What are ways to not be average?

 

Be honest. What scares you about being average? Just going through life? Just letting time tick away? Letting every day be just like the day before? Letting things happen to you instead of for you?

Or is it that you’re worried your life will not be extraordinary in some way? Maybe you think others are doing more important things whereas you don’t have the vision of where you need to go, or which skills you could improve to make a name for yourself?

Regardless of your answer, what’s important to understand is this: being average might just mean you aren’t being proactive about your life. It’s likely that you spend your days in reactive mode, and your motivation to do or be anything different is at a low point. And right now you’re reading these words because the situation is bothering you. You feel like something needs to change. You don’t want the feeling of being and staying average to remain a part of your everyday life.

And that is GOOD!

Now, what can you do about it?

Short answer: you need to start taking control of your life.

And starting today, that needs to become your top priority.

Here are 10 tips that can help you gain more control over where you want to go.

Tip #1. Start expecting things. BIG things. Things you can be part of. Things that you can change for the better: the status of your education, a problem at work, the way you lead your personal life. Imagine a better scenario for yourself, consider what needs to happen to make it a reality, then come up with a concrete plan. And don’t stop there. Do something, starting today, however small, to make it real. Give it 5 minutes today. Then do some more small things tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.

Tip #2. Have an opinion. YOUR OWN. Just because your friends say something is good, bad, interesting, dull, cool, not cool, totally acceptable or not, 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. Don’t blindly accept what you’re told. Grow that critical thinking muscle.

Tip #3. Be proud of what makes you unique. 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. Your book or music collection. Your goals. The way you see your future. Pick something that you find beautiful in that mix, and nurture it every single day.

Tip #4. Dream. This is a super important one. Yes, dream—and not just at night. Dream while you’re awake. 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. Create some space for dreaming. And never listen to people who tell you that you need to give up your dreams and grow up. Those people? They’re clueless.

Tip #5. Stop talking non-stop. Want to avoid being average? Don’t make constant chatter a top priority. What can help? To start, don’t assume people are there 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. Learn about the world in this way.

Tip #6. Respect yourself. Because respect is where everything that’s truly important to your self-development begins. Value who you are, what you are doing, who you are becoming. Value your time and your efforts. Value your skills and what you’re good at. Be aware of your entire journey and how difficult it is 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 mastery. If you really 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 at them step by step, in small increments, every single day.

Tip #8. Read. Read a LOT. Not only stuff on the Internet, or what you have to read for school or work. 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, Hemingway, Camus, Orwell, and so many more. Explore other centuries, different points of view, characters who were challenged by circumstances similar to yours or perhaps not at all. Read to feed your brain. Read to expand your mind about what is possible.

Tip #9. Stop treating your cell phone as a crystal ball through which you see life. It may be a mini computer feeding you information packaged in attractive apps. So you open your eyes in the morning and immediately start scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. Throughout the day, you keep checking for more notifications, text messages from friends, news alerts. Every single day. How do you make things different? Don’t let your phone rule your life. It’s a tool that can make information more accessible, yes. But be aware of how much time you devote to it. Change things. Look up. See the world. Experience it in real time. By yourself.

Tip #10. Work on becoming a person others can look up to. You know those stories your friends share about someone who did something unexpected, illogical, unreasonable, selfish, foolish, or just plain dumb, or chose something that took them off their life path and caused them to lose focus of what’s truly important in life? Don’t be that person. Use your intelligence. Make smart choices—big or small—and make sure those choices all help you get on the path to become the best version of yourself. Create a personal goal to become someone people seek to gain knowledge in a particular field of expertise, or to be a person friends come to when they need guidance or just a warm embrace. Or, strive to be someone’s hero (or as the Greeks called ἥρως (hērōs): a warrior, a defender, a protector. All those goals will empower you to lead an extraordinary life. And there’s nothing average about that!

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What are five books I should read to improve my life?

 

Should?

Not sure about that. We all have different tastes in books, authors, topics, and writing styles. But I’ll share with you these 5 books that have made a lasting impression on me in the past couple of years—so much so that I’ve re-read them, took detailed notes and wrote down quotes, talked about them with friends, and recommended them to anyone who cares to ask, “What should I read to improve my life?”

Pick one and see what you think. And let me know!

Book recommendation #1. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.

One of my most recommended books of all time, this book is what I call a true game changer. In a nutshell, it is an exploration of mindsets and human psychology, and how the view we adopt for ourselves over time profoundly affects the way we lead our life. Dweck explains the difference between a fixedmindset—believing that our qualities are set in stone, that we can only have a certain level of intelligence or personality type, and a growth mindset—believing that we can develop our skills and abilities through continuous efforts and change with our life experiences.

Book recommendation #2. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David, PhD.

The book introduces the concept of emotional agility. Emotional agility means that we can be 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).

Book recommendation #3. On the Shortness of Life by Seneca the Younger.

Seneca, a Roman Stoic philosopher and political figure, wrote this blueprint for how to lead a high quality of life which he called a “life of tranquillity.” The book is essentially a list of practical ideas on how to achieve a tranquil lifestyle, such as changing your attitude towards the challenges in your life, thinking your way through difficulties instead of allowing yourself to be surprised when they occur, being flexible as opposed to rigid in your reactions, valuing your time instead of wasting in on trivial things, and focusing on a specific and meaningful goal. It’s an excellent resource to browse especially if you often find yourself reacting to other people and random events that distract you from doing what’s most important to you.

Book recommendation #4. Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss.

I’ve read Tools of Titans and thought it was an encyclopedia of excellent advice, not to mention the pages of notes I took as I was reading. And then I got this book, and it was even better. Kudos to Tim Ferriss for curating this collection of conversations with people who are leaders in their field, who are original in the pursuit of excellence, and who lead interesting lives we can definitely learn from. The topics covered range from personal dilemmas around fear and failure, to achieving excellence and making decisions that will be right for you and what you want to accomplish in your personal and professional life. You’re guaranteed to find advice for a dilemma you may be thinking about right now!

Book recommendation #5. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.

I’m a big believer in the concept of deep work, and I practice it daily—both in my professional and personal life. That’s why I found this book so useful. It explains the importance of deep work—the ability to focus on cognitively demanding tasks in order to achieve more in less time. The author uses a ton of real-life examples to explain why maintaining focus is a challenge in the 21st century as we lead a lifestyle that revolves around distractions, mainly emails and social media. He also provides simple and practical suggestions on how to deal with distractions and how to master your deep work so that you can excel at whatever you do—in a smarter way.

What 10 things can I do now to have a better life?

 

Right now?

Here’s my suggestion.

Promise yourself that you will start making smarter choices every day.

And don’t make it an empty promise. Be specific. Follow up. Repeat. DAILY.

Here are 10 smart choices you can make every single day.

Smart choice #1. Fuel your brain with a nutritious breakfast.

When you feed your brain right, you can optimize your cognitive performance, boost memory, and increase concentration in everything you do during the day. Make it super simple: try oatmeal. Over medium heat, cook one cup oats. Remove from the stove and add 1 tablespoon flaxseeds (an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid which is a healthy fat that boosts cerebral cortex function), 1 teaspoon peanut butter, a sliced banana or other fresh fruit, and some walnuts or almonds on top.

Smart choice #2. Boost your focus each day with one question: What is the one thing I am committed to learning today?

This tiny habit keeps things simple, helps your brain focus better, makes you prioritize your goals, and streamlines your work so you don’t feel overwhelmed by a thousand things you feel you have to do. Write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. Read it out loud and come up with an answer on the spot as you’re brushing your teeth or getting dressed. Then, keep it top of mind throughout the day as a reminder of what you’ve committed to do.

Smart choice #3. Do your toughest mental tasks early.

Think about these tasks as doing your deep work—it can be analytical thinking that requires the most concentration such as reading, writing, analyzing or problem solving—and it requires a different kind of focus from other more tactical things we do on a regular basis. Set aside 2-4 hours after you wake up to maximize your brain’s peak performance time. If, for example, you wake up at 7, your peak times are between 9 and 11 a.m.

Smart choice #4. Divide your day into short increments that are easy to manage.

Why spend endless hours working, studying, or doing errands without taking a single break? That won’t help you to stay motivated, and you’re much more likely to quit because you’ll eventually get exhausted. Instead, start organizing your tasks with a timer. Set your timer to 30 or 60 minute chunks so your brain can focus in a more targeted and effective way. Once it starts feeling like a habit, build up to even shorter working sessions with the Pomodoro technique— 25 minute blocks followed by a 5-minute break.

Smart choice #5. Practice being more mindful to declutter your mind.

If you find yourself often feeling overwhelmed and stressed, you’re definitely not the only person on the plant who feels this way. The older we get, the more it seems there’s a lot of stress in our lives and that stress can wear you down. To declutter your mind from all those busy thoughts, try a simple 10-minute meditation practice. Download the Headspace app, which makes it super simple for beginners. Find a quiet spot in your home and practice 10 minutes consistently for 10 days. You can choose to increase the time to 15 and 20 minutes, or stay at the 10 minute mark if it feels right for you.

Smart choice #6. Be rigorous about reducing your social media intake.

If you actively make this change, you’ll find that it’s easier to focus your attention on your daily activities, whether they’re work-related or something that makes you feel relaxed. Where to start? Don’t browse the Internet, YouTube or other favorite websites for hours. Be strategic about it. If there’s something specific you need to search for, research a topic. Or, if you want to catch up on the news, leave these activities for later after you’ve completed the daily goals you need to accomplish. Don’t let social media dictate your life. The only person who should control what you do with your time is you.

Smart choice #7. Turn off your TV.

Sounds like an extreme tactic, but it really works. What else can you do for entertainment? Watch a documentary. It’s entertainment and learning, combined with fascinating details and often excellent storytelling, especially if it’s created by BBC. You’ll find many on YouTube for free. Some ideas are The Ancient Worlds, Empire of the Tsars, and the entire BBC channel Timeline: World History Documentaries. If you like to learn about ancient Greece like I do, watch Athens: The Dawn of Democracy narrated by historian Bethany Hughes.

Smart choice #8. Read a chapter from a book.

Here’s some food for thought: reading fiction improves brain function and boosts connectivity in the brain. Neuroscientists from Emory University published a study called Short and Long Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain explaining this experiment in detail. Getting into the reading habit does take a bit of time, especially if you haven’t been reading books on a consistent basis. To make it easier to start, get a library membership, download the Goodreads app to help you find topics or writers you’d like, and get a book that excites you and makes you curious about what happens next.

Smart choice #9. Listen to a podcast on your way to work or school.

It doesn’t mean it’s all about listening to the daily news. It can be a totally different experience! Think of podcasts as brain food to help you make the most of your commute time, and an excellent way to improve your critical-thinking and creative skills. Where to start? Some of my current favorites include Optimize with Brian Johnson, The Art of Charm, Kwik Brain Podcast, The James Altucher Show, and The Tim Ferriss Show. If you’d like more recommendations on specific episodes, you’ll find additional details here.

Smart choice #10. Grow your mindset.

If you think that a mindset is something you’re just born with, think again. Unlike having a fixed mindset (where you believe you’re born with a set of skills and abilities that are in your “nature”), cultivating a growth mindset means you push yourself outside your comfort zone, challenge your beliefs on what you can and cannot (or “should not”) do, and reprogram your mind so you can develop your core qualities and skills through continuous efforts. Curious to learn more? Read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success to find out how practicing a growth mindset can change the way you see yourself and the potential you have to become that best version of you in the future.

Why don’t I have any self-discipline?

So many possible answers. Maybe you don’t have a clear vision of your goals and what you need to do. Or maybe you’re vulnerable to all sorts of distractions, from checking your Instagram feed to answering the phone whenever it rings. Or—and this is something many of us can relate to—you believe that the words self-discipline sound like a punishment we must impose on ourselves. And who is ever in a mood to punish themselves on a regular basis? isn’t life tough enough as it is?

Regardless of your answer, the fact is this: you feel that you lack self-discipline in your life, and you are aware that if you had it, things would improve for you. So how do you get to a place where self-discipline is a way of life for you?

First, you should identify what a self-disciplined life can afford you. It can give you back more time to your day that you can devote to your personal and professional goals. It an also be a a path to achieving mastery over your life. Finally, it can give you the freedom to express the best version of yourself. Sounds like there are a lot of benefits, right?

And now let’s take a look at how you can instill self-discipline into your life. Here are 7 tips to choose from.

Self-discipline tip #1. Take care of your essentials.

Before you embark on your path toward any type of achievement, it’s important to cover the basics. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that means meeting the first level of physiological needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. Here is the first opportunity you have to practice self-discipline.

  • Food. Eat not just to be full, but also to stay healthy and maintain your brain’s optimal performance.
  • Exercise. Physical exercise is critical to performing well in every area of your life, so make sure to make it is a daily habit.
  • Sleep. When you’re sleep-deprived, you’ll never be able to function at optimal levels, either physically and mentally. Be sure to get enough sleep.

Self-discipline tip #2. Get smarter about using your willpower.

When we wake up, it’s not uncommon that we easily get overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do, so we end up procrastinating and postponing our tasks. That’s a critical mistake, because we all have a finite amount of willpower that takes us through the day. If you want to focus on priorities, work on them early.

  • Do that task that you’ve been putting off all week before lunchtime. It’s going to take much less time than if you leave if for the evening.
  • Write up a plan for the school or work week ahead of time. That way you won’t panic when a deadline is approaching.
  • Finish up homework you’ve been putting off because you’d rather do something more fun. You won’t need to stay up all night making up for lost time.

Self-discipline tip #3. Start making commitments to yourself.

Commitments aren’t just promises you make to other people. You can—and should—make them first to yourself. A great way to begin is to define a very specific goal you want to achieve in a certain time frame. Here are a few examples of what you can commit to.

  • I am committed to focusing on my studies in the next 30 days so that I can pass all three of my exams with top marks.
  • I am committed to finding a job in 6 months that is both a good fit for my skill set in and is in a company whose values I share and respect.
  • I am committed to building my physical endurance by running 4 times a week for 3 months so that I can be prepared to participate in a 5K race.

Self-discipline tip #4. Make a new habit stick by keeping it simple.

Every habit we’d like to acquire needs self-discipline, time, and repetition. If that sounds uninspiring, maybe it’s because you feel like you should be doing something difficult when you’d rather be relaxing. Be honest—if you’re reading this, chances are you feel that it’s time to make some kind of change in your life: start working out, stop eating out so much, get more sleep, find more time to spend with family, watch TV less. To simplify a change you’re trying to make, start with tiny steps.

  • Do a mini-workout at home for 10 minutes this month before you buy that gym membership.
  • Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual to give yourself time to de-stress and relax with a good book or soothing music.
  • Prepare and pack your lunch the night before so you don’t rush in the morning or eat junk food when you get hungry at noon.

Self-discipline tip #5. Start saying no more often.

Have you ever found yourself running out of time to do what you need or would like to do? It probably means you’re wasting time and energy on things that are not that important in the long run. Start building up your “no muscle” in small ways each day:

  • Just because there’s leftover chocolate cake in the fridge, it doesn’t mean you should eat a double portion for the next three days. Put it away, freeze it for another week, or bring it in to work to share with others.
  • When you’re in the middle of finishing up a project and a friend calls to invite you to a party, it doesn’t mean you should drop everything and go. It’s okay to politely say no and stay focused on your goal.
  • When you’re in a dilemma about whether to commit to something or someone, think about your priorities. Be aware of what is important to you, so you’re less likely to ignore what is key to your personal and professional growth.

Self-discipline tip #6. Anticipate that you’ll experience resistance.

When you expect everything to go well all the time, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that you get disappointed from time to time. Life throws us a curveball every now and then, and even though we cannot always control what happens, what will ultimately make a difference is how we react to what happens. It’s therefore more beneficial to us if we plan ahead for those moments when we feel stressed out, tired, or simply in a bad mood and nothing seems to be going right.

  • First, tell yourself that whatever it is you’re feeling, it’s an emotional reaction and it will pass. Don’t give in to the urge to make decisions in that emotional mindset.
  • Second, resist the urge to give up doing something that you know is good for you. Just because it feels uncomfortable today doesn’t mean it won’t have a positive impact on your life.
  • Third, nurture a growth mindset. Instead of telling yourself that you are “just not smart enough” to take on a new language or “good enough” to start practicing karate, give yourself the time to learn new things. You’ll be surprised how much you can do when you keep an open mind.

Self-discipline tip #7. Believe in yourself.

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you find yourself in at the moment. You can be a college student, a new employee just starting at a big company, a parent of a newborn, a college graduate looking for a job, or an entrepreneur trying to get a business up and running. Believing in yourself is going to be a critical factor in helping you achieve your goals, no matter how small or big they are.

  • Start thinking about self-discipline in terms of the big picture of your life. Although it may feel like sacrificing some things right now, what does being disciplined afford you? If you are focused on achieving your goals, how can they add up a year from now?
  • Put yourself in the driver’s seat of your life journey, instead of letting situations and external factors dictate how you will act. Don’t allow yourself to get carried away for emotional reasons so much that you lose track of why you started working on a goal to begin with.
  • Most important of all, believe that you can do it. When you do, self-discipline will become a skill you can apply to many areas of your life— your education, your career, and even your personal relationships. It will guide you and keep you focused on your future, and more important than anything else—it will get you closer to becoming that better version of yourself you’d like to see.

Which habit changed your life?

Honestly?

Every habit that changed my life is one that I stuck to, repeated, focused on, and executed every single day.

No excuses, no procrastination, no questioning “should I even do this?” — because if I wanted it to really change something, I knew I had to be disciplinedabout it.

And to be clear, it wasn’t just one habit that changed my life. It was many of them. Here are 5 habits I believe are important to me, that have made a big difference in improving the quality of my life.

Life-changing habit #1. Starting the day with a morning routine to give me energy.

How did it change my life?

I used to be a night owl, going to bed regularly at 2 a.m., sometimes later. But there are tons of benefits I’ve felt since switching to a morning routine. Unlike before, I don’t feel dread or overwhelm as soon as I wake up because of all the things I need to finish on that day. I feel that I’ve become the master of my own time because I select what I want to work on first. In addition, I feel more calm knowing in advance what my day will look like.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Hack your morning alarm. Create an alarm that is friendly to your sleepy self. Pick a ring tone that’s unusual but not irritating, make a recording of your own voice saying a positive message, or queue up some music that you find uplifting and energizing and schedule it to play when you need to wake up.
  • Meditate to reset your brain. It can help you cope better with the thousands of random thoughts that occupy you throughout the day and may contribute to your feeling stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed. Download the Headspace app and practice for only 10 minutes; it’s great for absolute beginners.
  • Do a short 15–20 minute workout. It can be a morning yoga routine, a a set of sun salutation poses or a 20-minute power walk. It won’t take a lot of time, but you’ll feel the benefits for hours.

Life-changing habit #2. Asking one simple question every morning: “What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?”

How did it change my life?

This single habit is probably the biggest game changer for me. As soon as I wake up, I look forward to practicing it because I know it will boost my concentration. This tiny question simplifies my life, it helps my brain focus better, it makes me prioritize goals, and it streamlines my work so I don’t feel overwhelmed about having to accomplish too many things in a single day.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Write the question in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. The important part is that you can easily see it as you’re brushing your teeth or getting ready.
  • Read it out loud as you start each day, and come up with an answer on the spot. The trick is to get your eyes on it so that it becomes second nature and you don’t even think about having to glance over to it any more.
  • Keep your answer top of mind as you go through your work for the day, so that you don’t get distracted by other things that might take you away from what’s important to you. It will be a constant reminder of what’s your top priority.

Life-changing habit #3. Saying “thank you” for what I have in my life right now.

How did it change my life?

Practicing gratitude makes a big difference in how one feels about one’s life. For me, it’s trained my brain to focus on positive things that are already a part of my daily life, instead of focusing on what I haven’t yet accomplished or acquired. I feel that being grateful keeps me grounded in my personal life because it gives me time to think what’s good for my growth, or what’s beautiful about my immediate surroundings or an event I’ve experienced.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Do it early. When you start your day with gratitude, you will feel the effects throughout the day. All it takes is 5 minutes of your time, so you won’t feel it takes away from your hectic morning schedule. You can write things down, say them out loud, or just think about them.
  • Start small. Focus only on 3 things you are grateful for today. It can be the simplest of things such as having a warm bed to sleep in, a roof over your head, a friendship that is important to you, a dog or cat that you have as your pet, or an event from the previous day that made you happy.
  • Be specific. If it’s a friendship you’re grateful for, emphasize which qualities of your friend you are grateful for (they’re warm, kind, or incredibly funny). If it’s having a warm bed or your own room that you feel gratitude about, describe why this is important to you.

Life-changing habit #4. Doing my deep work early in the morning.

How did it change my life?

Deep work—any kind of analytical thinking that requires the most concentration, such as reading, writing, analyzing or problem solving—a mental task that requires a different kind of focus from the other more tactical things we do on a regular basis. Since I switched to doing my deep work early (instead of leaving it for nighttime, during my night owl days), I don’t run out of energy and motivation. It frees up my evenings so I can work out and catch up with friends.

How can you start practicing it?

  • Set aside 2-4 hours after you wake up for deep work. Many scientists say that this is the brain’s peak performance time. If, for example, you wake up at 7, your peak times are between 9 and 11 a.m. You can extend this time to whenever you have lunch, around midday, if you want to maximize your peak performance hours.
  • For one week, keep a log of what you do during your peak times. Are you focusing on your important mental tasks? Are you learning new material, solving complex problems, reading, or writing? For most people, this time is usually spent commuting to work, checking email, making phone calls, watching or listening to the news, chatting with co-workers or attending meetings.
  • Re-organize your peak brain performance time. Think of how you can rearrange the things you do early that are less important to your personal and professional development. Like to stay on top of the latest news? Save this activity for your lunch break. Emails are waiting in your inbox? Be careful of how much time checking email takes, and choose 2 blocks of time to go over your emails— in the mid-afternoon and at the end of your workday.

Life-changing habit #5. Being selective about how I feed my brain.

How did it change my life?

Like most people, I observed my limited free time go by very quickly with TV episodes, movies I didn’t find mentally stimulating, or listening to the radio on my daily commute. The worst part was that I didn’t really get anything of value from all that so-called entertainment. Over time, I realized that I needed to be much more selective about how I want to spend that time so that it is beneficial to my personal development.

How can you start practicing it?

I’m trapped and stuck in my comfort zone because of my lack of confidence and I hate to take risks. How can I change my life in a better way?

 

There’s nothing comfortable about it if the words you use to describe your situation are trapped, stuck, lack of confidence, and hate to take risks.

I, for one, would run away from that comfort zone as quickly as possible!

What will help you get out of your situation?

For starters, get your brain on board by thinking of all the advantages you’ll have by getting outside of your comfort zone.

Like…

Advantage #1. Growth. When you confront something challenging, it usually happens outside of what you’re used to. This forces you to come up with solutions to deal with it, and you’re more likely to learn things you wouldn’t have had to otherwise.

Advantage #2. Flexibility. Every time you are out of your own environment, you learn to adapt in order to survive. You realize that you’ll need to develop skills to communicate better, get answers to questions, and use what you have to make the most of it.

Advantage #3. Wonder. Getting out of your comfort zone still shows you the world is bigger than you thought: there is still much to discover, stuff to learn, people to meet, conversations to make you ponder, little things to make you wonder and question and keep your mind open.

Advantage #4. Wisdom. Exploring new territory means gaining experience in life. Experience is necessary to learn. Learning should lead to knowledge. And prolonged seeking of knowledge should lead to wisdom. This takes time. It’s the best way to make time work for you.

Advantage #5. Self-discovery. How can you know who you can become if you keep yourself sequestered in your current life? What if you take on a tough challenge, go for that goal that seems next to impossible, and stretch yourself beyond what’s possible today? What if this opens doors for you to discover strengths that can help not only you, but also other people? To find out the best and strongest part of you, it will take a journey outside comforts. It will be risky, for sure. But who you’ll become in the process—now that will be priceless.

Okay, so now that you’ve considered the benefits, the next questions is this:

How do you get unstuck, take more risks, and get to a better place?

Here’s a suggestion.

Next time you feel comfortable and tell yourself, I don’t feel like doing this right now,replace that sentence with a question: Why not?

Maybe you don’t feel like doing something because you lack motivation. You don’t see the point of taking action. And so you procrastinate. As we know, procrastination doesn’t really require a lot of effort; it’s almost a default reaction to something challenging that’s in front of you.

When you ask yourself why not, you make a subtle shift in your mindset. Here’s how.

  • You give yourself a chance to consider there’s something else hiding behind your procrastination. Maybe it is fear of not being able to do something at all, or doing it successfully, or even doing it more successfully than others. It’s not about being lazy. Quite the opposite— it’s something blocking you. Who knows, it can even be your competitive side that’s sabotaging you!
  • You have the opportunity to find out where the resistance is coming from. It’s the perfect time to get to the root cause of the problem. Be honest with yourself about what’s really holding you back. Is it a lack of knowledge in one area? Maybe you’re embarrassed you don’t know how something works. Is it not having the skills? Maybe you need to hide this from others. Is it something you’ve been told to avoid because it’s “not” for you? Maybe you’re dealing with prejudices or stereotypes in your culture, family, or circle of friends. Or you may be feeling pressure because someone is forcing you to do it? Find out why you are resisting moving forward, so that you can finally do something about it.
  • You have the unprecedented advantage to win over fear. Here’s where your adjusted mindset can really work for you. Consider this: there is something powerful when we leave a little space open for possibilities, instead of shutting the door in our own face by limiting ourselves. When we make this shift, we give ourselves time and space to grow, learn, acquire new skills, and ultimately get closer to becoming the best version of ourselves we want to see in our future. So why not try it?

What are some of the books that are really worth reading that you can recommend?

 

I’ve been thinking about, taking extensive notes on, and talking through the concepts in these three books in the past several months. I found them to be interesting, thought-provoking, and excellent brain food!

Book #1. Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss.

I’ve read Tools of Titans and thought it was an encyclopedia of excellent advice, not to mention the pages of notes I took as I was reading. And then I got this book, and it was even better. Kudos to Tim Ferriss for curating this collection of conversations with people who are leaders in their field, who are original in the pursuit of excellence, and who lead interesting lives we can definitely learn from. The topics covered range from personal dilemmas around fear and failure, to achieving excellence and making decisions that will be right for you and what you want to accomplish in your personal and professional life.

Here are some concepts to give you an idea of what a treasure trove of information this book really is.

  • Naval Ravikant, CEO of Angel List, says that happiness is a choice you make and a skill you develop. We accept ourselves as we were programmed when we were young, and then grow to accept our inner voice that talks all the time as the source of all truth. But you don’t have to accept your programming—everything is malleable and every day is new. You can learn to control your mind, and you can change the way you think, do things, and react to events.
  • Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, defines excellence as something concrete rather than abstract. Excellence is the next 5 minutes or nothing at all. It’s not a grand aspiration, or a compelling vision of something in the distant future. Rather, it’s the quality of your work and the quality of the conversations you have with people. It’s something quite tangible because you get to focus, improve a skill, and achieve mastery.
  • Ferriss himself gives his own take on the power of words we tell ourselves. He says that the power broker in your life is the voice that no one else hears but you. How well you revisit the tone and content of your private voice is what determines the quality of your life. It is the master storyteller, and the stories we tell ourselves are our reality. Think about that for a minute—we create our reality with the stories we tell ourselves every day!

Book #2. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.

This book is the first book I recommend to friends, acquaintances, and people I share interesting conversations with. It is the true definition of the phrase game changer. Why? Because it will challenge your understanding and concepts you’ve accepted as your “true nature.” The book explains in detail how we adopt a certain mindset about our abilities very early in life, due to the messages we receive from our environment, parents, and teachers when we are still very young. These messages develop into our understanding of what and how we “should” study, what our strengths and weaknesses are, and what we must avoid. You will learn the difference between two mindsets and how much they can be either empowering or detrimental to your studying: a fixed mindset (believing that your skills and talents are set in stone) and growth mindset (believing that you can grow and cultivate your skills over time through continuous efforts).

There are specific ways in which you can grow your mindset and practice the concepts described in Dweck’s book. Here are a few ideas.

  • Refuse to quit when things get tough. Maybe you’re in the middle of reading through a tough chapter in preparation for an exam, and your mind is just not into it. Or, a task you’re doing at work is boring and dull for you. The solution? Don’t give in to the urge. Keep going. Imagine that your brain is making connections as you’re working through a problem, and it will learn from this experience. Don’t quit halfway.
  • Don’t focus on problems, obstacles, or things you don’t currently possess. Whenever you do, you put yourself in reactive mode. Life shouldn’t be about just reacting to what’s happening to (or around) us. It’s much more empowering to be proactive. For example, if you’ve encountered a problem, it’s better to think of alternative solutions to getting it fixed. Or, if you’re envious that a close friend just accepted an offer of their dream job, it’s better to map out what you want out of your career and come up with a six-month plan to get your dream job.
  • Make specific plans to grow your mindset each day. It’s not going to happen automatically—you need to take ownership of your day. Start with this question: What are the opportunities for learning and growth today?Write down a short list of 3–5 items to choose from. Be specific. If you need to do research on something, write what exactly you’ll need to do and how long it will take. If you need to practice a skill, write down where you’ll start practicing it and how. Always focus on answering when, where, and howyou’ll proactively growing your mindset, so you set your own path to making it happen.

Book #3. Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind by Srini Pillay.

Srini Pillay is an M.D. in psychiatry and pioneer in the field of neurocoaching—a combination of applied neuroscience, performance psychology, and neurolinguistics. In this book he takes a creative approach to deconstructing the concept of failure and provides alternative ways of dealing with it. In a nutshell, rather than continuing to be afraid of failure and doing whatever we can to avoid it, we should see failure as a teacher that can take us on a path to self-discovery. If we embrace it, failure can teach us how strong and resilient we can be in challenging times. That’s why it’s worth it to change our mindset about failure and what it can do for us.

Pillay describes a 5-step system to rewire the brain so we can adjust our mindset and learn to react differently to failure.

  • Address the negative self-talk head on. If you find yourself awfulizing and imagining worst-case scenarios at work or during an argument with a friend, ask yourself, is the feedback I am getting relevant or is it just dramatic?Relevant feedback is getting advice or an opinion that is helpful to you: you can learn to understand something, you get to hear an explanation, you receive advice on how to improve your performance. Dramatic feedback is just that—drama. It’s not helpful, it can be an emotional reaction, or just someone venting but with no substance to the story.
  • Get to the bottom of your resistance. You could be starting a new habit such as a workout routine or maybe you just enrolled in graduate school and everything seems different so you’re having second thoughts. Ask yourself, what’s at the core of my resistance? In most cases, it’s either people, places or things. Sometimes we’re used to working with a certain personality type (let’s say, introverted people). Other times, we dislike our new environment because it’s noisy, too small, or too far away from home. And in some cases, we might resist working with new software, different computers, or tools we’re not used to.
  • Forecast the future. Instead of letting your brain start generalizing that every outcome is certainly going to be devastating to you, hit the pause button and give a forecast of the future based on what you already know. Ask yourself, what is the likelihood of things happening? Take a look at the hard data: the number of hours you already devoted to a task, the number of chapters you’ve covered in a textbook, or the amount of work you’ve completed on a project to date. Then, use this information to apply it to the future. It’s difficult to ignore the facts as long as you acknowledge them.
  • Re-evaluate your efforts. Maybe you’ve spent years working at a company or you’ve invested a lot of time in a personal relationship but you’re unsure whether you’re a right fit for each other. How do you deal with it? Ask yourself, if I keep doing this, is my effort worth it? If you’re not seeing results, you may be focusing on the wrong thing and it’s time to let go. And if you’ve been trying to reach a goal using shortcuts or quick fixes but not moving past the first step of getting there, it may mean your approach needs a major overhaul in order to see a positive move in the right direction.
  • Take action. Let’s face it: there’s a time to think, but also a time to stop overthinking. Ask yourself, what is the first step I can take to move forward? For example, if you spend hours online reading articles, ask yourself if there’s something you would like to write about. Maybe a specific topic you find fascinating, or something you just started researching but know little about, or a skill that you’d like to learn? Then give yourself 30 minutes to begin—write a question on an online forum such as Quora, jot down a brief outline of five things you’d like to write about, or simply do a little freestyle writing in your journal each morning to describe what you’re thinking about that day.