Tag Archives | Habits

Why You Need to Make a Life Plan

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Do you have a life plan? Have you ever thought about how to make a life plan? Most people haven’t, but they should.

We are not talking about a 50-page business plan with maps and checklists. A life plan is really just meant to be general summary of where you are now in all the areas that matter to you, where you want to improve and what you’d like your life to look like in the future.

Don’t be scared off by the title. It may sound ominous, but creating a life plan does not need to be a difficult or lengthy process. It’s worth an hour to get the life we want, instead of chasing the wrong things and working hard, only to find that we have been following the wrong path.

How would you rate your life? – Are you satisfied with the way your life is right now? Somewhat satisfied? Not at all satisfied? The answer is for your eyes only. No one else needs to know. Be honest.

What is going on in your life now? – Briefly summarize the current state of your life. Consider your health, career, relationships, finances, spirituality, and emotional well-being. Add any other areas of life that are important to you. Don’t take too much time with this. Just write down what your life is like right now.

What makes you happy? – Think about what you enjoy. Think about things that are going well in your life. Include activities, people, and situations that bring you joy, satisfaction, or just make you laugh.

What are the happiness drains? – Pinpoint the drains on your energy and happiness.Determine what people, behaviors, choices or situations cause stress, anxiety, or a negative mood. We all have life toxins; people or things that suck the life out of us like vampires draining our life force.

What isn’t working in your life? – Think about where you want to improve. Identify your obstacles to living a fulfilling and happy life. Consider the lingering challenges in your life; health, fitness, weight, lack of organization, an unsatisfying or dead-end job, a difficult or damaging relationship. Perhaps, you simply need to manage your stress better, get more balance, or just learn to laugh again.

What would your ideal life look like? – Describe in detail what kind of life would truly make you happy to get out of bed in the morning. Describe what you would be doing, whom you would be with, and how you would be feeling. Be honest and be clear. It’s important to be really clear about what you really want in your future.

What do you need to do to get that life? – Think about what needs to happen for you to get from where you are now, to where you want to be. It doesn’t have to be a detailed action plan right now, just some general goals or ideas to work toward. You can get more detailed later, but you need to define a target. Consider what habits you’d like to adopt or whatways you might change your attitude or environment.

More food for thought

What do you really want to accomplish in this life?

What kind of person do you want to be?

What is most important to you in life?

Why do you want whatever it is that you want?

How would you like to be remembered?

What will your life be like if you never change the way it is right now?

Post originally written for lifehack.org

Photo by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³

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10 Simple Ways to Find Balance and Get Your Life Back

1balanceLife balance seems to be the topic on everyone’s mind of late. We have discovered that maintaining a healthy life balance is not only essential for happiness and well-being; it can be a tremendous boost to your productivity and career or business success as well. A well-balanced person has a far greater ability to focus their attention and energy on attaining their goals, taking productive actions and moving forward in a meaningful way.

The big question is…What does life balance really mean? What would a balanced life look like to us? And most importantly, how do we go about achieving it in the midst of our crazy schedules?

There are steps you can take to change what isn’t working and get back some control and balance in your life. And once you start seeing results you’ll be better equipped to maintain that new-found equilibrium. The key is not to try to change everything at once, but to make small adjustments over time to determine what works for you. Eventually you will have a whole new set of positive life habits and you’ll never look back!

  • Turn it off – Disconnect on the weekend. I hear the excuses already, but try it, at least for one day or even a few hours each night. Put the phone down and turn off the computer. Give your work brain a rest. Bonus: Spend the extra time actually interacting with your family and friends!
  • Trim, trim, trim – It’s a given that if your life is overflowing you will never be able to achieve balance and manage it all. It’s just not possible. Say no to everything that is either not essential or doesn’t add something valuable to your life. Be ruthless!
  • Pay attention to your health – We hear this over and over again, but usually only give it lip service. We know what we need to do, but it isn’t a priority until we have a health crisis. Our health really does affect the quality of our lives and our work. We are far more productive and happier when we get enough sleep, eat a little healthier and fit in some type of activity.
  • Minimize toxins– By that I don’t mean chemicals (though that might help too.) Minimize the negative influences around you. Avoid toxic people (complainers, whiners, poor attitudes.) If you can’t completely avoid them, at least minimize contact and tune them out as much as you can. Surround yourself with positive, supportive, can-do people whenever possible
  • Spend time alone – Making time for you is probably the hardest thing to do for the typical overworked and overwhelmed person, but it is crucial for lowering stress, increasing happiness and encouraging creativity. Some things to try; meditate, write, sketch, do some yoga or simply sit quietly for a few minutes each day and do absolutely nothing. You can do it!
  • Relationships do matter – Set aside quality time with your family and friends. Don’t just sit in front of the television, really connect and pay attention to those you care about. Make a date with your significant other, have coffee with a friend, play a game with a child. Really get to know the people around you.
  • Treat yourself– Get a pedicure or a facial. Better yet, schedule a massage. It doesn’t need to be costly; a glass of wine, your favorite coffee or tea, a delightfully scented candle or beautiful flowers will make a huge impact.
  • Explore the world - Take a walk and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Take a new route, visit a new town or try being a tourist in your own. Attend a local performance, play amateur photographer or go to the park and watch children play. They really know how to enjoy life!
  • Expand your awareness – Take a class, learn to paint or try something new that you’ve always wanted to learn. Read a book that sparks your interest or try listening to uplifting music. Find what interests you.
  • Remember fun – Laugh, joke, play, find your sense of humor, subscribe to a daily joke or get a tear-off calendar. Nothing makes the feel better as fast as a good old-fashioned belly laugh.

This post originally written for Lifehack.org

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8 Habits You May Not be Aware of that Speed up Aging

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We’re all probably aware that things like smoking and obesity shorten our lifespan, but what we may not be aware of is that there are many other seemingly harmless habits that are secretly aging us every day.

Wearing a “Worry Wart” badge

We can’t escape stress, but we can try to rein in our worrying tendencies. Worry not only make us unhappy, anxious, and mentally exhausted, not to mention the extra ice cream and comfort foods it entices us to ingest, but it actually ages the body. The constant release of cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline literally wear us out by lowering the immune system, raising blood pressure, and interfering with sleep, memory and mood.

What you can do – Try to put worries in perspective by looking at the big picture. Take a few deep breaths when anxiety rears its ugly head. Do something physical; take a walk or a few yoga poses. Meditation really does help as does setting aside a regular “worry time.” The key is not to let worry be a constant companion.

Being a sunscreen slacker

Sure, you remember to put on sunscreen when heading to the beach, but what about driving to work, walking the dog, or doing errands. Repeated daily exposure to the sun can actually cause significant premature aging. Researchers in Australia recently found in a study of 900 participants that those who consistently applied sunscreen daily had smoother, more resilient and younger looking skin. So not only does skipping the daily sunscreen raise the risk of skin cancer, it also weakens skin cells and can surprisingly make us more prone to bruising and skin injury.

What you can do – Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 15, preferably 30. Use a nickel size dollop for the face an amount equivalent to a shot glass to cover all exposed areas of the body every day. Once it becomes a habit, it will only take a few minutes and can save your skin years of premature leathery skin.

Having a “Sweet Spot” for sugar

We know sugar can pack on the pounds, but health experts now believe that sugar is secretly aging us. Sugar damages our skin by drying out the collagen and elastin that are naturally present, resulting in dull, dry, sagging and wrinkle prone skin.  This process, known as glycation also causes dark circles and puffiness. Both of which are not only unattractive, but make us look and feel older. These effects begin at about 35 and rapidly increase after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

What you can do – Let’s face it sugar is tough to eliminate completely, but trying to minimize consumption will pay off in a big way. Aim for no more than 10% of daily calories and watch out for those hidden sugars! Read labels and try to limit sweet treats to a few times per week.

You think exercise is only for weight-loss

Whether you need to lose weight or not, exercise literally helps turn back our body clock. Regular and consistent exercise, even something as simple as a daily 30 minute walk can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improve memory and concentration, increase muscle tone and best of all significantly reduce chronic stress. As a bonus, regular exercise will help the pounds stay off and protect our muscle mass and bone density.

What you can do – Go for a daily walk with a friend or Fido, take up a physical hobby or join a group sport or class. Get an exercise buddy or find an event to compete in. Anything that will motivate and make exercise more fun will help keep you active.

You hold a grudge

Holding on to a grudge or anger are not only damaging to your mental health, but they can age you physically as well. If you can let things go, you may be adding years to your body. Studies have shown a link between forgiveness and physical health. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine showed that a lack of forgiveness lowered sleep quality, increased stress causing hormones, raised blood pressure and elevated blood sugar resulting in weight gain and an increased likelihood of needing medication. In short, learn how to let go, and you may live longer.

What you can do – Recognize that holding on to anger and resentment hurt you more than the other person. Forgiveness does not mean that you need to be a victim or give trust where it’s not warranted. Learn to let things go and you may indeed live longer…not to mention happier. And that’s the best revenge anyway.

You’re too busy for your friends

When you were younger, your friends probably figured prominently in your calendar, but as we acquire more responsibility, demanding jobs, partners, parenting and household duties the time for friends slips away. But making time for friends isn’t a luxury. Studies have shown that sustaining friendships are better predictors of longevity than even family. Strong friendships can help alleviate depression, deal with mental stress as well as reduce our risk of many chronic conditions all of which age us prematurely.

What can you do – Carve regular friend time in your schedule, even if it’s just once a week. Do it digitally if you have to. While in person is best, communicating via email or Facebook count too. Reach out to old and new friends and put effort into cultivating log term relationships that nurture and support.

You love the remote

A British Journal of Sports Medicine study of 11,000 adults discovered that every hour in front of the TV shortens your life expectancy by 22 minutes, even more for the remote addicts among us, those who average more than six hours a day live on average five years less than non-TV watchers. It’s not so much about the TV watching, as it is the inactivity. But while you might not be able to change a sedentary job, you can control how much couch time you get.

What you can do – The simplest strategy is simply to watch less TV! But there are some tricks you might want to try. Watch TV while walking on the treadmill or exercising, but one of those portable stepper machines and work off those chips while you’re at it. Or try getting up to walk around during every commercial break.

You can’t remember the last time you had sex!

Yes, sex feels good, but it’s also fantastically healthy.  Research shows that an active sex life can help strengthen your immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, relieve depression and the Journal of the American Medical Association now reports sex may even lower your risk for certain types of cancer. During sex, the body releases chemicals such as endorphin, serotonin, and other immune and mood boosting substances that not only make you healthier and happier, but can actually make you look years younger.

What you can do – Things like getting more sleep and exercising can increase sex drive and energy. Also, you might try reading erotic or romantic material, getting a quick massage or dressing the part to get in the mood. For the practical minded…schedule it. Swap out that favorite TV show for some extra “love time.” Your body…and your partner will thank you.

This post was originally published on Lifehack.org

Featured photo credit: delta creme donuts – lucianvenutian via flickr.com

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How Are You Spending Your Most Valuable Currency

The Passage of Time
Image by ToniVC via Flickr

Are you neglecting the things that matter?

Do you think you’re somehow different than the rest of us? That you have more hours in the day or can get more done miraculously if you just get organized enough?

Let me tell you right now, FORGET IT! There is only so much any one person can accomplish at one time. We’re told we can have and do it all, but that is a bold faced lie, a sales pitch of productivity system marketing.

Be honest. Where are you falling short?

Full disclosure: I am a chronic over-scheduler, over-committer and plate-overflower ( I just made that term up.) I know I am not alone in the disease to “DO MORE.” But when we try to squeeze in more we tend to neglect the things that matter most, health, family, enjoyment of life.

In some unfathomable twist of brain logic we tend to spend time on those things that don’t really matter in the long-term picture of our lives. Why do we do this? I don’t know. It’s a puzzle of the human psyche. Perhaps someone wiser than I can figure out that puzzle eventually.

Mini: Mission: My marching orders are to figure out what really matters, place a premium priority and focus on those aspects of my life and cut back or delete those that don’t.  I invite you, no; I implore you to join me.

Time is our most valuable currency, yet most of us squander it so easily. (Feel free to tweet that.)

What are the things that really matter to you?

Are you spending enough time on those things?

What are the things that really won’t matter 20 years from now?

Are you spending too much time on the things that really don’t matter that much?

Do you check your email first thing in the morning instead of taking time to exercise or eating breakfast with your family? I’m sure you’ll be glad of that when your health fails and your kids are gone.

Do you spend too much time on social media and information intake? Unless that’s your job, (and sometimes even if it is your job,) you’ll get better results if you spend your time actually producing “work.” Those things are tools.

And while we’re talking about social media…is Facebook really more important than reading with your kids or having an actual conversation with your husband?

We don’t like to think that we’re squandering our time; I know I sure don’t.

But our schedule and habits tell the real story… Take a look…if you dare.

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The Nitty-Gritty On Cementing Habits

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Creating new habits or changing old ones is excruciatingly difficult at times, but if you’re sick and tired of “Starting Over,” Monday and falling off the wagon by Thursday you are not alone.

We are “creatures of habit,” ferociously clinging to familiar patterns no matter how poorly they serve us. It’s human nature. But if you are determined and motivated, I’ve got the quintessential tactics right here…

Give it time – Conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Be patient and stay committed until you’re over the hump.

Rinse and Repeat – Frequency and consistency are important. Do something every day until it’s embeded in your routine.

Slow and steady – Don’t change everything at once. Biting off too much is a sure recipe for failure. Cement one habit first, and then build on that. It gets easier over time.

Gentle nudges  – After the initial excitement has worn off, your commitment may wane. Give yourself nudges. Put notes where you will see them, set reminders on your phone or computer. Keep the momentum going.

Buddy up – Having a partner to motivate you and keep you on track is a huge boost to your chances of success. When you’re around people who are similarly committed, you’re more likely to stay on track.

Write it down – There is something very powerful about putting it in writing. A target seems more concrete, more real if it’s visible, in writing where you can see it. Notebook, journal, sticky note, even a marker on your mirror, wherever works.

Find a trigger – What will trigger you to remember your habit? For example, exercising every morning is the habit, placing your workout clothes and sneakers by your bed so you have to step over them might help.

Replace it – Fill the void. Replacing a bad habit with a better one is easier than cutting it altogether. Replace the cigarette with chewing gum or the afternoon candy bar with a walk or fruit or nuts.

Remove temptation – Why would you want to set yourself up for failure? Get rid of sugary snacks if sugar is your issue, don’t go to the bar if alcohol or cigarettes are your nemesis, block social media if it’s a distraction. Don’t sabotage yourself by putting temptation in your path.

Cut yourself a break – Nobody is perfect. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get right back on the wagon. Persistence pays off.

It’s got to be yours! – “Shoulds” do not lead to success. Guilt is not a good habit motivator. Create good habits that you want. You decide, you do the work, you benefit.

Developing better habits can be difficult and frustrating, but it is possible. Be smart and stick with it.

You can do it!

Any habit tactics to share?

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