Here are 50 of the lessons life has taught me and that I pay forward to my clients and colleagues most often. Some of these I know you've heard from me before ('cuz they're important!). Please use the sharing buttons and share this post! Bless someone else and bless me (this baby took awhile to create!). Thank you!
1. Simplify your life. Do you own your possessions or do your possessions own you? What would happen if you lost everything? How would you feel? How true does it feel when I say to you that your most important resources are within you, not outside of you? While you probably can’t get there in one fell swoop, become more aware of your attachment to the material and reduce your attachments more and more every day, month and year. Here are 6 ways to simplify your life starting today!
2. Tend to your body as well as to your mind. I know I am one of those “thinker” people. In this day and age of computers and smart phones and gadgets we are silently encouraged to spend more time “in our heads” than in our bodies. In a meditation recently I strongly received the signal that I need to be more of a physical being - to acknowledge that I am mind AND body. Get active, move and pay attention to your body.
3. Live in the present moment. I fear that this saying is tossed around so much that it is in danger of losing true meaning and impact. If you find yourself depressed and/or anxious, how much of your mind is reflecting negatively or wistfully on the past, or focusing anxiously on future, imagined dangers or hardships. So often you see this advice and a statement like, “focus on this moment-there is nothing wrong in this moment.” I dislike that generalized statement because that may or may not be true. In fact, life is full of ups and downs and there MAY actually be something that you need to deal with in this present moment. But if that’s the case then by staying in the present moment you are better able to bring all your resources to bear on creating your best solution. That won’t happen if you’re also dragging yourself into the past and future, too. How to be in the present? Move your mental processes into your body, connect with your breathing, look around you and be in the NOW. It’s the only moment when life is really happening anyway.
4. Get curious and explore—notice the details of your world, your environment. I remember when I was a kid how I would notice all the tiny details of a small patch of ground on a spring day. Or every element of the bank of a stream. Even the smallest things could not escape my awareness. As we grow up we stop looking at the tiny details and life loses some of its zest. Go outside and lay down in the grass and take the time to zoom in your awareness on a square foot patch of ground. Take in the variety of colors, movement caused by wind or insects. Or the next time you take a walk, don’t be in a hurry. Remember dawdling as a kid? Poking things with a stick? Look around, closely. Get curious. Become a kid again.
5. Memorize something. I got this advice when I was still back in the corporate world, from a mentor. He was ahead of his time, I think. With all of our technology to do our memorizing for us many of us are losing this ability. What’s your best friend’s phone number, off the top of your head? Do you know it? And memorization comes with a lot of neurological benefits. Memorization increases your memory’s capacity, enhances neural plasticity and may even play a role in staving off such things as dementia and Alzheimers. Memorize what you enjoy - Bible passages, famous quotes, odd bits of trivia. It’s good for you — and you’ll be able to toss off appropriate pithy quotes and impress your friends!
6. Smile, even for no reason. The act of smiling is neurologically anchored to good feelings, so when you smile your system releases serotonin, the happy hormone. Even when you’re feeling down, look up toward the ceiling and smile and notice the lift in your mood. It’s wired into your neurology, so it’s there for you—use it! As I always tell my clients, life is better when you work with your neurology instead of against it!
7. Make someone’s day. Even someone you don’t know. The cashier at the store. The telemarketer who calls you up at home at dinner time. (You don’t have to buy something, but enjoy how it changes the whole situation when you complement them on something! They’re so not expecting that!) David Wagner has a lovely small book called How to Be a Day Maker. I bought a copy for each of my staff. You should take the time to read it. By giving a little of yourself to the people you encounter you could very literally save someone’s life. Remember, the candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
8. Lighten up! Don’t take life so seriously. I’m serious. Your neurology is better primed for learning (and therefore improving) when you allow yourself to see the humor, even the absurdity in things. When you take the serious tack, you shut down the neurology of learning (and are more likely to continue to get the same kind of results, therefore). So, you gotta laugh a little, as the old song goes.
9. Read books. Did you know about one quarter of all US adults don’t read a single book in a year’s time? And that’s a shame. While short articles like this one are great ways to dip into information, a full length book delivers a much more in depth treatment of any subject and contributes much more powerfully to your understanding and knowledge. Fiction or non-fiction, books are pathways to shared experience and knowledge.
10. Get some sun. There are processes in our bodies that require exposure to the sun. Certainly take precautions, but be out in the sun and allow some direct exposure. Vitamin D from a pill is not as good as vitamin D produced by your body. Plus it feels awesome! After all, it is the source of energy and life on this planet. Lie down and feel the warmth of the sun on your limbs and just shut off your thoughts for a little while and enjoy the simple pleasure of being a multi-celled organism in the sun!
11. Say what you’ll do and do what you say. Don’t make commitments you can’t, or won’t, keep. Often we get into this trap with the best of intentions, so this is not about a negative judgement. I’ve had to work through this myself, learning to say “no” in a tactful but firm way, both to myself and to others. Making and keeping fewer meaningful, well-chosen commitments will lead to greater satisfaction and success than overwhelming yourself with too many well-intentioned commitments that can’t be executed well.
12. Get your sleep! You know I harp on this one, right? Poor sleep (too short, too light, interrupted, just generally poor quality for whatever reason) leads to all sorts of downstream issues, both mental and physical. Poor sleep contributes to weight gain, heart disease, anxiety, blood sugar management issues up to and including diabetes. Mom was right: go to bed and go to sleep! Better sleep makes everything better.
13. Invest in your most important relationship in life — your relationship with you. There’s no one right way to do this. You may choose to journal, meditate, do self hypnosis. You could engage a life coach or seek the counsel of your clergy. Simple time spent with your thoughts, in a state of accepting the flow rather than trying to avoid your thoughts through activity. These are all paths to a greater connection with, and appreciation of, the splendor that is you. And nobody’s perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be. Learn to accept yourself as you are. You are splendid in all of your imperfections.
14. Take time in silence. Oh, silence retreats. If you’ve never done one you simply must. If you have done one and received guidance, you may choose to create your own. The experience of silence (no talking, no reading, no internet — silence does not mean watching the movie without talking!) is astounding. From the simplicity you receive so much. Once you move past the resistance and into acceptance you discover a well of peace, creativity, oneness. Schedule a silence retreat for yourself in the next 12 months! Start with 2 or 3 days if you’ve never done it and work up to longer retreats. Once you’ve done your first one you will crave returning to silence. I know executives who do one or more silence retreats every year. Lucky dogs!
15. Drink water! They say Americans are chronically dehydrated. Your brain is mostly water, and your body as well. There are so many processes that require proper hydration. Research shows that proper hydration improves concentration and decreases anxiety. 10 glasses per day is the optimal recommendation. How many have you been getting? Great Psychology Today article on the importance of water here.
16. Take breaks. Productivity experts say that your ability to be productive diminishes after about an hour of activity. The most productive schedule according to one study showed 52 minutes of activity followed by a 17 minute break; in other words, a 17 minute break every hour. And during that break, don’t engage in other work activities. Don’t just move from one task to another. Get up, move your body. Take a walk. Drink some water. Meditate. Do something completely different before returning to your task. Yes, you truly can accomplish more by working less. If you feel like you can't afford to take breaks, train your mind to stop feeling overwhelmed with this amazing process.
17. Practice remembering people’s names. No sound is more pleasant than the sound of your own name. It is flattering to people when you remember their names. When you meet new people be fully present and engage in active listening when they introduce you. Repeat their name several times in your mind while you look at their faces, to make that neural connection. Repeat their names back to them. “Molly, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Use their name in conversation more frequently so you are more likely to code it into long term memory. This is truly one of the best ways to “win friends and influence people.” How do you feel when someone doesn’t remember your name?
18. Limit your “worry time.” This is a tried-and-true method of decreasing stress. Set 10 minutes aside as your worry time. During that time, worry fully and completely. Really work it! Go through the list of “what if’s” and crawl around all the potholes in your mind. But live by the rule you set for yourself — when worry time is over, if a worrisome idea pops into your head firmly tell your mind, “now is not the time for that. Set that aside for worry time tomorrow.” If it helps, keep a list of things to worry about, but only worry during worry time. (After a few weeks you’ll discover that worry time isn’t really very productive and you may switch over to “solutions time” instead!)
19. Seek out novel experiences. One of the things that can contribute to depression and even dementia is the lack of novel experiences. Doing the same thing every day, seeing the same sights, the same people, the same routine, leads to depression and reduced cognitive abilities. Remember when you were a kid? One of the reasons the world seemed so bright and fun was that so much of it was brand new to you! New, novel experiences happened every day! Depending on your life you may need to create the opportunity for novel experiences — humans are such creatures of habit. Make a list of things you’ve never done, places you’ve never been (which can even be in your home town). Having novel experiences doesn’t require a lot of money. Go for a walk in a different neighborhood. Pretend you’re a tourist in your own home town. When was the last time you flew a kite? Aim to have a novel experience at least once a week, and a more major novel experience such as travel, at least twice a year.
20. Learn to forgive. There’s a wonderful meme out there, “the first to apologize is the bravest, the first to forgive is the strongest, and the first to forget is the happiest.” Forgiveness does not condone behavior; forgiveness releases the forgiver. Forgive others, forgive yourself, forgive your past.
21. Practice gratitude. The positive effects of gratitude have been studied. It’s not just pollyanna thinking, the benefits are real and tangible. Want a happier, healthier life? Focus daily on the things you are grateful for. Create a practice. Start a journal. Declare if publicly on social media. My friend Scott Schmaren posts every day on Facebook what he is grateful for that day. Doing this consistently trains your brain to focus on what is good in your life and in the world and shifts your mood and your attention in positive ways. It is even proven to improve your immune system. There is power in gratitude. Claim it for yourself!
22. Become more charismatic. Charisma can be learned and developed and is a very powerful way to meet the world. Become more comfortable speaking and use NLP to learn how to develop rapport with other people. Hint: true charisma isn’t about being an egotist. True charisma is about focusing on other people. If you don’t think you can, remember, “fake it until you make it” really does work! You can even use hypnosis to become more charismatic!
23. Fake it until you make it. It’s true, it really does work. This axiom is based on research done by Dr. Daryl Bem in the 1960s. Today it’s considered Psych 101 stuff but back in the day it was ground breaking. Even today there are people who believe they can’t do something unless they feel like doing it first. It’s simply not true. It may very well require self discipline to start with but as your mind adjusts and genuinely adopts some of the behaviors you are ‘faking,’ it will seem more and more natural until those behaviors are indeed yours. It’s one of the ways the mind learns naturally, and you can benefit throughout your life by using this intentionally.
24. Learn to step into the other guy’s (or gal’s) shoes. In NLP (that’s Neurolinguistic Programming) we call this “changing perceptual positions.” It’s one of the hallmarks of emotional intelligence and it can be developed and honed. Take a moment and really engage your imagination — with everything you consciously know and subconsciously know about the other person(s) in a situation, where are they coming from? What are they fearful of? What do they hope? Creating greater empathy can create better solutions for all.
25. Spend time in the company of animals. Spending time with our furry, finny, scaly or feathered friends is good for us. Research shows that spending time with animals improves our mood, reduces our blood pressure, lightens depression and even improves our cholesterol. Animals teach us how to be in the now, how to be honest with our emotions and how to be consistent. So whether it’s your dog, cat, horse, parrot or iguana, take some time in the company of animals every day. If you don’t have any animals in your life, maybe it’s time to get a pet! This WebMD article shows many ways that pets are proven to improve our health.
26. Eat less, live longer. Consuming fewer calories on a regular, ongoing basis improves health markers and can even lead to a longer life. If nothing else, shaving a few unneeded and empty calories from your daily intake will result in less fat and all the health benefits that come from being at a healthy weight. One way of doing this that is gaining traction is intermittent fasting, which has been shown to have a beneficial effect on diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol and inflammation. Cleveland Clinic has a great article on the benefits of fasting here.
27. Guard your integrity. Your reputation is really your most valuable possession. Be honest, follow through and check your intentions.
28. Create your perfect morning routine. I know, we don’t all have the luxury of determining what we do throughout the day. But most of us can create a morning routine that sets us up for the best possible day. This is an individual thing, but you might want to consider spending time in meditation, prayer or a gratitude practice; engaging in self development activities such as reading a book or watching an inspiring video; laughter yoga or spending time in nature. Even if you have to wake up a little earlier to create the best start to your day, the payoffs are worth it and will ripple out into the rest of your day and to others around you.
29. Face your fears. “Do one thing every day that scares you” is a famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. What if you could take a year and burn out your brain’s fear mechanism by progressively doing more and more things that, in the past, you were afraid of? What do you think you would be like by the end of that year? Superwoman or Superman, right? (Yeah, I hear you thinking, ‘either that or a puddle of mush!’) Well, my bet is that you’d be Super(wo)man. And guess what? People have done it. You may not be able to take a year, but you can choose to challenge yourself step by step to do the things that used to scare you—and create a larger world for yourself in the process. Heck, some if it might even turn out to be fun! Forbes checks out the idea of having a year to face your fears here.
30. Use the Stop and Replace method to let go of negative or limited thinking. Stop and Replace is just what it sounds like. Whenever you catch yourself thinking a negative or limited thought, stop it immediately bt any means necessary. Snap a rubber band on your wrist, snap your fingers, shout “STOP!” and then replace that thought with a positive, empowering thought. In NLP terms this is a pattern interrupt and with consistency and time you will find yourself needing to do it less and less, not because you aren’t catching yourself, but because your neural pathways will change to fit the new, desired behavior.
31. Never tell yourself no when you have an idea. Don’t limit yourself right out of the gates. This goes back to my childhood, and is one of those wise things I remember my Dad saying. One day as we were leaving the house he stopped abruptly (pattern interrupt), turned and said to me and my Mom, “never tell yourself no. Never start with ‘no.’ Always move ahead as though the answer is yes. You may find out that the world gives you feedback that is different, the answer may turn out to be no or to be something else you hadn’t thought of, but you won’t find that out if you start by telling yourself no before you even try.” Wow. I was like, 9. I have no idea who said what that created that response from him but, like, wow. Thanks, Dad! This advice, this frozen moment in my mind, has opened all kinds of doors for me in life. I hope it will for you too!
32. Learn how to lucid dream. Lucid dreaming is when a part of you realizes you’re dreaming, but you remain asleep and in the dream. You may simply realize you’re dreaming or you may also be able to change the dream, to exercise choice in your dream world. You may decide to fly, or change the characters in your dream or go somewhere and explore things you want to learn more about. Lucid dreaming is truly amazing; it’s like having another life, one where you are totally empowered and can access the wisdom of your subconscious and the collective unconscious.
33. Practice Productive Daydreaming. Remember in school when adults told you to “stop daydreaming!”? Well, I’m giving you intention to START daydreaming. Productive, intentional daydreaming takes your mind into the brainwaves of meditation and self hypnosis where you have access to a greater, broader intelligence than you have with your conscious mind alone. Years ago when I was seeking the answer to what am I meant to do in life, I daydreamed with intention, daily. I asked my mind to show me what my perfect day would be. I did this for months, every morning, paying attention to where my daydreams took me; paying attention to what changed, and what stayed the same. This was a major factor in my decision to become a hypnotherapist and start my own practice, then my own school and finally this website you’re on right now. So, daydreaming brought me to you! Or you to me! And I truly believe there are no coincidences, so this moment, right now, was meant to happen. My only wish is that it blesses you, your life and your loved ones in the best way possible.
34. Become a more effective communicator. So much of life really boils down to this. One way is to practice verbal self defense, aka, “verbal judo.” Verbal judo is a masterful communication skill that enables you to be a more flexible, effective communicator. It’s based on Dr. Thompson's five universal truths of "human interaction”: people feel the need to be respected; people feel the need to be asked rather than told; people have a desire to know why; people prefer to have options over threats; people want to have second chances.
35. Practice self hypnosis. So much of what people really want out of life comes down to control of emotional and mental processes (both conscious and unconscious). This means you need to learn to be a Mental Ninja. Being a Mental Ninja means a number of things to me, such as: knowing that I can change my emotional state at will; understanding how to shift my brainwave patterns to access abilities when I want to; being more observant and attuned with my environment and with other people; being a better, more effective, more conscious communicator, having a mind that is focused and calm, and more. There are multiple paths to this Mental Ninja-ry; self hypnosis is only one of them. I am not biased toward one over the other. I honestly believe that the path that feels best for you works best for you. So if you prefer meditation, autogenic training, guided imagery, or any other form of mental practice, that’s just fine. Be aware of the benefits of self hypnosis in combination with other disciplines. I personally use self hypnosis, brainwave entrainment, meditation, guided meditation and autogenic training. I find that each practice brings something special to my inner experience and I feel that I am more well-rounded because of using all of these.
36. Have a hobby (or two, or more). All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and Jill a frustrated girl. Whether you work for someone else or for yourself, life can get lop-sided toward what is productive and taking you toward a goal (especially if you work for yourself, it seems easy to become unbalanced in this way). Trust me, if all you can talk about is your work or your business you won’t be much fun at a party. And your mind needs other outlets to be well rounded, to calm down, to let off steam. It doesn’t matter what your hobby is — stained glass or martial arts, mountain biking, kayaking, or watercolor landscapes. If you don’t have a hobby, try some things out! Do something new and when something feels good, keep doing it!
37. Learn to express what you want, rather than what you don’t want. Most of my clients come to me well versed in what they no longer want in their life. Their list is very well thought through and highly detailed. They can immediately step into the emotional/psychological and physiological state of their “unwants”. But they are NOT as conversant in what they do want. I’ve had many, many people respond with, “that’s a good question,” when asked what DO they want, instead? UNTIL you know this and are as conversant more conversant in what that will look, feel and sound like, there is no way your mind will be able to take you there.
38. Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. You’re heard it before, and I’ll say it again. Yoda was right. There is no try. There is do, or do not. “Try” just means “make a half-hearted attempt and give up/fail” to your subconscious. Your inner mind has known this since childhood. Don’t believe me? Ask a six year old to clean their room. When they say, “I’ll try” — you know exactly what that means, right?
39. Help others. Seriously folks. When you can, do. When you’re able to, give. Without expecting something in return. This is what makes a society, and we need more of it. Helping people has a ripple effect. If you help someone they will feel more obliged to help someone else, and so on.
40. Spend 20% of your time, energy and other investments on creating your future. OK, I did a network marketing thing for awhile. Yeah, it wasn’t my thing. Probably because I already have my thing, but that’s not the point. It was a valuable experience, for a number of reasons and if you stripped away all the others this one mental frame would be reason enough: buckets vs. pipelines. And if you’ve been in an MLM recently you know what that means. Trading your time for a paycheck is like hauling buckets. It takes a lot of work, and it will take the same amount of work tomorrow to get the same amount of water that it takes today. You never get “over the hump.” Build a pipeline though and while you may spend extra effort today you have the assurance that the amount of work will drop off BUT THE WATER WILL KEEP FLOWING. So, while you’re still consulting, or coaching, or engaged in your employment today, figure out your pipeline. It doesn’t have to be an MLM at all, that’s not the point (mine isn’t). If it is that’s cool too. The point is, what products are you creating, what investments are you making that will pay you in the future for the effort you put in today? Spend 20% of your time, energy, effort and investment in creating a sustainable future.
41. Make other people feel special. Take a moment and remember the last time someone made you feel special. Whether it was a friend, a lover or a complete stranger, we all love to feel special. Now, it’s healthy and great and best if you can make yourself feel special. That’s what good self esteem/self worth/self value is all about— learning to appreciate yourself. Whether that comes naturally to you or not, however, it ALWAYS feels great when someone makes you feel good. Yesterday I got a direct message from a Twitter follower saying, “Seriously, keep up the good work! Very impressive!” Wow. Just that. Eight words and it made me light up and smile. Someone NOTICED. Most people really are doing their best and truly want to do a good job, whether that’s basic stuff at home or what they do on the job. But too much of the time we don’t feel noticed. Which means some of us have to start doing more noticing! Be a noticer! (I know that’s not a word….but it should be.) Notice someone today. Make them feel special!
42. Learn to control your mind. What kind of skilled human are you if you cannot even control your own thoughts? While the human mind is described as being a stream of consciousness, that does not mean you can’t decide where your stream flows. Techniques like meditation and self hypnosis will aid you immensely in learning to control your mind.
43. Learn Autogenic Training. You may have never heard of Autogenic Training but it’s been around since the 1930’s. AT is a training program that strengthens the mind-body connection like no other. Autogenic literally translates to “self-generated” and it trains your mind and body to respond to your thoughts, with intention. I have been using AT with clients for years to move their energy from their mind —buzzing around with busy, disconnected thoughts and feeling disconnected from their bodies and their lives — into their bodies. The result is amazing focus and concentration, greatly increased self confidence, better sleep and reduced anxiety. The results I’ve seen in clients from AT is nothing short of astounding. I’ll be launching a training program here soon and I’ll announce it to the mailing list when it’s ready!
44. Master the art of good eye contact. Good eye contact is an art, it is a skill, and it can be learned. Good eye contact is holding the other person’s gaze long enough for something that cannot be spoken to be communicated. Looking away (especially down) is a sign of inferiority and uncertainty. Instead, look at your conversation partner dead in the eyes and keep them locked on. Master the piercing stare. You know when someone looks at you and it feels like they can see into your soul? Well that’s not a hereditary characteristic, it just takes practice. It communicates confidence and comfort with yourself and creates empathy and trust. It is an under-practiced skill in our world so when you master it, you will — truly — feel the difference in your communications with others.
45. Learn how to say I’m sorry. Most people don’t know how to apologize well. Partly, at least, because they don’t really want to. If you want strong, healthy relationships you really must accept that there are times when you are wrong and the people in your life deserve to hear you accept that. It’s not about giving away your power, and there’s a right way to do it. And that does not start with “I’m sorry you’re upset.” Bzzzzz! Wrong, try again. Here’s a good article on how to do it right.
46. Meditate at least 20 minutes every day. The list of physical and psychological benefits of being in a meditative state daily are too numerous to list here. Just a few that my clients love: increased serotonin; improved sleep; lower blood pressure; increased GABA (less busy thoughts); increased DHEA (better immune function); increased ability to focus and concentrate; increased happiness. Seriously, I have this big long list on 3 pages that I print out and give to people. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain by Sharon Begley is one book I recommend to learn more about this, and her is an article by Forbes that touches on some of the benefits of meditation. You’ll find elsewhere on this site another article about CEOs taking up the practice of meditation. If big corporate CEOs are getting on the meditation bandwagon, you know they’re seeing results from it. Meditation can actually change the brain.
47. Visualize your goals in the last minutes before you go to sleep for the night. This is known as one of the “magic times” for self hypnosis. That is because your unconscious mind — which is responsible for your self concept, your personal glass ceiling and 95% of your behavior per psychologists — will work overnight on the last meaningful input of those last minutes before sleep. Ever watch a scary movie and have dreams about it? Don’t waste this precious time. Use it productively by visualizing your short and long term goals in those last 15 to 30 minutes before going to sleep. Feel the emotions attached to achieving those goals, see the results and for the moment “live” in that space where you are already there. Then go to sleep. Your mind will create dreams and reorganize beliefs and information on a subconscious level to allow you to see opportunities, create the best solutions and raise that glass ceiling higher and higher so that you can reach your goal!
48. Learn to control your emotions. The only person that can make you unhappy is you! You are the one that decides to be affected by the words and actions of others. Realize this so that the next time you experience a negative emotion, you can find the strength within yourself to overcome it.
49. Relax! Paradoxically, working too much will not get you the results you really want. A mind that has time to relax, time do to repetitive activities without having a super highway of anxious thoughts running all the time in the background, will be more creative and will have access to what I call the “unconscious problem solving” abilities of the theta brainwave range. We are learning as a society that working and worrying create disease. Chances are what you’re so worried about will never happen, or it’s out of your direct control anyhow. Take action on what’s actionable and take the time to relax. Self hypnosis is a great way to relax. Here's a deep relaxation audio for you.
50. Show your love. Too often love is used as a tool. Leverage in a relationship. Or seen as weakness — “if they know how much I love them, somehow I’ll be the weaker one in the relationship.” Life is too short for this, and love is too important to be held hostage to fear. This, and forgiveness of self and others are the most important things on this list. If you take nothing else with you, take this — “love one another.”