I’ve written about motivation before, but I think the most motivating thing someone can have is a compelling vision for the future. I attempt to explain mine in this video.
Happy New Year everyone!
I’m writing this on January 1st which means it’s time for an obligatory New Year’s resolution post.
I don’t have a great history with New Year’s resolutions. It’s well known that the majority of people don’t stick to the resolutions they make, and I’ve been a part of that majority pretty much every year that I’ve made one.
That’s why I decided a few weeks ago that, instead of making a typical New Year’s resolution, I would pick a “focus” instead; something I can practice throughout the year without the pressure of having to accomplish anything. That focus will be mindfulness.
Still, the progress I made in 2016 left me with a drive to really push myself this year. So while mindfulness will be my top priority, there are still some concrete things I’m going to try to accomplish as well. Here are the most important ones for me:
- Learn HTML and design my own website
- Put out multiple blog posts and vlogs each week
- Travel to at least 5 new countries
- Save up to buy a new camera and video editing software
- Read 50 books
- Make meditation a consistent habit
- Improve my Spanish
I already know that accomplishing these will be quite the challenge. Consistency is something I’ve always struggled with, and most of them will require a lot of discipline and consistent effort. Yet, for what might be the first time in my life, I’m filled with more excitement than dread at the thought of pursuing these goals. I know that just working towards them will create a lot of positive change in my life.
Maybe it’s the momentum from this past year talking, but I truly believe I’m going to crush it in 2017.
“Begin with the end in mind.”
After reading Stephen Covey’s “First Things First” a few months ago, keeping track of my goals has been at the top of my mind. I’m happy to say that, since then, I’ve made more progress towards the life I want than in the past 3 years combined. But still, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t lost a little bit of that focus in the transition from California to Spain.
Now that I’m pretty much settled in Sevilla, it’s time for me to refocus on my major goals for this year abroad. And I could think of no better way to do that than putting them out there for the world to see.
So here are the three main things I want to accomplish/work towards this year:
- Building this blog and my Youtube channel: In late June, it occurred to me that blogging is something I could happily spend the rest of my life doing. While it may be a lofty goal, I would eventually like to make a career out of it. Outside of the next two goals, writing and making videos are what I plan on spending the bulk of my time on for the foreseeable future.
- Visit 3 new countries: Traveling is something I’m deeply passionate about, so this is a really important goal for me. I already have a couple destinations in mind (Prague and Amsterdam), but the real challenge will be making these trips happen on a super tight budget.
- Creating a great social life: I didn’t have much of a social life while teaching in San Sebastian last year. Outside of going to a few language meetups and dating a really awesome Basque girl, I spent most of my time alone. While this isn’t really an issue for me – I’ve always had a tendency to spend a lot of time alone – I’d like to make a change this year. Fortunately, Sevilla is a city with a lively social scene, so I don’t see this being a huge challenge.
I’m already very motivated to accomplish these goals, but I hope that making them public will give me an added sense of accountability this year.
What are some goals you would like to accomplish this year? How do you plan on staying motivated?
Photo: Where the River Urumea meets the ocean in San Sebastian, Spain.
“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.”
– Richard Whately
I am NOT a morning person. I usually wake up pissed off at the world, begrudging the alarm that jolted me awake and the fact that mornings exist in the first place. None of this is helped by the fact that I’ve always been a night owl. During my college years I rarely went to bed before 2 a.m., and my sleep schedule hasn’t improved much since.
Despite my harsh feelings towards mornings, I’ve started to recognize the value in rising early. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I’ve started feeling the consequences of getting up late.
My days often feel chaotic when I sleep in. There never seems to be enough time to get stuff done, and I usually end up going through the day on autopilot. But when I manage to get up early I feel a lot more grounded. It’s as if my mind has time to warm up, allowing it to perform optimally for the rest of the day. I can see clearly what I want to accomplish and take decisive action towards it.
In order to avoid the trappings of late starts, I’ve not only committed to rising earlier on a daily basis, but also to developing my own morning ritual.
Morning rituals are not a new concept. I’ve seen them promoted in religions, self-help books, and even autobiographies. It seems like most of the successful people I read about have some kind of ritual to start their days. I’ve even heard it said that all of us have morning rituals, even if we aren’t conscious of them. Since living consciously is one of my my most important values, intentionally crafting my own morning ritual seems like an important task.
While I’m writing about this now, creating my morning ritual has been an ongoing process for the past couple of years. I’m just finally at a point where I’ve found one that suits me.
So how did I go about developing my morning ritual?
To be honest, a lot of it was just trial and error. I looked at a lot of the advice given in self-help books and blogs, and started testing things out. This included everything from cold showers as soon as I woke up to performing goal visualization. A few things stuck; most of them didn’t.
I had to take into account what kind of person I am. Not being a natural morning person, would pushing myself to the edge with a cold shower each morning be sustainable? Probably not. I also considered how much time I needed to wake up, how much structure I wanted, and what parts of early mornings I struggle with the most. For example, I usually feel really groggy for the first 15-20 minutes after waking up. So doing anything that requires a lot of brain power during that time wouldn’t be the smartest strategy.
The ritual I’ve come up with takes about an hour. It changes a bit depending on my work schedule, but this is the core of it:
6:00 a.m. – Get up and splash some cold water on my face
- I’ve found this to be a much more relaxed alternative to cold showers.
6:05 a.m. – Put on an audiobook, make a glass of lemon water, and cook breakfast
- Listening to an audiobook or some type of educational content helps put me in a focused state of mind.
- The lemon water is just plain refreshing, though I’ve heard it has some added health benefits as well.
6:15 a.m. – Eat breakfast while listening to audiobook
- Giving myself at least 15 minutes to eat, as opposed to rushing through my meal, helps set a less frazzled tone for my day. I like to be focused, but never rushed.
6:30 a.m. – Meditate for 15 minutes
- This is probably the most critical part of my routine. Daily meditation keeps me grounded and present, no matter what challenges I face.
6:45 a.m. – Go over my long-term goals and mission statement
- I’ll go into more detail on this in a different post, but connecting with my long-term goals and mission helps me focus on what really matters during the day.
6:55 a.m. – Look over priorities/goals for the day
- I usually write these out the night before and quickly review them before I start my day.
7:00 a.m – Get ready for work
All in all, this is a pretty relaxed morning ritual compared some of the other ones I’ve tried. But it gives me just enough time to fully wake up, put some energy in my body, ground myself with meditation, and get focused for the day ahead of me.
Do you have a morning ritual? What are some of the strategies you use to get the most out your day?
As I begin each week, I find it really important to be grounded in a firm sense of direction. This doesn’t just mean knowing what I want to accomplish externally, but what I want my mental state to consist of as well. A big part of that is setting firm intentions for what I want to focus on in my life.
I’m a firm believer that the quality our lives are almost entirely determined by what we choose to focus on. We can either focus on the positive aspects of life or the negative. We can focus on the slow driver in front of us, or the fact that we are lucky to have an air-conditioned car in the first place.
There’s always a choice, and I’m using this quote as a reminder that who I am is not determined by my circumstances, but by the choices I make in each moment.
“Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life.” –Jesse Lee Bennett
Ahhh….the joy of reading. There are few things more pleasurable to me than sitting down with a cup of coffee and getting lost in a good book.
Many people are often surprised when they see me reading a book during my lunch breaks or in my free time. “You like to read???” they always ask.
I’m never completely sure if the emphasis is on ‘read’ or on ‘you’, but I get the impression that a lot of people view reading as a chore. Maybe school is to blame for that. God knows nothing takes the fun out of something like being forced to do it. Yet, outside of the occasional required reading for class, sitting down and putting my nose in a book has never been something I’ve had to force myself to do.
Reading always came easy to me, even in my early childhood, but I think my true passion for it started with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Ironically enough, my mom actually had to force me to read past the first few pages (thanks Mom!), but after a chapter or two I was addicted.
Since then, reading has been one the most important parts of my life. I try to spend at least 30 minutes doing it every day. Up until the end of high school my reading preferences consisted purely of fiction. I read everything from fantasy novels about dragons to some pretty disturbing stories by Stephen King. You could say that reading fiction was my greatest escape.
In the past few years my interest in fiction has waned quite a bit. Maybe it’s just a result of getting older, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to fully engage with those kinds of books, the only exception being more classical literature (Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway are two of my favorites).
However, that doesn’t mean my love for reading has dampened in the slightest. Lately I’ve found myself most captivated by books on spirituality, mindfulness, philosophy, and self-improvement. Anything I feel can help me live a more fulfilling life. It’s those types of books that will be topic of this post.
So without further ado, here is a list of the 5 books that have had the biggest impact on my life so far. These aren’t necessarily my favorite books from a literary standpoint (I’ll save that for another post), but they have contributed the most to who I am today and what I want out of life.
1. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
I can honestly say this book is the most important thing I’ve ever read. Prior to finding it in 2013, I felt completely at the whim of my very erratic thoughts and emotions. The information I found in this book helped me achieve whole new levels of self-awareness and inner peace that have continued to grow in the years since.
What is The Power of Now about? In essence, it’s about learning how to be completely present to the moment. Eckhart Tolle, who I guess many would describe as a spiritual guru of sorts, lays out very clearly an idea that Eastern religions have talked about for centuries: the distinction between the “self” and the “ego.” To put it in less esoteric terms, he basically challenges you to start observing your thoughts as opposed to letting them control you.
I understand that this can sound a little too New-Agey for a lot of people. I’d be lying if I said I bought into everything that Eckhart Tolle talks about. However, what I did resonate with added a ton of value to my life and I always encourage people to at least give the book a shot.
2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This amazing allegorical novel is a super easy read that packs a powerful message. If you’re having doubts about your purpose in life or just need some extra motivation to follow your passion, definitely check this book out. It always seems to give me inspiration when I need it the most.
3. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
I think of this book as my introduction to minimalism. While it was published way back in 1854, Thoreau’s account of his two years living alone in a forest still feels relevant today. What I loved most about this book was how Thoreau was able to perfectly capture a sentiment that many of us still feel today: the feeling that our possessions control our lives. Walden has helped me gain a lot insight into what is truly essential in my life.
4. The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient Hindu scripture. No, I’m not a follower of Hinduism. I’m not even religious. But I do think there is enormous wisdom to be found in this book, and many of the other ancient religious texts. This wisdom often comes in the form of “universal principles.” These are basic principles that pretty much govern our lives; things like “treat others how you want to be treated” and “you reap what you sow.”
The Gita emphasizes a ton of these principles. One of the biggest insight I’ve gained from it has been the principle of detachment from outcome, something it talks about quite a bit. If you’re able to look past the surface layer of religious names and concepts, you might find something in it that resonates with you as well.
5. The Alabaster Girl by Zan Perrion
A book about beauty, romance, adventure, and seduction. While entirely about one man’s perspective on life, love, and women, this book is the spark that ignited an appetite for beauty in my life. Everything from the way it’s written to the message it contains inspires me each time I read it (I think I’m at four times now).
Let me know what you think of these books! Also, I’d love to hear about any books that have impacted your own lives.
I’ve always loved the analogy of the mind being like an ocean. The surface – our everyday stream of consciousness – is often rocky and unpredictable. Our thoughts, emotions, and desires are continuously buffeted along by strong winds. These winds are the external forces in our lives – things like our jobs, our family situations, social conditioning.
But what lies beneath the surface? Is there a deeper level to our minds, an equivalent to the dark and mysterious depths of the ocean? This is a question I’ve spent a lot of time trying to answer when it comes to my own mind. And what I’ve found, in those rare moments when I’ve been able to calm the mental storm in my head, is that there is an incredible stillness to be found beneath the surface.
At first that stillness was detectable only in my most peaceful moments. I recall my almost nightly drives to Seal Beach during the summer of 2013, my first conscious attempts to escape all of the noise in my head. I would walk out to the edge of the pier and just stare at the ocean for an hour or so, letting the sounds of the waves and the surrounding darkness calm me.
After a while I would feel a shift inside. It was like all of my worries and superficial desires would just float away. My mind was finally just…still. It was in those moments that my desire for a life filled with adventure and beauty started to come to the surface.
For the first time in my life I could see that I wanted so much more for my life than the textbook version of success I had been chasing. It was clear that typical things like finding a nice job, chasing after money, and searching for comfort and security just weren’t for me. It was as if the call of my heart was finally louder than the chatter in my brain.
To this day the contents of my brain are just as scattered as they were three years ago. When I wake up in the morning, seeking out the beauty in my life is the last thing on my mind. When someone is rude to me or I make a stupid mistake at work, I don’t think about adventure and romance, I just get pissed off. I wrestle with a myriad of fears, anxieties, and petty emotions every single day.
Yet the knowledge of what I’ve felt in those moments of stillness has stayed with me. I know that the tumultuousness of my thoughts and emotions only represents the very surface of who I am and what I want. I know that deep inside me, at the very core of my soul, exists a vision for my life that is so much greater than my everyday concerns and superficial desires.
Knowing all of this, when I feel myself getting caught up in life’s frenzied current, all I can do is pause and get in touch with that stillness. It’s in that state that I’m able to see clearly what I want out of life. It’s in the stillness that I derive my energy. And it’s in the stillness that I’m fully consumed by an appetite for beauty.