4 Ways Creative People Make Ideal Practical Problem Solvers

4 Ways Creative People Make Ideal Problem Solvers!

DeathtoStock_Creative_Community8

We’re taught to think of problem solving as a complex and serious task  — full of heavy terms like “making concessions” and “compromise.” Meanwhile we imagine creativity blissfully humming away down the hall painting on its easel, head in the clouds. It doesn’t have to be. With a little ingenuity, you can turn solving everyday problems into creative exercises.Here are 4 ways creative thinking can make you a better problem solver today.

1. Redescribe the problem
Sometimes the best place to start is at the problem itself. If you’ve been stuck with no progress, it might be time to take a step back and closely examine the problem. In his book Smart Thinking, Art Markman, cognitive psychologist explains “The whole idea behind creative problem solving is the assumption that you know something that will help solve this problem, but you’re not thinking of it right now. The more different ways you describe the problem you’re trying to solve, the more different things you know about that you will call to mind.”

Often during this process of redescribing the problem, I realize that I had ignored some aspect or small detail that shifts my thinking. If you’re in disagreements with someone, this can be a good way to soothe tempers  and get everyone on the same page. 

2. Change your perspective on the problem
If you can find a way to re-contextualize the problem (whether medium, perspective, or assumptions), it often gives you that fresh perspective to see things that were hidden before.

A few years ago, I went to a conference that discussed copywriting for the web. Instead of having us sit quietly and read through example text, the moderator passed out pages printed from various websites and selected one person to act as the website and another the user. Then they would read and interact with each other as if it were a two-person play. It made for an amusing presentation, but more importantly, it clearly illustrated the voice of the various websites. It showed why users come away from some websites feeling great and turning into repeat users and come away from other websites feeling hostile and frustrated. Introducing a new medium to the equation changed our perspective just enough to be able to see what might have been much harder to notice in written form.

3. Brainstorm other paths to achieve your end goal
When you’re knee-deep in a problem, it’s easy to get so caught up in the details that you lose the big picture. You find yourself arguing over details without examining them in a broader context. When this starts to happen, it can be helpful to do a quick brainstorm of other paths you could take to get to the same end goal — whether they’re feasible or not is a question for later, just write it all down down in the brainstorming session.

Maybe some of the paths look radically different from what you’re doing now, or maybe it’s just a minor shift. I often find just seeing these alternatives helps get me unstuck and distinguish between what’s worth arguing over and what’s not.

4. Don’t think about it
Take a break. Go for a walk. Best of all, sleep on it. Often the best way to solve a problem is not solve it at all. Instead let your unconscious mind do the work. “Contrary to popular belief, decisions about simple issues can be better tackled by conscious thought, whereas decisions about complex matters can be better approached with unconscious thought.” according to Ap Dijksterhuis and Loran F. Nordgren in their paper A Theory of Unconscious Thought.http://www.alice.id.tue.nl/references/dijksterhuis-nordgren-2006.pdf Consciously, we can only think about a certain number of things at any time — and our conscious mind is easily influenced by irrelevant factors. Meanwhile, the unconscious mind is good at analyzing vast amounts of information, and weighing important factors more heavily than trivial ones.

Later you get an a-ha moment where the solution suddenly pops up as if from nowhere. It almost feels like cheating. It’s hard to say “Let me sleep on it” in professional settings so I often tell clients “I’ll get back to you tomorrow” to give myself that extra time.

Taking a creative approach to problem solving generally leads me to a wider range of options, less conflict, and better results. I hope you find them helpful as well!

 


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5 Ways To Work Productively From Home

Man remote working

Today’s technology has allowed workers to be more fluid with where and how they work, making remote working increasingly popular amongst employees. Companies everywhere are embracing the benefits of ‘anywhere working’. However, the benefits of working from an actual office should not be forgotten. There needs to be a healthy balance between the two, or you could start to see your productivity levels dwindle. Video conferencing, social networking and Cloud services make it easy to work from anywhere; because of this a lot of people believe it is no longer mandatory to go into the office for the job.

While giving employees the option to work from home is great for the business as a whole, too much time off can be bad for productivity and communication. Teams need to often come together to be able to bounce ideas off one of each other; if your key members are often missing from important meetings and collaboration work, then the quality of your work could decrease due to those team members not getting the right information or enough of it.

Because of the risk that comes with allowing staff to work from home, Marissa Mayer the CEO of Yahoo, announced that there will be no more working from home for Yahoo employees -“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be impotent, so we need to be working side-by-side. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

While technology today is great for communicating and data sharing on the go, face-to-face interaction is still preferred by a lot of people. Encouraging different ways of working will ultimately reduce costs and increase the job satisfaction for your staff, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of productivity, so here are some tips to help you stay productive on days you’re not in the office.

1. Dedicated space

If you’re working from home it’s a no brainer that you should have somewhere you can work privately away from noise and distraction. While having a desk that’s tucked away in the corner of your room is great, have a look at how to turn that into a professional home office. Putting up a screen to section off the area from homely distractions is an effective and cheap method to cancelling out the buzz of home life. Always keep your workspace tidy and organised to create a sense of professional working environment and to help keep your priorities in order.

2. The me time

It’s easy to get caught up in work once you get going however, just because you’re working from home it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a break. Go out for lunch, or not, whatever you prefer! But it’s important that you stretch those legs and get away from the desk every once in a while, this will help you to stay alert, thus increasing productivity. That and getting fresh air is never a bad thing! Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a vital in order to stay healthy and ensure job satisfaction, but remember that you need to stay focused, so don’t stray from the task for too long or you could find yourself losing the motivation to get back into it.

 3. Professionalism at all levels

A great way to stay productive on a working from home day is to treat your home office like your own business. Apply the rules of your actual office to your home office, stick a picture up of your boss giving you the scowl if you feel like it’ll help you stay on task. Dressing for the occasion can also help you feel more active, studies have proven that you’re more likely to feel awake and alert on the job if you’re dressed for the part, as opposed to sitting in the office in your dressing gown. Make sure your workspace is clean, tidy and well organised; so that you can easily find the information you’re searching for if you so happen to need it.

4. Structures and routines

Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of procrastinating when it comes to working from home. A great way to tackle this is to set a routine for yourself. Setting up a work structure for your day will help you to stay on task and complete them in a timely manner, while it’s great to be doing work all day, you’re not getting much done if you’ve spent the last four hours writing that one report. Break down your day into sections; morning for checking and replying to emails, midday for the important work, after lunch for less important work and at the end of the day check emails again. This is just a basic routine and you don’t have to follow it if it’s not how you work, everyone has their own methods of getting things done, but a routine is always needed.

5. Communication

Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should just hermit away until you’re next in the office. Keeping in contact and making yourself available is important for your team to succeed, you’re still a part of a team even if you’re working from home! Keep your phone close and use programs such as Skype, FaceTime, and Dropbox to communicate and share information. Social media is also a great way in letting your team know what you’re up to. Never disappear without first letting a member of your team or management know where you’re going.

There are many ways flexible working can benefit the company if done correctly and not abused. Remember these key tips and you will be able to keep productivity levels high while enjoying a day working from home. Flexible working relies heavily on trust and capability. It is up to the individual staff to produce sufficient work and to communicate effectively with their team members.

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5 Ways to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

5 Ways To Cultivate An Attitude of Gratitude

gratitude

Do you often find yourself complaining about the smallest things? From our extensive to do lists, the stress of our jobs or a dreadful commute, finding something wrong seems to come easily and naturally. What we don’t realize is that by waking up in the morning and finding something to gripe about, only creates more of that. Have you ever heard of the law of attraction? What you focus on, think on or dedicate energy to becomes real; you create your own reality.

What if one morning you woke up and decided to be thankful for only the good that is present in your life? By shifting to an attitude of gratitude you become aware of the simple pleasures and acknowledge the amazing gifts and blessings in your life.

Gratitude puts the events of your daily life into perspective. By viewing the good in addition to the bad, we are able to move past the complaints and break through any blockages that may have formed as a result of our negativity. Giving thanks for our lives, friends, family, and beyond makes us happy and allows us to feel free.

Just like you dedicate time to grab a latte or go to a yoga class, take the time to develop a thriving gratitude practice.

1. Start a gratitude journal.

Set aside a few moments of your day to jot down 5 things you are grateful for in a journal dedicated purely to gratitude. It can range from simply being thankful for waking up this morning or that you got to work on time. Feel how incredibly blessed you are and allow that to propel you towards greatness for the rest of the day.

2. Stop and smell the flowers.

Change the way you view your day to day buy just stopping for a moment and smelling the flowers. Catch yourself before you get overwhelmed with negative thoughts or feelings and go for a walk. Find a tree, hug that tree and be in deep gratitude for the oxygen this beautiful tree is providing to you. How does that make you feel? This can give you an opportunity to view a stressful situation in a new light.

3. Find something positive about a negative situation.

Before you get upset about what seems to be never ending traffic, take a moment to shift that negative thought into something positive. Think about the traffic as a chance to meditate or get into a calm state before going home and putting a days worth of energy into dinner.

4. Go 24 hours without complaining.

Set a new pattern by going an entire day without uttering a single complaint. Find one good thing among a dozen negative things and allow yourself to feel transformed with your new attitude.

5. Give a genuine compliment.

Share kindness and authentic praise with a friend or a stranger. This not only spreads love to another person, it uplifts you and pushes you to focus on the good about someone else and even builds strong, valuable relationships.

By integrating some of these actions of gratitude daily, you will learn what will ultimately allow you to continue to say thank you each day. What are your tips to remind yourself to have gratitude today?

Guramrit Khalsa lives, breathes, and sleeps health and wellness. Her love for wellness fuels her passion for cooking, yoga, meditation and spirituality. Guramrit is a Holistic Health Counselor, certified by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a B.S. in Magazine Journalism.  Her writing offers tips on how to live holistically, joyfully and in deep gratitude.  Her first book Yogi Eats: A Delicious Journey to Nourishing Your Soul will be released in March 2015. You can learn more about Guramrit on her website or connect with her on Twitter  or Instagram.

 

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Quick and Easy Tricks to Motivate Yourself and Boost Your Confidence

Zach Dischner boys will be boys

Zach Dischner boys will be boys

Sometimes confidence is everything.

It can make people like us a few seconds after they’ve met us, it can make others respect us without knowing us. It can make a whole room of people listen to us carefully and believe our words only because we’re saying it confidently enough. It can also cause fear or make others feel inferior to us.

In the communication between two people there is always one who sets the rules and decides the direction of the conversation, who subconsciously influences his opponent’s actions (even if they both don’t realize it).
Basically, confidence helps you be that person and win battles and arguments without the need of even saying something.

That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

You may be humble, shy, an introvert, or else. But in today’s world that means you’re often trampled and you’re rights are being violated.
Confidence can get you out of that trap.

It is a unique quality that makes you look and sound better, stronger and what you say will almost always be accepted.

Being confident in yourself means believing in your abilities and potential, and this is a great thing. Because even when you fake it, you actually start believing and that improves your performance, you start seeing yourself in a different way and can now achieve much more. You’re motivated, certain in your in what you do and know how to show that.

We can all benefit from a little boost of confidence every now and then. So here are a few quick and easy exercises that can help you motivate yourself and accept your strong qualities:

  1. Think of a moment when you felt extremely confident. Remember a time when you won something, passed a difficult exam, received a compliment, looked great, were in a better shape, got a promotion and so on.

Visualize the picture and try to really feel the emotions and thoughts you were filled with at that moment. Recall it with every detail.

What were you thinking about? How were others looking at you?

Remember the smell and noises around you. How did you feel? What was your posture and what did your eyes radiate?
Great power and confidence, I’d say.

  1. When you encounter a situation in which you want to take control:

Take a deep breath, put a big smile on your face, stand up and look your opponent straight in the eyes.

Body language can work wonders when you don’t know what to say and do or how to react to something.

Doing this immediately gives your brain a signal that you have a reason to be confident in yourself and it needs to keep that state for now.

  1. Think of a role model – someone you really look up to, respect and admire. Then play a little game in your mind pretending to be him for a minute.

Speak and act like him and make yourself believe that you really have what he has. Now you are invincible, nothing can get in your way – not the person in front of you now, or your boss, colleagues … no one.

  1. Try the Mirror Technique.
  1. Write it out – this task seeks to establish the importance of loving yourself for who you are, defining your strengths and advantages and increasing your confidence.

Write about yourself and how you look, but ignore all the things you don’t like about your appearance, or just find their positive side.

Describe the color of your hair, your beautiful eyes, teeth and skin. Maybe you find your arms or legs well shaped, have tip-tilted nose, like your hands, nails. Write it down if you are slim, tall, if your ears aren’t big, if your skin isn’t pale.

Now add to that every compliment you’ve ever received on how you look. Keep in mind that other people like things in you that you often can’t stand or take for granted. Some may even be jealous of you. So try to see yourself from another point of view.

Remember that time when a friend of yours told you that you look great in blue? Write that down.

Also don’t forget to mention how charming you are on your latest photos on Facebook.
Maybe someone likes the way you smile or how you wear your hair. Think of what your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend (or ex) likes about you?

The next step is to note down your good qualities, traits, bold deeds you’ve done and what others adore about you as a person – if you have a positive personality, if you’re funny, serious, determined, loyal, reliable, quiet, practical, tidy, adaptable, etc.

You think you are a good parent? Add that to the list.
Or maybe someone told you that you’re smart, helpful, polite or else. Write that too.

Now take a look at all you’ve written and stand in front of a mirror. Read everything out loud and try to really mean it. Realize how beautiful you are and what a great person you’ve become. Love yourself for who you are, because to go any further in your personal development, you’ll first have to appreciate the things you have now.

Each of these simple strategies can be very powerful when practiced daily. I truly believe in the importance of making it a habit.

Once probably won’t work, or will have a short-term effect. But spending 5 minutes a day, every day, will be a huge step in your self-improvement.

This is just a small part of all the ways that exist for boosting your confidence. What others do you use or have heard of?

Lidiya K. is a writer and blogger in the fields of self-improvement, life hacking, human potential and minimalism. She’s the creator of Let’s Reach Success , where her mission is to motivate and inspire and think of creative and unusual ways to overcome fear, procrastination, insecurity, clutter, failure, overthinking, discontent and much more.

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The 5 Common Mistakes in Meditation

There is a universal whisper

Are you making any of these 5 common mistakes in your meditation practice?

Most of us have know about the benefits of having a daily meditation practice.  The word meditation means different things to different people.  That said, I would say most commonly it is a period of time that a person sets aside each day to de-stress, or bring more peace into their life.   Different meditation techniques use different methods to accomplish this goal.  To get the most out of your time of practice, here are some things to consider.

  1. Are you trying to create a mood?  Often, we may believe that when we meditate we should feel a certain feeling.  I know I did when I first began to meditate.  I would stay seated each morning until I got to that “mood” that I interpreted to be “peace”.  By mid-morning at work, I could feel myself losing it and this was a great source of stress in my life.

Testing our meditation by the mood or feeling we get from it gives a false sense of security.  Feelings come and feelings go.  An appropriate mediation tool will take us deeper than the feeling so that no matter what we feel at the emotional level, there is something deeper that is solid within us that will be there when “the going gets tough”.

  1. Are you attempting to hold back all your thoughts and blank out your mind? Thoughts are a natural part of life.  Attempting to “not think” actually raises the physiological rate and creates additional stress on your nervous system. A good meditation tool will take you beyond the thinking mind.
  2. Are you using music or aromatherapy for your meditation? While this can give some amount of pleasure and bring a good feeling, one of the most beneficial things that an appropriate tool can give is a rest to your senses.  We run our nervous system and our senses at a very high rate in our society, which is like running a motor 24/7.

By bringing the mind inward and allowing your five “outer” senses to rest, your “inner” or sixth sense begins to develop and strengthen.

  1. Do you skip your meditation times? We may feel that I’m too ______ (fill in the blank with distracted, busy, tired, etc.).  However, these are all good times to meditate.  Having a regular time to meditate is a good idea.  Using your tool during the highs and lows and in-betweens will assist you in finding what is consistent and True within all of these experiences.  If you are frequently “skipping” your meditation time, maybe it is time to consider learning a new meditation.

 

  1. Do you have support in your practice?  It is wise to learn a practice from a teacher who is trained and qualified to teach meditation.  Then, every so often, meet with the teacher to review.  If you try to learn from a book or from some untrained person, how do you know if you are getting the most out of your practice?

 

Having taught meditation for 15 years, the most common error made by the newbie is applying too much effort….usually one of the above, or a modification of it.  Working with the teacher, one will begin to allow more and more rather than effort in their practice.   If the purpose of meditation is to take you to the Truth of Who You Are, shouldn’t it be simple?  And it should not require effort.

——-

Jyoti Ishaya has been a teacher of the Ishayas’ Ascension for 15 years.  What a way to live life watching people transform quickly and easily with a simple practice that quickly and easily retrains the mind.   She overviews the practice in Webinars and weekend retreats are available to learn this simple practice.

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How To Not Fear Public Speaking

fear of public speaking

fear of public speaking

Have you ever stood in front of a crowd, shaking in terror, breaking out in a cold sweat, and barely able to get a word out? I have.

No, you are not getting tried for murder nor berated in front of your college class. Instead, you are trying to speak to very sympathetic and interested listeners in a large but casual group setting about a topic for which you have a great passion. You have stage fright.

I know how you feel. I know your pain. In fact, I have been there myself. Would you like to know how you can overcome your fear of public speaking so that you can comfortably address a group of people in both a casual and a formal setting? Then read on.

Always be prepared

Here are three excellent ways to always be prepared for both scheduled and impromptu public speaking:

Know the subject

This should be easy for you. After all, you are most likely not going to take a public speaking assignment unless you are passionate about your subject – it might even be your life’s work. You are also probably not going to be asked to explain something to a group of people in a casual setting if you do not supposedly already know a lot about the subject.

However, it is a good idea to constantly be keeping up to date on your chosen field. It will ease your nervousness when you are called upon.

Stay organized

If you know that you are going to have to speak in public, whether it is a speech that you have been asked to give, or you are going to a gathering where you know you might be asked about your passion, then keep a few important points in your mind. These three points should pertain to the subject of your passion. That way you can always have a readily available knowledge base to draw upon, even under pressure and stress.

If you think that you are not preparing well and your productivity is low, you can read tips how to increase productivity here.

Create an elevator speech

An elevator speech is, essentially, a 30 second speech (something that you can give in the time an elevator takes to travel just a few floors) that describes your purpose, your mission, or the essence of your passion. Having an elevator speech that you can draw on will let you overcome your initial fear of public speaking if you are called upon to speak in a casual setting.

For, while giving your elevator speech, you can think about what to say next.You can read more at website if you would like to learn how to create your own elevator speech.

Haste makes waste

Do not hurry through your speech. It might appear that if you hurry, you can be finished with your speech faster and escape your fears more quickly.

However, what are you really afraid of when you speak in public? Most likely, the two things that make you the most afraid of public speaking are:

  • The fear that your audience will laugh at you and think you are a fool
  • The fear that you will stumble over yourself and your words and not be able to get a word out.

If you hurry, you will lose your audience’s attention for sure. They will sense your fear and nervousness, feel pity for you, and not pay attention to what you are actually saying.

Also, if you hurry, you will be much more likely to stumble over your words and make mistakes. So, please do not hurry. You will make your fears come true.

You can look at webpage to learn more about how you can slow down and avoid turning your audience away through hurrying through your speech.

Connect with your audience

Most people who have a fear of public speaking absolutely refuse to connect with their audience. Of course they do not consciously refuse to connect. They just do not know how to connect.

It turns out, though, that if you connect with your audience you will see them smile. They will pay attention to what you are saying. In fact, they will even laugh when you want them to laugh, cry when you want them to cry, and applaud when they should applaud. Connecting with your audience will let you see just how well your speech is going, making you feel more confident and making your fear fly away.

So, let’s look at a couple ways you can improve your connection with your audience:

  • Look at your audience. This is the most fundamental – the simplest – way that you can engage your audience.

You do not have to try to catch anyone’s eye. In fact, you do not even have to look at anyone’s eyes. Instead, you just need to look in the direction of certain sections of people. Of course, this strategy does not work in a casual setting.

However, if you are in a formal setting, this strategy will help keep your audience engaged. Surprisingly, it will also help calm your fear of public speaking by allowing you to see the pleasure and other emotional responses on your audience’s faces.

  • Tell personal stories. People connect with other people.

Stories resonate with people’s subconscious. People are intrigued by stories.

Also, stories, if they are personal, are easy for you to remember and relatively easy for you to tell. After all, isn’t it much easier to tell a personal story about how healthy eating improves all areas of a person’s life instead of trying to remember scientific facts and make your point with those facts?

Of course, the best way to overcome your fear of public speaking, you actually have to get out and speak! Start small. And just do it!

Yohana Petrovic is a writer and blogger. She has 10 years` experience in educating and now she is a proofreader at http://globalessays.org/ . You can reach her on Facebook: Yohana Petrovic or on Twitter: @YohanaPetrovic

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4 Foundational Habits Every Person Needs

4 Foundational Habits Every Person Needs

create good habits

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

~ John Dryden

Every person is different, but every person is human, meaning we all have things in common.

There are some habits so foundational to human well-being that they can single-handedly keep us going when we find ourselves in a difficult place. Foundational habits consistently improve our core elements—mind, body, and soul—which is why they are overwhelmingly positive for nearly everyone. If you’re in a rut or feel like you might be approaching one, put some effort into forming these habits to put yourself in a position to thrive.

Life can be tough. I just moved to a new city where I don’t know anyone. Being a writer, it means I don’t have a social outlet through work, and not being into bar or coffee shop scenes, forming relationships in this first month has been difficult. Given my lonely circumstances, I could fall into a negative spiral of self-pity, but I haven’t for the reasons I’m about to tell you.

When something isn’t going well, you can thrive (in other ways) with powerful foundational habits. They’re foundational because you can always rely on them. When you have foundational habits, you’re able to brush off poor circumstances with greater ease. They enable you to persevere, which is one of life’s most important skills.

These are the four foundational habits that every person needs for maximum well-being and resilience. You may be familiar with these habits, but read on for some unique insights you may not have heard before.

1. Exercise

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”

~ John F. Kennedy

Exercise is the greatest natural anti-depressant there is. The physical benefits are obvious, but exercise arguably benefits the mind as much as it does the body.

Exercise creates positive chemical reactions and increased blood flow in the brain. If you tend to have a lot of ideas while walking or running, it’s likely because increased blood flow is making your neural connections snappier. Increased blood flow is a key part of exercise’s magic.

In his book, Brain Rules, developmental molecular biologist John Medina says, “Any tissue without enough blood supply is going to starve to death— your brain included. […] The more you exercise, the more tissues you can feed and the more toxic waste you can remove. This happens all over the body. That’s why exercise improves the performance of most human functions.”

I believe exercise is the single most important habit a person can have. The cumulative mind and body benefits are incalculable and can be exponential as they impact other areas of your life.

People who exercise are more resilient to life’s hardships for a number of reasons, one of which is tension release. Just the other day, I was furious about something and poured that energy into my workout. I came out feeling great, physically and emotionally!

2. Reading Books

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

~ Joseph Addison

Reading books is surely underrated in the modern world, if only because it’s deserved dominance has been lessened by an excessive number of alternative entertainment and learning options. Reading has been the historic standard for expanding your mind, finding new information, and learning directly or indirectly how to become greater than you currently are. Books, in my opinion, are simply the best choice for quality reading and have the greatest impact overall.

I’ve read that CEOs read an average of 60 books per year, or about a book every week. This correlation between business success and reading is no coincidence. If you read a lot of books, you’ll…

  • Be more interesting (in conversation, for example)
  • Get smarter (reading trains the brain in multiple ways)
  • Have more knowledge (the sheer amount of information you can learn by reading books is astounding. If you can speed read, that’s even better!)
  • Be happier (depending on what you read, you can enjoy books for their entertainment value or gain important insights to improve your life)
  • Get better in specific ways (after I read a book about building muscle, I applied the knowledge and gained 15 lbs of muscle in the coming months. There are books out there to help you do anything you would want to do.)

Those are significant benefits, and when you consider that reading a single book can change your perspective and life forever, that alone is a compelling reason to read and read often!

3. Gratitude

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”

~ CS Lewis

Ruts are illusions that we empower. When a basketball player misses a series of shots, he is declared by himself or others as “off” or “cold.” In reality, his next shot has the same chance as always of going in if he maintains his composure. Thus, it is not an actual rut unless he believes it is and loses focus.

When you woke up this morning, like every other morning, you had an opportunity to live life well, create opportunities, make progress on your goals, and be happy. Whether you did or not is besides the point. The point is that the present moment is always neutral. The past can’t happen twice, for better or worse, so it doesn’t do us any good to ruminate on it.

Given the present moment’s neutrality, it’s an opportunity to be grateful for what is going well in our lives. This easy action makes us come alive, and feel happy. In fact, some studies found gratitude to be the largest influencer of happiness.

“Participants in the gratitude visit condition showed the largest positive changes in the whole study.” (Seligman, Martin E. P. “Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions.” American Psychologist 60.5 (2005))

Note: the “gratitude visit” from the quote above entailed participants writing a thank you letter to someone who deserved their thanks, and then delivering it in person.

Practicing gratitude means focusing on what you’re genuinely thankful for in your life. The study found that the biggest jump in happiness came for those who did the “gratitude visit” and delivered the letter. They weren’t just thinking of things they were thankful for, but actively demonstrating their gratitude. As with most things, action seemed to have a greater impact than thought.

There is a caveat here, however, and it’s critical to this message. In the follow-up tests, the gratitude visit participants were happier at one week and one month, but not at three months.

There was another group in the study who practiced listing “three good things that happened each day and why they happened.” These people showed a more modest spike in happiness, but their increased happiness remained up to six months later!

This shows the power of habit over one-time events. Delivering an emotional thank you letter is the flashier action that seems more significant, but it was the daily gratitude that produced lasting change. Flash-in-the-pan moments are great, but we don’t need them as much as we need foundational habits to make our lives better in the long term. That’s why gratitude—a proven component of happiness—should be a habitual part of our lives.

4. Meditation

“Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.”

~ Saint Francis de Sales

It’s interesting how the simplest things can have the greatest impact. Meditation is one of those things, and has changed many lives. It’s the simplicity of focusing on your breathing and nothing else that makes meditation so calming and relieving of stress.

Scientists have studied the brains of monks who have meditated “20-40 thousand hours.” The results? The areas of their brains that are associated with happiness light up like a Christmas tree. Measured in this way, their happiness was practically off the charts.

I think meditation works on the opposite side of gratitude—gratitude puts our focus on the positive, while meditation takes our minds off the negative. If you meditated a few hours a day like a monk does, your problems would seem less significant. This is so important because many of the problems that bother us are things we can’t control. Meditation helps us let go.

The other thing I’ve noticed meditation does is slow you down. We live in the technological era, and because of that, almost every process keeps getting faster (communicating, eating, cleaning, etc). This faster pace seems to have transferred to our state of mind, causing us to be anxious and frantic. Meditation reverses this by forcing you to focus on something inherently simple and slow—your breathing.

It’s a matter of how you spend your time. If everything you do is fast and rushed, you will be hard-pressed not to adopt that for yourself. Meditation is a great mental balancing tool for those of us who live fast-paced lives.

Do You Do The Right Things Occasionally Or Habitually?

It’s difficult to get in a rut with good habits. I mean it. Having good habits means you can always count your day as at least a minor success, even if other things didn’t go your way. But if you only do these things occasionally, then in your ruts—the time you need these the most—you’ll be less likely to do them because general motivation is always lower when you’re in an emotional down state. This is why the habitual component is crucial. Make these an automatic, daily part of your life.

And if you’re in a rut now, there’s no surer way to get out than with consistent steps in a better direction. But how can a person form these habits? I know it’s not easy to do when you have a busy life full of responsibilities. If you want to know the most reliable (and fun) way to form foundational habits, I urge you to read my best-selling book, Mini Habits.

The mini habits concept has changed thousands of lives of people who could never change their behavior with traditional methods. More than 35,000 copies have been sold, not because I have a large marketing budget, but because people are telling their family and friends about the strategy that changed their life. Mini Habits details the scientific principles and strategy I used to get out of a two-year rut and get into the best shape of my life.

If you prefer videos to reading, use the exclusive coupon “pickthebrain” to take 80% off the acclaimed and entertaining Mini Habit Mastery video course, which is based on the book.

I’m Stephen Guise. To hear from me each Tuesday morning about habit-formation, focusing, and self-mastery (and to claim my anti-stress book and desktop wallpaper set), join Deep Existence.

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How to Focus on Professional Growth in 2015

how to build your career

how to build your career

Was your 2014 as fulfilling as it was exciting? It certainly was a standout year for many companies and the professionals that drive behind them, especially for those in the online space and high technology industries.

Now, however, we’re well into the New Year and 2015 beckons. This is the year for your professional growth spurt! This is the year you hone your skills, broaden your hermeneutic horizons, and improve your value. At least that’s what your New Year’s resolution said — the problem is you don’t know how.

Interestingly, the “how” of the matter is both simple and complex. It’s as simple as following three steps: find, filter, and focus. But each of these steps can be remarkably deep:

Find and Identify Your Annual Goals

Growth is one of the most important factors for a professional — it’s so important, in fact, that within a brand, a gap between what executives expect in terms of career development and what the employer can provide can lead to retention issues. It’s so important that employees constantly yearn direction from their companies and mentors.

This is the first step: find and identify the overall goals you want to accomplish this 2015. It might be a little tricky to drill down to specifics, so break it down into chunks:

  • Identify three to five long-term goals you want to achieve. You can subtract or add to this list later once you have an understanding of how long it will take to achieve each.
  • Be realistic about the goals and time frames. There are only so many working days in a year, and time off of work is just as important.
  • Subdivide your goals into steps, with each successive step being a mini-goal of its own leading to the greater goal.
  • Then, assign realistic time frames to your subdivided goals.

Focus on the Steps You Need to Take to Accomplish Those Goals

To be able to truly focus, you also need to be specific. Like the projected growth plan of a company, you likewise need to be laser-focused on realistic, concrete goals. Luckily, unlike finding the abstract meaning of life, professional growth is a lot more measurable, for instance:

  • You want to get a 40% raise by the end of the year
  • You want to be the top performer of your team for at least half the year (remember, stay realistic)
  • You want to learn a new language and become conversant in it before year end

Luckily, there are tools you can use to minimize the time you spend on other tasks that are not your primary focus. For instance, if you still have marketing goals to achieve — which is always the case — but you also need time for other professional development goals. Using lead generation automation tools can keep your marketing going without requiring too much time from you.

Filter Out what’s Unnecessary to Your Goals

In the same vein as minimizing time on other tasks (as in the case above, by using automation solutions), you also need to clearly delineate the tasks that absolutely require your attention from those that you can simply drop.

Saying “no” is just as important a facet of focusing on your goals.

This, however, is harder than it sounds. It’s like when you’re trying to work but the internet throws an endless stream of distractions at you, preventing you from performing your tasks in a timely manner and satisfactory quality.

Only it’s much bigger than that. All the little things you do that take time away from your focus and annual goals can and will accumulate — so know when to say “no.”  Of course, don’t get carried away and ignore everything else for your goals.

Remember: find, focus, and filter — these are the simple yet complex steps you need to take to light the path to your professional growth this year.

Amy Ranta is a business consultant focusing on leadership and personal growth. She blogs on a range of topics from marketing, technology, and leadership. When not working or blogging Amy likes to travel and spend time with her Chihuahua.

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15 Inspiring Movies That Make You Want To Make a Change

15 Inspiring Movies That Make You Want To Make A Change

15 inspiring movies

1) The Pursuit of Happiness

Will Smith will absolutely blow your mind with his performance. Watch and be immersed by the story of Chris Gardner as he struggled with homelessness, taking care of his son and getting through going broke in his life.

I watch this regularly as it honestly gives me the boost I need to continue working hard despite things seemingly looking completely hopeless.

 2) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Okay I know Ben Stiller gets a bad rap from time to time, but I honestly think he’s really good in this movie. Watch how an unsatisfied Walter deal leaving his job and going on an adventure on his own. Literally.

It may not that deep, but I think it perfectly sprinkles a dash of light-heartedness into the inspiring mix.

3) Dallas Buyers Club

To me, Matthew McConaughey, portraying Ron Woodroof shows the human side of a person leading a decadent lifestyle. Struck with aids, he went from selling drugs for profit to helping a whole community of people dying from the disease. Goes to show what can do when he is struck with something bad.

Matthew’s performance really deserved the Oscar.

4) Forrest Gump

Though fictitious, I see Forrest Gump as an inspiring character who teaches people to lead a life by doing all sorts of things as you only have one shot. Tom Hanks brilliantly mixes it up as his character went to war, fell in love, got his heart broken (several times), played ping pong and ran on foot for over a year.

And you know what? People say Forrest is slow, and dumb. I say he knows how to block out the noise from the world and do whatever he wants.

5) 50/50

Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogan! But nah. This isn’t some typical bromance film.

Levitt plays Adam Lerner, a young dude who got struck with cancer. Watch how he has to deal with it with his best friend who seems to only want to use him to pick up girls, a horrible girlfriend who picks him up late for chemo and the good friends he made at chemotherapy sessions.

I think it’s inspiring because you get to watch how different people react to cancer. You’ll know who truly belongs in your life.

 6) The Blind Side

Homeless black teen can’t get a hold of his life together until two white folks take him in. Sandra Bullock’s character brilliantly shows how a strong support can make or break a person’s life.

 7) Patch Adams

I personally went on a Robin Williams movie marathon after he died. This movie stood out.

Patch Adams plays a disgruntled doctor who was sick of the system. He went out of his way to help people in need. One person can truly make big changes if he wants to.

8) Good Will Hunting

Matt Damon plays Will Hunting, who is a genius, but totally screwed up inside. Basically, he has issues. He pushes people away and that is thwarting him from reaching his full potential.

I find this inspiring because it shows how we all have problems and that we all suffer from our own issues. But with a little help, we can go a long way.

Indeed. We’re only human. So that’s alright. Yet, push yourself and go for what you want. Oh and Robin Williams plays the therapist who manages to get through to Will.

 9) The Monuments Men

You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and that’s exactly what we are fighting for.

– Frank Stokes, played by George Clooney

This quote alone made the movie. We all chase and want the same superficial things in life. Not many stop to think and APPRECIATE the finer things in life.

It’s inspiring to know that some people would go out to fight for that.

 10) District 9

Okay maybe this isn’t exactly your conventional inspiring movie, but I decided to include it because it’s one of my all-time favourites.

What’s it about? Aliens. They landed on Earth and share the land with us. Humans and aliens try to coexist. Yet, the humans are the bad guys here.

Why is it inspiring? Because it makes you think. If you find yourself being the bad guy one day, perhaps it’s time to take steps to make a change. Not all outside forces are there to invade your life.

Plus, the ending is pretty touching.

 11) 3 Idiots

People call these three friends idiots. But they go all the way to do what they want and achieve their dreams.

I don’t think many people have heard of this movie. It’s a must watch. It makes you think about the way education is given to kids today too.

 12) The Impossible

Love your family. Cherish life. Need I say more?

13) 42

The story of Jackie Robinson, the first black player in Major League Baseball. Watch out he overcomes the odds.

14) Fight Club

This film is way deeper than one may think. Tyler Durden, Brad Pitt’s character inspires his friend, an unnamed character played by Edward Norton to stop conforming and live beyond his job and possessions.

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” -Tyler

One of the best quotes in the movie. Keep watching it over and over and you’d have something new to take away. Oh and if it’s your first time, be prepared to be blown away by the twist.

15) Yes Man

Another unconventional inspiring film!

Funny and quirky, Jim Carrey’s character says yes to everything inside, literally.

Perhaps in your life, you should open up, stop doing the same old boring things and grab opportunities before time runs out.

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Alden Tan keeps it real at his blog and writes about motivation in unconventional ways. His two main passions are Bboying and writing. Check out his free report12 Things Happy People Don’t Give a F**k About!

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How To Stay Sane in Your High Pressure Job

Working in peace. (c) Office Now on Flickr

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll encounter some stress at work, but sometimes the pressures of work mount to worryingly high levels. What’s more, it’s not always easy to recognise when you’ve crossed the line and it’s all become too much.

Instead of finding ways to really manage our stress, we take on more and more work and quickly burn out. As you’re probably aware, stress taxes the body as well as the mind – high blood pressure, fatigue and reduced concentration are all common symptoms. In a fast-paced job it’s essential not to allow yourself to be overwhelmed, but how can you keep on top of your work without wearing yourself out?

Spruce up the place

Everyone likes to work somewhere that looks good, but are you aware of how the décor of your office can affect your productivity, health and peace of mind? Though you obviously don’t come to work in order to relax, a workplace that strikes a balance between tranquil and functional is an enormous help for those who are stressed out.

The degree to which you can make your space more peaceful may depend on where you work, and you may be particularly hamstrung if you don’t work in an office. But plants, artwork and light are all factors that increase productivity (with plants it’s about more than just looking nice: leafy ones draw impurities from the air too). An organized desk helps too.

You could go further and implement feng shui techniques; this is a topic far too extensive to cover here, but we’ll just say that no matter your views on more new age or mystical techniques, many principles found in this ancient Chinese wisdom are endorsed by the skeptical scientific community.

If your office is a truly depressing hole in the ground, you can always ask your manager or human resources professional about wider changes that can be implemented for more harmonious working.

Slow down time

If you could actually make time go by more slowly, that would be an ideal way to work through that mountain of tasks. Unfortunately you can’t really do that, but you can focus your thoughts and get more done in the time available with breathing techniques.

Yes, breathing. Although you draw air in and out of your body constantly, breathing properly is not as simple as you might think. To reduce stress, slow it right down, and inhale and exhale in a regular rhythm. Start by breathing in deeply for four seconds, and then out for four seconds. Repeat this for a few minutes as you go about your work. You should find you are able to retain information better, and make more sense of your thoughts.

Divide the day

When you’ve got too much on your plate, it can feel like you’re being pulled in six directions at once. Sometimes we try to deal with several tasks or areas of focus simultaneously, and end up not properly addressing any of them.

It sounds obvious, and most of us are aware of the benefits of managing your time so as to devote your full attention to only one thing at once. When the work stacks up however, we begin to think that the process of dividing up the day is an unnecessary time sink. It’s not – that time is claimed back many times over once you work out what you’re doing and when. Solitary, regular tasks like reading email are best done in the morning, as are the most pressing tasks of the day. More social or creative tasks are best addressed in the afternoon when thoughts flow more freely. By the way, you don’t have to wait until crisis point before devising a regular timetable.

If your work really is becoming the bane of your life however, it may have become time to discuss reassigning some of your tasks, taking a break or even leaving your work entirely. Your job is not the centre of your life – your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing must always come first.

Paul Breton is a Marketing Executive with online recruitment specialists Blue Octopus Recruitment in Otley, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom. He blogs on working life, human resources and the world of recruitment.

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