Enjoy Life With 8 Simple Steps

The Most  Beauty of Nature_300WThis post is targeted at the person stuck in the 9 to 5 grind who longs for the weekend and, in the process, has given up on trying to find pleasure in the ordinary experiences we have every day.

1. Appreciate Beauty. Each day we come across beauty in a number of shapes and forms. It’s a shame, then, that many people have become so accustomed to this beauty that it largely goes unappreciated. I suggest looking again at the people, plants, gadgets, and buildings (to name but a few examples) around you and taking a moment to appreciate what makes them so special.

2. Connect With Nature. Nature is an amazing healer for the stresses and strains of modern life. Eating lunch in the park, attending to a vegetable garden in your backyard, or watching the sunset are just a few simple ideas for how you can enjoy the outdoors on a daily basis.

3. Laugh. E. E. Cummings once said “the most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” How very true. Never be too busy to laugh, or too serious to smile. Instead, surround yourself with fun people and don’t get caught up in your own sense of importance.

simple Pleasures_250W4. Have Simple Pleasures. A good cup of coffee when I first wake. Time spent cooking a nice meal in the evening. These may not seem terribly exciting, but they are some of the simple pleasures I enjoy in life. If you slow down for just a moment and take the time to appreciate these ordinary events, life becomes instantly more enjoyable.

5. Connect With People. In so many ways, it is our relationships with people that give us the most happiness in life. Perhaps, then, the best way to enjoy your work more is not to get a raise or a promotion, but rather to build rewarding relationships with your co-workers.

6. Learn. There is a strong link between learning and happiness. Given this, there is no excuse not to be stimulating your brain and learning something new each day. My favorite way to find time for learning is to make the most of the commute to and from work. Audiobooks and podcasts are great for this purpose.

Celebrate-Your-Success_200W7. Rethink Your Mornings and Evenings. Are the mornings a mad rush for you to get out the door? Do you switch off the TV at night and go straight to bed? I have personally experienced the profound benefits of establishing a routine in the morning and evening. For example, in the morning you may choose to wake an hour earlier and spend the time working on yourself, whether it be reading, writing or exercising. In the evening, consider spending some time just before bed reviewing your day or in meditation.

8. Celebrate Your Successes. During a normal day we are sure to have some minor successes. Perhaps you have successfully dealt with a difficult customer, made a sale, or received a nice compliment for your work. These aren’t events worth throwing a party for, but why not take a moment to celebrate your success? Share the experience with someone else, reward yourself with a nice lunch, or just give yourself a mental pat on the back.

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5 Ways To Turn Fear Into Fuel

Uncertainty. It’s a terrifying word.

Living with it, dangling over your head like the sword of Damocles, day in day out, is enough to send anyone spiraling into a state of anxiety, fear and paralysis.

Like it or not, though, uncertainty is the new normal. We live in a time where the world is in a state of constant, long-term flux. And, that’s not all. If you want to spend your time on the planet not just getting-by, but consistently creating art, experiences, businesses and lives that truly matter, you’ll need to proactively seek out, invite and even deliberately amplify uncertainty. Because the other side of uncertainty is opportunity.

Nothing great was ever created by waiting around for someone to tell you it’s all going to be okay or for perfect information to drop from the sky. Doesn’t happen that way. Great work requires you to act in the face of uncertainty, to live in the question long enough for your true potential to emerge. There is no alternative.

When you find the strength to act in the face of uncertainty, you till the soil of genius.

Problem is, that kills most people. It leads to unease, anxiety, fear and doubt on a level that snuffs out most genuinely meaningful and potentially revolutionary endeavors before they even see the light of day. Not because they wouldn’t have succeeded, but because you never equipped yourself to handle and even harness the emotional energy of the journey.

But, what if it didn’t have to be that way?

What if there was a way to turn the fear, anxiety and self-doubt that rides along with acting in the face of uncertainty–the head-to-toe butterflies–into fuel for brilliance?

Turns out, there is. Your ability to lean into the unknown isn’t so much about luck or genetics, rather it’s something entirely trainable. I’ve spent the past few years interviewing world-class creators across a range of fields and pouring over research that spans neuroscience, decision-theory,psychology, creativity and business.

Through this work, a collection of patterns, practices and strategies have emerged that not only turbocharge insight, creativity, innovation and problem-solving, but also help ameliorate so much of the suffering so often associated with the pursuit of any creative quest.

Here are 5 starter-strategies to help get you going:

1. Reframe.

We tell ourselves stories all day long. I’m skinny. I’m fat. I’m talented. I’m stupid. This is genius. This is awful. I will succeed. I will fail. I’m terrified and anxious. I’m confident and proactive. It turns out, the storylines we create around a particular circumstance are far more determinable of success than the circumstance itself. They affect not only our willingness to act, but the quality of our ideas and solutions.

If you create a story that empowers action and innovation, that’s great news. Unfortunately, our brains have a strong bias toward negativity, leading most of us to create stories around circumstances that need action in the face of uncertainty that are more likely to paralyze and stunt creativity than fuel action.

Reframing is a process that asks you to suspend negative story lines  explore if the story you’re telling is the only one and, if not (which is inevitably the case), construct or frame a new story line that empowers you to experience an uncertain circumstance not as a prime for failure and inaction, but as a signpost for meaning and opportunity.

For example, if you’re disabling storyline is around the risk of failure, instead of just asking “what if I fail?” and creating a doomsday scenario, you also ask “how will I recover, what if I do nothing and what if I succeed?” Then build new stories around those questions.

2. Practice Mindfulness.

Reframing is an immensely powerful tool in the quest to lean into the unknown. But it also requires a certain equanimity; the ability to pull back and see what’s really going on, re-center, then breath into that uncomfortable place long enough for amazing things to bubble up. Over time, a daily mindfulness practice goes a long way toward equipping you to do just that.

Plus, it cultivates the sense of persistent grounding that makes living and acting in a world where there is no new normal far more enjoyable. And it trains you in the practice of dropping thoughts, among those, destructive, limiting-beliefs.

3. Exercise Your Brain.

We’ve all seen the research on exercise and health, weight loss and disease prevention. But, did you know that certain approaches to exercise also have a profound effect on your brain?

Daily cardiovascular exercise, for example, especially with high-intensity bursts mixed in can improve mood, executive function, decision-making and creativity and decrease anxiety and fear. The latest research even reveals the possibility that exercise can grow new brains cells, something that until only a few years ago, was thought to be impossible. It’s also strongly correlated with decreases in anxiety and increases in mood, which are directly connected to improved creativity and problem-solving.

4. Single Task.

Multitasking is out. Turns out this badge of honor from the ’90s is more fiction than fact. Our brains don’t multitask, they just rapidly switch between tasks, sometimes fast enough for us to believe we’re doing many things at once. Problem is, every time we switch, there is a “ramping cost” in your brain, it takes anywhere from a few second to 15 minutes for your brain to fully re-engage. This makes you feel insanely busy, but simultaneously craters productivity, creativity and increases feelings of anxiety and stress.

Multitasking also requires you to hold a lot of information in your working memory, which is controlled by a part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC). But the PFC is also responsible for will-power, and for keeping fear and anxiety in check. Multitasking increases the “cognitive load” on the PFC, overwhelming it and effectively killing it’s ability to keep fear, anxiety and the taunt of distraction at bay.

Simple solution–just say no. Do one thing at a time in intense, short bursts.

5. Get Lean.

Instead of creating in a vacuum, explore the possibility of bringing a “lean” or “agile” approach to your creative process. Focus on maximum learning, create the simplest version of your idea possible, then bring a select group of those who’d potentially enjoy it into the process earlier in name of soliciting and integrating input into the next iteration. This not only minimizes waste, it changes the psychology of creation by adding more certainty earlier in the game and encouraging consistent, incremental action.

These five strategies and practices can change the way you experience the creative process in a profound way. They’ll not only allow you to tap a reservoir of previously hidden creativity, they’ll also allow you to experience any creative endeavor with a far deeper sense of equanimity and joy.

[notice]Editor’s note: This is a post from Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance.[/notice]

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