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Life Hacks Self-Improvement

5 slow but powerful ways to make positive changes in your life

If I had a dollar for all the times I’ve promised to make a positive change in my life,

Start going for a daily run...learn French...paint

but then never followed it through, I’d be a very rich man.

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Haven’t we all had those bursts of inspirations, with a strong urge to make a change in our life? A sudden bolt of inspiration or motivation to do something more.

You start with a bang, with superb commitment and enthusiasm, only to quit a few days or weeks later.

Most of us are never able to hold ourselves to these goals.

According to survey data, only 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions succeed at keeping them. Most resolutions are in fact abandoned by the third week of January.

Only 8 percent of New Year’s resolutions are kept. Most resolutions are abandoned by the third week of January.

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However that does not mean it is impossible.

Achieving your goals is part of a mindset.

Goals could range from personal to career to relationships.

All you need is a basic framework to create a mindset where you make goals, stick to them and achieve them.

1. How to eliminate clutter and focus on the essentials?

If you want to cut out the fat from your life, you need to focus on the essentials.

The book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” talks about the “Importance of Simplicity, Clarity, and Priority.”

The author Greg McKeown, a graduate of the Stanford School of Business, explains

“Instead of attempting to achieve everything, one needs to figure out how to do the right thing the right way at the right time.”

Check out this video of his -

The author did first-hand research among CEOs, executives and other professional ventures of the Silicon Valley. He demonstrates how early success can lead straight to professional and personal failure.

The heart of the problem, is the insidious idea that we can do it all.

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As individuals find success, they're often overwhelmed by expectations and the variety of options, and they end up losing the single-minded focus that made them successful in the first place.

So ask yourself: what in your life affirms the need for simplicity, - to focus on only one thing or very few things at a time?

Or

What priorities in your life require the need to focus on before pursuing other interesting (but less worthy) pursuits?

2. How to live mindfully, fully aware of your reality

Mindfulness is the opposite of “mindless” living- where you simply function on autopilot throughout your day.

Living this way can leave you feeling like you’re stuck in a rut.

On autopilot, you tend to get lost in ‘doing’ so you find yourself constantly striving and struggling on ‘getting the next job done’. Not actually living.

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Research shows that the average person functions like this 47% of the time.

This video talks about how it feels to be “Mindful” and live in the moment.

Mindfulness helps you cultivate equanimity. You are aware of your triggers and learn to pause so that you may respond, rather than simply react.

Mindfulness is the art of understanding your thoughts and accepting that they are just an interpretation of reality.

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It is the art of understanding your thoughts and accepting that your thoughts are not reality. They’re just thoughts: An interpretation of reality.

And you have the power to control your thoughts.

Richard Ryan and K. W. Brown of the University of Rochester explain that

  1. “Mindfulness” allows you to witness the passing of feelings, social pressures, even of being esteemed or criticized without taking these evaluations personally.
  2. This will allow you to stop worrying and ruminating on bleak events in the past.
  3. As you focus on living in the present, your attentional focus narrows.
  4. You feel as if your awareness merges with the actions you're performing.
  5. You feel a sense of mastery over situations, activities become rewarding by themselves. Although the tasks are difficult, you are able to perform effortlessly.

The University of Wisconsin has a Mindfulness Training Program as part of their Department of Psychiatry. After the program, this was the feedback they were given.

As the survey results show both teachers as well as students found an improvement in the students’ mental states.

3. Exercise for the mind, not just for the body 

The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore.

Exercise controls weight, combats health conditions and diseases, and improves your mood.

Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that leave you happier and relaxed. It boosts your confidence and improves your self-esteem.

The movie star, Matthew McConaughey, has said this to say -

Mathey McConaugheyActor

It's no fun to sit down and talk about what exercise has to do with life... go drip that sweat, run until we're fatigued, to where the mind can't ponder the past or the future, well, then you've got something... It's fun to feel healthy, and it's fun to feel good.

When you decide to exercise, understand that it is a sustained habit you are trying to build.

Try to keep the following steps in mind

  1. Set a time and stick with it
  2. Use small reminders everyday
  3. Start small, and focus on bringing daily exercise into your routine
  4. Increase intensity as time progresses
  5. Mix up your exercise so you don’t get bored
  6. Set aside rest days

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Men’s Health talks about how exercise fights depression and the many positive effects on the brain it has.

4. What positive thinking actually involves

Research is beginning to reveal that positive thinking is much more than just ‘being happy’ or displaying an upbeat attitude. Positive thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help you build real skills.

Negativity closes your brain off from the outside world. You focus on the negative emotions of fear, anger, and stress. These emotions prevent your brain from seeing the other options and choices that surround you.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology conducted a study at the University of North Carolina. She talks about the “broaden and build” theory. Positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and gather more resources from your surroundings.

How do you bring about positive thinking?

Meditation- In the same study, an experiment was conducted between two groups of meditating and non-meditating people. The study demonstrated that those who meditate daily display more positive emotions and valuable long–term skills.

Even several months after the experiment was over, the people who meditated daily continued to display increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, and decreased illness symptoms

The spiritual society Art of Living, mentions these benefits of meditation.

A survey about workplace meditation was conducted on 60 people which found that 60 percent of them were better able to handle stress after taking the class.

Meditation is one of the best ways to combat stress in your life. According to a survey by Buddhify, it is the second most common reason people get into meditation.

Writing and Expressing yourself- An experiment was published in the Journal of Research in Personality on 90 undergraduate students. They were split into two groups. One was asked to write about an intensely positive experience each day and the other wrote about a general control topic.

Three months later, the students from the first group showed better mood levels, and experienced fewer illnesses. Although this is far from a definitive study on the topic, it does give us an idea about the benefits of writing.

Maintaining a journal can help you clarify your thoughts as you logically put them down on paper. Writing is a creative activity which can help engage your right brain in problem solving.

5. Developing a sense of compassion for those around

The Dalai Lama has said that the problems of the world “are best understood and viewed through the lens of compassion.”

We, humans have a natural capacity for compassion. However, everyday stress, social pressures, and life experiences can suppress it.

But you can train yourself to be more nurturing towards others and develop your compassionate instinct. This process requires patience, steady care, proper tools, and a supportive environment.

The brain we have inherited from millions of years of evolution is both a gift and a curse, if not understood and used wisely. It is easy for us to get lost in our very basic emotions and motives, or become personally distressed by the problems of others.

If you orient yourself to compassion, be prepared to experience a whole new orientation of your mind.

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Compassion therapy tries to develop this compassion in people,

“we train people to remember, remember, remember, notice, notice, notice kindness and then to build upon those remembrances.”

Meditation, journal writing, focusing on mindfulness all help you live a compassionate life.

Compassion is a way of life.

Jon Kabat-ZinnProfessor of Medicine Emiritus

All life is fascinating and beautiful when the veil of our routinized thinking lifts, even for a moment

Conclusion

We feel stuck in a rut because we’ve trained our brains in a certain way. Our daily habits are deeply ingrained in our brain circuitry. But if we repeat small behaviors frequently enough, our brains begin to carve out new neural pathways. Over time, these neural pathways allow new behaviors to become automatic.

If you understand and apply the simple method for mindfully creating new behaviors and habits you can begin re-creating your life, one positive new change at a time.

What changes can you make today to bring about more Positivity in your life?

Categories
Life Hacks

How to stack your identity capital and develop a drooling personality: 12 easy ways

It is said by Lars Fr. H. Svendsen that “self-identity is inextricably bound up with the identity of the surroundings.”

Most of the time when someone talks about capital, accounts, balance sheets and money pop up in our minds. Well, that’s what has been taught to us traditionally. There’s another type of capital which has no mention in your accountancy books, but that dictates the kind of person you become.

Identity capital.

As we are going through the usual routine of our lives, we are getting severely disconnected from our core identity. It leads to crisis. As per a report in Daily Mail, three in every four people aged between 26-30 go through a quarter-life crisis and feel dissatisfied.

What is causing such an identity crisis?

Your twenties are shaped up by how heavily you invest in identity capital—an investment into yourself. It goes much deeper than just knowing oneself. Our personality is created by the culmination of identity capital which includes various critical aspects of our lives like the company we keep, the friends we meet, the finances we manage, the places we visit and much more. It’s the lack of knowledge regarding identity capital which causes such crises.

Let’s understand what constitutes our identity capital and how to improve on it.

1. Find Something You Love

How many of us dream of a job that’s not only high on salary but gives us a satisfied and healthy life as well? And the bigger question is: How many of us actually manage to fulfill this dream?

As per a survey by Conference Board, New York, in 2014, 52.3% of the Americans were unhappy with their jobs.

Another survey by London School of Business and Finance shows that 65% of the UK workers within the age group of 25-34 seek a career change.Such is the story in almost every country.

We spend most of our life working, so it would be right to say that our happiness level is measured by how satisfied we are with our jobs. So, why do people stay stuck in a job they hate?There can be ample of reasons, but all of them lead to one consequence: you depreciate your identity capital.

T.S. Eliot continued his job at Lloyd Bank from 1917-1925, the time period in which he published The Waste Land.

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This is a very highly repeated cliché, but you have to “Love what you do and do what you love.” Of course, living off of a low-paying passion is difficult, but finding a job that can gratify your senses and can pay well is not. Through right degrees, resources and dedication, a person can certainly try to transform their life. But don’t be scared to take risks either.

Mark ZuckerbergCeo, Facebook

The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.

2. Have Quality Peers Around

Our peers play a very important role when it comes to our health and survival. We meet numerous people at every stage of life. We take up many of their habits, personality traits and behavioural patterns—be it good or bad.

Around 10% smokers revealed in a survey at Mumbai (India), that they got hooked on to smoking due to the heavy influence of their peers. But peers can also help in achieving success, and that can only happen if they are adding value to your life.

A survey by Ruth Sutherland, published in The Guardian, reveals that one in every ten people don’t have a close friend and it makes them feel unloved.

Do you know only four friends on your Facebook account are your real friends?

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Even when we have websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, people still feel lonely and depressed due to the lack of a real life connection.Humans are called social animals, and it would be apt to say that social acceptance and validation play a big role in the formation of self-acceptance as well. Our level of happiness and peace rises when we have peers who understand and support us. They not only help us to feel like we ‘belong’ to a place, but we form certain traits through these peers.

Criss Jami Author

Good friends will allow you to be as innocent and free as a child when in private, and as wise and mature as an adult when in public.

3. Health is Wealth

Health constitutes not only physical well-being but emotional well-being as well. Humans are engaged in technology day in and day out, but such a kind of focus is not being paid to one’s health.

As per a 2014 report by National Centre for Health Statistics, around 65% Americans with severe symptoms of depression were not getting any medical help. Numerous people all across the world are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases every day.

110 million people die because of stress every year.

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As years are passing by, new diseases are getting added to the already packed medical books. People are not getting the required treatments due to poverty, societal stigmas, and various other reasons.

Our fast-paced lives are hardly giving us any time to breathe. While gripping our chairs and working in the wee hours, we have forgotten how to cherish the sunrise. Since burgers and pizzas are available just a call away, no one wants to take the pain of cooking healthy food at home.

Buddha

To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

Physical activities have been reduced to nil, as most of our energy is spent on the internet. From socializing to business deals, everything can be done with one click. People have no reason to physically move themselves. But alas! Technology has certainly made us ignorant of the benefits of exercise and physical activities.

It’s been scientifically proven that exercise can reduce the chances of early death by 30% and fatal illnesses like cancer by 50%. In fact, a study that was published in 2005 showed that walking fast for around 60 minutes three times a week can have a positive effect on depression ranging from mild to moderate.

Your health is the direct indication of how healthy your relationship is with yourself— the healthier a person is, the more lovingly he is connected with oneself.

4. Live Your Life with Someone Who Makes It Easy

Your partner can play one of the most influential roles in your life. Falling in love changes us emotionally and biologically. Finding a partner is an inevitable part of life, and so is the fact that we learn a lot of new things from them. It can be as huge as culture or as small as eating salad.

2.3 million couples marry every year in the U.S.

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Here is Sternberg's triangular theory of love. 

When a relationship is healthy, its effect is clearly visible in the way a person interacts not only with his surroundings but with himself as well. A relationship can trigger issues associated with our old identity, and due to the constant association with the partner, it can lead to the creation of a new identity as well.

Carl Jung Psychiatrist

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

But many a times, people stay stuck in relationships that are clearly toxic. A survey has stated that six out of ten British people compromise and stick to an unsatisfying relationship. As per psychology reports, after a break-up, a person can go through an identity crisis as well.

To lead a healthy life and build a positive personality, it is important not to allow any toxic behaviour to settle in. Having a partner who compliments you can transform your life in wonderful ways.

5. Manage Your Finances Wisely

The global financial crash of 2008 triggered an increased number of suicides amongst Europeans and North Americans. 5,000 suicides were reported in the year 2009 due to the crisis.

Every single year, many people commit suicide due to financial pressure.Money affects our lives from all angles—be it our relationships, our happiness levels, or the food we eat. In fact, finance is one of the leading causes of breakups and divorces.

Money management plays a big role in ensuring how secure we are. Money related issues can make a person succumb to depression and other stress-related illnesses. It’s really important for a healthy life to manage finances intelligently.

It not only gives you a sense of living, but money can also shape up your personality in whichever way you want. Yes, some people do engage in vanity, but there are many others who are into charity and donations as well.

John Locke Philospher

Our incomes are like our shoes; if too small, they gall and pinch us; but if too large, they cause us to stumble and to trip.

6. Enhance Your Skills by Learning an Instrument

Playing instruments can be considered a form of meditation. It helps a person to connect with himself. Not only is it a trance-like experience for the one who plays, but it’s truly transcendental for listeners, too.

Jaron Lanier Writer

If there's any object in human experience that's a precedent for what a computer should be like, it's a musical instrument: a device where you can explore a huge range of possibilities through an interface that connects your mind and your body, allowing you to be emotionally authentic and expressive.

But not many people are engaged in learning instruments as passionately. Generally, instruments don’t get much priority in our lives when our main focus is how to earn our living.

Less than half of the U.S. population plays an instrument.

It has been proven by Science that learning an instrument can aid in the development of the brain and bettering neural processing.

Erhu is one of the most popular instruments in China.

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It is important to spend time on the things that can help you in improving yourself internally as well as can give you a new talent to learn. It’s one of the most honest mediums to express yourself.

 7. All Work No Play, Makes Jack a Dull Boy

Most of us have been involved in sports during our school or college time. A few of us manage to continue playing sports, but most of us get busy in our jobs or relationships and neglect sports.

Playing sports teaches us how to be disciplined, dedicated and how to work in a team. Athletes are extremely loyal towards their team, play with extreme devotion and are well-behaved.

A UK study revealed that playing sports can improve the self-esteem of teenagers which will ultimately lead to the creation of a healthy adult.

When sports can instil such good qualities inside us, then why do we put sports on the backburner as we grow up?

Bob Feller Baseball Player

Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again. That's the way life is, with a new game every day, and that's the way baseball is.

One of the biggest advantages of playing sports is that it helps to keep you fit. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has revealed that more than half of the adults (68.8%) in U.S. are overweight or obese.

An average American spends $1200 every year on fast food.

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It’s high time that sports are encouraged not only for children, but they become a regular part of our twenties as well.

8. Gain a Different Vision Through a Different Language

Language is a way to express yourself. From an early age, you learn to express yourself in a specific language. As you grow, you keep on learning new languages. But do you know that when we speak different languages, we emit different personalities?

Language makes up for a significant part of the personality. It’s one of the bases regarding how you present yourself in front of others. We judge others through how they communicate, and that’s why there are so many “Improve your speaking skills” classes all around the world.

Noam Chomsky Linguist

Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.

As we learn new languages, our mind expands. It improves our memory, too. We learn about different cultures and traditions. Being multilingual also helps to get good jobs. It improves your social standing. It reduces the chances of Alzheimer and dementia at an early age. A person can enhance his power of multi-tasking as well.

Chinese is the most spoken language in the world.

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As per a study published in The Guardian, more than half of Europeans (54%) can hold a conversation in more than one language.

One must always try to expand their skills not only in their mother tongue, but in other languages as well.

9. Pack Your Bags and Travel

Who doesn’t like travelling? Leaving behind our mundane lives, we can just venture into the unknown. We are always waiting for our next vacations while saving up the money so that we can go to all those places we have always dreamed about.

But travelling is not only a treat for eyes, but it is food for you soul and mind as well. It facilitates spiritual and emotional growth. As you travel, you are not only introduced to new cultures and foods, but you can also learn a lot about different ethnicities and lifestyles.

Hong Kong is the most visited place in the world.

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It's been proven that people who travel acquire better problem-solving abilities and become more creative. Due to their multicultural engagement, they have been offered more jobs.

Andre Gide Author

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Despite having so many benefits, people are not getting much time to travel and enhance their abilities. As per a survey conducted in 2014, around 56% Americans had not taken a vacation that year.

There are various reasons like lack of time, fear of terrorism and the major one is a lack of money. But as per many travellers, it is possible to travel around while managing all other aspects, too.

10. Set Your Priorities Straight

How important it is to learn the skill of prioritizing different aspects of our lives. We make or break our lives by figuring out what should be on our priority list. You might prioritize your marriage over your career now, but years later, you might regret letting go of that job proposal.You might prioritise reading a book over going to a party and might end up enjoying the time alone. Our entire life is a series of decisions we take, as we weigh the priority of each task, situation and person.

As per a report published in Daily Mail, a majority of people prioritize owning a property first over marrying and having children.

Many a times, we prioritize materialism over emotions, superficiality over depth and end up garnering lots of regrets. A life full of mistakes is much better than a heart full of regrets.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, revealed the top 5 regrets of dying patients in her blog. And the topmost regret was not having the courage to live a life as per their own will, but rather as per others’ expectations.

Stephen R. Covey Educator

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to priorities. Life is too short to be spent waiting and hoping. One thing you should be prioritising over anything else is your own happiness.

11. New Things Can Give Way to a New Life

Break the monotony of life by trying out new things. It could be anything—joining yoga classes, learning a new skill, discovering a new place to trek, a new career, whatever.

We are not meant to be constant. Our body is growing older, our mind is getting bigger, and our life is getting shorter. So, why do you allow yourself to settle into a mundane lifestyle? We are living in a society where stability and predictability are considered important. People seek security in every step they take, and it ends up breeding depression and general lack of interest towards life.

Walt Disney Entrepreneur

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Trying something new not only causes emotional and mental growth, but it also adds the much needed spark in your life. People enjoy being in their comfort zones because it’s familiar. But familiar is not always correct. It takes courage to walk out of your comfort zone.

12. Learning Everyday Skills as Building Blocks

We talk about flying an airplane or learning to speak Spanish, but most of us forget how valuable average skills are. These skills help you to carry out your day-to-day life. Something as routine as cooking, driving or sewing can save a lot of trouble and pain in the times of need.

As per a survey, around 28% Americans don’t know how to cook.

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These average skills help you to become adaptable in learning harder skills. Moreover, they teach you how to cater to your own needs. These average skills are the foundation of the building. You have to become a master over these in order to gain more knowledge about other things.

Leonardo da Vinci Painter

Learning never exhausts the mind.

Everything can be achieved step-by-step, but in order to attain bigger goals, we should not neglect these small activities which constitute the biggest part of our lives.

Conclusion

It is by forming our identity that we can form our personality. But the focus has to be both inside as well as outside ourselves.You might be fulfilled in some aspects of your life whereas lacking in others, but your identity is wholly created by a balance in each and every way.

Figure out what needs more focus in your life, nothing should be achieved while underestimating the value of other important factors.

It is only by investing in things beyond your bank account that you can become an immensely successful and happy individual. The first step towards investing in yourself is to start getting to know who you are.

So, when are you starting to build your identity capital?