What are the five most important things for a woman to learn in life? (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

#6. Don’t automatically assume the role that others expect of you.

In most cases, expectations of male and female roles are passed on from generation to generation without a second thought. You might already be experiencing feedback from parents, neighbors, relatives, partners, even friends on what is expected of you. Maybe they were taught that girls can’t be good at math or physics, nor should study to become engineers or chemists. Or maybe they’re convinced that it’s shameful for a guy to cook a great dinner by himself or study the history of art. Instead of falling into the trap of mimicking a fixed mindset, work on developing a growth mindset. Nurture your skills and strengths, and build on them consistently so that you can master them over time. As Carol Dweck shows in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, there’s so much you can do to change your attitude and accomplish whatever you believe is important in your life.

#7. Understand the difference between liking yourself and wanting to be liked by others.

What’s the harm in wanting to be liked? Everyone feels a need to be part of a group or to belong somewhere, and being liked makes it that much easier to belong to a group of people. But constantly wanting to be liked by others is a double-edged sword. Being popular in school, for example, may sound cool to you right now—just like having thousands of Instagram followers as you’re sharing pictures and videos of your daily life. The downside is this: it can take you on a path where you become dependent on the admiration and attention of others. Did you consider what happens if that attention goes away, or when you get criticized? That’s why your top priority is to like yourself first, because that’s where your inner strength lies. Build an awareness of your core skills and strengths, know what is the value that you add to the lives of people close to you, and you’ll feel much stronger for it.

#8. Work on creating your own boundaries.

It may sounds like a negative idea at first, but understanding the concept and importance of boundaries can actually work for you as you go through life. Having boundaries in place is critical in any number of situations where people are being pushy or disrespectful of your time and space. For example, if a friend insists on hanging out but you want time to yourself, you can set boundaries by making yourself unavailable or just saying that you have other plans. If you don’t like someone taking up your time, set boundaries by telling them you’re busy and don’t have an hour to devote to them. And if someone asks you to finish up a task that is their responsibility, set boundaries by saying no firmly and tell them it’s their job and not yours. It may not feel comfortable at first, but treat it as a muscle you are building until it starts to feel more natural. Think of it this way: if you need to get your life to a better place and accomplish the goals you set for yourself, you can’t afford to spread yourself too thin. You will need both time and space to create the future you want.

#9. Build up a thick skin.

It may not be the easiest thing in the world to do, but developing a thick-skin definitely helps us to deal with the negativity that we will inevitably face at many points in our life. This especially applies to criticism which can come from where you least expect it—people closest to you, including family and friends. It can also apply to negative feedback you’ll most certainly receive at work or school, because nobody is exempted from it. So what does developing a thick skin entail? It doesn’t mean removing all emotions and being nonchalant about whatever people say. It’s more about learning to expect criticism, instead of taking it personally and as an attack on you by someone who wishes you harm. If you learn to expect criticism, it won’t faze you much when you actually do receive it. How can you do this? Pay close attention to how the message is delivered. Constructive criticism is when someone suggests that you do something in a different way, which means it can work to your advantage. Conversely, if someone is “negging” you—making a negative comment disguised as a compliment—see it as destructive behavior and let the person know that you won’t put up with it.

#10. Build a strong sense of self-respect.

Sounds like such an obvious thing, but it’s not as common as it should be. And this is not gender-specific, of course—whether you’re male or female, it’s important to respect yourself. What does respecting yourself mean? It can mean you should respect your time because it’s a precious commodity and you need to value it. It can mean you should respect all of your efforts that you put into school, work, and building your relationships. It can mean respecting the knowledge you have acquired over time because it shows an investment you made in yourself, or respecting your values because they build the core of who you are, or respecting the goals that you believe are important in your self-development. In a nutshell—don’t take your self for granted. Value who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and who you are becoming. Always remind yourself of how long it took to get here, and be proud of your achievements, both large and small, as you’re working towards becoming that best version of yourself.


What are some awesome tips for developing better self-discipline?

Tip #1. Today, make a decision that you are going to own your day.

Let’s be clear on this—making a decision isn’t about mumbling a few words to yourself. It’s not abstract and it’s not vague. In fact, it’s more about training your brain to get focused on what it needs to do as soon as you wake up. Here’s how I practice it. I start my day with this question: “What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?” This technique gets my brain to start evaluating the goals that are important to me right now and forces me to prioritize one goal that needs attention immediately. In addition, with this technique I give myself the time to think about what’s important in my life, instead of letting other people or situations dictate what I should or shouldn’t be doing.

How can you do this?

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 dressed. 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.

Tip #2. Work on maximizing your willpower instead of underestimating it.

When we wake up to begin our day, it’s common for most of us to feel a sense of overwhelm because there are so many things we need to do, from small routine tasks to working on large projects towards bigger goals, both professional and personal. As a result, our first response might be to delay doing anything (because it’s hard to decide what to do and in what order), which translates into a bad habit of procrastinating. That’s a self-imposed obstacle. Why? Because we all have a finite amount of willpower that takes us through the day. And that willpower gets weaker and weaker as the day progresses. So if you think you’ll start writing that essay after dinner, think again. Chances are you’ll put if off some more and turn to your TV instead.

How can you fix this?

Practicing self-discipline means that if you want to focus on priorities, you should work on them early. As early in the day as possible—in fact, start right after breakfast. Do that task that you’ve been putting off all week before lunchtime. Write up a plan for the school or work week ahead of time. Finish up doing homework or reviewing your exam questions that you’ve been procrastinating on for days because you’d rather do something more fun. The benefit? You gain a sense of accomplishment early that will make you feel better about the whole day.

Tip #3. Commit to building a positive habit by keeping it simple.

OK, so you’ve figured out that there’s something in your life you’d like to change because you don’t like what you’re currently doing (or not doing). It can be a fitness goal you’d like to reach (start running in the mornings like you used to in college), a health benefit (stop eating dinner in restaurants three times a week), or better manage your time (get more sleep instead of watching shows on Netflix until 2 a.m.). All those new habits you want to acquire will need self-discipline, time, and repetition. If this sounds unappealing, it’s because you make it sound that way: you feel like you “should” be doing something difficult when you’d rather be relaxing.

How can you fix this?

First, stop telling yourself that in order to achieve something good for yourself you need to punish yourself. That’s the wrong attitude to have for anything in your life. If you keep at it, you’ll give up on everything that’s potentially good and even life-changing. Instead, make every change a choice that you make in order to become a better version of yourself. And next, make the change as easy as possible by starting with tiny steps. Instead of saying you have to hit the gym for two hours each evening after work, do a mini-workout at home for 10 minutes each day to give your body time to adjust. Or, start going to bed 15 minutes earlier and read a good book or listen to relaxing music to help you fall asleep faster.

Tip #4. Learn to reign in the millions of random thoughts that run through your mind.

When I was in my teens, I noticed there were thousands of thoughts bouncing around in my mind. The more I read, absorbed new information in school, talked to my friends, interacted with family members, and observed the world as a young adult, the more confusing everything seemed. I started to awfulize about so many things. What’s worse is that I thought it’s just me! Nobody surely thought this way. And then as I grew up I realized that it’s not just me, it’s all of us. The older we get, the more cognitive input we have, and we often struggle to categorize this input. What’s relevant to our life and what isn’t? Which problem do I need to solve? Is this something I can control or can I let it go?

How can you fix this?

First, be aware that if you feel overwhelmed with information about the world around you, if you have negative or self-critical thoughts, and if you find yourself ruminating on past events and personal failures, you are not alone. The good news is this: even though you may think it, you are not your thoughts. You are much bigger than your thoughts! And second, start considering a few new habits to reign in those thoughts and categorize them as relevant or just dramatic. You can start with a 10-minute meditation to calm your thoughts and even slow down the chaos. You can devote 30 minutes a day to spending time outdoors, in a park or by the beach, to tune out the busy noise around you. And you can work on adjusting the mindset you have about your own skills and abilities by getting a copy of Carol Dweck’s book Mindset.

Tip #5. Say no to all those distractions that take you off the path you’ve chosen for yourself.

If you think that all these gadgets and toys we have at our disposal today are to blame for getting distracted easily, think again. Even the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote about this, and the topic is featured in his book On the Shortness of Life. Yes, distractions and pointless activities were very much a challenge for people in ancient Rome! For example, Seneca describes people’s struggles with gluttony, vanity, focusing on materialistic things, and always trying to impress others. Does that sound familiar? Maybe today we don’t host lavish banquets where we impress guests with an endless feast of food and wine, but we do pay attention to what’s displayed on social media and we observe the images of surreal lifestyles on Facebook or Instagram. And that often leads to feelings of dissatisfaction, envy, and self-criticism.

How can you fix this?

First, if you do spend time on social media, make sure you take everything you see and hear with a grain of salt. Chances are those pictures and updates are not a real representation of everyday life, but rather a tactic someone is using to sell a product, service, or brand. And second, don’t waste your time on distractions if they don’t serve the purpose of adding value to your life. Set your phone to Airplane mode when you need to focus, especially in the first few hours of the day. Let people in your inner circle know you won’t be available in the next few hours until you get important tasks done. Check your email and social media apps in the afternoons and evening, instead of spending the first 30 minutes of your day focusing on them. The same applies to browsing the Internet and reading the daily news while you’re at work—close all tabs on your browser that may be tempting you to unfocus from your top priorities for that day.

One final thought:

Like with everything in life, in this case it all comes down to attitude. 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 other people tell me is good for me. It’s all about what it affords me. My approach is this: self-discipline = freedom. By practicing it daily, self-discipline trains my brain to prioritize the things I can control, allows me to let go of what I cannot, and gives me time to focus on what will get me to my ultimate goal: becoming a better version version of myself every single day.

Is there any self-help book that really changed your life?


Can I make a slight edit to this question?

How about we change it from self-help and make it about self-improvement?

I’ll tell you why.

To me, when we use the word help, there’s a sense of urgency. If you’re in trouble and you don’t have ample time to contemplate which step to take, you say, Help! It’s about emergencies, rapid decision-making, and solving—in most cases—one specific problem or issue.

On the other hand, when we use the word improvement, there’s a much wider path that’s open to us. OK, so maybe we still feel a sense of urgency because we find ourselves in trouble, there’s a problem that’s on our mind, or we find ourselves repeating self-destructive behaviors but can’t seem to find a way out. Regardless of the problem, we need a solution. But the open path means that we can give ourselves the time to learn, solidify, retain, practice, and adopt new habits that can get us on the path to achieving a personal goal.

Does that make sense?

Now on to the answer.

One self-improvement book that has changed my life, and is still changing it every single day, is Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. To say that it’s changed my life is also an understatement. It has make me question so much about not only my life, but human behavior in general! And it’s helped me understand that we as human beings have so much power in our hands to make our lives so much more. Lives that are better. Smarter. More fulfilling. More valuable. And with more purpose.

To summarize, Dweck’s book is about our mindset—the set of attitudes and beliefs we have about the world around us, people we interact with, and ultimately about ourselves. She suggests that the view we have of ourselves can dramatically affect the way we lead our life. Dweck makes an important distinction between two types of mindsets that people generally have. One is a fixed mindset—believing that our skills, strengths, and qualities are set in stone and there’s nothing we can do to change them, for better or for worse. The other is a growth mindset—believing that we can cultivate those same skills and qualities through long-term dedication and effort. While a fixed mindset is adopted over time by listening to messages from a young age about what we can, should, or shouldn’t do (usually by parents, relatives, teachers), a growth mindset is nurtured primarily by ourselves as we deliberately select those learning opportunities that can benefit us.

What does practicing a growth mindset look like in real life?

Here are 5 ways to incorporate it into your day so you can see what a difference it can make.

Growth mindset idea #1. Learn something new every day.

It’s not limited to what’s on your current course syllabus or school curriculum for the year. It doesn’t have to be limited by your job description, or even a particular interest or hobby you’re pursuing in the evening hours or on weekends. You can learn something new and different in many ways. You can spend an evening watching a documentary about everything there is to know on ancient Egypt, artificial intelligence, or Alexander the Great. Or, you can research something practical and useful in 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. Whatever it is, one thing is key— stay curious and be willing to learn something you do not know right now.

Growth mindset idea #2. Create your own “growth mindset” tribe.

You may have heard of the phrase that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. And chances are, you 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. Still, it’s important because you may not be aware of 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 can you pick more growth mindset people to hang out with? Make friends with people who show a can-do attitude, who take on a positive and optimistic tone when talking about problems, and who work hard every day on getting better at something. Get to know them better and nurture friendships with them.

Growth mindset idea #3. Change the way you look at success.

Here’s an excellent example of fixed versus growth mindset. If you’ve adopted a fixed mindset, you think being successful means that things come easily and effortlessly to you or to someone else, whether it’s being a straight A student or a chess champion. The downside to a fixed way of thinking is that people get too comfortable in doing something well with little effort. So what’s the growth mindset way of thinking? Instead of thinking that success is being the best, you start thinking of success as doing your best. This means you switch your focus from staying in the comfort zone to coming up with ways to improve how you do your work, such as breaking down a difficult task in smaller and more doable increments, or waking up a bit earlier each morning to practice a positive habit such as doing yoga or going for a run.

Growth mindset idea #4. Declare war on your inner lazy self.

Here’s another excellent example of how your fixed mindset can be undermining your efforts. If you have a fixed mindset, as soon as you achieve a goal (pass an exam, turn in a large project ahead of the deadline, or win a prestigious competition), you tend to slip into a complacent mood. You sit back, take it easy, pat yourself on the back for doing so well…. and then just expect things to go smoothly in the future. With a growth mindset, you don’t let things go that easily. Yes, it’s important to take a breather, acknowledge reaching an important milestone, and appreciate how far you’ve come. But give yourself a time limit. Then be proactive to make sure your success doesn’t just fall into oblivion. For example, if you’ve passed your exams, don’t spend your entire vacation on the couch watching TV or gaming; instead, build a cool new skill that excites you such as learning karate or playing electric guitar.

Growth mindset idea #5. Don’t get envious, get proactive.

It’s not a big surprise to start feeling envious whenever we hear a friend, coworker, or acquaintance start talking about something wonderful that’s happening in their life right now. It can be a number of things—they just began attending a course they’re fascinated with, they started a personal project they’ve been putting off for years and are now fully engrossed in it, or they’re starting their own business and adore their entrepreneurial lifestyle. What’s a better way to deal with such news? Resist the urge to feel envious that things are going well for them, and instead take a cue from them and spend some time brainstorming original ideas of your own. Which project can you start that can improve the quality of your life? How can you make a career decision that will benefit you in the long run? Write your ideas down, then come up with a plan to turn them into actions. And that, right there, is practicing your own growth mindset—one new idea at a time!

What can I do in a 30-day period, on a daily basis, to start myself on the way to become the best version of myself?

You can develop a laser-sharp focus on who exactly is the best version of yourself. What are the goals of the ideal version of you? Which skills does the ideal you possess? And what does the big picture of that ideal life look like?

Chances are, like most of us, you’re probably so busy with your everyday life that you rarely have the time to contemplate any of this. So you put it off. Maybe next time when I’m on vacation I’ll think about it. When the semester is over. When I have more money. Just not now.

And before you know it, days rush into months, and months turn into years. And you still have no idea of who the best version of yourself could be. But what if you make a decision right now to use the next month of your life to find out more about the ideal you? When you do, the time that lies ahead of you will work in your favor, because every month and every year will get you closer to your ultimate goal.

Where to begin?

Here are 7 tips you can follow this month to get on the path to becoming the best version of yourself.

Tip #1. Develop a personal goal.

You should always have a specific goal that is driving you to succeed. When you do, everything you do in your daily life will have a greater sense of purpose. Take a day or two to write down the personal goal you are going to focus on for the month.

  • Make sure your goal is precisely formulated. 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 [insert job title you want] that pays an annual salary of [insert amount you believe is fair given your skills and experience] so that you can develop [insert specific skills you have as well as those you’re working towards].
  • To help you focus on your goal, start 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 on that particular day, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed with making too many choices and instead you are free to focus on what’s most important to you.

Tip #2. Create a strategy to achieve your goal.

Goals are important, but so is developing your strategy. While you are focusing on what you want to do right now, always keep your eye on at least two steps ahead. Once you’ve defined your goal, take one day to think about the strategy.

  • Consider different avenues and approaches you may need to take to get you closer to your goal. Maybe you’re used to doing things a certain way, so it’s a great idea to challenge yourself and try doing something differently.
  • Don’t focus on achieving short-term success you will feel today; instead, consider the benefits of your actions in the long run. For example, think of how the choices you make at school or work today will affect your lifestyle five years from now.
  • Don’t think only of who you are right now, at this stage of your life; instead, think of who you want to be in 5 or 10 years. By being strategic you will empower yourself to achieve long term results that your future self can benefit from.

Tip #3. Brainstorm a list of skills you need to succeed.

It’s impossible to be successful without a required skill set in your field of work, regardless of whether it’s studying for a degree, being a software developer, training for a marathon, or getting fit. Here’s what you can brainstorm after you’ve written down your goal and strategy:

  • Identify skills of thought leaders who have mastered something in their field of expertise. Do the research to find this out. For example, do you know what makes them unique? By identifying patterns in behaviors of others, it becomes easier to emulate them and develop successful traits in ourselves.
  • Identify which skills you want to work on.From the list of skills of thought leaders, consider the following: Are any of their skills necessary or helpful for you to succeed in doing your job? Which are the top 3 skills in your field of study or work are most in demand? Which skills do you need to get better at doing your job?

Tip #4. Work on each skill consistently for the rest of the month.

Nothing will get done automatically. You’ll need to map out what you need to do, starting with the early morning hours. Here are some ideas.

  • Use your mornings wisely to set the tone for the day: Develop a morning routine so that you can work on your skills earlier in the day, when your brain can focus better and your schedule doesn’t stand in the way.
  • Create a plan to develop your top 3 skills consistently each day. Block off time in each day, including weekends, to work towards your goal of acquiring the skills you’ve identified as most important to you.
  • Work with your schedule. If you have one hour to devote in the evenings, then block this hour off every day and don’t let others sidetrack you. Turn off all of your distractions. Sit in a quiet room, or if that’s not possible in your home, go to the local library. But if one hour is not realistic given your schedule right now, then set aside 15–30 minutes to work on one skill. The time will add up in a big way, and you will still be able to see results after 30 days.

Tip #5. Whenever you feel the urge to procrastinate, replace the words “I can’t do this!” with “Why not try it?”

Hey, we’re all guilty of procrastinating at some point as we’re working on our goals, whether they’re small daily ones or really big ones. This is quite normal and it’s a human reaction. But there’s something you can do to deal with the procrastination.

  • First, ask yourself if there is something else hiding behind procrastination. Maybe it is fear of not being able to do something successfully, not being able to be better at it than other people, or maybe not even understanding why we are doing something to begin with.
  • Next time you feel like procrastinating, rather than immediately reacting with “I can’t do it,” ask yourself where the resistance is coming from. Be honest with yourself. Start with providing an explanation, for example by saying, “I can’t because….” Then you’ll know the source of your resistance.
  • Think of what you gain when you say “Why not try it?” You win over fear and you start thinking beyond obstacles. There is something powerful when you leave a door open to explore possibilities, instead of shutting that same door in your own face. It’s a subtle change in your attitude that can have a big impact in your life.

Tip #6. Take ownership of your free time.

Why not admit it? At some point in our lives we have all let television, commercials, mass media, or social media control the way we spend the little free time that we have in the evenings. Instead of just giving in to passive forms of entertainment and then finding yourself hours later wondering where the time went, why not plan what you want to do with your free time?

  • Use an hour after dinner to do some strategic thinking. Since this is the time of day when the brain slows down and is freed from the deadlines you impose on it earlier in the day, use the time for creative thinking. For example, if you’re working on your goal for the month, consider your progress so far. How are you making progress, is it going well, or are there obstacles you didn’t expect? What can you do next time you run into an obstacle? How can you be better prepared for the next day?
  • Watch documentaries you can learn from. YouTube is full of them (search for BBC and History Channel documentaries), so go ahead and search the topics that interest you. Check out British historian Bettany Hughes and her series called The Ancient Worlds to learn about everyday life in ancient Alexandria, Rome, Athens, and about the way society was organized among Minoans, Spartans, and the Moors. Another excellent 3-part series by the BBC is Ibn Battuta: The Man Who Walked Across the World.
  • Start reading more books. It doesn’t matter if they’re fiction or non-fiction. What’s important is that you feed your brain, learn new things, time travel, and absorb the life experiences of other people. If they’re excellent storytellers, you will soon be drawn into their world so that you cannot put the book down. To start, check out recommendations on the best books of all time on Quora. Or download the Goodreads app to get recommendations, add books to your bookshelf, and track your reading progress.

Tip #7. Keep learning, keep improving, keep hacking your life.

Now that you’ve started to incorporate some changes into your life to remain focused on things that are your top priority, all you need to do is continue moving forward. Life is not static, and your efforts should also not be static. Think about ways to improve what you’re doing each day.

  • Measure your progress. Find ways to measure how you’re moving forward. Maybe you’ll set aside 30 minutes each day to focus on learning a new skill. If so, add up the hours at the end of the week and see if you can add more time each day, even if it’s just a few more minutes. Then see how many hours you’ve devoted to it in a month.
  • Evaluate how you’re doing. Ask yourself a few questions to understand how you’re keeping up with the goals you’ve set for yourself. For example, did some activities you started doing take more time than you anticipated? What could you have done better? Where can you make adjustments to stay on track?
  • Take time to appreciate the change. Yes, it’s important to make progress, to stay focused, to reach that important goal. But every step of the way in getting there is super important too. So find the time each evening to pause and reflect on what you’re doing, and give yourself some well-deserved praise for all those efforts. You’re finally on the right path to becoming that best version of yourself!

What’s the number one thing that motivates you every morning?

Easy. It’s this question that I ask myself every morning within the first 5 minutes of waking up:

What is the ONE thing I am committed to completing today?

Here’s an explanation of why it’s so motivating to me, and why it might help you if you’ve often found yourself struggling with getting motivated to do something that is on your to-do list or that is a necessary step in achieving a personal or profession goal.

ONE. Why is this question important to me?

  • It simplifies my life. I don’t overwhelm myself with too many choices I need to make on any given day.
  • It encourages me to think strategically about my life one day at a time.
  • It keeps me focused on my goals instead of getting distracted by other things.
  • It forces me to prioritize what it relevant over everything else that is not.
  • It serves as a personal promise to myself to do what I’ve identified as critical to my personal or professional development.

TWO. How can you incorporate this question into your daily life?

  • Write it down: take a large sheet of paper and write the question in big bold letters.
  • Hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall so it’s easy to see.
  • Make it part of a unique background for your computer or cell phone.
  • Use it as the main heading at the top of your journal entry for each day.
  • Ask the question aloud as you are brushing your teeth or getting ready.
  • Give an answer on the spot out loud, or write it down in your journal.

THREE. How can this question make a positive impact on your life?

  • You train your brain to focus on what is most important to you, and you don’t waste it on things that are trivial, irrelevant, or distracting in any way.
  • You gain a sense of purpose when you are focused on your personal commitments: it gives your life meaning, helps you understand you have something of value to contribute, and improves the quality of your day-to-day life.
  • You save time when you know in advance the work you need to accomplish, so that you don’t waste hours evaluating multiple priorities throughout the day, which can be exhausting.
  • You help your brain perform more optimally when you’re committed to just ONE thing, so that it becomes freed from cluttered thoughts and it has more space to concentrate on what you consider the most important goal of your day.

How do I motivate myself when I am failing at every stage of my life?

I’ll let you in on a secret about failure: no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape it. You may think you have a lot of things going for you, or that you’re on a winning streak, or things just feel really good. And then it happens. Sometimes you get a warning signal, or a bunch of red flags flapping in the wind, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes it quietly creeps up on you, and by the time you feel it, it’s too late to change course.

Or is it?

Maybe the solution is in how you train your brain to think about failure.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s not what happens to you in your life that matters, but rather how you react to it that will determine the course of your life.

So how do you train your brain to stay motivated despite all the failures you experienced?

Start with these 7 tips and follow up questions to ask yourself so that you can gain a fresh perspective on what to do differently.

Tip 1. Congratulate yourself for making it this far.

Yes, if you hadn’t failed, by now you’d be celebrating the big win. But whatever happened to all the effort you put into it? That doesn’t just disappear. It’s really important to give yourself kudos for every small step you put into it. Why is this important? Your brain doesn’t know the difference between progress and perceived progress, so you’re better off giving praise for the small steps you’ve taken. Watch this TEDx Talk featuring B.J. Fogg, the Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, to see why the secret is not in the big wins but in the small ones.

Question to ask yourself:

  • What is one thing I’ve done successfully in the past month: did I finish a big chunk of a project, meet a deadline, learn how to use a tool to do my job better, or finish a semester at school?

Tip 2. Resist getting emotional about it.

Sometimes it’s that voice that you hear saying, I can’t do it! It’s too hard! I’m going to give up! If it is, just chalk it up to the fixed mindset talking. What’s a fixed mindset? It’s your belief that your personality, skill set, and strengths are “fixed” i.e. you have them from birth, and that that’s just how it is. What’s better? Adopting a growth mindset: believing that you can cultivate strengths and skills through your efforts. That is hugely empowering! Read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success to better understand how you can make lasting change with continuous effort.

Question to ask yourself:

  • Do I say something is difficult because I’ve always found it challenging to do, and how would I change this if I could start all over again?

Tip 3. Tap into the bigger picture.

Ask yourself, Why am I doing this? Whatever you are working on, zoom out of your current situation and connect with the initial reason you started doing it. This will remind you that your actions are directly linked to your personal or professional goals. Maybe you started working on acquiring a new skill such as playing an instrument to fulfill a lifelong dream. Or, you are studying for exams, so that you can get a degree that will open doors for you to embark on an exciting career and gain financial independence. Or maybe you’re looking for a job that is a better fit for your skill set and your career path than the last one you had.

Question to ask yourself:

  • Why is this challenge so important to me? What is at the core? What will I gain from solving it? What will this mean to my life in the long run?

Tip 4. Consider that you could be a victim of self-sabotage.

Maybe it’s not external factors that are making a task impossible, even though you’d like to think so (My manager hates me! or The professor is deliberately making this exam difficult to pass!). Maybe the real reason is you and what you’re doing (or not!) to make it difficult to reach your goal. Is that entirely impossible? Not really. It’s more common than you may think. Check out this article to find out how changing your environment or adhering to the 2-minute rule can break this bad habit.

Question to ask yourself:

  • What is really behind my negative self-talk, am I scared to do something or is there one thing that’s blocking me?

Tip 5. Start anticipating obstacles and prepare for them.

When we are faced with an obstacle, we tend to stop what we’re doing and start reacting: we get emotional, we complain. It’s not fair! It’s impossible to fix! But complaining won’t change a thing. What will make a difference is getting proactive. How? First, start anticipating that there will be obstacles you will encounter on your path. If you prepare yourself psychologically for them, they won’t feel so devastating when they actually do happen. Second, use the opportunity to learn something new, to take a different approach to the problem, to think it through, and to try something different that can yield better results. And third, take advantage of the tough times to achieve mastery in one area so that you can become an expert at it. That way you proactively take advantage of your full potential, and you use your strengths to accomplish what you want to do with your life.

Question to ask yourself:

  • What are 3 things I can do when I am faced with an obstacle? Which solutions can I brainstorm so that I have them ready in case I need them?

Tip 6. Create a peaceful place in your mind.

More important than tidying up your apartment or house, it will benefit you greatly if you regularly work on keeping your mind clean and uncluttered. Why? When it’s not full of jumbled thoughts, confusion and worry, it can work its real magic. And how do you do that? By practicing mindfulness through meditation. This small practice doesn’t require a lot of time, it’s simple to follow, and it has many benefits, including better focus and more concentration. You can try it early in the day so that you prepare your brain for the day ahead, or you can practice it at night so you have more restful and calm sleep. Download the Headspace app to start with a simple 10-minute session.

Question to ask yourself:

  • When can I set aside 10 minutes today to practice mindfulness?

Tip 7. Make the time to take a well-deserved break.

We tend to feel bad about the decisions we made or the things that happened to us when we’re tired and our brain is exhausted from trying so hard to do things successfully. Maybe you’ve spent hours sitting at your desk or working on a challenging task, and your brain needs a break. What are some things you can do? If you don’t have a deadline later in the day, take a few hours off and go outside for a walk or a bike ride. You can take a power nap to get energized to work more later. Or you can find other ways to relax, such as listening to music or reading a chapter or two from a good book.

Question to ask yourself:

  • What is an activity that relaxes me that I can treat myself to doing today?

What are some of the best life-changing books?


Here are 7 books that have made a big impact on my life most recently, along with a few details on why I think they’re important:

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca.

There’s so much timeless wisdom in this book! A collection of letters written by Seneca, it’s a dense read but be warned—you’ll be taking notes from every letter because each one is full of practical advice we can incorporate into our lives. And maybe it’s an even better idea to read it through once, then go back and take notes the second time—you’ll be glad you did. The letters cover quite a large selection of topics. You’ll get to the bottom of what is the importance of true friendship, to why you should exercise your mind daily, to specific ways of reducing anxiety about all the different events that are happening in your life, Seneca’s ideas are a blueprint for living a high quality of life every single day.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

Written by two decorated, former Navy SEALs who fought during the war in Iraq, this book is a glimpse into what happens on the battlefield, and even more how a leader makes (or breaks) the success of a team. It’s a fascinating read about the importance of setting a strategy, how to prioritize what needs to be done first, how critical it is to check your ego, and why taking full responsibility when things go wrong promotes good leadership and success. At times the book reads like a thriller, and then you realize all the scenarios that are described are based on real events and experiences we can learn from and apply to our daily lives.

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David, PhD.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to acquire a growth mindset, this book is an informative and excellent read. Written by a psychologist PhD who teaches at Harvard Medical School, the book introduces the concept of emotional agility—being flexible with our thoughts and feelings (the equivalent of having a growth mindset), instead of being rigid and holding on to beliefs from our past (the equivalent of having a fixed mindset). There are four key concepts of emotional agility: showing up (facing your thoughts and feelings), stepping out (detaching from them), walking your why (focusing on your core values), and moving on (getting proactive in changing your habits and mindset).

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport.

The title comes from advice that the comedian Steve Martin gave a while back to aspiring entertainers: be so good they can’t ignore you! Newport challenges the advice we often hear that we should follow our passion, and says that going down this path can be dangerous, invoke anxiety, and feed into a constant need to reinvent ourselves. Instead, Newport argues that matching our dream job to a preexisting passion doesn’t matter, but that passion comes after we put in the hard work to excel at something that provides value to others. This is a must read for anyone who feels they don’t really have any specific passion and are not sure how to choose their career path or move forward with their life.

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss.

This book looks and reads like an encyclopedia: there’s so much information included and it’s best if you read it in small chunks! In essence, the material is divided into three sections (Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise), and consists of a comprehensive collection of life experiences, tools, and hands-on tactics compiled from a series of interviews Ferriss conducted with world-class leaders in diverse fields of expertise. These leaders range from top athletes to best-selling authors to Special Ops commanders. It’s like drinking from a very concentrated cup of wisdom!

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman.

The Daily Stoic is almost like a workbook: it offers 366 days of quotes of Stoic philosophers as well as practical applications of their wisdom through exercises. The philosophers mentioned include Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, Zeno, and Cleanthes. Here are two examples of powerful quotes: “We suffer more in imagination than in reality” (Seneca), and “We all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own” (Marcus Aurelius). In other words, everyone can find something here they can relate to! There’s also a ton of commentary to accompany each quote, and a super useful glossary of Greek terms.

Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story by Jewel.

The artist provides a blueprint on how we can build strength and resilience in order to become a stronger, better balanced, and happier person. Instead of being impatient with ourselves, we should be more like hard wood that grows slowly: not look for quick fixes, but focus more on who we want to become in the long run. Jewel suggests this is possible to do by making decisions that aren’t focused on only the present, getting to the root of the problem we’re facing, and giving ourselves the permission to grow so that we can become the architect of our dreams.