“There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” — John F. Kennedy
Do you want to feel insanely energetic, inspired, happy, and carefree?
It is possible, but you must act, and you must be consistent. Mike Murdoch said it best: “You will never change your life unless you change something you do every day.”
But fear not, it gets easier as you go, and the benefits are enormous.
It’s not going to happen overnight however. Nothing good comes quick or easy. You will have to give up many of your creature comforts. Mindlessly surfing social media, watching garbage TV, eating junk food, and sleeping in at weekends will all have to go, or be significantly reduced.
If you want a better life, you have to make changes.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” — Pablo Picasso
I consider myself one of the most positive, happy, energetic, and carefree people I know. This is not by accident. I consistently act on the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years to keep my mind in peak condition.
Here are 16 tools that I practice on a regular basis. Some I’ve learned through trial and error, but the majority I picked up from people much smarter than myself, including many brilliant minds who have been writing about these practices for centuries.
- Exercise Regularly. Exercise positively impacts every other aspect of your life. It lifts your mood, boosts your confidence, gives you more energy, and is a natural anti-depressant. There is no better way to start the day, and a really solid workout makes the rest of the day feel like a walk in the park.
- Get out of your head. Introduce some form of meditation into your life. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Focus on your breath for a few minutes each day, or any sensory experiences for that matter. Feel the water touching your skin while you shower. Listen to the birds singing in the morning. Gaze at the stars. Just notice things — it really is that simple. If you want some formal direction, Insight Timer is a fantastic free app with thousands of meditations to guide you along the way.
- Practice Gratefulness. This has become one of the most important practices in my life. You can’t be angry, afraid, or jealous while you’re being grateful. Go on, try it. I pick at least three things to be grateful for every morning. It’s best to be specific, like a smile from a loved one, the breakfast you have planned, or the wind whistling through the air.
- Visualise your dreams. What you cannot see, you cannot achieve. I visualise writing books, gazing at the stars, drinking coffee on the balcony, and going for mountain hikes at my future Alpine lodge. I can smell the pine, taste the coffee, and feel the sun on my face as I reach the peak of the mountain; and I do this every single day. Envisage it, feel it, believe it, expect it, and do it. Dream big dreams. They only start to become real when you get ruthlessly specific about what you want.
- Develop a morning routine. I start the day with a routine consisting of visualisation, gratefulness practice, and some form of meditation. It doesn’t have to be long, 10–20 minutes works fine, and then I will do at least 30 mins of exercise. Running in natural environments is particularly beneficial. My morning routine, more than anything else, empowers me with the positivity and motivation to take on anything that life throws in my way, and you’ll be far more productive with the energy it creates. You won’t lose time, you’ll gain time.
- Neutralize negativity from your life. Avoid negativity at all costs. For me, this includes any form of negative news and social media, and I especially give negative people a wide berth. You can’t underestimate the impact that negativity can have on you.
- Read often, but read wisely. Become a student of life. Articles like this are great, but books are better. Many of the world’s greatest minds have put to paper on what they learned in life. My favourite books include “Awareness” by Anthony de Mello, “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David Schwartz, “Tribe of Mentors” by Tim Ferriss, “Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer, and anything by Eckhart Tolle. To paraphrase George R.R. Martin: “A reader lives a thousand lives before they die, the person who never reads lives only one”.
- Connect with people. Put time and energy into important relationships. Connecting face-to-face is also crucial. There is far too much surface contact these days. Remember, most people in life are only visitors, so spend lots of time with the people you care for.
- Build your tribe, but choose carefully. As Tim Ferriss notes: “You are the average of the five people you most associate with.” If you surround yourself with inspirational people, you’ll likely be inspired. But if you spend your time around complainers, you’ll most likely end up the same way. This is backed up by a large body of research which demonstrates that emotions are contagious.
- Reach out to people. Contact people further along the road. Send them an email. Post them a letter. You never know, they might just be willing to help. I’ve used this tactic with unbelievable results, and can barely remember the ones who didn’t respond. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, simple! You have absolutely nothing to lose. I’m currently interested in contacting Russell Brand to discuss shared concerns about methadone treatment. I’ve sent him several emails, and a letter. No response yet, but I’ll be sending more. If you’re reading this, I’m coming after you Russell J
- Embrace change. The present moment is all there ever is. Think about it, is it ever not now? Of course not. You can’t taste the future or smell the past. Life is only ever now, and the now is always changing. You might even say that life is change. So if you hate change, what does that say about your life? Embrace change, and life will be your friend.
- Seek never ending improvement. Learn every day, and do it deliberately. It’s also important to step outside of your comfort zone. Pain plus reflection equals progress, and progress equals happiness. It might be progress in your career, self-mastery, or acquiring peace of mind; that’s up you, but it’s important to make continuous improvements.
- Embrace failure. We need to be careful about our perception of “failure”. For me failure is the path to progress; that’s if you learn from it of course. Can you succeed in anything without the risk of failure? Hell no. Failure is how we learn. “In fact, there is no failing — just a change of direction” — Michael Thompson. So be bold, take a risk; you don’t always need permission. If you really believe in something, do it. If it doesn’t work out, it’s always easier to ask for forgiveness.
- Be a giver, not a taker. If you have lots of money, great, but it doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive. Smile at people. Chat to strangers, especially if they look a little sad or lost. Listen attentively instead of thinking about what you want to say. Leave money with the barista to pay for the next person’s coffee. They don’t need to know who paid for it, but it will bring smile to their face, and yours. I do this every Monday and Friday morning, and it really brightens up my day. Random acts of kindness go a long way.
- Journaling. This really requires a blog of its own, and I’ll be writing one soon. Put simply, journaling involves writing about your thoughts. I also use it to reflect on my life progress. I tend to pick a specific question such as: “What excites you, what are you passionate about? Then I’ll write down anything that comes to mind, and I mean anything. Just let it flow. This technique allows me to clarify my thoughts and identify what’s important in my life. It has also helped me to become a better thinker.
- Keep a list like this one. Everyone thinks that they will remember the important things, but they don’t. That’s why journaling is so important — writing things down helps you to retain information. Keeping a list like this will help you to remember the most important things you’ve learned in life.
I’ve practiced and refined these tools over the last few years. I certainly don’t follow each of them every day (1–6 excluded), but when I practice the majority of them, they have a profound impact on how I feel. Life is life, so I’m not always bouncing around like the Energizer Bunny, but most of the time I genuinely do feel insanely energetic, happy, and carefree. I’m sure you’ll agree if you’ve ever met me.
If this list sounds a little daunting, don’t worry. Take baby steps, that’s how I started. Read a page from a good book each day. Go for a brisk walk three time a week. Read a blog about meditation, and then start practicing it for two minutes each morning. Action breeds more action.
Just start, and before you know it you’ll be building up a habit.
And the best news is, things get much easier as you go. You just need to be consistent.
Small consistent steps lead to big changes, always.
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