So it’s at this time of the year, we are pondering how to make the most of the year ahead. What habits can stay and which ones need to go! What habits do you need to adopt to ensure you are living your best life.
As James Clear says in his book, Atomic Habits, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
The fascinating realisation is you choose who you want to be. Every action you take is a step forward in a direction. What direction do you wish to go? Which path do you want to take? In today’s blog post we are exploring small actions, habits and mindsets to optimise how you spend your time!
Here’s my top ten personal challenges!
1. GOALS – Make a bucket list of 100 goals you’d like to achieve in your lifetime
So, let’s get clear on what we want to do with our lives. Think about all that you have done till now. Are there opportunities you may have missed? Experiences you want?
Can you list 100 goals that you’d like to achieve in your lifetime? This is often called a bucket list. Think about life as experiences – what experiences would you like to have?
Salsa dancing? Bungee jumping? Learn french? Be part of a book club?
How often do you step back and think about this? We are creatures of comfort, and our operating mode would prefer to do things that are familiar rather than explore something new. So we have to continually encourage ourselves to explore new things!
If you struggle with creating your 100 – think about certain themes in your life, for example, what’s 10 adventures you would like to have, 10 hobbies you would like to try, 10 goals you could do with friends, 10 things you would like to learn more about? Your list will only be limited by your imagination. Still struggling to reach 100 goals? Google other people’s bucket lists!
Don’t hold back, no goal is too big or too small!
2. ATTENTION – Unplug and tune into you
In today’s world– this is a HUGE one. Make this year the year you reclaim your attention.
Social media, app notifications, emails – these modern day conveniences erode your attention and willpower. How much time do you spend on your phone? How many times are you distracted with a notification? What do you do when you first wake up in the morning or straight before you go to bed at night?
Some of the biggest technology companies in the world are becoming world experts in developing addictions! This is not good for us.. It trains our brains to look for distractions instead of focusing on what’s really important. When we purposefully avoid boredom we miss out on the benefits of stillness and solitude which can boost our mental health, creativity and lead to a greater appreciation of others.
How many great ideas do you come up with whilst scrolling through Instagram or binge-watching YouTube?
It is in moments of boredom, reveals Manoush Zomorodi in her book Bored and Brilliant, that our brain shifts toward creative thinking. When bored, our minds are free to wander and dream, cycling through old memories and reflecting on the present and the future.
As Manoush says, “to think original thoughts, we must put a stop to constant stimulation.” So put down your phone and let your thoughts and ideas run free!
Just 25 minutes a day can equal 2 years of your life!
Think of the time you could regain in your life and put it towards achieving one of your 100 goals instead!
3. RESILIENCE – Take a cold shower
Hate the cold? That’s the whole point! If you want to build your sense of resilience, you need to do the things you hate. You can start with the act of taking a cold shower.
Cold exposure has been shown to have numerous health benefits such as improving your immune system, decreasing depression or help with weight loss – which is really great, but not the reason why we are doing it.
Physiological effects of a cold shower include increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and an elevated respiratory rate, all of which can make us feel more alert which creates a sense of invigoration which might even lead to us being more physically active.
The simple act of having a cold shower helps develop our ability to deal with discomfort. The more we practice dealing with discomfort, the more everyday annoyances won’t bother us anymore. We practice with cold showers so we can build our courage for the important moments in life that are uncomfortable.
Start with just 30 seconds at the end of your shower, increasing these bursts each time until you can manage 5 – 10 minutes at a time. The feeling of invigoration will be immediate – give it a go!
4. COURAGE – Face your fears and be bold
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
So the cold showers are building our courage – now it’s time to push out of those comfort zones and be bold.
Make a list of the boldest moves you could make. Think about the things that really scare you. Reaching out to that person who you admire, attending a conference, speaking in front of an audience, taking on a physical challenge, trying a new hobby.
Dr Stan Beechman, author of Elite Teams writes that fear is keeping you from reaching your potential. Conquering fear should be your primary goal in life.
What fears do you have?
The more you expose yourself to the things you fear, the less anxious they will make you. If the thought of speaking in public makes your palms sweat and your insides churn, start small by speaking up in a meeting, practice speeches in front of family and friends, and take a public speaking class.
Imagine the worst thing that could happen if you do something that scares you – is it really that bad? If we can nurture ourselves through negative emotions and experiences we open ourselves to growth and expose ourselves to otherwise unforeseen opportunities.
Face your fears and unlock your full potential!
5. RELATIONSHIPS – Find people who inspire you
Crowd your life with people who inspire you.
You can start easily with books and podcasts. Then find meetups, events or communities. Invest time in developing the relationships in your life.
Friendships are important to our mental and emotional wellbeing and studies have revealed that healthy social relationships can even lengthen our lives. Even having just one or two strong, healthy relationships can have a positive effect on your health.
Friendships take time and effort. In the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Jeffrey Hall, professor of Communication Studies, suggested that it’s all about the time we invest. His results showed that it takes 40 to 60 hours to form a casual friendship, 80 to 100 hours to be upgraded to being a friend, and about 200 hours to become “good friends”.
An evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, proposed the social brain hypothesis that predicts there is a limit to the number of people we can maintain friendships with. We have the capacity to maintain approximately 150 relationships. Considering the time it takes to form friendships and that our available time is finite, make sure the time you invest is well directed.
Let’s start clocking up time with people who bring out the best in us!
6. GIVING – Find ways to give back
There are so many ways we can play our part in creating a better world – we can give our money, time, expertise or resources. Stand up for something. Recognise the challenges in our world and do something about it. Get informed. Get together with others and get doing something different because of it.
Our world needs change makers. You can be that change maker.
What’s a cause that is truly meaningful to you? Perhaps it’s something that lights the fire in your belly – gets you angry or annoyed. Find an organisation that matters to you and donate your skills for a couple of hours. Maybe you are good at organising and you can help them organise their space, or maybe you have great writing skills and you can help them with their newsletter. Mahatma Gandhi stated “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.
When people think of giving they often think of monetary contributions but giving can be as simple as offering friendship or a shoulder to lean on to someone in need. Perpetuate a cycle of giving that inspires those around you and be a part of making the world a better place. Perhaps it’s time for you to find your first community board position?
7. SELF AWARENESS – Create a list of journaling questions
Michael Gelb in his book, Think like Da Vinci explores the habits and rituals of the great Leonardo Da Vinci. In his one short lifetime, Leonardo Da Vinci was creative, a scientist, a town planner and an inventor just to name a few. Da Vinci journaled about everything – his ideas, his learning, his findings and more.
Channel your inner Da Vinci and create your curiosity list. Start by writing down a question that you can ponder in your journal.
- Am I in the right job or career?
- How can I use my strengths more everyday?
- What does love look like to me?
- How can I be fearless?
Just keep brainstorming questions until you get to 100 – try to do this in one sitting! Then review your list and group them into patterns or similarities. Once you’ve done that, see if you can choose 10 power questions to keep handy when you are journaling.
Da Vinci was far from alone in his habits, Beethoven, Marie Curie and Winston Churchill all journaled to but journaling is no longer considered old fashioned so join the likes of Richard Branson, Oprah and Lady Gaga and get your journaling on!
You can never again have the excuse….but I don’t know what to journal about!
8. STRENGTHS – Hone your superpowers
Do you truly understand, foster and utilise your strengths?
Your innate talents combined with your knowledge and skills, creates your strengths. These are your superpowers.
In order to hone your strengths you need to identify what they are. Your true superpowers are those things you truly enjoy doing. You might not be particularly good at doing these things yet, but you feel engaged and satisfied when pursuing them. Once you identify these practices you enjoy wholeheartedly, just keep doing them and developing them. One of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century once said “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.”
Focus on building mastery in your areas of strength. Are you a technical expert, a connector, an entrepreneur, a pace setter? Whatever you are, double down on your areas of strength.
“We fail to realize that mastery is not about perfection. It’s about a process, a journey. The master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year. The master is the one who is willing to try, and fail, and try again, for as long as he or she lives.”
~ George Leonard from Mastery
In what ways, can you keep on the path of your mastery and develop your superpowers this year?
9. FOCUS – Break up with complaining
Why not make this the year that you stop complaining!
Do you enjoy a good whine? I think everyone does. But how much do you do it everyday? It can be quite surprising how easily we can fall into complaining all the time!
Time to break the habit.
Will Bowen, author of A Complaint Free World came up with a simple challenge….
“Begin to wear the bracelet on either wrist. When you catch yourself complaining, gossiping, or criticizing, move the bracelet to the other wrist.” The aim is to keep the bracelet on the same wrist for 21 consecutive days.
If you hear someone else who is wearing a purple bracelet complain, it’s okay to point out their need to switch the bracelet to the other arm; BUT if you’re going to do this, you must move your bracelet first! Because you’re complaining about their complaining.
Stay with it. It may take many months to reach 21 consecutive days. The average is 4 to 8 months.
What a challenge!
Why should we kick the complaining habit? There are many reasons:
- Complaining induces our stress response which is not good for our brains.
- Complaining makes it hard to see the possibilities and open our minds.
- Pessimists report worse physical and mental health than optimists.
This is a great challenge to first be aware of how much you complain and then complete the challenge to erase it from your conversation.
10. VISION – Expand your thinking to the decade ahead!
Instead of thinking about where you want to be and do this year, why not think about where you want to be in 10 years time? What age will you be? What will you be doing? What do you hope you will be doing and what do you want your life to look like?
Commit to the long term. We are a very short term-focused society, our fast developing technology has spoilt us and means we like things instantly. Have you noticed?
Peter Diamandis, author of Bold, bucks the trend here with his challenge – what’s your 25-year commitment? He says, imagine publicly making a 25 year commitment to something you’re passionate about?
Committing to a long term goal will provide you with an opportunity to keep learning. It will allow you to try things out, make mistakes and figure out what works.
Write your commitment down and stick it on your fridge, your closet door, even in your bathroom. Keep it in the front of your mind and take every opportunity to work toward it.
There is great power in this type of long term thinking to make a greater impact in our lives and in society. So what’s your 25 year commitment?
Well that’s it – my top 10 challenges to help you improve your 2022 and beyond. What do you think?