What is mastery?

 

What is mastery?

If you look in the dictionary, you’ll find that mastery is the possession or display of great skill or technique.

Think Leonardo Da Vinci. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dostoyevsky. Bruce Lee. Picasso. Muhammad Ali. Mozart. Simone de Beauvoir. Kobe Bryant. Hemingway.

What do they all have in common?

They all had the drive, self-discipline, and a laser focus in their respective field. They put in the hours. They were dedicated to their work. They made continuous progress, every single day, at their craft.

And they didn’t quit.

What does this mean for you in your own life?

If you want to achieve mastery, know this. That “thing” you want to master will become your entire life, so you better be sure it’s something you truly care about. It can’t be something that someone else wants you to care about, or an idea you think you “should” be dedicated to because it’s popular among your circle of friends. No. It has to be very personal. You should care about it this very minute, deeply, completely, and yes—passionately.

Now that you know about the personal connection you need to make to it, how do you go about achieving mastery in a particular field?

Here are 5 tips you can practice every day.

Mastery tip #1. Identify a specific GOAL that will drive you to succeed.

When you have a goal you’re working towards, everything you do in your daily life has a greater sense of purpose — which is a key to achieving mastery.

  • Make sure your goal is specific. For example, don’t just say that you want to get a job, be fit, have a large salary. Instead, say you want to get a job offer for a specific job title that pays a certain annual salary (have a specific amount in mind) so that you can develop specific skills you already have, as well as learn those new skills you’re working towards.
  • Make sure you’re focused on your goal. You can increase your focus by starting each day with the question: What is the ONE THING I am committed to completing today? This question forces you to prioritize, helps your brain focus better, and streamlines the work you need to do, so you don’t feel overwhelmed with making too many choices and you’re free to focus on what’s most important to you.

Mastery tip #2. Develop a STRATEGY to achieve your goal.

Goals are important, but so is developing your strategy. What is strategy? It’s about having the big picture in mind: while you are focusing on what you want to do right now, always keep your eye on at least two steps ahead.

  • Take into consideration different approaches you can take to get you closer to your goal. That means be flexible and don’t always stick to what you’re used to doing to solve a problem.
  • Don’t only think of achieving short-term success. Being strategic isn’t only what you’re doing right right this very moment; it’s also about feeling the benefits of your present actions in the future.
  • Don’t focus only on the person you are today. Instead, think of who you want to be in 10 or even 20 years. By being strategic you will empower yourself to achieve long-term results that your future self can benefit from.

Mastery tip #3. LEARN everything you can about your chosen field of expertise.

In order to be successful at anything, you need to know the landscape so you can adapt to it and learn how to master it.

  • Research the field or industry you want to be successful in. There are many ways to get to know your target industry. For example, you can research the key features and goals of that industry, the major players, the competition, the qualities that are respected in experts, the top rated books in the field, the most relevant websites, and any other resources that can help you understand the subject, industry, or environment.
  • Follow what successful people are doing in your field. Read up on what they’re doing, find interviews, get their biographies and start taking notes.For example, can you find out what makes them unique and what are the traits they all have in common? When you identify patterns in behaviors of others, it becomes easier to emulate them and develop those same successful traits in yourself.

Mastery tip #4. Work on developing SKILLS to become successful.

You can’t be successful without a required skill set in your field of work, regardless of whether it’s studying for a PhD degree in anthropology, becoming a software engineer, or training to become an athlete in the Olympics.

  • First, identify which skills are necessary for you to succeed in doing your job. List them all. Think not just hard skills, but soft skills too.
  • Second, work on developing your skills. Create a plan to devote a certain amount of time each day to do this, even if this means you devote 15 minutes to it in the beginning.
  • Third, keep practicing each skill consistently. As you may have heard, the 10,000 hour rule is something that many people swear by. Regardless of whether you agree with it or not, don’t think of it as a numbers game — but rather as about doing your deep work: focusing without interruptions on something that takes a lot of analytical thinking. Deep work is essential in mastering the skills you’ll need.

Mastery tip #5. Set milestones to MEASURE your progress.

The only way you can pave the way towards your future is to know how you are performing, so that you can change your course of action if the results you’re achieving are not satisfactory. That’s why it’s important to measure your progress along the way. Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • How did I perform this week? What were the tasks and mini goals I have completed, how long did it take me to work on each one, and how would I rate my performance on a scale of 1–10, with 1 being poor and 10 being outstanding?
  • Which problems have I solved? Did I overcome an obstacle, find a shortcut to doing something that is challenging to me, save some time by asking for assistance in finishing something, or resolve a problem that has been on my mind for some time?
  • Where can I improve? What are specific areas where I can get even better at what I do, what’s the next level I need to reach so I can excel at it, how can I revise my strategy so I can get even better results as I’m working towards achieving mastery?
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How do I know what I am passionate about?

 

Do a workshop with yourself!

Take a couple of hours off this week to find a quiet space where you won’t disturbed, turn off your phone, and go through this 5-step exercise that will help you identify what you are passionate about.

Step #1. Do a passion audit.

  • Write a list of things you’re currently doing and that you enjoy. Be sure to list EVERYTHING (even if that means having a list of 50 items).
  • Select the top 5 things that get you the most excited when you do them.
  • From those 5, select three that you cannot imagine your life without 10 or 20 years from now. To make this easier to do, think about your why: what is so important to you about a particular activity, subject matter, or field of expertise? What is the personal connection you have to it? What is the thing you think about first thing in the morning and that you look forward to doing?
  • Circle your top 3, then select ONE thing that makes you feel the most alive when you are doing it.

Step #2. Give yourself a skills assessment.

  • Write down your current skill set. What are you good at, what do you excel in, what is a skill that you’ve worked on developing for a long time and maybe even devoted a lot of years to?
  • Write down the skills you are developing. Where are you making progress, what are the activities that are already underway that you are working on consistently?
  • Add to the list what you consider strengths that have proven results from your past. This could mean strengths in both personal and professional life such as awards you received, top grades in school, a public or professional recognition of some sort, etc.

Step #3. Match up your passions to your skills and strengths.

  • Starting with your list of top 3 things you’re most passionate about, find which current (or currently developing) skills and strengths you can pair them up with. For example, if your passion is learning French, match this up with your self-discipline, your past performance in passing a course in French language or literature, your time management skills that have helped you design a plan to study every day such as developing your reading, writing, and speaking skills.
  • Be optimistic about the progress you can make. In other words, always have a can-do attitude that you can develop your current skill set, while also being realistic about the time it will take to master something For example, don’t expect to become a master in a specific field within a week or month; be prepared to put in some hard work and practice getting better every day.

Step #4. Create a specific, goal-oriented, and actionable plan.

  • Identify what you’ve decided to do. Write down the top 1–3 things where your top passions and skill set intersect. These will be your target areas where you can focus your energy.
  • Create a concrete goal for each area. What would you like to accomplish in 6 months or a year? Write down the goal for each area, and give yourself a deadline for it. For the French language example, write, “I want to be able to have a basic conversation in French and know the alphabet by [XXX date].
  • Make an actionable plan. Create a monthly plan and divide your time for each week, and then each day, when you can focus on the things you’ve identified. The key here is to be consistent: make sure to devote a block of time each day to work towards your goals. If you believe you don’t have enough time, start with 15 minutes to work on a small task. Once you get into the habit, it will be easier to increase the time to bigger increments, for example an hour.

Step #5. Celebrate each step in the right direction.

  • Help your brain stay motivated. Why is this important? Our brain reacts positively even when progress is made in micro steps — you don’t need to go above and beyond expectations every single day. Remember, nobody else knows about your plan. It’s just you! That’s why it’s important to give yourself recognition for every step forward, even if it’s super small and you think it doesn’t count.
  • Treat yourself when you finish your goals for the week. Do something you find enjoyable: catch up with friends over dinner, go on a long bike ride or walk in the park, watch a movie, or spend an uninterrupted hour with a book. This way you’re keeping yourself motivated to stay on track to reach your goals, no matter what they are.

What should I do to make my life meaningful?

How thoughtful of you to ask!

For me, a meaningful life = a life lived with a sense of purpose.

This sense of purpose answers the question of why.

Why are we are alive?

Why do we matter?

Why do we do the things we do, day in and day out, and what is it all for?

I don’t have all the answers, but I know this:

If life is to be meaningful, we need to have a bigger picture in mind. Instead of being emotional and letting our emotions drive our decisions, we need to take the time to think things through. Understand what drives us. Identify personal goals that matter to us. Create a plan and a schedule to attain those goals — maybe even just onegoal for now. Practice positive daily habits. Get better at something. And once we get better, instead of keeping the knowledge to ourselves, share it with others and help others on the path to achieving their goals.

This may all sound like good advice, but where and how do we start?

Let’s look at 7 ways to do this.

Meaningful tip #1. Begin your day with a sense of purpose.

Most people wake up and immediately start reacting to their day — they pick up their phone, start responding to emails and text messages, get cranky because family members are noisy or perhaps get in a bad mood because someone in the household is upset or irritable. That’s just an average way to begin the day. How about if you structure your mornings so you immediately know what to do to get yourself on the right track? You can do that if you create your own morning routine.

How it helps to give your life meaning: It’s a simple life hack that makes you feel super productive early, gives you focus and energy, and allows you ample time to do what’s important to your personal development, instead of making other people’s agenda an unnecessary priority. And even more important, it gives every day a sense of direction. Now that’s powerful.

Meaningful tip #2. Find your superpower.

Do you think of yourself as a person who just goes about their life, trying to get things done, but don’t really consider yourself talented or knowledgeable at any one thing? That won’t help you lead a meaningful life! To make a change, identify something you’re really good or maybe even feel deep passion for. It can be something that makes you feel happy, alive, buzzed with energy, and always 100% focused when you do it. Maybe you enjoy developing apps, or being fluent in three languages, or running for miles. That is your superpower.

How it helps to give your life meaning: Believe it or not, most people either don’t know what their passion is, or they don’t take the time to find out what it is — what a missed opportunity! — or don’t think it’s important to explore what it can be. Be sure you take the time to find out what yours is.

Meaningful tip #3. Identify goals to aspire to.

If you’re living day to day without having any specific goal in mind of what you’d like to do in the future, you’re not being respectful of your own time on this planet. To get your mind on the goal track, have an honest conversation with yourself. Ask yourself, where do I see myself in the future, who do I want to become, what would be an ideal lifestyle for me in ten years? Then write down your top 3 goals, map out what you need to do every day so that you can reach them, and create a weekly and monthly schedule so you can work every day towards achieving them.

How it helps to give your life meaning: Goals are a great way to stay focused on what is truly important to you. Even more important, they give everything you do in your daily life more meaning. That pertains to any type of goal: those that are school or work-related, focused on developing a particular set of skills, related to a talent you’ve ignored lately, an insecurity that is preventing you from moving on, or a network of friends or professional connections you need to build.

Meaningful tip #4. Express gratitude for what you have in your life this very minute.

For most people, it’s pretty common to assume that whatever is happening in your life, as well as your life circumstances, is just something you take for granted. If you find yourself making similar assumptions about your life, that means you rarely pay attention to what exactly it is you have going for you. Want to change that mindset? Practice gratitude. For five minutes each morning, write down or think about 3 things you are grateful for today: a roof over your head, food in the fridge, a warm bed, running water and electricity, a positive relationship with someone close to you, etc.

How it helps to give your life meaning: Practicing gratitude rewires your brain to focus on positive things, which sets the tone for the rest of your day, and can directly impact the way you perceive your life. You will also train your brain not to focus and dwell on things you don’t have and that others may have, which inevitably leads to feelings of jealousy, envy, frustration, and unhappiness.

Meaningful tip #5. Be that person that others can look up to.

Do you have someone in your circle of friends or extended family who did something unexpected, illogical, selfish, foolish, or just plain dumb, or made a decision that took them off their life path and caused them to lose focus of what’s important? Don’t be like that person. Use your intelligence. Make smart choices—whether big or small — that will help you get on the path to becoming the best version of yourself. Make it a personal goal to become someone people seek to gain knowledge in a particular field of expertise, or to be the person friends come to when they need guidance or just a warm embrace.

How it helps to give your life meaning: When you strive to help others in some way, you put yourself on a path to become a hero (or as the Greeks called ἥρως (hērōs). A hero is a warrior, a defender, a protector. All those goals will empower you to lead an extraordinary life full of meaning. Why? Because you are contributing to something much bigger than yourself, and you show that you have even greater goals to aspire to.

Meaningful tip #6. Be selective about how you’re feeding your brain.

We’ve all indulged in entertainment and let it consume our free time — TV channel surfing, listening to radio shows with commercial interruptions, browsing magazines or newspapers without a specific idea of why we’re reading. What if you incorporated a few smart hobbies into your day? Pick better brain food, like documentaries on politics, history or nature. Listen to podcasts while you’re preparing dinner or tidying up your apartment. Read books to learn about human nature, boost your critical thinking skills, and give yourself the space and time to dream.

How it helps to give your life meaning: When you make this switch to ingesting better brain food, you start treating your brain with more respect. After all, your brain is a supercomputer! You create an awareness that you can do so much more with it, nurture it, and use it as a tool to help you improve yourself in every aspect of your life.

Meaningful tip #7. Develop a growth mindset.

Think of your mindset as a set of attitudes you have towards yourself and the world around you that you’ve built up over the years, which started with messages you heard as a child from parents, teachers, and other adults around you. Do this because you’re a natural! Don’t waste your time, it’s not for you! These messages lead to a fixed mindset way of thinking, where you don’t stretch yourself in any way to change the way you think about your abilities. To develop a growth mindset, you need to leave behind the limiting beliefs of what is possible, and tell yourself that your skills and abilities can be improved over time. Ask, What if I tried this? What could it afford me? How will it help me grow?

How it helps to give your life meaning: A growth mindset means you keep yourself open to possibilities, allow yourself time to explore what excites you and what you are passionate about, and give yourself permission to make mistakes as you work on improving skills that matter to you. If you practice it every day, it has the potential to transform your life. And a final tip: read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

For more growth mindset tips, follow me on my blog and on Twitter. And remember, there’s one small thing we can all do each day to build that muscle!

Is it worth it to become very self-disciplined?

I believe it is worth it. Why is self-discipline important?

It boosts your focus. You learn to prioritize what’s relevant so that your brain can focus on top priority tasks before anything else.

It helps you own the day. You learn to take full ownership of those 24 hours, which will give you the necessary time you need to work on your goals.

It trains you to do work before doing something for pleasure. You get into the habit of completing tasks first, before you do anything just because it feels great.

It increases your attention span.You train yourself not to waste time on activities that aren’t directly linked to your goals and priorities.

It takes your attitude about life to a whole new level. You make changes in your attitude and mindset that reflect your focus on goals, and you adjust the language you use when you talk to yourself.

On a more personal note, here’s why I strongly believe in self-discipline so much. The way I see it, discipline affords me freedom. It creates more time in my day, improves my decision-making process, and allows me to take control over what’s truly important to me. By practicing it, I feel like my life has more purpose. And that’s quite a big deal.

So how do you practice self-discipline?

Start with a few ideas.

Practice idea #1. Boost your focus.

Like any other kind of lifestyle, leading a self-disciplined life starts when you start the day—in the morning. That’s the time when you set the tone to the next 12–16 hours of your life. You can choose to be reactive, which means you wake up, get your phone, and start checking emails, Twitter, or Instagram. You might watch the news and get caught up in world events, none of which you can control. Or, you might answer calls or respond to text messages that your friends start sending you during breakfast. If you’d like to create a different beginning to your day, get proactive by training your brain to be focused as soon as you wake up.

What’s an easy way to do this?

Start your day with this question: “What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?” This technique trains your brain to focus on which goals are important to you right now, and it forces you to prioritize the goal you believe to be the most relevant in this moment. How do you start? Put it in writing. Write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. Read it out loud as you start your day, for example as you’re brushing your teeth or getting ready for work or school. Come up with an answer on the spot and answer it out loud. Then follow up by taking action—focus your energy throughout the day to completing your one thing.

Practice idea #2. Learn how to own the day.

You can say a lot of things to describe a self-disciplined life, but being spontaneous in how you go about your day isn’t going to be one of them. There’s time for spontaneity, and then there’s time to do what you need to do. In other words, timing—just like in most other aspects of your life—is everything. Being self-disciplined means you do your hard work first before you do anything for pleasure. It means you are aware of which times of day should be devoted to doing hard work, and which times can be allotted to entertainment and socializing.

What’s an easy way to do this?

Make the most of your mornings by building a habit of doing your hard work early. This means taking full advantage of your circadian rhythm (your body’s biological clock), which is your natural rhythm that “knows” what are the optimal times for you to perform certain tasks. For most people, the early morning hours are optimal for doing deep work—work that requires a lot of concentration. Specifically, the brain’s peak performance is 2-4 hours after we wake up. So if you wake up at 6, then your peak times are between 8 and 10 a.m. Working early allows your brain to focus fully on the problem at hand, with fewer distractions, and less inputs from your environment.

Practice idea #3. Delay your gratification.

If doing hard work early helps you focus better and get those responsibilities out of the way, the natural side effect of self-discipline is that you start postponing things that are more pleasurable. What’s the point of doing something difficult first in order to reward yourself later? You’d be surprised how far-reaching this practice can be. In a study performed by Stanford University scientists, results showed that delayed gratification can increase your chance at succeeding in many areas of your life—your education, career, short and long term goals, even your personal life choices. Check it out for yourself — this famous study is called the Marshmallow experiment.

What’s an easy way to do this?

While it’s not exactly super easy, it’s not as hard as it sounds. You can start by observing the things you’d like to indulge in whenever the opportunity presents itself—for example, seeing a slice of double-chocolate cake at your coffee shop. Then, resist the temptation to immediately choose to treat yourself by thinking of one reason why not to indulge: maybe you’re starting off the new year with new fitness goals or better eating habits. And follow up—take your attention away from the distractions and focus on your priorities for the day: complete your homework, go to the gym just for an hour, listen to a podcast on a topic that fascinates you, or cook dinner early so you have time for a walk later in the evening.

Practice idea #4. Increase your attention span.

Leading a self-disciplined life means that you learn how to say no to many different things: giving in to temptations to indulge in pleasant activities, curbing your desire to procrastinate on daily priorities, and not letting distractions take over your day. They may seem harmless to begin with, but distractions can easily make you slip from your work. One minute you’re just catching up with an old friend on WhatsApp, and the next thing you know it’s two hours later and you haven’t picked up your notes to start prepping for your exam. But when you turn off what distracts you, you have a better chance to actually do what’s important.

What’s an easy way to do this?

Distractions come from different sources, not just your electronic devices. Your goal, if you’re going to lead self-disciplined life, is to dial down all types of distractions so they’re not in your way. How do you start? First, set your phone to Airplane mode when you need to focus on your work—try it for a 2-hour period to begin. Next, let people around you like family members, friends, or roommates know you won’t be available to talk to them in the next few hours. Check your email and social media apps only 2–3 times a day; start around lunchtime and then check them later in the afternoon. Avoid browsing the Internet or reading news throughout the day; close all tabs in your browser to avoid temptations to use your friend Google.

Practice idea #5. Adjust your attitude.

Like with all other areas in your life, self-discipline is for the most part all about attitude. How do you define self-discipline? Does it sound like a practice that is uncomfortable, unusual, or maybe extreme? If it does, maybe it’s time to take a second look because the attitude you have towards self-discipline will either help you or deter you from instilling it in your daily life. For me, it’s never been about what I “should” do or what feels uncomfortable to do. It’s all about what it can afford me. And I’ve realized this: self-discipline = freedom. With daily practice, self-discipline trains my brain to prioritize the things I can control, allows me to let go of what I cannot, and frees me up to focus on what will get me to my ultimate goal: becoming a better version of myself.

What’s an easy way to do this?

Instead of just living life day by day, start thinking about the big picture of your life. Even if practicing self-discipline may feel like you’re sacrificing some things right now like spending time with friends or indulging in a delicious dessert, think about what leading a self-disciplined life will afford you. Write down a list of new habits you’re practicing (or want to start practicing) that can add up to bigger results a year from now. Make sure you create time in your calendar to devote to these new habits so you can make progress—even a 30-minute session of practicing a new skill or habit is enough to begin. When you understand the benefits of leading a self-disciplined life, you are more likely to invest in it and nurture it. It will become a lifestyle that can afford you your future.

 

What will be your New Year’s resolution for 2019?

 

In 2019 my New Year’s resolution is to share my micro growth mindset goals with you.

If you’ve followed my answers on Quora, you know that this is one topic I am passionate about. For the past three years I’ve been developing and incorporating a growth mindset into the way I think about my personal goals, professional life, challenges and obstacles, like-minded people I want to keep in my inner circle, and my future.

Practicing a growth mindset has become my daily practice. It’s what I apply to every aspect of my day-to-day life, from maximizing my long commute each morning to how I take detailed notes on the books I read.

It’s shaped the way I do deep work. This is a concept I adopted from professor and author Cal Newport. I make sure that I tackle the most difficult cognitive tasks of the day first thing in the morning, so that I make the most of my finite sources of willpower.

And it’s become the foundation of my practice of self-discipline. I strongly believe in a quote by philosopher Will Durant when he summarized a few concepts from Aristotle — “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I see habits as a way to exercise and excel in self-discipline, and having a growth mindset provides me with the energy to be consistent at it.

Why do I believe in micro growth mindset goals?

I’m not a big fan of just talking, or of just keeping it theoretical. There’s a time to talk, and there’s a time to act. If you’re serious about adopting a growth mindset way of thinking, there’s no time to say, “I should” or “I can’t do it this year” or “I’m too busy for this!” Remember: time is your most valuable asset. Make it work for you. Start something new today that has the potential to improve your life. And most important — start small, with micro goals. Why? Because instead of making goals huge and probably unattainable, by making your goals micro you set yourself up for success.

Here are 7 micro growth mindset goals I want to share with you to start the New Year in the right direction.

And if you enjoy reading them, take a minute to answer one question located at the end of this answer.

Micro growth mindset goal #1. Train your brain to start each day with GOAL #1.

Perhaps you have several different goals that you’re juggling on any given day. Or maybe you’re not sure which goal to focus on, or which goal to identify for each week as you’re planning the month or year ahead. To simplify things, I recommend you start each morning with this question: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today? It’s a habit that only takes a few minutes to practice, yet it sets the tone to your entire day. It also encourages you to think strategically about your life, keeps you focused on your goals, forces you to prioritize, and serves as a personal promise to yourself. It took me about a month to incorporate it into my day and now it feels like a natural first step each morning.

How do you make the change? Write it down— take a large sheet of paper and write the question in big bold letters with a thick marker. Put it somewhere where you’re most likely to look at it—on your bedroom or the bathroom wall, for example. Look at the question and ask it out loud as you’re brushing your teeth or getting dressed. Take a minute to think what’s on your agenda for the day, then pick one thing that has top priority for you and give an answer out loud to yourself. Then, start working on your one thing early. Why? Your brain is more capable of tackling analytical and complex problem-solving tasks in the first few hours of the day.

Micro growth mindset goal #2. Learn one new thing each day.

What does learning mean to you? I don’t think learning should be limited to what your professor has assigned as your homework for this week, what’s listed on your current course syllabus, or what your university has designated as the curriculum for the academic year. Learning doesn’t have to be limited by your job description either, or a particular interest or hobby you’re pursuing on weekends. You can learn something new in many different ways. The key is in finding all the possible avenues where you can go in pursuit of knowledge.

How do you make the change? Instead of watching TV, you can choose to watch a documentary about everything there is to know on the history of pharaohs ruling ancient Egypt, the roadways that created an unparalleled infrastructure in the Roman Empire, or the specific leadership qualities of Alexander the Great. Or, you can research something practical and useful to your daily life, such as which foods can give you energy to train for a marathon or just get you through an interval training session at the gym. Regardless of what your topic of interest may be, it’s important to stay curious and willing to learn something you don’t have a firm grasp of right now.

Micro growth mindset goal #3. Use the morning to give your day more focus.

Make a promise to yourself that for the next month you won’t begin your day by reaching over for your phone, then spend the first waking hour scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It may sound like a bit of harmless fun, but a lot of it has to do with procrastination. I’ve often felt it, haven’t you? Do you ever wonder where that feeling comes from? In many cases, we tend to procrastinate because we feel overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do, so we end up postponing all those tasks for later. And that, right there, is a missed opportunity because we all have a finite amount of willpower that takes us through the day.

How do you make the change? Put away your phone for the first few hours each morning. Switch it to Airplane mode, turn the volume off, put it face down on a shelf or chair farther away from you. Next, take full advantage of the early hours by working on your most difficult tasks cognitive tasks that require your full concentration. For example, tackle that tough assignment you’ve been putting off all week—reading through a long chapter in your textbook or going to the library to gather material you need for researching a project— before lunchtime. If it’s Monday and you have homework due Friday, finish it today so it doesn’t creep up on you Thursday night when you get an invitation to see a movie with friends. Use a timer to divide your important tasks into 45-minute chunks, followed by a 15-minute break.

Micro growth mindset goal #4. Exercise some mind control.

If you start the day worrying about what lies ahead, and then turn to checking emails and social media, you’ll soon find yourself exhausted, distracted, and even anxious. The situation won’t improve as you go about your day, and the information will start to pile up. You’ll over-analyze, worry, stress out, and not be able to focus on the task in front of you. By the time evening comes, you will realize you’ve dabbled in multiple tasks, not finishing a single one, which will make you feel like you accomplished virtually nothing that day. Your mind will keep buzzing with negative thoughts and the feelings you’ll experience will follow suit—frustration, anger, disappointment, weakness, negativity.

How do you make the change? Start exercising some mind control. You are the sole owner of your mind, and it makes sense to impose control over it so it can serve you better. This pertains to thoughts you have and feelings you allow yourself to experience. Why is this important? You want to feel like you’re in power, like you’re in active mode instead of feeling like your negative thoughts and feelings are taking over your life. To make this happen, you need to clean up your mind. Start a short 10-minute meditation practice to calm your thoughts. Feed your brain the right kind of food instead of junk: watch science documentaries instead of endless sitcoms on TV, listen to podcasts, read books. Use positive phrases and words to improve the messages you give yourself, such as I am capable of solving this problem or I can learn how to improve this skill with daily practice.

Micro growth mindset goal #5. Ask the right questions.

Maybe you’ve heard of the phrase knowledge is power, and it’s true. Knowledge is your most powerful tool because it will help you understand the world around you, boost your communication skills with people in your environment, improve your grades in school or your productivity at work, and help you achieve the goals you set for yourself both professionally and personally. But there’s one small caveat—knowledge is power if you know how to use it. It won’t help you one bit if you just sit on it, keep it to yourself, ignore it completely or remain passive when it’s time to act. How can you gain knowledge and work on using it? By asking a lot of questions. Because that is the fastest way to finding out more about the world.

How do you make the change? Whatever you do, don’t just stay quiet and passively look on as someone is talking or explaining a new concept. There is no shame in not knowing everything right from the beginning. If you’re learning about a new process or tool at work that is unfamiliar to you, break it down into smaller chunks, then examine each one individually and ask the relevant questions. What are the components, where are the dependencies, what’s the end goal? If you don’t understand the vocabulary a professor is using in class, or if your textbook is full of words you’re not familiar with, make a list and then take out your dictionary and look up each word. And don’t stop there—ask yourself a few questions too. What have I learned from this? What have I created? How much progress have I made, and what will I do next to improve even more?

Micro growth mindset goal #6. Create your own growth mindset tribe.

Have you heard of the phrase that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with? You probably don’t give much thought to the company you keep, whether it’s people you live with or the ones you interact with on a regular basis. You could be part of a group of friends who have been hanging out together since high school. Or, you prefer going out for a beer or two with co-workers after you step out of the office. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s important to be aware how much those closest to you—family members, close friends, coworkers and classmates—can impact your mood, your attitude, your beliefs, and even what you see as your strengths or weaknesses.

How do you make the change? Don’t hang out with the same people by default or indefinitely. Ask yourself, Are my closest friends doing their best when it comes to improving their life circumstances, or are they mostly complaining about things that have happened to them and that they don’t deserve? You can keep your current friendships, but that’s not to say you cannot expand your inner circle. How to pick more growth mindset people to hang out with? Look for people who share your interests, either at the gym or at a library. Make friends with those who show a can-do attitude when they’re working through a problem, who take on a positive and optimistic tone when they’re talking about the future, and who make their best effort to work hard every day at something, whether it’s improving their skills or getting stronger in a physical, mental, or intellectual way. Ask them what’s helped them to move ahead. Encourage them in their pursuits. Build a relationship of trust and create your own growth mindset tribe.

Micro growth mindset goal #7. Commit to crushing your weaknesses.

Everyone has weaknesses, whether they care to admit it or not. For some, their weakness is sugar—they can’t say no to the box of cookies someone brings to the office. For others, it’s a constant need for attention—they want friends or partners to always be around, praise them, listen to them. And for some people, it’s feeling like a failure every time they walk into a math class—they feel miserable every second they’re going through the exercises and dread being asked to answer a question in front of the class. All of us—you, me, the person sitting next to you on the bus or at work—we all have weaknesses. But we don’t have to live by them or be defined by them.

How do you make the change? Start by shifting your mindset when you look at a particular weakness you possess. Ask yourself, Where is the opportunity in this? It’s clear I am missing knowledge or a skill set in order to do this better. What can I learn in this situation? Perhaps there are additional resources to look up, from finding a book to watching a YouTube video explaining how to develop a skill, or asking someone who’s been working on the same skill for a long time. Don’t stop there—ask yourself some tough questions to get you on the right track. Is this gap in knowledge—this weakness—something I want in my life? How will it affect me if things stay the same next year, ten years from now, or for the rest of my life? Do I accept that version of myself, or do I want to improve? What will I do to make the change?

 

A final note:

I am compiling my best growth mindset tips and would love to hear your opinion. If you want to incorporate a growth mindset way of thinking, which format would be most helpful to you to guide you through the process? It can be an online course, an e-book, a journal to track your progress, a printable version of this answer (or any other answers I’ve written on Quora), or something else. Please add a comment and tell me why you think that format would help you. Thanks for reading!

What can make me interesting?

 

I love this picture of Virginia Woolf. She was a writer, an interesting character, and in many ways ahead of her time. Someone who didn’t live by rules dictated by other people. A trailblazer. A unique individual.

What makes a person interesting?

It’s less about following, and more about leading.

It’s more about being original, and less about repeating what others say and do.

How do you become that person?

Here are a few tips and things for you to consider.

Tip #1. Become a great storyteller.

For many people, storytelling is in their DNA, and for others it’s a skill they want to nurture because they love the ritual of telling a story. You want to draw your audience in (even if it’s only one person), you get pleasure from adding details about an event that happened to you, and you love mixing in a good dose of humor to get people laughing. Stories and laughter are timeless. Years after hearing a good story, you’ll remember it fondly and retell it to others. A good story always stands out.

Tip #2. Have an opinion. Your own.

Just because your friends say that something is good, bad, interesting, dull, cool, not cool, totally acceptable or not, right or not right, does not mean you need to mirror what they say or do. Practice your critical-thinking skills. Ask yourself if the thing in question is important to you, and if it is, why it’s important. Or if it isn’t, then ask yourself why you should waste time on it. Question things. In fact, question everything! Don’t blindly accept what you’re told. Grow that critical-thinking muscle.

Tip #3. Be proud of what makes you unique.

Unique is what will make you stand out from the crowd. It may be your heritage, the value system you’ve been raised with, the color of your skin, the languages you speak, even the tiny bits and pieces of who you are. The way you like to cook your food. The books you keep on your bookshelf. Your music collection. The list of podcasts that you queue up to listen to on your commute. Your personal goals. The way you see your future. Pick something that you find beautiful in that mix, and nurture it every single day.

Tip #4. Embrace your right to dream.

This is a super important one. Yes, dream — and not just at night. Dream while you’re awake. Dream about possibilities. Dream about the what ifs. Dream in small pieces. Dream in minutes or even seconds. Give yourself the time to do it. Put down that phone, step away from the laptop. Go outside and get some fresh air. Create some space for dreaming. Let your thoughts go and conjure up scenarios that put you in the leading role of a brilliant future. And — more important than anything — never listen to people who tell you that you need to give up your dreams and grow up. Those people will never be your friends.

Tip #5. Stop talking non-stop.

Tricky one. But still important. Want to be interesting? Stand out by not making constant chatter a top priority. What can help you keep silent? First, don’t assume people are around to just listen to you. It’s not all about you. Wisdom comes through listening and observing. Listen to what people are talking about. Hear what they’re telling you. Focus on their words and the ideas they share with you. Observe their behavior. Ask questions and be curious about what they say to you. Be the best conversationalist in this way.

Tip #6. Respect yourself.

I cannot emphasize this enough. It is critically important. Because respect is where everything that’s truly relevant to your self-development begins. You need to value who you are, what you are doing, who you are becoming. You need to value your time and your efforts., and value your skills and what you’re good at. Have an awareness of your entire life journey and how difficult it has been to achieve the things you’ve already done. Don’t take everything you’ve accomplished for granted. If you take it all for granted, so will everyone else. Respect starts with you. Others will follow.

Tip #7. Focus on achieving mastery.

Being interesting is being unusual, and being good at something, being really really good, will always make you stand out above the rest. If you want to get better at something, you need to keep working on it. This applies to improving your personal relationships, picking up a skill you need for school or work, building positive habits, showing compassion towards others, and whatever else you believe is important to you in life. Don’t just talk about wanting to do things or try a thousand different things and then abandon them. Make something stick. Become a master step by step, in small increments, every single day.

Tip #8. Read books. And more books.

Reading does not apply to only stuff on the Internet, or what you have to read for school or work. I mean read books. Big books. Novels. Books written by Nobel prize winners. Books by writers who are considered the classics because they’ve stood the test of time: Dostoyevsky, Faulkner, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Woolf, Hemingway, Camus, Orwell, and many more. Explore other centuries, look for different points of view, discover characters who were challenged by circumstances similar to yours or perhaps not at all. Why should you read? To feed your brain. To expand your mind about what is possible.

Tip #9. Become someone people can look up to.

Everyone has heard stories about a friend, neighbor, or distant family member who did something foolish, unreasonable, selfish, or just plain stupid — that cost them something big, like a career or a relationship or even a bright future. Want to be different? Don’t be that person. Use your intelligence to make smart choices that will help you get on the path to become the best version of yourself. Make it a goal to become someone people seek to gain knowledge, or a reliable person friends come to when they need guidance or just a warm embrace. Or, make it a goal to become a hero — a warrior, a protector, someone who defends and takes care of others. You’ll be in a position to make a positive change in their lives, and that will put you in a unique category where you’ll stand out for all the right reasons.

How can I use Quora to improve my writing skills?

 

Make it a habit!

Quora, that is. It’s an excellent platform and workspace to get that writing muscle working. Plus it’s fun!

Keep in mind it’s super important how you use it, and what else you can do to maximize your Quora writing experience.

These 5 ideas have worked well for me in the past few years, as soon as I started writing on Quora.

Quora writing idea #1. Use it as a reason to become a real book nerd.

In the pursuit of writing, either for pleasure or for work, the reading part gets often ignored and undervalued. In my opinion, this is a mistake. If you care for the act of writing, and if you have a deep love for the written word, then you should expose yourself to literature on a regular basis. All kinds of literature. Fiction and non-fiction. Writers from different countries. This means always being in research mode, discovering authors and topics they’ve written about, creating lists of what to read for the month and even the year, going to the library and making trips to the bookstore a weekly thing, then setting aside time to sit down in a quiet corner and absorb the world written on the pages. As you’re reading, a good idea is to do it always with a pen or pencil in hand so you can take notes, write down passages or quotes, and add page numbers for future reference.

Quora writing idea #2. Nurture a curious mind every single day.

Why is curiosity such a big deal? Because being curious is critical to the creative process. How can you be a writer if you’re not curious and not always in learning mode? Curiosity will drive your writing habit if you know how to channel it correctly. For example, let’s think about what being curious means in daily life. It can be trying to get to the bottom of a literary concept to understand its meaning (look up epistolary fiction as a quick exercise, then check out a few examples of books in this genre), or finding out how something works, or observing people’s behavior, or listening to others speak. When you have the word why in your daily thoughts, when you try to dissect a concept different ways to make it easier to understand, and when you discover more ideas along the way that need to be explored, you will know that you are going in the right direction.

Quora writing idea #3. Write about something that can provide value to others.

When it comes to writing on Quora, maybe you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk as you write (or try to write). Maybe I don’t have anything valuable to say! Maybe I just like writing things that are interesting to me, but are boring to other people! Don’t think of the issue in those terms — because that’s exactly where your strengths may be. You may have an original idea about how to start a side hustle like your own podcast. Perhaps you experienced a life-changing event that made a dramatic impact on you and changed the way you view your personal life or your career. Maybe you’ve mastered practical tools for broadening a skill or increasing knowledge in a particular field such as the Russian language, military history, or app design. The key is to always be aware of why you are writing something and who could potentially benefit from what you know.

Quora writing idea #4. Get self-disciplined about your writing.

Self-discipline is good to have in many areas of your life, and writing is no exception. It’s actually one habit that most famous writers, from Ernest Hemingway to Stephen King, have incorporated into their daily life and from which you can benefit as well. But first, I want to give you a reality check. You may think that all writers write because they hear the call of their muse telling them what to write and when. That’s not exactly how it happens! It’s super important to understand that the process of writing has little to do with inspiration and much more to do with making a continuous effort to master the skill of writing. If you’re serious about improving it, then your writing needs to be a habit, a necessary part of daily life, a time to sit down and get into the deep work. In other words, you should make it a priority and not an option. Treat your writing seriously. Nurture it daily, water it like a plant, give it space to grow. Be patient with it and give it more time. Make it the most important part of your day.

Quora writing idea #5. Create a dedicated space for your new habit.

In order to make your writing habit stick, it’s a good idea to turn it into a ritual. First, sit at a desk that’s close to natural light. Next, prep your tools of the trade: your computer, notebook, pens, highlighters, loose leaf paper for jotting down notes quickly. You might also need reference materials such as a thesaurus or whatever else you’re using as a reference for your work. Use your phone or watch to your advantage — as a timer to divide up your work into segments to get more done. Switch your device setting to Airplane mode so you don’t get distracted by text messages or incoming emails. Speaking of distractions, use these tips to create a quiet space for yourself. Finally, prep some refreshments: a thermos of coffee or tea, a bottle of water, and a snack such as fresh fruit or dark chocolate. And there it is — everything is set to get you in the right frame of mind to start your writing ritual. Give it a try!