Rituals

The Most Important 15 Minutes of Your Life

In my practice of the martial art of Aikido, I learned a valuable lesson the other day that applies to all areas of life.  If applied, this one lesson might be the single most important principle for changing one’s life- in any area- financial, career, relationships, emotional, spiritual and physical. It is a universal law and people tend to do the opposite and therefore get adverse results in their life. 

About a week and a half ago, there were a bunch of white belts and few black belts training together. it was towards the end of a two hour training session. We thought we had really learned this particular defense. Hell, we had been working on it for almost two hours at that point. Then out of nowhere, the Sensei stops our practice and calls our attention to a very specific focal point. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something like, “what seems to be getting overlooked here is the opening movement. If you don’t take the attackers balance on the opening movement- the rest of the defense is near worthless. A great opening move, sets up for an easy throw and pin. However, without taking your opponents balance, you will never submit your opponent- I don’t care how good you are at the throw and the pin.” 

When I first heard it, it seemed simple and boring instruction. It was just about to come in one ear and go through the other, before I caught myself being lazy. Then I asked myself a better question: “What applications could this have for life?”- because I have found that Aikido is truly a metaphor for life. I have seen that all the lessons I have learned on the mat carry over to life, and this lesson was no different.

Aikido defenses typically have 3 or 4 steps in them. The opening movement a lot of the times is about “getting off the line of attack” (in order to protect yourself) as well as trying to take your opponent’s balance so they are now at a disadvantage. There is nothing sexy or exciting about the opening movement- EVER. The rest of the defense is where the exciting Steven Seagal stuff occurs. But if you don’t set your opponent up in the first step, the later (and more thrilling) movements won’t work. The opening movement sets the tone for the rest of the progression. You’ll commonly hear people say, “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish”. Maybe  so, but the greater truth may be that a poor start sets such a terrible tone that the rest of the process often times will never fully recover. And hell, why would you want to live by that motto in the first place- it’s setting you up for a life where you’re constantly digging yourself out of holes. 

Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed and that bad mood just carried on with you for the rest of the day? It was like you were doomed to have a bad day. Everything seemed to go wrong. I’m sure you’ve had days where the opposite was true too. This case of one’s mood and emotions is great place to start when talking about setting the tone. Opening your day with a practice that gets you physically, emotionally and mentally prepared to face challenges optimistically, feel confident and assertive and overall be in a positive state is crucial. Do you think a pro football player is going to show up to the Superbowl and hope to feel good? Hell no, he is going to get himself into a resource state irrespective of the circumstances and external factors. It could be -20 degrees and snowing, his dog could have died, he could have lost his starting job to a rookie. It doesn’t matter, a true professional brings the state of certainty to the field. He isn’t there looking for external feedback to tell him how he should feel or how he should play. 

With this I recommend implementing a ritual that gets you into a peak emotional state during the first 15 minutes of your day. Maybe it is going to the gym. Maybe it is jumping on a mini trampoline while listening to your favorite music. It could a could shower or meditation. Whatever gets you into a positive emotional state and gets your body moving is going to be beneficial. It’s amazing the carryover that will take place throughout the rest of the day. Momentum is an underrated characteristic within human beings. Why is it that we are blind to the fact that the littlest shit always builds to create bigger shit, an eventually monumental shit in our lives. Jim Rohn always said, 

 

“Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.”

These tiny errors in judgment that get repeated everyday typically stem from our unconscious emotional patterns that habituate in our daily lives. We wake up tired and hit our snooze button 3 or 4 times. This passivity then creeps into every aspect of our existence and compounds into the failure we inevitably face. But if you change the opening movement and consciously choose to set the tone differently each and every day- it’s amazing the kind of momentum that will start to build. You will start to feel better, more energized, more assertive, more confident. These qualities will start to reward you in your work, your relationships, your finances and all aspects of your life. Pretty soon you will start to believe yourself to be a winner, a champion and someone who is a master of their own experience. It is at this point where the Tony Robbins, Richard Branson’s and Marc Benioffs built their success. They became a success through these small rituals, which ultimately created their character. The outside world loves to view their success in terms of their public accomplishments. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Stephen Covey avowed this by saying,

“Private victories always precede public victories”.

The first 15 minutes of your day is the most important. It will set the tone. If you enter your day from a place of uncertainty and passivity, are you just hoping that something will click with you and you’ll all the sudden get some pep in your step? No it’s time to consciously create the life you want. And you do this by a simple ritual in the first 15 minutes after you wake up in the morning. I suggest doing something that radically activates your physiology. Because the quickest and the most surefire way to change the way you feel is to radically shift the way you move your body. The power of physiology is a topic that has been discussed in past posts and will be discussed in the future. It is a crucial linchpin to mastering your emotional life. 

Here are some possible rituals to start your day with:

-Jump on a mini trampoline (rebounder) while listening to some music (you could turn this into a formal anchoring practice with a vision board/mandala). {This has other healthy effects, as it pumps the lymph in our bodies}

-Go for a run or bike

-Take a cold shower or contrast shower (hot/cold- back and forth)

-Yoga

-Martial Arts

-Lift weights

-Go for a brisk walk

Breaking the Trance of the Cultural Hypnosis

I love to watch people and observe how they live their lives and organize their experiences internally. My people watching is done in a judgmental or moralistic way, but more so with an observational and curious attitude.  I look out into the world like an anthropologist trying to understand another culture or a scientist in a lab.  It is purely from a place of learning and understanding what drives human behavior.  What I have found from my own observation (which has also been confirmed in much of what I have read) is that people have the strong tendency to avoid painful stimuli and move toward pleasure. I know this isn’t a groundbreaking finding, however it is a crucial underpinning for identifying what drives your own behavior as well as understanding what drives society as a whole.  From this basic premise of the pain-pleasure principle, one can then take the monumental step toward living a self-actualized life- a life free of emotional hostage taking, depression, anxiety, addiction, co-dependence and suffering. 

 

The advancement of technology over the past 15-20 years has created a culture of instant gratification and addiction.  People are overly reliant on external stimuli to feel good and access positive emotional states.  If they aren’t watching tv, then they are on the internet. If they aren’t on the internet, they are playing video games. If they aren’t hooked into some technological device, they are eating or drinking. If they aren’t eating or drinking, they might taking some drug or administering some medication. And when they aren’t engaged in one of these activities, it is likely they are being stimulated through some interaction with another person. Overall, our culture has us wired to be dependent on people, places and things outside of ourselves.  People who come to me often share that they don’t like to be alone and that when they are alone, they get particularly anxious. Then I ask them what they do to stop feeling anxious. Their response- they either turn on the tv, drink a beer, eat something, surf the internet or call a friend.  Our culture is becoming completely dependent on external stimuli to feel good and to elevate our emotional state. To add to this addiction, the mass marketers are feeding this cultural hypnosis through their constant barrage of advertisements that say “buy this-feel this way”.  When you really break it down, how much of our lives are really under our own control? How much of our emotional states are dependent on people, places and things outside of ourselves? 

 

I am not prescribing that you dispose of all your electronics, move off the grid and become a hermit or a monk. What I am suggesting is that if there is to have any semblance of a healthy life, one must strike a balance between between being internally emotionally regulated and externally stimulated. I would even go a step further to say that the path toward self-actualization is one of complete and total freedom from getting fulfillment or relief from external stimuli. You can choose how you want to live your life, however just be cognizant that the level of suffering you will experience in your life is dependent on the level in which you are dependent on external people, places and things to make you feel good and give you positive emotional states. 

 

As I have said over and over, “The problem is never the problem”. And this holds true for this epidemic that is plaguing our society. People think the problem is the drastic rise of depression and anxiety (and other mental health issues) in our culture. The real problem is the blatant ignoring and pacifying of such problems through means of medication and other external stimuli (tv, iphones, food, alcohol, drugs). Depression and anxiety are incredibly valuable signals that provide us with feedback that needs to be taken into consideration. These negative emotions are telling us that we need to do one of two things. We either need to change our procedure- which is changing our current actions and behavior. Or we need to change our perception- which is to change how we’re contextualizing our experience. Rather what is the typical response to such negative emotions in our culture? Drink another beer, watch another tv show, post another picture. People use these short term strategies (aka pacifiers) to run from pain and seek some degree of relief and comfort. The irony is that until the anxiety, depression and other negative experiences get addressed directly, it will continue to show up in some way, shape or form. Most people continue to ignore the signals and keep shoving the problem under the rug for another day. They become masters at finding short term strategies to escape the pain. The problem with such a strategy is that just like any addict, they will eventually hit rock bottom. There will come a point where the pain and suffering will not be able to be subdued by the temporary fixes anymore and this will create such agony and despair that one will truly hit rock bottom and be forced to confront their inner demons. The problem with letting it get to this point is that it typically doesn’t happen for years or decades. This leaves people in what they term a “mid-life crisis” when they get in their forties or fifties.  

 

In order to avoid hitting rock bottom or waiting until your so called ‘mid-life crisis’, it is time to do two things. First, begin identifying the negative emotions in your life. Rather than brushing the anxiety and depression under the rug and pacifying the pain with temporary external fixes (like relationships, food, drugs, technology, etc), begin to sit with the pain and suffering.  As uncomfortable as it might be in that moment, it will save you 1000x the amount of pain and suffering down the road. Once you can get very comfortable sitting with the negative experience, rather than pacifying it with some short term external fix, you can then move on to the next step in the equation.

 

While the first step is about identifying the problem state and just being with it. The second step is about enacting the solution to the problem. If you only identify the problem and there is no solution, one will inevitably return to the old ineffective patterns of behavior to solve the problem and escape the pain and suffering. The solution involves breaking the cause and effect trance that we need something outside of ourselves to feel good. True self actualization and person power is available when you can access peace, joy and other positive emotions without the need for some external stimuli (people, place or thing). One way to cultivate this internally driven experience is through a daily meditative practice. Whether it be through meditation, a martial art or yoga- these meditative practices teach your brain and body that “I can feel good for no reason” and that I don’t need something outside of me to feel good and access a positive emotional state.  Yes these practices do indeed have a physiological component to them that enhances their positive effect. By installing a daily meditative practice, one can begin to break the cause and effect linkage that in order to feel good and regulate one’s emotions- they need to do something outside of themselves.  

 

Personally, spending 45 minutes to an hour every day in meditation has allowed me to feel good for no reason. I don’t need an excuse to feel good. I can feel good just by being here in the present moment with my thoughts and experience.  Meditation also is very effective at cultivating a sense of gratitude. Because by sitting with your thoughts and observing your breathing- you are unconsciously teaching yourself, “I am grateful for this moment… I’m okay just being right here and now”. Now when I go out into the world I am not frantically seeking external stimuli to regulate my emotions.  Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty of the outside world, meditation creates a “happy place” where you can go to seek refuge and peace.  Meditation and other meditative practices unhooks you from the cause-effect hypnosis that runs our culture. It breaks the erroneous belief that you need some person, place or thing outside of yourself to feel good. Our culture is predicated on the do–>have—>be model. When in reality the more effective model for living an emotionally healthy life is be–>do–>have.

 

The culture through the media, politics and mass marketers has conditioned us to be slaves to external stimuli. Just look at your everyday emotional experience in this world. Look at each emotion you experience- contentment, sorrow, anxiety, peace, anger, etc. In each of these momentary experiences- what is causing these to fire off within you? My guess is that some external event, person or thing is behind the emotion. If this is the case, then you are inherently not in the driver seat of your life. Through a consistent dedication to deep meditative practices, one can begin to gain greater control over their emotional life and begin to unhook themselves from the scary reality that they are at the mercy of the feedback that they are receiving from their external environment. The vast amount of personal problems in our world come down to one’s inability to regulate their emotions.  Addiction is the perfect example. People who are addicted (whether it be drugs, alcohol, food, co-dependent relationships, etc) have inability to get themselves to experience positive or comforting emotions by themselves. They instead turn to an artificial substance to provide them with the emotional state of pleasure, comfort and feeling okay. Therefore the addiction is nothing more than symptom. If they stop drinking, they will find some other substance or activity to change their emotional state. The solution to this problem of one’s inability to cope and emotionally regulate lies in mastering one’s own internal communication and their ability to feel good amidst the absence of pleasant external stimuli. All the way back in the 17th century, Blaise Pascal made an incredibly relevant observation when he said:

 

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone”

 

Why Goal Setting Doesn’t Work

If you’ve ever read a self help/personal development book I’m sure you’re familiar with the trite idea that people who set goals are more successful than those who do not.  You’re probably sick of hearing about it. I am not going to tell you to get your planner out and start writing down a bunch of goals to set for the new year.  Millions of people in this very moment are sitting at their kitchen table and listing out their goals for 2017. But how many will actually achieve what they put down on paper? It is likely that less than 3% will achieve their goals. In reality the number is probably closer to 1% or a fraction of that one percent.  The key to changing your life is not setting more goals and adding things to your to do list. It is much more simple than that.  It is about setting the context for your life and operating out of it. This process of establishing the context is what the masses fail to do.  However if you look at the most successful people in any industry, this process of creating the context of their life is the distinguishing factor that separates them from the rest. 

 

What is meant by setting the context? Let’s take a look at two different examples to shed some light on this and show the contrast in approaches.

 

In the first example, let’s look at Randy. Randy is 45 years old and makes 100,000$ a year working in sales. He is 30lbs overweight and his family life and relationship with his wife is average. They have good days and bad days. Today he sits down at his kitchen table and sets his goals for 2017. He says he wants to make $125,000 this year, lose thirty pounds and be a better husband and parent to his wife and kids. All respectable and very much attainable goals for 2017.  He even goes a step further and creates an action plan for how he can achieve these goals. He lists out various activities that will propel him to the success in each category. He says he will workout 5 times a week, make 5 extra sales calls a day, come home from work 30 minutes early to be with his family, etc. As the days pass by, Randy sees an overall leap in productivity throughout January and very much is acting in accordance with his goals. Then February and March come along and things start to get very busy at work. He starts eating out a lot more and spending less time with his family to meet the demands of his busy work schedule. By April his 2017 goals have gone down the drain. He’s added 5 pounds, his family life has gotten worse and he is struggling to meet his sales objectives.  This is the typical result when people set their new years resolutions and well-intentioned goals.

 

Rob on the other hand is a 35 year old middle manager at large manufacturing company. He makes 75,000$/year and works an average of 40-50 hours a week. He is not in love with his job, but understands he needs to pay the bills. He ultimately wants to get into coaching college football. Though he sees this as a challenging jump from a comfortable decent paying job to the uncertain terrain of college football, he has made the definite decision that he will do whatever it takes to become a college football coach. He is single and understands that in order to break into coaching, he might have to sacrifice his social life for the time being. Throughout 2016 he has filtered every decision through the context that he will do whatever it takes to break through and become a college football coach. He volunteered and was an assistant varsity football coach for the high school around the corner from his house. He also spent 20 hours on the week training high school players and preparing them for their transition to the college game.  Through this he made several contacts to various college coaches. In 2017, Rob has a discussion with a college coach about becoming a graduate assistant for their program. This would entail him quitting his job and moving 3 hours away to a different city. Just like in past decisions, Rob considers his ultimate destiny and his compelling vision of becoming a college football coach and decides to quit his job and take the leap into the coaching profession.

 

Compared to Randy, Rob did not set goals in the traditional sense. He did not write out his objectives in some systematic list. Rather he set the context for his life.  He created such a compelling future and subsequently made every decision through that very prism. Every decision in his life was made on the basis of one single question:

 

Is this taking me closer or further away from my ultimate destiny?

 

Rob sacrificed his dating life and social life for his compelling future. He quit his well paying job to pursue his dream. He relocated for it. This kind of definiteness of purpose is what setting the context is all about. Most people set goals and then when distractions come up during the day to day hustle and bustle of their everyday life, they forget what their ultimately after and they fall off the path.  Holding the greater context is about keeping one eye on the prize during even the most monotonous times.  Most people don’t fail to reach their goals because they make some fatal mistake or have some huge blunder. Rather they just lose focus during the small and seemingly meaningless minutia that takes place on a daily basis. They take their eye of the ball and after a few days of that, their goal slips right through their hands without them even realizing it. 

 

Creating a compelling vision and operating out of the context (the bigger picture) rather than the content (the moment to moment) is what separates a truly outstanding person from the pack. During every journey there will be setbacks, annoyances, mistakes and frustrations- that is a given. However someone who operates out of the context plows right through the difficult times because they have the big picture in mind. A person who operates out of the content will almost always quit and give up on their ultimate destiny because they are more concerned with being comfortable in the moment, then attaining their ultimate outcome. So while goal setting is important in the general sense, it is more important to create such a compelling future that you’re pulled to it- you’re so excited that you can’t wait to wake up in the morning.  And then when the difficulties and set backs come- you won’t be tempted to quit or take the easy road- you’ll know exactly what you want and more importantly- you’ll know exactly who you must become.  This leads me to the final part of this equation.

 

Once you have identified such a compelling future to the point where you’re willing to give up everything you own just to pursue it, the next question you must answer is “who must I become to get to my ultimate destiny?”  This question is not to be answered in an external sense like “I must be wealthy, have a lot of friends, etc”. Rather this question of “who must I become” should be answered in an internal sense.  What kind of person must you evolve into? What internal personality traits and qualities must you exude? What kind of habits must you cultivate? What kind of relationship would you have to have with yourself? And most importantly, what emotional states would you have to live in to reach this place?  People tend to evaluate themselves on external factors like appearance, relationships, connections, resume and background. These are the least important things in the process of attaining your ultimate vision.  If there is one quote to live by during this process of transformation, it is one by David Hawkins:

 

“We change the world not by what we say or do, but as a consequence of what we have become.” 

 

Greater knowledge, connections, opportunities aren’t going to do it. Your ‘beingness’ will determine your ultimate destiny. And one’s ‘way of being’ is a direct result of one’s internal relationship with them self, as well as the emotional states they consistently live in. 

 

Goal setting is all fine and dandy if you are pretty content and satisfied with your current life and just want to make it 5-10% better. But if you want to completely overhaul and absolutely transform yourself into the person you must become, then you must create such a clear and compelling long term vision that you’re pulled to it, so you don’t have to push yourself toward it. Then from here you will automatically be operating out of the context rather than the content.  The next time some little hiccup happens or some annoyance gets in your way- it doesn’t fucking matter. It becomes a trivial and meaningless event because you know you are have bigger and better things to focus your attention on. This level of 100% certainty, commitment and definiteness of purpose is what separates someone who is outstanding from someone who is good. Commitment engenders passion. Not the other way around. Commit yourself to your ultimate destiny and make every decision in your life through that lens and you’ll find a way to get their.  That’s the secret to massive success- operating out of the context, rather than the content. 

 

The perfect example of this was the former Duke point guard Bobby Hurley who won two national championships, played in the NBA for the Sacramento Kings and is the all time NCAA assist leader.  Here is an excerpt from Adrian Wojnarowski’s book The Miracle of St. Anthony about how Hurley was operating out of the greater context as an eighth grader:

 

“The balls would stay locked in the steel bin for most of the next hour. They were going to hear about the St. Anthony standard for dedication and determination, the story of squeezing the last drop of potential out of a young man’s body, about how a five-foot-four, 110 pound eight grader who told his teacher and classmates what he wanted to be when the subject of goals came up one day, told them point by point, laid it all out for everyone. And they laughed at him. They laughed when he said he was going to break David Rivers’s assists record at St. Anthony, when he said he was going to earn a big-time basketball scholarship to college and when he said he would someday play point guard for the Boston Celtics.  They laughed him all the way out of school that day, all the way down to the projects, where he want back to work on his game. The St. Anthony Friars were going to hear the legend of Bobby Hurley.  Three quarters of an hour later, they were still sitting mesmerized at mid-court, and the balls hadn’t come out of the bin since the Hillside scrimmage. There was one thing that the coach swore for sure: If Bobby walked into this team as a freshman that moment, he would’ve gone after someone. ‘There would have been a problem here.  Bobby would’ve told somebody, “You’re messing with my dream”.

 

Why 99.9% of People Can’t Get Themselves to Change- HOW TO BE THE 0.1%

How often do we as human beings accomplish something and then proceed to just shrug it off like it never happened? We do something good, maybe feel good for a moment, then we just let it drift on by and we forget about it for the rest of eternity. This positive experience and emotion never even imprints in our subconscious memory. Dr. Rick Hanson, one of the world’s renowned expert in mindfulness and neuroplasticity explains it best when he said, “In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but teflon for positive ones”.   Our brains weren’t created to make us happy, they built to keep us alive.  They are constantly on the look out for threats to our survival aka negative experiences.  This is likely the root of this negativity bias that occurs in our cognition and memory.  However, this way of processing the world is also incredibly detrimental to our identities. We are so quick to raise the standard and look onto the next goal or task in sight that we never actually register the task we recently achieved as a “success”. I think this is the most underrated factor in the success equation.  The key difference in changing and enhancing one’s identity is this constant acknowledgement and celebration of even the smallest progress towards one’s goal or destiny. If you are only going to celebrate and acknowledge your success once you achieve your big goal and your ultimate destiny- it will never happen. You will never achieve your big goal because you will have not built that new and improved identity that is required to achieve that goal in the first place. The winning and successful identity must always precede the attainment of the goal- plain and simple. You must become the kind of person (and more importantly see yourself as that kind of person) that can achieve the goal before you actually can attain it. If you do not see yourself as that kind of person with 100% certainty, then good luck- you’ll never get there.  My Dad always said that true greatness comes about when competence meets confidence.  Celebrating the small victories and progress along the way is what builds the confidence.  Think about something in your life that you are 100% certain about. Something that is so tied to your identity that you experience anxiety and cognitive dissonance when you do something in opposition to that. Maybe it’s something as severe and outlandish as thinking of yourself as a murderer.  You probably are thinking, I would NEVER commit murder. Your belief that you would never commit murder is so certain and strong that just the thought of it makes you experience a great deal of unease and cognitive dissonance.  You are without a doubt 100% certain that you are not a murderer. This same level of certainty is what you will need in regards to your future desired outcome.  This confidence and belief is not an intellectual certainty, rather it is a feeling state. Belief is nothing more than a feeling of certainty- not a thought.  And the only way you get that level of certainty at the emotional level is to celebrate each tiny, little step along the way. Acknowledge and “register” even the smallest of successes and the slightest progress. You have to train yourself to be worthy, long before you are worthy.

 This insight really hit me pretty strong tonight. I spent 6 hours working through the entire Tony Robbins’ book Awaken the Giant Within tonight and came up with several exercises which I believe to be the essential building blocks to transformation and personal change.  His book is a great manual and starting point for massively transforming one’s life. One exercise I found particularly insightful and effective was this:

 First, we must understand that the quality of our lives are 100% dependent on the quality of our emotions that we consistently live in (where we live emotionally). Identify your 10 emotions of power- the ten emotions that you need to start living in, in order to become the person must become. Robbins listed his ten emotions in his book and I think they are pretty good, so we’ll use his as a reference. Which 10 emotions- that if you were to live in those states on a day to day basis- would bring you the kind of life you’ve always dreamed of. For me they look like this (these should give you an idea):1. love/warmth

2. gratitude/appreciation/celebration

3. curiosity/constant learning

4. Passion/excitement/enthusiasm

5. Flexibility/patience

6. confidence/internal sense of significance\self worth/CONGRUENCE

7. Determination/Grit/Steadfastness

8. Playfulness/Humor/Cheerfulness

9. Health/vitality/physical energy

10. contribution/giving

 

Now that you have identified the 10 emotions that you must live in to guarantee yourself a great quality of life- start by asking yourself the first question (write down these questions and your responses in your journal):

 1. When have I been loving and warm? Provide 5-6 concrete examples from your life.

-Make 1-2 examples from today or yesterday.

-Make 1-2 examples from sometime in the past month or two.

-Then make 1-2 examples from sometime before last year (somewhere in the fairly distant past).

*Write down these 5-6 examples and replay them in your mind. Get associated to these experiences. Step into these moments and re-live them.  See what you saw, feel what you felt, hear what you heard.  Sit with them for a few minutes. You know how to be warm. You know how to love. It doesn’t have to be purely romantic love, but it’s good to provide examples of both.

 Now continue this exercise for each of the other 9 emotional states. Provide examples from all 3 time frames and really associate to and relive these memories. I know this exercise might take 15-30 minutes, but it will be well worth it.  Here’s why.

 Imagine the power this exercise would have if you did it every night. You reflected on your previous day and looked into the past to celebrate when you experienced these positive and uplifting emotions. Pretty soon after days of this, what do you think your identity will be? You will see yourself and think of yourself as a loving, determined, confident, etc person (or whatever emotions you think would be beneficial for you to live in.) You will also be able to engage in these emotions much more frequently because you are rehearsing them every night with this exercise and ritual. The more you practice living in these states- the more they will become your “default setting” and the more you will believe with 100% certainty that you are a worthy, successful and loving person. This conscious recognition of these “small victories”, like reflecting on times when you were loving or determined, has the power to transform your identity into the person you want to become. Truly you are already that person, but with the ineffective cognitive strategies (negativity bias) that you are currently practicing- you are disowning these positive parts of yourself. Imagine what this exercise repeated day in and day out will do to the beliefs you have about yourself. Your entire identity will expand exponentially. You will walk differently, you will talk differently, you will interact with others differently. The certainty about who you are as a person will be astounding. When you live your life in your ten emotional states of power- the quality of your life will transform. It really gives you the power to achieve anything you want because you are becoming the kind of person with the kind of beliefs and identity who can achieve that very something you desire so dearly.

 We spend so much time as humans performing negative self-talk that no wonder everyone is depressed, divorced, in debt and obese. We do something good, but we instantly brush it under the rug like it never happened. Rather when we do something wrong or make a mistake- we sulk over it for hours like it is an indictment on our character. The only difference between successful and congruent people and those who are unsuccessful are the way they cognitively process and store the events that occur in their respective lives. Here is the difference to sum it up (if you haven’t already gotten it).

Successful people celebrate even the smallest successes and the tiniest progress. Rather when they fail or make a mistake, they don’t take it personally, they don’t throw a pity party or have a major a freak out. They just continue with the process until they finally make another step in the right direction. They are process oriented and have a growth mindset (which is brilliantly discussed in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset).

 Unsuccessful people are so focused on the achieving the end goal, that they brush off every little success or minor step along the way that is truly progress. They literally don’t even consciously see they’re making progress. They believe that they will only celebrate and acknowledge themselves as a success when they get the big goal. However they never get there because it is impossible to develop that championship and successful identity unless you celebrate even the smallest successes along the way. They are purely goal oriented and this tends to persuade them to develop a fixed mindset about their ability.

We ALWAYS operate at the level of our identity. This is why change is so brutally difficult for most people. They want to change the circumstances in their life, but they are not changing their identity and who they are becoming.  What they tend to do is rearrange circumstances- which is nothing more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic…no actual transformation occurs.  Jim Rohn summed it perfectly:

 If you want life to change, you’ve got to change. If you want life to get better, you’ve go to get better. It’s the only way it happens. Luck will show up for people and it will leave them. But if you’re constantly improving who you are and what you give- GAME OVER.

A Life Worth Living is a Life Worth Recording: The Power of Journaling

It is said that we think somewhere in the vicinity of 50,000 to 100,000 thoughts a day. Some of these thoughts might be meaningless, others might be a million dollar idea or distinction.  Have you ever come up with some groundbreaking or innovative idea- maybe a business idea, an invention or some concept you thought could change the world?  And maybe you thought about it for a brief moment and then you let it pass by and you failed to take the action that would set it into motion?  And then one day while you’re watching tv or browsing the internet- that same idea you came up with a few years earlier is now the next big thing and is an incredible success?   Undoubtedly those who take massive action have a significantly greater probability of success than those who do not. However, at a closer look, there is an intermediate step in this process of creation that probably separates the truly innovative (and successful) entrepreneurs from John Doe who comes up with the same creative idea in his head.  It is their critical thinking and problem solving abilities.  How does one cultivate such an ability?  For starters- a burning curiosity, a devoted commitment to learning, strategic thinking and intense self reflection.  An invaluable way to begin to cultivate all three invaluable skills is through journaling. You look at some highly successful people like Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, Darren Hardy, etc. and they all are highly dedicated to the process of journaling. As Jim Rohn once said, “a life worth living is a life worth recording”.

What is the value of journaling?

Since our brains are being inundated with an abundance of information and other external stimuli, a journal is the very mechanism that can help us to straighten out our priorities, thoughts and emotions. It also provides an effective avenue to chart one’s progress, successes, areas of improvement and future goals. The great thing about writing (especially when it relates to ourselves) is that it tends to make us look at our lives in a more objective manner. By writing and reflecting about ourselves we can separate from our egos and look at ourselves from an independent, 3rd party’s point of view.

Writing also takes something (a thought or idea) that is intangible and make it concrete- literally, you are taking an abstract concept and through the stroke of a pen, it is physically real and tangible- engraved on a sheet of paper. When we write we are also sharpening our strategic thinking, logic and reasoning abilities. Writing can also help you let go of an unhealthy obsession, attachment or resistance to something.  Yes, journaling is an incredibly therapeutic activity. Next time your frustrated, fuming or raging over something or someone- write about it or write that person a letter explaining how you feel. Then let it be and look at it the next day or a week.. You will likely see how irrational and overly emotional you were probably being in that moment. Heck, it might even give you a good laugh.  Hindsight tends to have that effect. If all you did in your journal was express your most intense emotions and events in your life- the benefit would be unbelievable. Your internal communication with yourself and your inner emotional world would be completely different after 6 months of this simple activity.

Journals are great for listing your daily rituals and holding yourself accountable for living these practices. This exercise is great because instead of evaluating your progress toward a goal based on whether or not you achieved the grand plan- you are able celebrate your small successes of completing all 4 or 5 of your daily rituals in that given day. And after a year of doing that- imagine where you’ll be.

Journaling is also a great tool for breaking the habit of being yourself and gaining a greater degree of self awareness. If you log everything you do in a week (and by this I mean down to the very minute), you can see where you are spending your time. You’d be surprised how much of your time is spent in dead end activities and unnecessary endeavors that aren’t progressing you toward your ultimate vision.  I know for me I haven’t turned on the tv in the past 9 months and the reward has been incredible. To take this one step further- log all your emotional states you live in during that given week. Really see where you live emotionally. This is a great indicator of how effective you are in living your life. Because our quality of life is directly determined by the quality of emotions we experience on a minute to minute and day to day basis. If you’re not spending the vast majority of your time in emotional states that empower you and move you toward your ultimate destiny then you have to make a massive change in your life (which I’ve probably detailed in past posts or will detail in the future).

So what you should you be writing in your journal?

1. Everyday outline your daily practices (musts) and other clerical and odd job tasks you need to complete for that day. Get into the habit of checking off every item from that list throughout the day when you complete it. This builds serious psychological muscle. When you do this you are teaching your brain- I GET SHIT DONE! and it also massively shifts your identity from a procrastinator to someone who takes massive action. You can list these practices the night before.

2. Finish each day with a set period of time 15-30 minutes of journaling. In this time I like to reflect on the day and answer specific questions. Here is a list of questions that are really good to not only create some closure for your day but also really highlight some key emotional states and the progress you have made (to shut up your ego who is always looking for bigger/better/more):

1.What have I given today? How have I been loving today?

2. What bad habit did I break today? How did I break the habit of being myself today?

3. How am I better? What did I do today that improved myself?

4. How can I improve in the future? Where did I not be my best self?

5. Were my intentions and actions congruent and just today? Am I living consistent with the man I want to become?

6. What did I learn today? (hopefully this is an extensive answer) What do I want to learn/study tomorrow?

7. Who did I touch today?

8. What is the life I want and demand of myself? How did I work toward that today? How did I live that life today?

9. What emotions did I live in today? What emotions must I live in tomorrow?

10. What fear did I face today and stand up to?

11. What did I do today to contribute to my happiness?

12. What detracted from my happiness today?

13. What problems did I solve today? How was I resourceful?

14. What do I want/need to work on in the future? tomorrow?

15. What was funny about today? What made me laugh today?

16. What am I truly grateful for in my life?

17. What is the one little thing that if I change/do tomorrow could transform the quality of my life and redirect me in a completely new direction?

3. Track your long term progress. Reflect back often and see the incredible progress you made over the past year or the last 6 months- really look at how far you’ve come. So many times we only focus on how far away we are from where we want to be and forget about how far we’ve come. This is a recipe for disaster because you are letting your ego win and training your brain to always be unsatisfied- so that if someday you ultimately do achieve that goal- you will be unfulfilled, looking on toward the next goal and likely ask yourself the question “Is this all there is?” This gets back to the whole gratitude piece, but if you are constantly focused on not being cool with where you are in the process, and needing results- you will never actually get the results. I know this sounds weird, but in order to get to where you want to go, you must be comfortable with where you currently are first.

Physiology: A Launch Pad for Personal Transformation

 

If there is one lesson to take away from the mainstream self help industry- this is probably it.

Tony Robbins- likely the most famous personal development figure of all- is one of the pioneers when it comes to the power of physiology.  Throughout his various books and audio programs, he affirms that our emotions are a product of 2 things.
1. Our physiology (the way we move our body)
2. The questions we ask our
self (either consciously or unconsciously).

 

For the sake of this conversation, we will focus on purely the importance that physiology plays in our emotions and our subjective experience.

 

Ironically when I started reading personal development back a few years ago I started with the topic of body language and appearance. I was completely focused on my external appearance, posture, gestures, outer confidence and the reaction that I was eliciting in others. Though this approach does not deal with the inner world that we know to be so important, it is ironic how my journey has come full circle. Now years later I see the incredible value in focusing on our physiology, but for different reasons. Adopting Robbins’ belief that 80% of the way we feel (emotionally) is a product of the way we move our body (our physiology). I have spent the past 9 months working with my physiology extensively and I can attest to its effectiveness. Prior to focusing on my physiology, I have spent hours trying to think my way out of anxious, depressive and unresourceful emotional states, only to find that they get worse and spiral way out of control. Now I can get out of these negative states by simple breathing deeper and more fully, or putting a big smile on my face, or jumping up and down, or by relaxing and dropping my shoulders back and down. Overall, I have found that physiology is truly the control panel to our emotions.

 

Tony Robbins is the perfect example of how powerful of a factor physiology is in creating our emotions and the way we operate in the world.  If you watch Tony Robbins in his new documentary you will see how much he has mastered his physiology. He performs these strange rituals that get his body into state and condition his nervous system to move, breathe and operate in certain way. In one part you see him jumping on a mini trampoline. In another scene he is working on his posture while doing a breathing exercise and pumping his arms up and down. Before he gets on stage, he performs certain gestures and incantations. While on stage, his physiology is incredibly relaxed, with his shoulders back and down. This contributes to his incredible level of certainty and emotional mastery. He has been doing this stuff for the last 30+ years and his dedication to these practices is clearly second to none. He didn’t get this physiological and emotional mastery over night, he did it over day after day, month after month and year after year.  This display of mastery and the power of daily rituals, performed for weeks, months, years and decades is a theme that will be referenced over and over.

In spite of my understanding of physiology I still find myself experiencing bad moods.  I still get anxious at times.  I still get irritable. What I notice is that when I am in these states I have the tendency to go up in my head and try to think my way out of them and solve them rationally. I get super analytical and start to ask questions like “what must I believe to be feeling this way?”  A great example of this transpired earlier this year.  About six months ago, I was on my way to pick up this girl for a date and I was feeling pretty anxious. It was a shitty feeling. I was tense and my thoughts were racing and I kept trying to think my way out of it. But the more questions I asked myself, the worse my emotional state seemed to get. I had only about ten minutes left in my drive until I was going to pick her up and I was freaking out over the thought that “if I show up in this emotional state, this date is going to be terrible and will be no fun”. Then finally something that a mentor of mine has said to me a hundred times popped up in my head: “80% of the way you feel is determined by the way you move your body”. I realized my car seat was quite erect so I instantly reclined my seat back a bit, which put me in a more relaxed, laid back posture. Then I started to breathe fully and really exhaled under a 4-5 second count. Prior to that I was breathing very shallow. Then I put a smile on my face and started to laugh and think about a funny experience I had in the past. In the matter of a few seconds, my entire demeanor changed. I was now loose, fun and playful, but I didn’t make this shift by thinking my way through it. I made this shift through my physiology- mainly my posture, breathing and facial expressions. As William James said- “we’re happy because we sing, NOT we sing because we’re happy”.

The power of physiology in relationship to our emotional state is not just something Tony Robbins made up.  It is empirically supported by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy’s research and detailed in her Ted talk and her best selling book Presence.  Mike Cernovich, a popular self help blogger, also illustrates the importance of physiology in his book Gorilla Mindset .

To add the evidence, there was a study where they had severely depressed patients force a smile in front of a mirror for 2 hours per day. After a month they were no longer depressed. It was impossible for them to be. They had rewired and reconditioned their physiology (and subsequently their neurology) so they were no longer able to live in that depressed emotional state on a consistent basis.

Different people have different triggers. Some may respond better to posture, some may be more reliant on their breathing. But all 3 facets are important to focus on. So here is the actual equation for mastering your emotional state and therefore your experience in life:

So how do you truly master your physiology and get to this level of mastery? I wouldn’t recommend implementing everything at once. You take one part of your physiology and master it for 30 days. And by master it, I mean you constantly focus on it for every waking moment of the day. Write reminders on sticky notes and leave them in your room, by your computer, in the bathroom, in your car, etc. Wear a rubberband on your wrist to remind you to focus on it. These symbols are to remind you to enact this change at every second of your waking consciousness. After these 30 days this habit will be formed and it will be a way of being. Then you can spend the next 30 days mastering another aspect of your physiology. Truly creating a new habit in your physiology has the power to transform your world. What are some examples of what I’m talking about?

 

1. Facial expression- live with a constant grin on your face. Determine what that slight grin looks and feels like- that gives you that feeling of joy, contentment, playfulness or whatever empowering emotion you want to cultivate more of. At every moment, hold this facial expression. Live in this facial expression. Obviously your old habitual conditioning will cause your face to return to it’s default state, that is okay, don’t get mad at yourself- be compassionate to yourself if you catch yourself not practicing the new habit. Just when you see these reminders, instantly put this grin on your face. Try to spend all day with this facial expression.
2. Breathing- breathe deeply. Inhale through your nose and exhale fully through your mouth. Feel your belly expand on the inhale then return to it’s normal position. This is what I have been doing for the past 60 days. It has completely changed my emotional experience. I have seen that this has been an incredible pattern interrupt too. Every time I have a negative thought or feeling in my gut, I have noticed that deep and full breathing instantly changes my focus and releases the tension within me. Breathing is probably the greatest tool in all of personal development and psychology. What I have seen is that when something happens either internally or externally to me that causes distress, worry, anxiety, etc, my mind starts to race and this horrible feeling arises in my gut. I begin to identify with the source of this angst and my body follows. My breathing stops and gets really shallow. But when I interrupt this pattern and I focus on breathing fully, after about 4 or 5 breaths I begin to feel unstoppable. I seem to detach from the anxious feelings and thoughts by merely focusing on my breath and deepening it.  I also found out that I come to the realization, “Wow I’m still breathing, I’m still alive. This little thing or condition can’t really hurt me. This isn’t going to kill me”. It’s truly amazing the power of breathing.  On a side note, this is also why the martial arts are so powerful.
3. Posture- relax your shoulders so they move down and back, let your head sit comfortably on top of them so it is not protruding out and jolted forward. Make sure your chest is up. Find that posture that makes you feel really relaxed and do the same thing as the above exercises. Make it point to live in that for 30 days.

The reason you should only focus on one of these little things for 30 days (rather than integrating all of it) is so that you guarantee your success and ensure you are laser focused. I also realized that the past week, though I have only been obsessed and focused on my breathing, that my posture and facial expressions have improved incidentally and “come along for the ride”.  It is almost like they are all interconnected and communicate with each other in some way. When I start to breathe more fully, I realize that often times by shoulders and posture become more relaxed, as well as my tight face begins to loosen and grin.

The real power this 30 day challenge has over your life is that by constantly adjusting an aspect of your physiology, you are performing a very strong pattern interrupt. This pattern interrupt that you are performing every minute, all day, is incredibly powerful because it is breaking you out of the trance called your life. So often we live in a trance, going from one thing to another with no awareness of our thoughts, emotions or our surroundings. We just operate on auto-pilot and wonder why we do what we do. This pattern interrupt you will repeat hundreds, if not thousands of times during a single day will make you more mindful and break yourself of  the habit of being yourself. Joe Dispenza is the author of Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One, and this exercise repeated hundreds of times throughout the day is the most simple and effective tool of breaking your old patterns and rewiring your neurology, physiology (and eventually your identity). This has the potential to help you detach and not over-identify with your emotions, your reputation, your performance, and your results. 
 
I look back at everything I read and I now laugh, I read over 300 books over the past 3 years. I kept wanting more and more knowledge. I wasn’t going to stop until I found the secret. I was exhausting my brain with content and information. I didn’t need anything more going into my brain. I needed to change the way I feel, the emotions I was experiencing and the world in which I was living in. This is all through experience, emotional intensity and our physiology. This is where books can really go wrong. You live in your head- you’re dead. 
 
Try this and really stick to it. Make it your #1 priority on your to-do list everyday and see what happens after 30 days.
“The real key in life is to be able to make yourself feel good when you don’t feel good, or when you don’t even want to feel good.”
Other great activities that can really help you master your physiology (and thus your psychology).

 

-Anchoring using your whole body (will be discussed in other posts)

-Power posing- abundance pose/etc.

-lifting weights

-martial arts

-intense cardio/interval training

-jumping on a rebounder or trampoline

-dancing

-strong gestures

-meditation

-deep breathing/mindfulness training

-contrast hot/cold showers- forces your body to breath and move differently

-watching funny movies/making a point to laugh hard every day