High-Performance Stress Reduction: A Newsman on a Quest


10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story, by Dan Harris

A great read. If you’re even vaguely interested in this many-splendored thing called Mindfulness but you’re a bit skeptical, maybe even at times cynical about it all, this book is for you.

It’s the story a young, ambitious and successful TV journalist, war correspondent and semi-professional hypochondriac — combined with a bright and breezy guide to meditation. You’ll also learn a lot about religions in America, from Born-Again Christians, Reformed Judaism to contemporary Buddhism, particularly of the “Ju-Bu” (Jewish-Buddhist) variety.

You won’t find too many public figures near the cusp of a rising career (Dan is one of the most prominent anchormen on ABC News) courageously confessing his own idiotic and dangerous slide into drug abuse. It’s a slide that culminated in an on-air panic attack in front of millions of TV viewers.

Initially, Dan wanted to call the book: “The Voice in My Head Is an Asshole.” The real title is almost as good, albeit not as concise.
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Procrastinators Have Difficulties Managing Their Emotions, According to New Research

Procrastinators have a problem with managing emotions rather than time, new research 2- shows. Emotional centers of the brain can overwhelm a person’s ability for self-regulation.

We need to take personality into account when motivating ourselves, according to productivity expert Moyra Scott. “We need to recognize when we are procrastinating and have ‘tricks’ we can employ to get us doing something,” she says.

Her top tips are:

1- If you don’t have an external deadline, use a timer to focus for set periods – for example, 25 minutes at a time with 5-minute breaks and a longer break every 90 minutes.

2- Write a list of tasks but break it down into smaller, more specific ones. This makes them easier to action and complete.

3- Try to minimize interruptions like email notifications. Putting your phone on airplane mode or going somewhere to work where you won’t be disturbed will also help.
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Top Tips For Lifting Mood, Fighting S.A.D.

1- Reduce clutter
Even if I want nothing more than to lie in bed, I try to get up and clean, says psychologist Jennifer Lutzon. Tidying up reduces the clutter in our home, gets our muscles moving and allows our energy to flow freely. This counteracts the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) and lifts the mood, especially once we see the fruits of our labor. Having order at home helps promote a relaxing and stress-free environment during the winter season.

2- Let the sunlight in
Sunlight helps our bodies produce serotonin, the hormone that affects our mood, appetite and sleep. Open up windows to let the sunlight inside the house and get enough serotonin to stay upbeat. Taking walks out whenever the sun is shining also helps the body get enough sunlight to produce serotonin.

3- Lose the shades
Human eyes have evolved over 3 million years to live outside during the day. Expose them to natural sunlight and build up comfort being outside with sunglasses. Certainly protect yourself from direct, powerful light by wearing a baseball cap, but more than that is rarely needed, unless you are out for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time.
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It’s Probably Just a Problem, Not a Crisis


Non-crisis management & Mindfulness

Identify which emotions you’re feeling about the problem and how strongly each one is being felt – anger, fear, disappointment, sadness, etc.

Disengage emotionally from the problem. Breathe in. Breathe out. Tell yourself: “My emotions don’t help me here.” Breathe in. Breathe out.

Remember it’s a problem, not a crisis. Breathe in. Breathe out. “Work” the problem in a professional manner.

Unless you’re a member of the emergency services or other “first responders,” most things you have to deal with can wait five or ten minutes, sometimes five or ten hours and even occasionally five or ten days.
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Mind-Taming Tips from Comedian Ruby Wax

Stress management and happiness tips from Ruby Wax, comedienne and now Mindfulness-based therapist (M.A. Oxford), author of Sane New World: Taming the Mind:

Find your braking system

When you’re in high anxiety mode, feeling stressed out, your mind racing and your heart pounding, focus on something in the present: a sound, taste or smell. By becoming aware of what’s around you, you will calm down and can focus more. You’ll have to experiment to find what works for you: I send my attention to my feet and their contact with the floor. As soon as my focus goes from thoughts to a sensation, the red mist drains from my brain and I can think again. You might need to do this 100 times; it’s how to tame your mind.

Stave off the darkness

Only eat what tastes good and fill your life with things you like. Surround yourself with true friends, but if you find entertaining stressful, don’t invite them for dinner all the time. How can you talk to your friends properly when you’re busy panicking that you’re not a good enough cook? Go to a restaurant instead. And don’t force yourself to go to other people’s houses, it takes energy to adjust yourself to their way of living.
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Going (Almost) Analogue for a Summer Break: The Doable Digital Detox

a0032-000037A lot of the problem with technology is the shear volumes of it we are consuming per day.

As with many things “the dose make the poison.” For example, some people have severe problems drinking alcohol; they need to quit entirely and stay “sober.” However, others just need to cut back. Maybe they need to cut back a lot, but there’s a big difference between drinking the equivalent of a bottle of wine every or six-pack of beer every single evening and having one or two glasses of wine twice a week.

Similarly, there is a big difference between subsuming oneself in e-mail, texting, social media and other screen-based information 14 hours a day versus just 1 hour a day.

So this summer vacation period I suggest you try this simple experiment. Limit yourself to all non-urgent uses of your computers, phones, etc. to just one 60-minute period per day. For example from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. only. Yes, you can check the weather on the internet. What about texting? Well, how about every opportunity you can possibly use your voice instead of a text, try that instead?
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Your Mother Was Right: Go Outside and Play

go_outside_and_playMost of us – especially if we grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s – heard this exhortation from our mother on a regular basis: Go outside and play!

Four words packed with almost infinite wisdom.

And yet many of us rarely or never do so, not even on the longest days of the year, which in the Northern Hemisphere are now here for our nourishment!

A true story, although admittedly we’re talking about an extreme case: Somehow last week our teenager managed (and somehow we let him) avoid almost all direct exposure to the sun’s rays for a 24-hour period, except for 20 minutes sitting outside during lunch. He did leave the house to watch a soccer game at a sports bar in the late afternoon, but direct outdoor exposure consisted of 5 seconds from house to car, and another five seconds from car to restaurant and vice versa.

Sitting near a window in your home or office doesn’t count as direct exposure to the sun’s rays, no matter how bright the light coming in. Nor does driving. In both cases, the glass windows filter out the parts of the visible spectrum that have health-promoting effects.
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Avoiding The Self-Improvement Trap

The harsh critic that lives inside many of us is often interested in masochistic projects called “self-improvement” that it’s never satisfied with. But this can be counter-productive, resulting in you getting more stuck and feeling even more deficient, Bob Stahl writes.

To be sure, it can be helpful to seek psychotherapy and other health-promoting activities when you need support. But you can also become overwhelmed with the idea that every one of your imperfections should be fixed with workshops, new therapies, a better diet, and an intensified exercise program. In some ways, it’s similar to always striving for more money or more things.

Continuously striving to be a better person can fill up a lifetime yet never be fulfilled.
In such a state, the mind doesn’t live in the present moment, which is the only place we can experience love, peace, and happiness. This can be akin to searching for your camera to preserve an experience that you end up missing because you’re searching for the camera.

Your highly judgmental mind can always find something that isn’t quite right. We tend to get the standards by which we judge ourselves by looking around and comparing ourselves to others. But if you consider how many billions of people there are on this planet, you can see that this is a no-win proposition. There will always be someone thinner, fitter, nicer, more accomplished, more attractive, etc.

This is like a military strategy based on the idea that war can create peace – that if you can blast the inadequate self to smithereens, or maybe just threaten to do so, you will finally feel okay and have peace.
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If You Are At Peace, You Are Living In The Present

smiling at peace“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
– Lao Tzu

A simple reminder from Lindsey Block:

I remind myself of this on nights and weekends when my anxiety seems to dwell in the spaces of free time and endless lists of chores and desires…

I think about this quote when I’m driving and unfocused and fretting about an upcoming meeting (worry not, just prepare).

I think about it when I remind myself of the stupid things I’ve said or done (dwell not, learn from mistakes).

I think about it when I feel lost about what’s to come with my future (stress not, make a list and how to accomplish them).

Breathe into the present moment.


Transforming Poison Into Medicine: Handling Life’s Pains

smile broken armPain in our lives is inevitable, of course. And aversion is a natural response to pain. But aversion to the aversion? That’s probably a bit pathological, as Brian Johnson notes.

Pain is inevitable. Prolonged suffering is optional.

When difficulties arise, try to see them as a valuable life lesson. This doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Our instinct is to avoid discomfort at every turn. And we live in a culture that helps us distract ourselves anytime something emerges.

We need to realize that it’s our resistance to our pain that leads to the most painful, enduring and recurring types of suffering.

Suffering = Pain x Resistance. It’s an exponential rather than a multiplicative relationship.

Try to distinguish between the normal pains of life – difficult emotions, physical discomfort, etc. – and actual suffering, which is the mental anguish caused by fighting against the fact that life is sometimes painful.

Pain is inevitable. Accept that. Work with it. Learn from it. Reduce your suffering and reinvest the energy you gain by into your  growth and increasing your wisdom.

Our society constantly gives us a million distractions and numbing agents to our slightest discomfort. But what if, rather than turn away from what challenges us, we lean into it?
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Growing Roses and the Value of Acceptance

rose_smiling_face_acceptance_actionDon’t try to grow roses in a parking lot, Rick Hanson advises.

An essential first step in taking effective action is first understanding what we cannot influence or change, and fully accepting those facts.

Acceptance does not mean approval, overlooking, or forgiveness, Rick notes. You simply face the facts, including the fact of your limited influence. And through acceptance, you open yourself up to greater resourcefulness to deal with life’s difficulties.

If you cannot accept a fact – that it exists, that it has happened, whatever your preferences may be – then see if you can accept the fact that you cannot accept the fact!

Some possible “stretch” exercises in acceptance:

– Review a life event that has troubled you. See if you can accept it as something that happened, like it or not – and as truly just a part of a much larger and probably mainly positive whole.

– Focus on an aspect of your body that you don’t like. Tell the truth to yourself about the extent to which you can change it and make a clear choice as to what you will actually do. Then see if you can accept whatever remains as just the way it is – and as only a small part of the much larger and generally positive whole that is you.

– Bring to mind a key person in your life. Have there been any ways that you’ve been trying to affect or change this person that are just not working? What limits to your influence here do you need to accept?

– Reflect on something you’ve wanted to happen but been frustrated about – perhaps a career shift, a sale to a new customer. Are the necessary supporting conditions truly present? If they are, then stick with it and be patient. But if they are not present – if you’re trying to grow roses in a parking lot – consider shifting your hopes and efforts in another direction.


Real Happiness: How Low-Cost Wine Becomes Undrinkable

business_wine_stoicismSome insightfully challenging observations from Jacob Henricson:

You would think that making a lot of money and having a lot of power makes you less more independent, less vulnerable. But often exact opposite happens.

As your income and prestige grow, you develop more expensive tastes. A modest-sized house is no longer enough. Wine at a low price slowly becomes undrinkable. Before you know it you have become dependent on an income which is much higher than what you would get from most available jobs. And it is much more painful to step down from a privileged position than it is enjoyable to climb up. You are creating a trap for yourself.

Epictetus provocatively asks: “Who is your master?” And immediately he answers: “Whoever has authority over anything that you’re anxious to gain or to avoid.”
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Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence the Google Way

google meditation mindfulness search inside yourself chade meng tanWhen we are fully present, we are more effective and can make better decisions, which allows us to connect with others on a deeper level, writes Louise Padmore, who recently attended the Search Inside Yourself, a two-day program affiliated with Google.

Through mindfulness, we can gain a greater awareness of ourselves and others, and learn how to direct this attention to become more perceptive of feelings/emotions, and therefore handle these feelings/emotions and our interpersonal relationships with greater skill and compassion.

We learn from the past what to predict for the future and then live the future we expect, Louise notes.

Empathy is about seeing similarities and offering kindness… It is the ability to experience and understand what others feel. With this understanding, we can navigate difficult conversations more skilfully, and also connect with others more compassionately.

Louise highlighted five key skills she learned on the course:

1- Looping Back: Instead of projecting our own views on others and quickly drawing conclusions about what you’ve just heard, use the technique of looping back to repeat and clarify what they mean. When you practice this, it’s incredible how much room for misinterpretation there is, and how very often we can draw the incorrect conclusions and miss the point of what someone is trying to tell us.

2- Mindful Listening: Allowing yourself to listen fully, and not say a word. This can be pretty uncomfortable and difficult to do. It’s a natural instinct to want to relate to what the person is saying, interjecting ‘me too’. By intentionally avoiding this instinct and simply listening, it is amazing how much more we can hear.
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Stay Clear of the Mindfulness Trend: Six “Good Reasons”

Melissa Georgiou points out some possible “risks” of jumping on the Mindfulness bandwagon:

1. Your health might improve.
Relaxation is entirely overrated; we need to stay busy and always vigilent.

2. You might enjoy your life more.
Who needs to appreciate the beauty that is right in front of them? Nature, connectedness and beauty are so last year! And attention spans. Who needs it anymore? We have so many flashing lights and colorful advertisements surrounding us that we need to stay tuned in case we miss out on something!

3. You might learn to breathe better.
When you continue with the shallow breathing, your body is always in a state of urgency. How on earth do you suppose you will do all of that multitasking if you learn mindfulness? Short sharp breaths help
everything happen faster!

4. Your friends and family might want to spend more time with you.
You might become a better listener who really cares about connecting with other humans. N.B. This would mean less time on social media.
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Performing Under Pressure: How to be “Clutch”

Why do some people excel under pressure while others fail?

Paul Sullivan has written an excellent book exploring this question, called Clutch.

We talk about the numerous case studies he’s looked at including the likes of Tiger Woods in golf, as well as examples from basketball, baseball and football.
Paul is a columnist for the New York Times and a contributor to several other major publications. He’s also on a quest to become a better golfer while still being a decent husband and father.

Transferring what you can do in a relaxed atmosphere to a tenser one is not easy—or else everyone would be clutch.

Five Key Traits to be Clutch:
1. Focus
2. Discipline
3. Adaptability
4. The ability to be present
5. The push and pull of fear and desire

People cannot succeed under pressure if they are thinking of anything other than what they are doing right now.

This interview originated at our sister site:


Eight Practical Tips for Coping With Anxiety

breathe_cope_with_anxietyIn the U.S. and the U.K., about one in five people reporting that they feel anxious a lot of the time or all of the time.

The most popular ways to cope include speaking to a friend, exercise and taking a walk. AsapTHOUGHT, a Youtube channel, has compiled a useful list of additional ways to cope with anxiety:

Don’t google your symptoms
When you’re in the middle of a panic attack, it’s easy to feel like your symptoms are a signal for something bigger. Often panic attacks come with physical symptoms such as chest pains or nausea. While it’s tempting to search online to see what’s going on – don’t.

HALT ­- Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?
These are all things that can contribute to a potential anxiety attack. If you can figure out what the trigger may be, you may help solve it.

It sounds obvious, but focusing on your breathing can help calm you down. Try a 4-4-8 method: Breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 4 seconds, and breathing out for 8 seconds. By focusing on your breathing, it’s easier to ignore any bad thoughts trying to creep their way into your subconscious.

Find a distraction
Perhaps you have a favorite podcast that you enjoy listening to, or a favorite Youtuber.
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The Ability To Be In The Present Moment

abraham_maslowI can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act. The ability to be (fully) in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness. – Abraham Maslow


Just Be Cool: Equanimity Defined

equanimity_calm_woman_faceThe one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and taking one’s self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. – Margot Fonteyn

Equanimity is a funny word. It seems at once mysterious and self-explanatory. It has the quality of a “where have you been all my life? I’ve needed this word.” And yet there is something pedestrian and obvious about it. “Oh, yes, of course – that’s a state of mind I often strive to be in.”

Let’s create an operational definition, cobbling together the best of what is already out there in dictionaries and Mindfulness tomes:

Equanimity is an even and composed frame of mind, neither elated nor depressed. Balanced, poised; calmly sure of oneself.

The adjective form is “equanimous” – as in “I find myself in a pleasantly equanimous state of mind.”

It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind; not being overpowered by anxieties or agitation. In one’s interactions with others, one acts from a position of receptive curiosity in order to more fully understand what is happening right now.
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Top 10 Things Most People Don’t Know About Mindfulness

My favorites are:
question_manFull presence lasts on average 4 seconds. That means a mind that is absent of distraction and digression. It’s very rare. With practice, 4 seconds can become 5 seconds and instead of only one instance of full presence per 10-minute meditation session, two or three experiences of full presence. Be gentle with yourself and don’t demand high performance, just steady improvements on average, with occasional back-sliding.

Mindfulness is a part of all major religions: samadhi in Buddhism and Hinduism, recollection in Christianity, zikr in Islam and kavanah in Judaism.

Here’s the rest of the eight little-known things, from Ryan M. Niemiec at Psychology Today.


Have you been drinking Hate-orade?

hatoradeMy kids brought this home the other day. I love it. It’s a provocative but playful response to the casual and unnecessary cruelty that human beings inflict on each other, especially teenagers. Try it. It won’t work on everyone, but it might make an accidental bully become a bit more empathic – and we can all be accidental bullies sometimes.

What I particularly like is the question neutralizes the blame game and externalizes in a comical way the source of the problem. It’s not that this person is permanently horrible, nasty or despicable. It’s simply a case of him or her having ingested a toxic substance – Hate-orade!
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Cool Heads Prevail: Caring For Your Brain in the Summer

woman-standing-showerHere’s my new tip for dealing with the summer heat. The whole idea is to cool things down. If you want a fancy name for it, call it the “anti-inflammatory cerebral hydro-therapeutic protocol.”

Now that temperatures are often in the 90s Farenheit (30s Celsius), I’ve been experimenting with 10-15 minute showers that are progressively cooler. I start with a normal warm shower and reduce the temperature by 5 degrees Farenheit every 30-60 seconds until it¹s just above the tolerably cool threshold. I stay at that threshold for 2-3 minutes. Then I get out of the shower but leave the water on and reduce the temperature by another 5 to 10 degrees. Outside of the shower, I lean over and hold only my head under the nearly cold stream for 60 seconds or so.

Improving your cognitive and emotional self-management, it all start with the health of the brain.

Topics: Cooler heads prevail: Caring for your brain in the summer; cool heads prevail, brain health


It Will Never Be All Good And That’s OK: Social Authenticity

have_a_nice_day_tshirtClosely aligned with Mindfulness are the notions of honesty, sincerity and authenticity. Mindfulness is partly about – to use the hippy vernacular of the 1960s – getting real, being real and keeping it real.

But many of us start the morning and continue throughout the day telling others and ourselves little untruths. Sometime they’re called “social lies” or “white lies.” Many consider them harmless. But are they? Or do they cause little distortions in our social system that accumulate like little bits of malignant bacteria, resulting in distance and even alienation from others and even from ourselves? Do they make our day-to-day lives less genuine, more fake?

When asked “How are you?” most people will respond along a boisterously positive and narrow continuum that starts with the base position “fine,” escalating to “excellent, “great” and ultimately to “fantastic!” A lot of this is culturally dependent. The inflation in reporting positive mental states is particularly prevalent in the U.S.

Insincere social niceties are often very different elsewhere, with some countries expressing quite a bit more negativity when responding to another’s greeting. In Britain, many people also reply “fine,” but a sizable minority say “not too bad.” That’s a curious response because taken literally, it means things are indeed negative, but they are bearably so. In Germany, people will frequently tell it exactly like it is, occasionally with too much information. Asked “how is it going?” quite a few Germans will say “it’s a bit difficult at the moment” and sometimes continue with a litany of highly specific complaints.

Social authenticity

Back on the relentlessly sunny shores of the United States, an even more insincere – and frankly annoying – reply has emerged in recent years: “It’s all good!” But this state of affairs is very, very rarely literally true. Except maybe for rambunctious twenty-somethings in perfect health and in fulfilling, secure employment who are so self-absorbed that they don’t understand what’s going on in the lives of their less lucky friends, their older relatives and their countrymen inhabiting different social milieus.
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You Don’t Know My Story! The Fundamentals of Empathy

You_Don't_Know_My_Story_TshirtIt’s become a running joke in our family. Whenever anyone makes a critical remark, a negative judgment of someone we don’t know personally, our 18 year-old son loves to sneer and exclaim (somewhat mockingly, in a way only teenagers can) “You don’t know his story!”

And you know what? Almost always he’s right. We don’t know enough about the person’s background, their challenges, their family of origin issues, the burdens they have to bear.

We don’t really know what kind of “moccasins” they are walking in, let alone have tried walking in them ourselves.

The roots of empathy grow by learning the stories of anyone important in your life, anyone you need to get along with, anyone you have to collaborate with in your work, by choice or otherwise. This includes neighbors, colleagues, people in front of you at the post office.

It brings to mind a couple of useful quotations. The first a paraphrased version originally by Scottish theologian Ian Maclaren (1850 to 1907):

“Be as compassionate as you can be because nearly everyone you meet is involved in some kind of struggle.”

And the second by American botanist George Washington Carver:

“How far you go in life depends on your being compassionate with the young, the aged, the striving, and the weak. Because, someday you will have been all of these things.”

How would you react to someone wearing a t-shirt with “You Don’t Know My Story!” on it? Or what about someone driving a car with the same slogan on a bumper sticker? What if they had just cut you off (possibly) by accident?


The Value of Accepting Your Own Difficult Emotions

From Mindfulness and Meditation for Dummies: How is it possible to see the wonder of the present moment if you’re feeling down, upset or annoyed? In these situations, don’t try to impose a different emotion on what you’re experiencing. Be in the present moment and open up the emotion as best you can. Remember that all emotions have a beginning, a middle and an end – try seeing the feeling as a temporary visitor.
Additionally, see yourself as separate from the emotion. The emotion rises and falls but you maintain a sense of stability and greater emotional balance.

Imagine someone turns up at your front door and rings the doorbell. You decide to ignore the sound. The bell rings again and again. You get frustrated and try all sorts of ways of distracting yourself from the sound of the doorbell, but you can’t. By simply opening the door, you can stop all your avoidance strategies. You’re facing your fears, rather than running away.


Your Daily List of What To Be or Not To Be: Mindful To-Do Lists

Emotional Management

We know all about to-do lists. We know all about “getting things done.” Sometimes these time and task management systems are part of the solution. Sometimes they are part of the problem.

Recently a few wise minds have suggested that productivity and ultimate happiness might not be created by ever-increasing, and ever more sophisticated to-do lists. They rather cleverly have suggested daily lists “not-to-do”. That’s sensible advice. Why not try such a list? It probably will help; it almost certainly won’t hurt.

And here’s another potentially fruitful experiment. Start your day — immediately after a few short minutes of Mindfulness practice — write a “To Be” list. And in a Shakespearian mode, a “Not-To-Be” list. Stick with your aims just for the day ahead of you. What kind of person do you want to be today? Here are some suggestions:
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Ralph Waldo Emerson on the Power of Continuous Steps

ralph_waldo_emersonIt’s already February. How is progress going on those New Year’s Resolutons ?

Maybe it’s worth reviewing and replanning. Many people get stuck because they’ve only properly thought through the first step in their improvement process.

All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of us are filled with good ideas and good intentions, but many successfully creative people find that discipline and persistence are at least as important.


How To Handle It When Others Succeed

Success envy
Navigating the delicate art of comparison and unhealthy competition does not come naturally many people, Lysa TerKeurst notes.

If we look at our dreams, desires, and hopes for the future as coming from a place of limited supply, it will constantly feed the notion that someone else’s success is a threat to ours.

So what do we do? Answer: The very opposite of what feeds unhealthy comparison and competition. We should spending energy wishing that others will be blessed. We should look for ways to help others succeed. We come alongside our fellow dream chasers and assure them this world needs more of what they uniquely have to offer.

This isn’t always an easy message to live when our friends, coworkers, and even competitors are seeing the success we dream about. But there is an abundant need in this world for your thoughts, words, ideas, and creativity. Trust the universe and yourself – their success is no threat to yours.
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Even in Deep Water, All You Can Do Is Swim

steven_wright2A brilliant example of reframing a problem into a manageable life strategy, by renowned comedian and Mindfulness Master Jerry Seinfeld.

If you’re swimming in the ocean, it doesn’t matter how deep the water is. All you can do is swim.

This was attributed by Seinfeld recently to his fellow comedian Steven Wright.

The context was a discussion about whether it’s particularly difficult to perform in front of large audiences.

We all have challenges that have varying degrees of difficulty. But if you focus on the uncontrollable factors – like how big the audience is, or how steep the hill is, or how big the line-backer in front of you is, then you lose your focus on what you yourself can influence.

As in the Zen Buddhists saying: “Before Enlightenment, chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.”

When you’re in deep waters, keep your head, neck and spine in line and keep on swimming.

Numerous world-class coaches call this “controlling the controllables.”

Source of the Jerry Seinfeld reference:


Olympian Mental Toughness: Stay Calm and Ski With Your Heart: Julia Mancuso

Julia_Mancuso_U.S._Ski_Team_Olympics_SochiThis is what Mental Toughness means in practice rather than in theory. It’s about talking to yourself in the best possible terms, pushing aside understandable doubts, even amid the most intense pressure.

Congratulations to U.S. skier Julia Mancuso, who won her fourth Olympic medal and in three Olympics in a row – this time a bronze in the “Super Combined” (downhill and slalom). That’s over 12 years of mental rigour and positive self-talk. She has attributed some of her admirable resilience to the tough times she went through early in life when her parents divorced and her father was imprisoned for drug trafficking.

Here’s how she explains her grace-under-pressure performance on the mean slopes of Sochi:

“I was just thinking, ‘Stay calm and ski with my heart,’ and I skied my heart out,” Mancuso said shortly after. “That was really tough. It was a really, really difficult slalom run. I knew I just had to give my best shot, and it sure didn’t feel good. I definitely had moments in my mind where I was thinking, ‘This is not going to be good enough, but keep fighting.’ I knew where to let it run on that last pitch and, surprise, looked up and got a medal.”

Mancuso had not finished better than seventh in any World Cup race this season, but her downhill run was exhilarating to watch, and her slalom was absolutely solid for a racer with so few slalom races entered this year.

“I was just kind of amazed,” Mancuso added. “It’s been a really tough season for me, and I’ve always had that real belief that I can do it. Putting out these dreams and beliefs that I can come in here and have a medal, and everyone being a little sceptical, and just knowing in my heart that I can do it, was kind of like crossing the finish line and saying, ‘See? It works. Believing in yourself really works. I got a medal today.’ “

Having the “real belief” that you can do it. That’s the trick. But it’s not a sleight-of-hand type of trick, it’s the result of several decades of disciplined training, both physically and mentally. Believing in yourself really works. Who would have thought it?

Here’s how her ultimate “boss” put it: “She has the ability to focus,” U.S. Ski Team Chief Executive Bill Marolt said. “She has the ability at the moment. She brings herself to her best possible level of preparation and puts it all out there. You think about what she did today to get this medal – she’s a gamer.”

Emotional management, mental toughness, focus and concentration


Top-Level Mindlessness at the Mandela Memorial

Self-discipline and Mindfulness

David Cameron, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Barack Obama and Michele Obama

How not to behave at one of the most solemn occasions a head of state will ever attend.

If you’re in the room, be in the room. What are our hyper-mediatized, short-attention-spanned children supposed to think? That it’s cute or cool to be taking “selfies” as one of the century’s greatest leaders is celebrated. Is this occasion about you David Cameron, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and you Barack Obama. Look at the First Lady, she doesn’t appear to be amused.

And perhaps just a bit of idle speculation, but perhaps had there not been a Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa, there would have been no Barack Obama as president of the United States.

Mr. President, stay focused for a little longer, even if it’s painful. As should be really obvious by now, the world is watching – closely.