Why more time spent doing nothing will make you more productive

Have you ever had the experience that your greatest ideas come to you when you’re not focused on them?

Like you’re standing in the shower thinking about a work challenge and suddenly you come up with a solution. Or, you’re on vacation, laying by a pool, sipping a cocktail and suddenly you know what direction to take your business in. Or, you go to bed in a tiff with your partner not knowing what to do and wake up with clarity and the actions to take to settle the dispute are obvious?

It’s because you do. Your brain is making critical connections when you’re not focusing your attention on a task, when you’re letting your mind wander.

Why more time spent doing nothing will make you more productive

When you are doing nothing your brain goes into a mode of thinking called your Default Mode Network (DMN). This is opposed to the mode it’s in when you’re focused on a task, which is your Task Mode Network (TMN). Using both these modes of thinking is critical. But most of the time we are using too much of our TMN and not enough of our DMN. When you’re in your DMN, that’s when creativity, rejuvenation and magic happens.

So if you get anything out of reading this post, get this: Relax more, work a bit less and you’ll be more productive, efficient and effective in everything you do.

You own your dreams and what you choose to do with them.

Relaxing more = increased productivity

Massively successful people like Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein and artist Salvador Dali were smart enough to notice this about themselves. They learned that their creative brain was most subtle at certain times. They didn’t necessarily know why — as neuroscientists are beginning to understand today — but, it is said that both Edison and Dali used to fall asleep with large objects in their hand so that the moment they were in deep sleep they would drop the object, wake up and would have a solution or a stroke of creative inspiration.

Einstein went as far as to say that: “imagination is more important than knowledge”. Stimulating useful creativity really involves being able to embrace and use a childlike inclination for play as an adult.

I want you to understand how useful your daydreams are. They are not just useless fantasies. They contain valuable information about what you authentically want and the actions you should be taking to move you in the direction of a future that inspires you.

Eric Klinger is a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota who devoted his career to understanding daydreams and in his book, Daydreaming, he writes:

“We think of daydreams as scatterbrained and unfocused, but one of the functions of daydreaming is to keep your life’s agenda in front of you; it reminds you of what’s coming up, it rehearses new situations, plans the future and scans past experiences so you can learn from them.”

If you’re willing to place value on your daydreams, to notice them, allow yourself to daydream you can extract valuable information from them about your authentic self and what you deeply desire.

Successful people are big daydreamers. And they use daydreaming very strategically whether they unconsciously see that they are doing this or not. They respect and use their daydream thinking and many learn at young age that when they key into the things they think about and use it in reality it benefits them.

This is especially tough for many of us to do today. We live in the era of information and our environment is constantly demanding our attention and taking up the time we spend daydreaming. Most people go to bed and wake up with their cell phones.

There’s a focus on being productive, being efficient. In fact, it’s how we are conditioned. We are conditioned to work and get things done and not to daydream.

So today, when you’re in the mode of go-go-go take a moment to reset. Even if it’s just for five to ten minutes. Sit down, get quiet. Think. Daydream. Imagine. See what comes up. See if this relaxation time amplifies your output and makes you feel more joyful and connected.

And start honoring your daydreams. Ask yourself:

What is this imagery telling me about what I want and need to do?

Then don’t push it aside. Use it. You are the only owner of your dreams. You’re the only one that has the power to grow an idea, a dream, that you have for yourself. On the flip side, you also are the only one that can stomp out your dream and stop it from becoming a reality.

So, today, take some time to chill. Relax a bit more this week and see how beneficial it is to your life and your goals.

early midlife crisis

Early midlife crisis? No, it’s called a quarter life crisis

early midlife crisisThe difference between a Quarter-Life Crisis and a Midlife Crisis

If you’ve ever experienced feelings of confusion, frustration, and uncertainty regarding your life, it may feel like an early midlife crisis. But if you are in your 20s or 30s, it’s called a quarter life crisis.

Many people are familiar with the term midlife crisis as it relates to people who want a life change after years of commitment.

But how does a midlife crisis differ from a quarter-life crisis? Let’s explore that.

Age of Crisis Occurrence

The first major difference between a quarter-life and mid-life crisis has to do with the age at which it occurs. The mid-life crisis typically occurs for people in their 40s and 50s, when they start noticing how they have physically and mentally changed since the first stage of their lives. A quarter-life crisis, on the other hand, happens between the ages of 20 and 40 as a person becomes aware of the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Causes of the Crises

The term “midlife crisis” has been around since the 1960s. In those days it was common for individuals to start their careers early, and stick with a job for a substantial amount of time. These workers were relatively satisfied with their lives until they reached a certain age. Then they came to see they were being replaced or pushed out by the younger generation. Increases in health problems and a loss of youthful vigor start to sink in for people in their 40s and 50s. These thoughts cause stress. And, they can directly motivate actions that signify a mid-life crisis.

Changes in career trends and the way people communicate have opened the door for the quarter-life crisis. This is perhaps why the millennials are the first generation to fully experience the quarter-life crisis on a widespread basis.

Young adults are now forced to make serious decisions about their lives at a younger age, and there is an increased pressure for success caused, in part, by a comparisons to others’ social media accounts.

The global marketplace is rapidly expanding and technology is speeding up every aspect of our lives. It can feel overwhelming for those attempting to design a life plan. It can be hard to overcome a quarter-life crisis, but the first step is to recognize the signs.

Midlife crisis vs quarter life crisis

Quarter-life and midlife crises are subjective, so people will react in different ways and experience different emotions depending on personality and circumstance.

A midlife crisis is characterized by realizations that life is fleeting, and feelings of dissatisfaction with the current state of things. Those with a mid-life crisis may act out by cheating on their spouse or purchasing items that make them feel reckless, such as expensive sports cars.

Many mid-lifers have increased concern for their health and take up new habits to get in better shape. Sufferers may make attempts to look and feel younger. They might seek out plastic surgery, new clothes, hair implants, or develop a sudden interest in nightlife.

Signs of a quarter life crisis

Alternatively, typical signs of the quarter-life crisis include attempts to buckle down and get serious about the next moves in your life.  Young adults feel pressure to be both sustainably happy and successful. This is perhaps due to the fear of getting stuck with a mid-life crisis down the road.

They could feel as though they have wasted time or money working toward something that is not satisfying or fulfilling their goals. Many people with a quarter-life crisis get trapped by the paradox of choice. They have so many options available, so choosing the right one seems nearly impossible.

Lastly, people experiencing a quarter life crisis may feel regretful about the time they’ve spent having fun. They may have also developed a desire to make a real impact on the world.

Whatever the causes and signs of the crisis, it can be comforting to know you are not alone. It’s perfectly normal to have feelings of uncertainty as a young adult or fears of fleeting youth later on. If you are experiencing the signs of a quarter-life crisis, take the quarter life crisis quiz. Or read more about what a quarter life crisis might look and feel like, and what to do about it.

Being an entrepreneur

How to break a bad habit: Four best strategies for success

How to break a bad habit and why most people are bad habit breakers!

Aaaah the moment of firm resolve. You know what I’m talking about right? Moments where you notice that you’re engaging in some bad habit you don’t want  — this could be anything from drinking another can of sugary soda, watching tv over exercising, sleeping in when you’d like to get out of bed earlier. In that moment, you declare that you are going to learn how to break a bad habit – this one for sure and many more. So you say to yourself or out loud to someone: “Tomorrow this is going differently. I’m changing my ways.”

Tomorrow comes and one of two scenarios usually plays out:

  1. You make the change and it lasts for a while. But, eventually you find yourself back in the same rut. Behaving the same way. Ever seen someone with bad eating habits go on salad diet, lose the weight temporarily and then return to their bad eating habits and gain back the weight?
  2. You don’t make the change and you get mad at yourself (maybe even beat yourself up in your head for being a weak person). Eventually, you may simply give up trying to break the habit. You might even start making excuses for yourself so you feel better about the situation: “I look better when I’m thirty pounds heavier anyways!”

There is a third scenario, but it rarely plays out…

You declare you’re going to make a change and then you actually do! You’re successful. But this only happens when you reach an emotional breaking point with yourself. The pain of engaging in the habit outweighs the payoffs you’re getting from it.

Waiting to reach an emotional breaking point to make a lasting change is just not practical. Nor is it fun, at all.

So if you want to kick a bad habit or encourage a new healthy habit to form, keep reading for the 4 most effective ways to do this.

First, a quick lesson in the anatomy of a habit

Most people try to break their bad habits and foster new better behaviors without first understanding how habits work from a biological standpoint. That’s kind of like trying to drive a car with no knowledge of how it functions.

Engaging in bad habits? Learn how to break a bad habit once and for all
Success in life comes down to your ability to form good habits.

So here’s the thing about you, and I, and all humans…

Every single action you take has a payoff. There’s a reason you do it, and that reason is some form of reward. For instance, I drink a cup of coffee in the morning because it makes me feel tremendous joy. I love the taste and the sense of comfort and peace I get from my morning ritual of coffee drinking.

The happy feeling I get from my coffee is my reward. The pleasure I feel encourages me to keep engaging in the action of making myself a coffee every morning.

Now, there’s also a cue that sets me into physically taking the action of going to my coffee machine and brewing a cup. Waking up from a sleep is my cue to go make a coffee. I do it on autopilot.

For every habit you have — good or bad — there’s three components to that one event. Here’s how it goes:

Something happens that sends a signal to your brain to engage in the habit → You physically take the habitual action → You get a reward from the habit

Every habit and every action you take goes through a sequence of

CUE → ACTION → REWARD

If you want to know what motivates you to do anything you’re doing in life you can look to this sequence and you’ll find your answer. Even bad habits! All bad habits have a reward and cue linked to them.

Here’s a summary on methods for habit breaking:

How to break a bad habit:

  1. Avoid the cue for the bad habit.
  2. Disengage in a bad habit slowly and incrementally.
  3. Reward yourself for new habit formation
  4. Bring yourself to an emotional breaking point

Let’s look at these in detail…

1. Avoid the cue for the bad habit

Identify what the cue is for your behavior and avoid it at all costs. For this method to work you need to create major structures that will have you stay away from the cue. You’ll be tempted.

This method is by no means perfect because it has you avoiding situations and stimuli. It’s healthier to train yourself to live comfortably with your cue but for some people it’s really not possible. Your body will be too hardwired to behave in the ways you consciously don’t want to when you’re around the cue. So for some people staying away is the best way.

This is why anyone with substance abuse challenges often needs to make serious lifestyle changes because being in the cue environments will set their brain into action regardless of whether they consciously want to engage in the habitual behaviors or not.

2. Disengage in a bad habit slowly and incrementally

Your habit has been built over time through the wiring of the same circuits in your brain over and over. So, it makes much more sense to incrementally unwire yourself to disengage in a bad habit, or train yourself in a new habit in order to replace the old one.

Small incremental progress works to slowly change your habit. This method takes time but is often more effective and less painful than a “cold turkey approach”.

For instance if you want to lose weight and eat better don’t replace your chocolate bars with kale overnight. One chocolate bar at time! Or, if you want to wake up earlier don’t try to wake up at 6am when you usually get up at 9am. You’ve conditioned your body to wake up at that time.

Make smaller changes, overtime, and work with your biology not against it.

3. Reward yourself for new habit formation

Make sure you reward yourself for good behavior. Really take the time to dissect why you engage in your habit by considering the cue, action and reward.

Let’s say you want to have better money management skills. You’re great at spending but not great at saving money and you would like this to change. So, your first step is to go to the bank and open up a new savings account. Then every month you start putting money in.

It’s really important that every time you put money in your savings account that you go buy yourself something nice as a reward. This will teach you that saving money is good. You start to create a pleasurable feeling connection with saving money. Eventually you won’t need to reward yourself by buying something because you’ll get the payoff of saving. But in the beginning especially, you need to reward yourself.

Have bad eating habits and want to exercise more? Go for a 30-minute run and when you come home don’t eat salad, eat a piece of cake. It’s your reward! You’ll start creating a brain connection with exercise that’s pleasurable. Eventually you won’t need or want the cake.

4. Bring yourself to an emotional breaking point

Remember how I said you can change your behaviors if you reach an emotional breaking point? For instance, you go bankrupt and that has you change your ways around being more responsible with money.

You can force yourself into this emotional breaking point by visualizing, spending time thinking about worst case scenarios and/or physically putting yourself in those worst case scenario environments.

Your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagining doing something and actually doing something. So visualize and think about the worst case scenarios. This can force you to start to take better actions.

Dissect the bad habits you want to change by figuring out what’s really going on. When you know what your’ edoing that doesn’t work for you, you can then create an strategy to change it. Did this article help you learn how to break a bad habit? Let us know what results you got by sharing on our Facebook page.

How to fail at almost everything and still win big

Most people don’t want to fail. That’s because society conditions us to see failure as bad and something to avoid. This is not the case. Failure is not bad. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good either.

I’m certainly not urging you to go fail. But what I am urging you to do is be realistic. You can’t avoid failure.

Failure is inevitable. You can’t escape it. Think of it more as a law you can’t dispute, like gravity. Or like the wind or rain. Failure happens even if you try and avoid it there are so many variables in life you can’t control.

When you think of failure as good or bad this is the subjective filter you your circumstances through. So you decide what you want failure to mean and how you want to relate to it.

How to fail at almost everything and still win big

You can’t avoid failure, and you shouldn’t try. This doesn’t mean you should take giant risks. You still want to try and mitigate major failures, because anytime you fail in a massive way, your brain captures the moment, stores it and will do everything in its power to have you not suffer the experience again.

So, here are my five rules for how to fail at almost everything and still win big…

how to fail at almost everything and still win big

Rule #1: Fail small

You want to fail small. Focus on incremental progress. The actions you take in pursuit of the major goals you’re out to achieve in life should be at the edge of what’s comfortable for you. Think: Expansion. Think: Growth.

Small failures won’t stop you. In many cases they will propel you forward into the next action. This is because if you’re willing to assess and learn from your failures, and the insights you gain from them, you will get closer to success. You start to see what to do from learning what not to do.

Which, brings me to my next rule for failing like a master…

Rule #2: Use every failure as a learning opportunity

Reshape your entire context of failure so you view it as a feedback mechanism to your progress. When you fail, all there is to do is look at what led to the failure. Then estimate what you need to succeed, and put that in for next time.

When you fail, you want to stop and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What outcome did I not achieve that I wanted to?
  2. Why? What action or structure was I missing? Speculate.
  3. What am I putting in place to improve the outcome next time.
  4. What valuable learning can I celebrate from this failure?

Sometimes a failure means you’re going the wrong way and you need to change your entire strategy. Sometimes a failure means you need to learn something new.

A failure can mean you’re very close and now you know the last thing you need to do to win.

When you look at failure as a way to assess your progress, you can look at what action led to the failure, and what you can do to improve as you continue to pursue your goal.

Rule #3: Depersonalize your failure

When you fail, step back and evaluate the circumstances. Take yourself out of the equation for a moment and look at the actions that led to the failure.

One of the biggest errors most people make when they fail at something is they personalize their failure with thoughts and language such as: “I failed”. Instead, focus on the failure as being a breakdown around the actions you took. You didn’t fail, an action you took failed. Sometimes it can be that you failed to insert a specific action.

For instance, let’s say you were in a long term relationship with someone you invested years with and considered marrying. One day the other person ends the relationship. You start to lament and think about all the things you did wrong and how you are a failure in relationships. You start to personalize the situation.

Instead of making the failure about you, depersonalize it. Look at the facts. What failed was the relationship, not you. And maybe you encouraged the relationship to fail, but it’s only because there were actions you took (or failed to take) that led to the breakdown. Your actions caused the failure, not you.

If you are having trouble wrapping your head around this, it helps to think of a baby learning to walk. If that baby stumbles and falls, is that baby a failure? No. The baby failed to walk. The baby isn’t an entire failure. It’s learning to achieve a complex task that it has never done before. You’re no different.

Rule#4: Bring empathy to the situation

Most people are really hard on themselves. I’ve learned this from coaching hundreds of people, and from listening to my own mental chatter. And this usually gets worse when we fail.

If you get mad at yourself when you fail it helps to remember to bring empathy to the situation. I learned this from the Dalai Lama.

When you start blaming and getting angry at yourself, step back and take a moment to relate to your situations with love, with kindness with self-compassion. Looking at yourself as a baby. A baby can do no wrong. Self kindness gives you energy strength and the will to keep going.

Healing comes through forgiving yourself, and being kind to yourself. Seeing what you did as something not to repeat. Or something to learn and grow from.

Negative self talk and blaming yourself is a choice. It’s something you need to train out of yourself. When you fail, go be by yourself, get quiet, love yourself.

Rule #5: Write a failure story

For cataclysmic failures you have trouble overcoming, use this trick I learned from Robert Steven Kaplan. He’s the former Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, and currently the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

When you have trouble getting over a failure write a failure story. Here is how: Write a short story about your failure that gets all your thoughts out on paper. Write about why you suck, why you’re a failure, and use intense emotions when you write it. Then, read the story to someone out loud. Eventually, as you read it, it becomes silly to you. It loses the emotional weight. (This might take a couple of repeated readings out loud.)

You will start to pull your emotions out of the failure, and see it as just a silly thing you can overcome.

I recommend doing this only when you have a lot of trouble overcoming a failure. You know, one that gnaws at you, and that you can’t let go.

Remember: A failure is only a failure if you see it as one. Let me repeat that: A failure is only a failure if you see it as one.

Your life is just a series of events. You’re born you take actions. The actions you take produce certain results and then get you closer or farther from where you want to go.

This thing called “failure” is a concept you were conditioned to believe in. In the world we live in, there’s an agreement of what success looks like. What’s not that is failure. So failure is really a belief you have about something that’s happened. And beliefs can be changed.

How to make a decision - ketchup or mustard

How to make a decision without drama, fear or upset

How to make a decision - ketchup or mustard

Ketchup or mustard? How do you choose?

Some decisions are easy. What do you want on your hotdog? Ketchup or mustard.  Some decisions are hard. Should I get marry to him (or her)? What’s even harder is finding a reliable method that teaches you how to make a decision that make the process easier and that results in the right choice. Luckily I have your back on this.

What follows is a decision-making process I developed that makes any decision easy.I designed it as I wrote my acclaimed book  Quarter Life Crisis Escape Plan, which is a surefire 5 step solution to resolve a mid-life crisis style breakdown that people in the millennial generation is going through, as they navigate their 20s and 30s.

I’ve pulled it out of the book for you here, because it can be used by anyone considering anything in their life, no matter what age they are.

It also includes a printable PDF worksheet that is free to download.

I call this a “Neuro-cise”, because it is a thinking exercise. There are three Neuro-cises in the Quarter Life Crisis Escape Plan, by the way.

Ok, let’s get to the process of how to make a decision…and without any drama, upset or fear.

How to make an easy choice when you’ve got several options

You and I make thousands of conscious decisions each day. I bet if I asked you to look at many of the decisions you have made in the past, and the ones you make regularly, and evaluate them as an easy choice or a tough choice, you could do that effortlessly. Decisions that are easy are made quickly because we can instantly see there is a best option.

For instance, if you are a health-conscious person and I give you the choice between an apple or a doughnut, you’d likely choose an apple. You see it as the best choice.

But there are times where there is no clear best option. And sometimes you have to make those choices in situations where the stakes are high; where there’s a chance of major failure, or a potentially non-survivable risk.

Consider the popular reality show The Bachelor. It always gets pretty intense when the season’s candidate whittles his pack of ladies down to two, and has to pick who to spend his life with.

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

It’s fun to watch him lose sleep over it from your couch with a bowl of popcorn on your lap. And it’s never fun to go through these types of tough decisions yourself.

How to make a decision easily

Instead of looking at a choice as “good, better, best” versus “poor, bad, worst”, consider the quality of your choice without any morality. As in what is the right thing to do, versus what is the wrong thing to do. No choice is ever right or wrong. It’s just a choice.

And, scientifically speaking, no one choice is ever best.  All choices have the same number of pros and cons depending on who is considering them.

Consider a choice between ketchup or mustard. One may seem better to you. However, no choice is better. They are on par. Which one is better is a subjective choice. You are always the qualifier.

The best option is the choice you say is the best. And that comes down to who? You! You will always choose the right option for you.

What is important here is that you learn this process to make a tough choice easy. Categorize the options of what you could do into the following:

  • The SAFE choice
  • The INSPIRED choice
  • The SAFE/INSPIRED choice

Choosing what goes on a hot dogLet me explain what I mean, again using a hotdog, as an example, so I can illustrate how this works.

Let’s say you always eat ketchup on your hotdog. It’s your favorite. Then one day your doctor says: “You need to stay away from ketchup because it’s been making you sick.”

Now, you have a sad decision. No more ketchup on your hotdogs. So, you decide to try a new condiment. What you have available is: mustard or relish.

The SAFE choice you may decide is mustard, because it’s statistically more popular than relish. It’s also often served with ketchup, so if you like ketchup, you might just as well like mustard.

The more adventurous or exciting option, the INSPIRED choice, is relish. It’s green and has a weird consistency compared to ketchup. Are you crazy and willing to go there?

So, what’s the SAFE/INSPIRED choice? Perhaps half of your hot dog gets mustard and the other half gets relish. A nice balance. A bit of safety and a bit of adventure.

It’s up to you to then decide what you are willing to risk. Do you feel like being crazy with your hotdog and diving full on into the relish? Or maybe it’s the last hotdog in your fridge and you are not willing to risk ruining your lunch. Either way, the decision is now a lot simpler.

As I said earlier, I have a free worksheet you can download, print and use to show you how to make a decision.

Download it here.

Instructions are below.

 

Neuro-cise: The Choice Sorter

The Intention of this Exercise

Make all your choices easy. The Choice Sorter allows you to separate all your options and grade them on a level of risk you are willing to take at this point in life to get the results you want.

Instructions

This neuro-cise worksheet provides step by step instructions. Simply read the box titled Step 1 first and do what it instructs, then move on to Step 2, and so on till you reach the end.

For clarity, I’ve outlined the steps below and elaborated on them. Additionally, there is an example page that comes with the worksheet (in the PDF) that you can refer to for further guidance:

Step 1: Use a pain point that you want to resolve and need to make a decision about.  First, consider what you think is the SAFEST option. Write that in the box labeled THE SAFE CHOICE.

Step 2: Ask yourself: What do I consider is at the opposite end of the spectrum to what I wrote in THE SAFE CHOICE box? Write your answer in the INSPIRED CHOICE box. What you write in this box should excited you but it might scare you a lot too. This is how you know it’s a more radical option.

Step 3: Now that you know what’s the safest and what’s the inspired choice, it’s easy to see what choice would strike a balance. Write that in THE SAFE/INSPIRED CHOICE box.

If you have more than three options you can write as many down as you can and sort them into SAFE, SAFE/INSPIRED and INSPIRED. Then go through the exercise again with each box grading each option against each other. After each run through pick the most likely options that you’d consider and distill them down the one you are confident and excited to take.

Once again, remember there is no best option. The best option is what you say is the best. You are the qualifier. So, pick the choice you’re confident and excited about.

Results of this Exercise

After using this exercise, you should have a clear view of what options are too inspired; what option you are seriously considering and what options are safe or too easy, and may not cause the outcome you want.

You should be able to walk away from this “How to Make a Decision” tool with one choice that will demand a clear set of actions and lay out a future for you. Most people will feel excited and nervous about the option they choose. Usually that is the right one. If you get to a final choice and you are not inspired, go back to the drawing board.

The worksheet can be downloaded for free as a PDF to help you to learn how to make a decision. Visit:
https://awesomelifeclub.com/choice-sorter

 

What to do if you’re still uncertain about making a decision

If you’re still unclear after doing this exercise I suggest you test drive your options by using your imagination. Play out the scenarios in your mind.

We humans have this awesome ability to close our eyes and project into the future, to experience different scenarios in our mind. This can help you gain clarity on what to do.

Here’s what’s cool about visualization (or daydreaming or imagining, whatever you prefer to call it): Your brain doesn’t know the difference. So, when you visualize what you want, you mentally try-on your future.

Close your eyes and think of a person that makes you happy and you’ll probably feel really good, you might even smile. Or, think of a sweet food you crave and I bet you can almost taste it. At a micro level, you salivate when you think about eating a delicious food.

Still not clear? Ask yourself this question: Is what I’m about to do, going to serve who I want to become?

Your answer will become clear.