course, you can always revisit the past and plan for the future sometimes, just don’t miss the beautiful moments of the life you are living today.
Begin and End Every Single Day with Gratitude
Science has shown that positive and negative thoughts cannot exist in the brain at the same time. It is literally not physically possible. This means every time you choose to have a positive thought you are literally blocking out a potentially negative thought. Think about how powerful that can be in your life. When you start each day with gratitude, you prime your mind to think about happy, positive things all day long. Also, when you end your day with gratitude, you prime your unconscious mind for your hours of sleep. (Yes, we all know our unconscious mind keeps working even while we sleep.)
So pick three things to be grateful for when you wake up each morning and three different things when you go to bed. Writing these down in a journal is even better because you can revisit previous entries from time to time and celebrate the accumulation of good things in your life.
Exercise and Meditate Every Day
Your body needs more activity and your mind needs a break! That is true of the majority of the population anyway. When your body gets both of these things everyday (or at least most days) it balances both your body and your mind because you are feeding both exactly what they need. Stress will literally begin to melt away and your true self will begin to emerge. Your health will likely improve as well.
This one trips up a lot of people, including myself. We (I) sometimes feel like we have no right to want financial success and happiness in our lives when there’s so much poverty and misery in the world. That’s like saying some people are starving so I must starve too. That makes no sense. There must be entrepreneurs to help create jobs for others. There must be authors to inspire others. This world requires creators and developers to give the world joy and fill its needs. Without that, we would become stagnant.
The trick is to be as successful as possible, but be generous with what you have. That’s a win/win situation for everyone.
Set Detailed Goals and Write Them Down
There is a HUGE difference between “I want to retire early” and “I will retire at age 50 with a net worth of $1 million and $15,000 of monthly income.” Science has proven that people who write down their goals and make them very specific are much more likely to achieve them. It also helps to read over your goals everyday and maybe even post them on your bathroom mirror.
Everyday is a new opportunity to achieve something wonderful in your life, so don’t spend time on things unless they make you happy or get you closer to your goals.
Keep Your Eye On the Prize
Always remember what success looks like. Lots of money with no close relationships would be misery. So would being broke with lots of friends. Balance is what we all need in life, so make sure to pay attention to your health, wealth, and happiness at all times.
I have chosen this list as the most basic things to make the most of life. Feel free to add to it as needed.
Today I was in a school and saw some children interacting. It was immediately clear which students “fit in” and which ones did not. You could tell by the conversations and body language of the whole class that everyone there understood that as well.
This led me to think about the value of fitting in with others in our society. Most all of us work hard at this for the duration of our lives. It starts when we begin our schooling, or sometimes even before. It is safe to say that a large amount of our life energy is spent trying to attain the goal of acceptance, while fearing that any slight provocation or slip will result in all that hard work going down the drain.
Why do we invest so much of ourselves into fitting in? I believe it is mostly fear.
No one wants be feel left out in life. So we fear not having friends, or a network of support when something goes wrong in our lives. We also want to know that others approve of us and our way of life. The need to belong to a group or a family is so strong that sometimes we swallow our principles and allow ourselves to be put in positions that are uncomfortable.
But what would happen if we allowed ourselves to just be?
What if there was never an agenda to any interaction we had had with anyone? Could life just unfold in a more peaceful, relaxed way? Maybe everyday could be more pleasant if we didn’t expend so much energy trying to force things to unfold in certain ways.
Because in the end, does it really make that much difference? I would wager that being a completely genuine person who is confident would gain us all more acceptance than any amount of extra effort could ever could. Who isn’t attracted to the company of a smiling, pleasant person? And in essence, isn’t that really who we all strive to be anyway?
So I challenge you (as well as myself) to become that person as this year unfolds.
Forget trying to impress anyone or sell yourself to anyone. Just be your normal, awesome self and see what happens.
Change can be a difficult thing to instigate in our lives.
We think about it. We talk about it. We make big plans for it.
But we don’t actually do it.
Why is that? At this point we should all know the steps for changing our lives, right? We have read the books, watched the YouTube videos, studied endless courses, and made lists of everything we want to change.
So why isn’t it happening?
Three words: Lack of action.
We are all planning and no doing. And I can attest to this fact. My last decade has been one long (ever changing) plan to better myself. My intentions are true, but the end result always falls flat.
After much thought and reflection I finally discovered why this keeps happening to me. I bet you will find your reason(s) below as well.
You Are Not Ready
I always think I need just a little more information before I take action. (The next book I read will give me the last piece of the puzzle to be successful, I just know it.) But in this age of information there will always be something new to learn, so you can never learn everything needed to get started. So just start where you are.
2. Need For Perfection
You will never be perfect, no matter how hard you try, so why does your plan have to be? Life is messy, period. Some of us know this (me included), but we still let small details hold us back. This is just another excuse for not going in the direction of a better life. Set a goal and align your actions in a way to direct you toward that goal. If something goes wrong, simply readjust your plan. Sometimes when plans go awry, the end result is better than our original plan. Go for action, not perfection.
3. You Might Fail
The one and only reason this matters is you care what other people think. And when this happens you have given power over your life to other people. Usually, these are people you either don’t like or don’t know. (The ones you DO like and DO know will love/like you either way, and you know that.) Don’t let other people dictate your life. Besides, other people are rarely watching us as much as we think. Put on your blinders and go for it.
4. Change is Scary (Even If It’s Successful)
Humans are creatures of habit. Familiarity feels good to us. That is why abused children often marry abusive spouses, or why we often stay within the socioeconomic class of our parents when we grow up. It takes courage and determination to change any fundamental element in our lives. However, NOT CHANGING can be even scarier when you think about it. You don’t want to look back on your life with regrets. Suck up your courage and start today.
5. The First Step is the Hardest
A plan of action is only as good as its implementation. The only way to get started is to get started. Take an action today. Any action is better than no action at all because it sets up momentum. Small steps lead to great change without you even realizing it sometimes. So take the first step today, no matter how small it might be.
One of my favorite quotes:
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”
– Sean Patrick Flanery
6. You Try To Do Too Much at Once
Trying to change a large behavior in a short amount of time almost always fails. The key is to change small things over time – which will lead to big changes in the long run.
For example, instead of making “lose weight” your big change. Decide to leave the sugar out of your morning cereal or oatmeal every morning. Once that has become a habit, move on to the next small change. See the video below for a full explanation. (This may be the best TED Talk I have ever seen because it is so valuable!)
How I Got Started
My own personal goal for change was to become happier and feel better both mentally and physically. So I printed out a table and listed all the things that would move me toward that goal each day. This checklist included things like meditation, gratitude, prayer, specific exercises, etc. Altogether, I have nine separate things I strive to do each day.
Do I check off every one of them every day?
No, but some days I do. Other days I do most of them. And occasionally, I do none of them. But I am definitely moving forward and already reaping the benefits of my plan.
Because of this I am more organized and calm, which leads to doing more of the things on the list since I have more time. It’s a big, beautiful cycle. The steps are beginning to become habits and it feels strange on days I don’t do them.
So decide your first step and do it before you go to sleep tonight. Then do another one before bed tomorrow night. And so on and so on. (Feel free to borrow my check list idea. Get it here.)
Within a short period of time, your life will begin to change. Congratulations!
Things in life can easily sneak up on you. I think most responsible adults know this. But the thing that steals your joy most often can be a real trickster. And no one is too young or old to learn the lesson below, so please read it, use it and pass it on.
I just learned this lesson that I must say keeps popping up over and over in my life. No matter how many times I “discover” this answer to all bad things in my life, it seems I must go down that road again.
Let me explain.
Yesterday was Easter and we (my husband, children and myself) attended church with my mother in law and extended family rather than going to our regular church, which just five minutes (or less) down the road. This church is much like home to me, since my husband grew up there and we have attended it for several years (off and on) while we have been married.
The service was lovely with a mixture of candlelight, spoken parts and musical performances. Everyone was well dressed and cordial. The coffee and donuts during intermission were fresh and tasty. But yet something did not feel right.
Somehow sitting among my family members and friends while holding my baby niece did not give me the peace I was expecting. It was a beautiful, sunny day and all was right in my world, so why did I feel anything other than peace?
Then, somewhere between pastor’s words and my niece plunging her new teeth into my hand, I had a revelation:
I still held bad feeling toward certain people in my life.
There is was. Plain as the nose on my face. In fact, some of the those people were sitting in church with me at that very moment.
Now, let me insert here that I thought I had wiped the slate clean and forgiven everyone in my life for every wrong (or perceived wrong) they had ever sent my way.
Then, a few years later I did it again.
Was there a third time? Hmmm………..
Anyway, while sitting in church I realized two things:
I had not truly thought of everyone I needed to forgive. I needed to put in more effort and not forgive people in small batches, but forgive everyone. Even those I felt did not “deserve” it.
Forgiveness is an ongoing thing.
People are usually not against you, they are just for themselves. Just trying to survive, nothing personal.
So I made the decision to look around the church and make a mental inventory of every person I needed to forgive, then I did just that. I opened my heart and gave the forgiveness and love that was needed to make me feel harmonious.
The people who received my forgiveness never knew the difference. They felt no different after my epiphany. But I felt like a new person. In fact, the weight of the world lifted from me while I sat in that padded seat.
So here is my question to you: Do you need to grant forgiveness to people in your life?
If so, don’t follow the same misguided path as me.
Instead, make a list of every single person you have ever had a negative feeling toward. (Yes, even the stranger who skipped line at Starbucks this morning.) Take a couple days to compile this list if needed, because you want it to be complete.
Then, sit down and make the deliberate decision to forgive every one of them. And don’t just say it. Really mean it. Forgive every person for being human and not being perfect.
Sometimes it can be difficult to forgive people when they have done heinous things to you. When that happens, try to imagine them as a little baby that has not yet faced the trials of life that build up over time and cause people to mistreat others. Or imagine them in their underwear. Whatever it takes to grant them the forgiveness and you the serenity that you need.
Because you need this.
When you talk of simplifying our lives and minimalism, there is nothing better to throw in the trash than resentments and other bad feelings towards others.
I had this in my life and didn’t even see it right in front of my face. Could you be doing the same? Don’t let this be the thing that steals your joy.
Today I would like to talk about having no self control and no limits.
(Heads-up: I don’t usually write posts this long, but this one just kept growing!)
This is reality of most people in our modern society, but it has happened so slowly that most people don’t even realize it. People have no self control and no limits and, although that sounds a lot like freedom, it is really misery.
Why? Well, here is at least part of it…..
There is too much noise in our would today, and it drowns out all the important things we need to learn to be happy and instead elevates the worst things in this world.
Just think about how much media/water cooler attention is given to a school shooter or serial killer. Or Youtube videos/television shows where people are acting badly.
Now, think about how much media time is given to stories or people helping other people. Or people doing good deeds for mankind.
It’s all about ratings. And money. Which translates to greed. But I digress…..
But just think about it: We can now buy almost anything imaginable 24 hours a day online (no waiting ever). Most brick and mortar stores are now open on Sundays (no waiting till Monday).
Not only can we shop all the time, but we can also:
Spend all we want via credit cards
Eat all we want from 24 hour restaurants
Download unlimited books online and never have to wait for the library to open
Download unlimited music and never have to walk into a music store again
See unlimited amounts of advertisements that trick us into “needing” whatever they are selling
Change careers a gazillion times because it’s so easy to get student loans
Have as many partners/relationships as we want because no value is placed on loyalty or stability
Get married/divorced as many times as we want because there are no consequences
Try to be an expert at EVERYTHING so people will think we are impressive and cool
Have a greedy, self-interested attitude and be popular for it
Have so many choices for EVERYTHING that our heads explode!
Nothing in the above list supports setting limits in any way. In American society especially, individuals are encouraged to do whatever feels good or makes them happy, with little or no concern with the impact on those around them or society as a whole.
Hence, we have Jerry Springer type shows and people who complain about having to step over homeless people to get to their six figure jobs.
Is it just me, or is our current mode of operation NOT WORKING?
It seems like we are inundated with limitless amounts of everyone else’s problems on a daily basis because we are all so “connected” by social media and and the greater media in general. However, this is a very superficial sort of connected-ness.
I would like to offer an alternaitve way to live. I know many people are already promoting the idea of leaving social media and unplugging the devices, which is obviously the first step. But I would like to offer a few other suggestions:
1. It’s okay to have some secrets.
You don’t have to tell EVERYONE EVERYTHING that happens in your life. I truly believe the first step to gaining some self control would be to stop believing you have to tell the world all of your personal business and air every bad thing that has ever happened to you.
In this post Phil Donahue and Oprah Whinfrey world we now know that telling the country every personal secret you have will not solve your problems. If it did, antidepressants would be a thing of the past by now.
2. Consider how your actions will impact others.
This does not mean you should give away all of your money and live a deprived life. It does mean think about how your decisions today might affect your children tomorrow. Or the world.
Some people seem to think that as long as they do some recycling they can basically do anything else they want with their lives. Family responsibilities seem to be a thing of the past in many communities.
For example, the number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren is staggering. Occasionally, this is due to parents passing away or being ill. I’m sure there are other legitimate reasons as well.
However, when parents consciously leave their children to be raised by grandparents because they simply do not want to do that, there is only one word for that: SHAMEFUL. There was a time when there was lots of stigma attached to not taking care of your family responsibilities. Apparently, those times are gone. I propose we bring those times back.
On a simpler not, If you have a loved one in need, go see them. Call them on the phone. Don’t just send a text or like their latest post on Facebook. Show them you care enough to give them some of your valuable time. Nothing shows love and caring more.
The same goes for your children. Give them your time more than your money. Memories mean more than stuff. Always.
3. Keep your opinion to yourself.
We have become the most opinionated bunch of people on the planet.
Everyone on Facebook and Twitter gives their opinion about everything everyone does. I can’t even imagine being a celebrity these days. I remember when a star recently posted about her young daughter trying a certain food for the first time and many people shamed her for feeding her child that particular food.
What was meant to be the sharing of a sweet family moment with her fans was turned into a shaming session instead. Seriously? Stop the negativity.
When I was young we were often told to “hold your tongue” or “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. This is some of the best free advice you will ever hear.
4. Concentrate on ways to help others.
The people on this planet have had a monumental shift in how they view helping others. I truly believe that the United States is the worst offender. Yes, there are still people who frequently help others in this country, but the overall feeling of community and helping those in needs for the sake of helping has greatly diminished.
Our world is about ME, ME, ME!
You know the saying, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins”? That seems to be the American motto more and more these days. Hence, the shrinking of the middle class. The super rich are controlling the way money moves, both in and out of our country. This has forced many to either become savvy and join the super rich, or fall behind and become part of the growing poor population.
Greed has never been attractive on anyone. I don’t care what the situation.
Celebrate kindness in your circle and your world.
5. Give yourself some quiet time.
This is crucial in our modern world. Give yourself quiet time each and every day. If you are not into mediation, then turn the music off in your car while driving to work. Or have lunch by yourself in your office with all electronics off and a table top water fountain running.
Any way you can find to shut off the noise is effective at clearing your mind and allowing you to be more peaceful.
Your brain needs to rest, just like your body.
6. Guard your time and thoughts.
Examine your principles and morals. Don’t let everything you stand for be swept away by all the noise in the world. Many people’s principles and morals have changed with the times.
If these are so wishy-washy that they change with the times, then I don’t believe them to be true principles and morals. They shouldn’t be like manners, which do change with society. (Although I could also make an argument for bringing some of those back, too!)
Also, be aware of your thoughts and make sure you are not absorbing any of the “me, me, me” thoughts that are out there. In fact, feel free to imagine how you look to those around you and decide if you like the image you present to others.
And if you really want to be truly avant-garde and stand out in a crowd, then bring back things like caring, honesty, integrity, and honor.
7. Find ways to set limits and teach self control to your children.
Things are already out of hand with this generation, so let’s find ways to reel things back in. Teach your children that it’s okay to guard their time and thoughts, just like an adult. Habits are best formed when we are young, after all.
If you will put all the above into practice with your children, then they are almost guaranteed to have a happier experience than most other kids today.
Get back into nature and find ways to enjoy the world away from all the noise. One day your children will thank you for it.
It’s hard to BECOME a minimalist. It is much easier to BE a minimalist. So what’s the difference, you might ask….
Momentum. That’s what.
When you first make the decision to become less stressed, less hurried, less pressured – less everything bad – it is difficult to really get started. Things go through your head like, “What will my friends think?” or “My mother-in-law will really have bad things to say about me now!”
It goes on and on.
You suddenly freak out because everyone will know you are different, and not different in an avant-gard, hip sort of way, but DIFFERENT!
To that, everyone who has ever become a successful minimalist would say, “Who Cares?”
As it turns out, the most difficult part of becoming a minimalist is not doing without things (which can actually enhance your life), it’s worrying about what other people will think.
However, it is much easier to ignore that opinions (and perceived opinions) of others after you have been living the minimalist lifestyle for a while.
Minimalism: The Art of NOT Caring About What People Think
Not caring about what other people think (or say) is an art in its own right. It takes some practice to get really good at it, but with a small amount of effort you can live completely free from the worries of other people’s hang ups.
There are several things you must consider that will help you get over this hurdle.
People are going to talk no matter what you do. This is true about most people on the planet because people just love to talk about other people. Simply file this knowledge away and decide there is nothing you can (or should) do about it. Then do whatever makes you happy.
You don’t know most of what they say, so it doesn’t hurt you anyway. As far as I know, no one has ever fallen over dead because someone talked about them behind their backs. Sticks and stones, baby!
Most people don’t mean most of what they say anyway. It’s true. I truly believe that people rattle on half of the time just trying to make conversation and give little thought to the potential impact of the conversation on those around them.
Once you get truly engaged in your minimalist lifestyle, you will be so happy that you won’t notice any of the talk (or other negativity) around you. I realize that humans have a built in trait that makes us want everyone to like and approve of us all the time. Let’s all acknowledge right now that it’s not a possibility. Once you make that conscious realization, your happiness meter will start to rise.
You might be paranoid. People might not be saying as much as you think. After all, everyone has their own life to live and your life is probably not as important to them as you might suspect.
If people ARE talking,it’s probably because they are jealous. It’s true. Jealousy is the Number 1 reason why people talk about other people. In other words, if you are living a successful, happy minimalist life and others are talking negatively about you, its likely because they want the same life you have and probably don’t know how to attain it for themselves.
So you see, there really is not good reason not to jump headfirst into the minimalist lifestyle if it appeals to you. Just put everything in perspective about those around you and all the fear melts away. You really DON’T have to consider what other people will thing, say, or do when designing your perfect (or close to perfect) life.