Staying Motivated

I spent about an hour recording takes for this video, but I wasn’t really happy with any of them. So this reminded me of a few years ago when I was trying to meet new people. I was going out with friends, or on my own chatting to a lot of people on the street, on the subway and in many different places. I was really trying to improve my social skills, to communicate honestly and become more confident. I wanted to get in contact with what I feel and learn how to honestly communicate that to others and see if there is resonance. Many times, even if I would go out and talk to many people I felt very discouraged. I had big goals and it was almost impossible for me to meet my expectations. Many times there just wasn’t a connection with anyone and sometimes I wasn’t even having very pleasant interactions. Thinking back I was trying to control variables that clearly were not in my control, and this was making me feel very discouraged and disempowered.

Then I learned a simple lessonthat really helped me. It was from a guy who was teaching social skills. His advice was simple: “If you want to get better at meeting new people – make the only requirement for your success that you are taking action.” So I made that a rule for myself. If I was not taking action then I was failing, but If I was taking action – then I was succeeding. By doing this I was beginning to focus on what I could control, instead of what I could not. This meant that if I was leaving the house, even though I felt shy, that was a success. If I saw someone that I found interesting or sympathic and I wanted to talk to them – and I got up the courage and did it – Success! No matter if that person liked me or didn’t, because that was ultimately out of my control. So my internal rule of success – taking action was fulfilled and this really motivated me. It put me back in the driver’s seat. It’s taking control of a process that I call “Success Cycle“. This basically means the fours steps Anthony Robbins defines as the definition, and the method for success. The four steps are:

  1. Clearly know what you want
  2. Take massive action
  3. Notice what’s working and what isn’t
  4. If it’s not working: Keep changing your approach until it does

Maybe you noticed that there is no “what if things don’t work out”. Because you keep at it until it does work. This is the cycle that gets you to your goal. You know where you are going, you are taking concrete steps, you are aware of what is getting you closer and what isn’t and: you stay flexible and adapt until you find a way. But this process only works if we are motivated! Our brain is designed to conserve energy. When it seems like we are not making any progress in something and our efforts feel futile for too long, then we can lose motivation altogether. Our brain says: “Hey, this is a waste of time! Let’s do something else..” But if we have a clear and achievable definition of what is success – then we can stay motivated. Even if we are on a plateau, a situation we are bound to face with more complex projects and goals. A plateau is a period of apparent stagnation (like a flat line). There is no visible progress at that moment. At these times things in the outside may simply have to align. Often there is a lot of crucial learning happening in these periods, which at the moment we don’t recognize because we are so focused on moving ahead. Using this rule of “Taking Acion Equals Success” is extremely valuable in maintaining your motivation, so we can continue to take action and take in feedback and learn. In my own life, once I changed this I went from going out thinking: “Oh.. now I have to chat to people.. and then somebody has to like me.. and then I have to meet somebody really cool… and then I have to master this area of my life” to “I’m leaving the house – it’s a success! Done… If I chat up people – that is a success.” I felt really motivated and this kept me going and I made much more progress than before.

The second thing that is helpful for staying in a “Cycle of Success” is managing comparisons. If we compare ourself with other people, sometimes it can be inspiring, but many times it is harmful for two reasons:

  1. Comparing ourself with others who are a lot better in a chosen area can feel daunting
  2. By looking at the “gap” we are not honoring the progress we have made so far

Maybe over the last two years you have made amazing progress in something. But if we just compare ourself with the outside then we are not honoring that. We only look at what is “still to be done” and fail to see what we have already achieved. What we can do instead is: We begin comparing ourself – with ourself. So we say: “Okay. Right now I’m not where I want to be in this area of my life. But: What about half a year ago? What about one year ago? What about two years ago?”. And you’ll look back and many times you’ll be surprised. You’ll think to yourself: “Wow. I really made progress in that area!”. You’ll feel proud of yourself. You can even pat yourself on the shoulder and say to yourself: “Great. Well done!”. This motivates you and really strengthens your self-confidence and motivation to keep going in the “Success Cycle”. Through the four steps of: Knowing what you want, taking action, noticing what’s working and what isn’t and changing your approach if things are not working, until you succeed. While taking action and learning you can encourage yourself by having clear and achievable standards for what is progress and what isn’t. You can condition yourself that: Taking action always equals success. This will motivate you greatly. It will give you power over your intrinsic motivation, instead of giving the power away to external circumstances or other people. Sometimes things just don’t align and we’re struggling. It’s important that we stay motivated through these periods of apparent stagnation (which is actually a period of learning), through the plateau, and then we actually achieve our goal. The breakthrough is coming right after the plateau! So if we stick in then we can also experience the breakthrough.

Coming back to the beginning of this video I apply the same process. Even after the last take I felt like none of the videos were perfect but: I planned the content, I’ve made the effort and went outside and recorded the videos. That’s a success. I pat myself on the shoulder. The second thing is that I compare myself with myself. Two years ago I remember that it was a big struggle to make a video. I felt so uncomfortable. I was trying to really “make it good” and act “proper” in front of the camera. I really couldn’t get myself across. These days I feel much more comfortable and I enjoy speaking to the camera. I made a lot of progress in that area. Of course there are other people who are doing things much better. But what helps me to keep going through this “Success Cycle” is to encourage myself and to motivate myself. This way I’ll be motivated again to record another video, to keep learning and taking action. And this way my skill-set and the results I can deliver improve. I definitely encourage you to try this in your own life. To see where you can clearly define what is success and what isn’t. “Taking action equals success” is a super-helpful mindset. It helped me so much. The second thing is comparing yourself with yourself so that you can honor the progress you have made so far. Staying aware that these two things help you to stay in this cycle of success of: Knowing what you want, taking action, noticing what’s working and what isn’t and to keep changing your approach, if things are not working, until they do work. This way you honor your progress so far and keep honoring the small steps you are taking. If you keep repeating this then you will get through the plateu and what comes after the plateau is the breakthrough. 

Trusting Your Heart

I remember back when I was in primary school there was a girl I really liked. I wanted to be close to her, talk with her and be friends with her. But I felt so uncomfortable with myself and so shy and not worthy of taking up the space and time of other people or being someone’s friend. I was very insecure. So I never even talked to her. Everybody around me knew that I liked her. I think she liked me too. At some point our teacher asked me if I would like to switch seats and sit next to her, which was really sweet of her. In one way I liked that, but at the same time I felt really ashamed and it was very painful for me. I felt so unable to speak my truth, so blocked of saying what my feelings are and communicating honestly. Unable to stand up for myself and connect with someone. This was an issue that stayed with me for many years and I put in a lot of work to connect with how I am actually feeling. To discover what I actually want and then to communicate this in an honest way to other people. In a way where I’m just sharing what is there for me and then if it resonates with someone – there can be a connection. This issue of values and speaking one’s truth is a very dear topic for me. It is very close to my heart and it has influenced all areas of my life. This is what I want to talk about today.

What if you can really connect with what your values and your true feelings are? And when you are communicating with other people –  you can stay with your truth and can honestly say what is on your heart and in your mind. If there are people who have different views and a different approach to life – you don’t start hiding or acting in a way where you are misalignment with your own values. Instead you feel comfortable being who you are and you feel comfortable holding the values you are holding. You feel confident enough to assert them in your sphere of influence. That is a simple and beautiful way to live your life with self-love and self-respect. Of course sometimes we have to adapt. Other people also have their values which are as valid as ours. Everybody has a different approach to life, different things which they like or dislike. In the end we want to find a way in which we can connect harmoniously with others – but in order to do that we have to gain absolute clarity about what our values are first. If you start compromising before you even know what is in your heardt and what you want then you are going to go through a lot of pain. I have experienced plenty of this pain first-hand in the past. Sometimes it is best if there is a situation or relationship with another person, which is not in alignment with your values, to just walk away and not to make a compromise. To leave the situation and just let it be. Sometimes that is better and more in alignment with your values and what’s good for you. At other times there are ways we can connect and find a harmonious solution. Many times I have found that when I am honest and clear, other people appreciate this and many times they rethink their decision or values and agree with my point of view or course of action. At other times I realise that my own values aren’t that fruitful or beneficial in a certain situation and another person has a better “angle” on things and a more constructive solution and then I change my approach. But you can only do this from a place where you know what is there in your heart at that time (of course values and opinions change). So we have to connect with that: There is something going on inside of us – feelings, ideas and our values concerning a topic or situation. We usually have a gut feeling. But when there are other people who are involved as well, who are in our team or maybe even superiors who have more “power” in a given situation, we might forget what is really “ours”. This also happens if we are afraid of conflict or of losing another person or making them angry.

The first step for feeling what is real for you, for feeling your values, is to make it just about you. For some moments or for a few minutes put away what other people think, the constraints of the situation, maybe some people don’t like it or you think “Oh it might sound selfish”. Just put all of those aside and listen and feel into your heart and make it just about you. What do you want in that situation? What are you feeling? If it would depend only on you – if nobody else would be affected and you could decide on your own – what would you decide? What feels true for you? What is your honest opinion? What is the course of action you want to take? What are your values connected with this situation? Just try to feel that first while leaving out all the rest. Once you have that clear feeling: Think about the situation and the people involved or go into that situation and notice what happens to that feeling, attitude and the clarity you discovered on your own. Sometimes you might notice that it immediately shifts. Then you have to ask yourself: “Am I lying to myself? Am I pushing my intuition away because I’m afraid of conflict?”. When it changes really quickly and switches to the opposite this is often just our need to fit in or to avoid conflict and have harmony. Our need to connect and stay connected with someone and not lose them or make them angry. If you want to be happy then you have to be more connected with what is important to you than with what other people think of you. You have to live with yourself 24 hours of the day – nonstop. Your heart and mind remembers if you neglect to respect your own values and you are going to suffer from that. It should always be your priority to stay congruent with your own values first. Sometimes we have to take care of other people and put our needs seecond and sometimes it is necessary to compromise because we have to work together with people who have different values. When you have clarity about your own values then you will know whether you want to compromise and also on which points you would rather not compromise. Then you will also feel when it is necessary to stand up for your values and speak your truth. Once you start doing this you will notice how good this feels. To actually have this clarity and then communicate honestly with people. Others will respect you more and you will be able to connect with people who resonate with what you really believe and what you are really feeling. They will have similar attitudes and you’ll connect in a great way. You don’t have to fake anything, you are just being honest and thus it is much more effortless to communicate. You take off the pressure of trying to fit in, pushing yourself in this or that direction. Does this sound good? Remember there is a process to this. You have to put in energy and train your awareness. It is going to be challenging at times.

The morning I recorded the video something happend that inspired me to talk about this topic. My mother-in-law was visiting and taking care of my son for a few days. I really like her and she is a very kind person and takes great care of him. Yet there were some things with the food and I felt uncomfortable speaking about it. I listened to myself and I felt: “I don’t want him to eat that kind of food” but it is uncomfortable to tell her and she might not feel appreciated. I was split about this on the inside but then I decided that I had to talk about it. I decided to say it in a way that was very appreciative of what she is doing and her values (which may be different than mine). So this is a situation within my sphere of influence. What my son eats or does not eat is his mother’s and my decision. With some things in our life we simply are the leader and there is no need to compromise our values. Like how you spend your time, the food you eat, how you raise your children and many other things. Sometimes we have to make a compromise and sometimes it is better to walk away. At other times still we simply have to trust our own intuition and assert ourself when other people do something that does not feel right to us. There is no need to debate or explain things yet it still takes energy and we have to stand up for ourself and communicate effectively. So this morning I felt uncomfortable and I had to push myself a little to speak about the matter, but then it turned out to be very harmonious. She could appreciate my request and I tried to get a vibe of respect and appreciation across to her. It’s great when you can speak about such things even if it may be challenging for you at times. You are going to feel so much more comfortable with yourself.

One thing that really helps with communicating your values to other people is what I call I-messages: This is when you talk about yourself and your feelings, rather than concepts, reasoning or external objects. You don’t say: “Bananas are unhealthy”, and try to discuss it but you say: “I don’t like bananas”.  If you have children for example you can say: “I don’t want my children to to eat bananas”. Now that’s just your opinion. If the other person asks you then you can say: “I’m not feeling good about this”, maybe explain your reasons if you like. But you actually don’t have to justify. These are your values and feelings and if somebody does not like them: they are free to not like them. It’s still your decision. You don’t have to discuss such decisions with other people. If you feel something you just say it: “I’m feeling this way about it”. Nobody can say anything against your feelings – that’s what you are feeling, your intuition, your opinion. It’s even better when you use the word “feel”. People can’t attack you on that. You’re not debating properties of things or facts. You’re just sharing your values and gut-feeling on something. If you listen to your intuition, that’s not only a valid foundation for decisions but also something you can say to other people. If someone asks you: “Why did you come to that decision?”, you can say: “It’s from my intuition, my gut feeling”. In the beginning this might be hard, especially if you are not used to speaking your truth and to asserting yourself. It’s so valuable when you can say: “Yes, I am feeling this. This is why I have decided this way, that’s the way I want it”. If you can be in alignment with yourself like this it is a great thing. It feels very good and makes life much simpler, when you let go of adapting in every situation, fit in with other people or try to control the way people view you. Instead you just say: “This is what I believe – these are my views on the matter. That’s it. This is my course of action. Because I am feeling this way, because of my intuition”. Maybe because of some other reasons, if you have some other reasons. But maybe it’s just your intuition. Many times I am doing things just because my gut feeling says so. That’s it. If somebody would come and say: “Oh, you haven’t thought about it enough” then maybe I would consider it, or maybe I’m going to say: “No. It’s okay. I’m used to trusting my intuition. I trust my intuition. It’s fine, I’m going to do it that way.”

I really encourage you to begin feeling into this in your own life. In the beginning you have to start by feeling it for yourself, without other people. Put away everything else, just feel yourself. Act like there would be no consequences for anybody. Try to get this really honest feel for what’s in your heart and in your mind. Then once you have that: see how it changes when you think about talking about it with others or when coming into a situation with other people. If how you are feeling about things shifts very quickly then it’is probably a sign that things are moving in the direction of “I’m trying to fit in”, or “I’m trying to avoid conflict”, or “I’m trying to not lose the other person”. Then re-assess and remind yourself: It’s more important to be true to yourself, to your own values and to actually having a harmonious relationship with yourself first, because you are with yourself non-stop, 24 hours of the day. You can’t hide things from yourself – you will always know if you are lying to yourself. If you are doing something that is not good for you and you still do it, trying to fit in. Then you will feel uncomfortable. But if you listen to yourself and you speak honestly it will feel very good. Of course sometimes we have to put our needs second, yet it’s always good to have this clarity about what we want. This helps not only ourselves but also our connection with other people. You become very visible and real to others because people know what you think and feel and you are being direct and honest. Thus it’s easier for people to connect with you. As for people who don’t appreciate your values –  they’re maybe not going to connect with you. But that’s okay. Also remember to use I-messages like: “I feel this or that way about it”. Trust your intuition and don’t be afraid to say: “I’m doing this because I’m feeling that way, because that’s my intuition”. Enjoy standing up for yourself. It’s really good to do that. It has helped me a lot. I’ve suffered so much from this and I’ve put in a lot of work and still try to improve in this area and it’s totally possible to change. It’s so great to invest energy into this and you are going to be so much happier when you’re being honest with yourself and standing up for yourself more.

Skyrocket Progress Through Immersion

Let’s talk about how we can use periods of immersion to make massive progress in any area of our life. We can rapidly improve any skill or make progress on any project by doing what is called immersion. Many people don’t make the progress they would like to make and this is often due to lacking clarity about what they actually want. Another major reason is that their efforts get drowned in the day-to-day stresses and distractions and it’s hard to really focus.

Periods of immersion offer a clearly reserved time window for you to actually get things done and to cultivate what is important to you. This approach also encourages you to develop more clarity because you will be spending quality time with what matters to you and get to know yourself better. It also allows you to tackle more complex problems as you mind can get deeper into the subject matter. I use this principle in my own life and since a few years I dedicate one day a week to meditation and contemplation. On this day I avoid communication (except emergency) and only meditate and do reading related to meditation. I only focus on this and nothing else. This has helped me a lot to make progress in that area of my life.

I actually learned about this process from two sources. The first time was when I did a 10-day meditation retreat a few years ago. That was the first time I immersed myself in something with that kind of intensity. No distractions, no phone, no talking even. Just focusing on one thing. It was hard but after these ten days I realised the benefits of this approach. The second time I experienced this was when I did the UPW seminar with Anthony Robbins. It lasted four days and went from morning to evening. Actually in the seminar itself Anthony Robbins also recommended Immersion as a strategy for making rapid progress (he talked about using it for improving his polo skills).

Why do immersion?

  1. In our life there are so many distractions, outside demands and things going on. For a lot of people it is difficult to tune out distractions, focus and get deeply into a certain subject matter or activity. Doing what I suggest helps one to progress with work but also to learn how to have more clarity and focus in general. For those who are already skilled in this it can help them focus much more deeply.
  2. As your mind is immersed in your chosen field and shielded from gross disturbances it is much more apt to solve complex problems.
  3. If you had difficulty following through on certain things, when you plan for a period of immersion there is a lot more “positive pressure” and motivation. After all it’s difficult to take a day off from work, tell everyone you are going to work on a certain project and then waste the day in procrastination. It doesn’t feel “right”.
  4. You’ll get a feel for having a calm and focused mind and you will be more motivated to avoid things that disturb your mind in the rest of your life as well. You will begin to appreciate a calm and focused mind over a scattered and agitated one. You’re going to say to yourself: “Wow, if it is possible to be this concentrated on that day, maybe I can improve my mental capacity in other areas of my life as well?”. In my experience it will help you to improve, to develop your ability to solve problems quickly and efficiently.

I really encourage you try this! How to go about it?

  • Identify something that is very important and dear to you where you would like to make progress. Where it would be worth it for you to invest one full day a week or month or whatever time window you choose.
  • Reserve that time (or use Sunday). Take time off from work. Be aware that this is an investment and you might have to do less of something else (which you also may enjoy doing) – like spending the time with friends or doing other fun activities.
  • Make a plan for that day/time window. Have a clear goal for what you want to achieve. Write it down. Plan your day – don’t aimlessly go into that day. Plan it, schedule it. Say: “I’m going to get up at this time, then I’m going to go for a run.” Whatever helps you to focus your mind, to get yourself into a productive state and motivate yourself to make progress with whatever matters for you. “Then I’m going to exercise for two hours, then I’m going to read, then I’m going to meditate”.
  • You can also mix different areas and dedicate the day to “Improving your life” in general. You can use a part of the day to improve your finances, work on your business, look for a new job. Then you can take another part of the day where you really take care of your body and mind, you relax deeply, do sports, meditate. But if you take a whole day and focus on one skill and one subject matter – you will make a lot of progress!

One friend of mine uses this concept, he also takes a day off to meditate and work on himself, he doesn’t do it every week but also regularly. He also does it for other things. He’s writing a book so he reserves time for that. I think this really is a key to making a lot of progress. You can also do “work vacation”. I remember Tai Lopez (who is an investor and consultant for businesses and who has a youtube channel) talking about renting a place close to nature for a few days and using that time to really focus and work.

So to sum it up:

  • It’s a period of immersion.
  • You design your environment to help you with what you want to achieve.
  • You reserve a certain period of time.
  • You have clear goals and you have strong motivation and then…
  • you follow through and you achieve much greater results that you would achieve otherwise.

I hope that this idea of immersion is useful to you and that you try it. I look forward to hearing from you. Also feel free to ask any questions you like! See you next time.

Softness And Hardness

It’s not a secret that our attitude towards things that happen in our life, to our life in general and to ourself is a critical factor. The question is how to actually use it. We have to take it from a fuzzy concept to something that is measurable and thus becomes something we can act on. In order to do that I suggest approaching it via the qualities of Softness and Hardness. These can be felt and directly experienced in our mind, emotions and body through different levels of tension/relaxation. We can learn to recognize detrimental states through Hardness in our self-talk, emotions and physically in our body. This hardness primarily manifests through tension and it can be experienced like:  rigidity, coldness, contraction, uncomfortableness, fearfulness and doubtfulness. Softness appears as relaxation and can be experienced as flowing, relaxed, warm, gentle, pleasant, fresh, expansive, open, happy, carefree, joyful. These is my experience so you can ask yourself and find out: How does Softness or Hardness manifests for me? How can I recognise it? How do I experience its properties? Can I remember recent situations

Now in order to move towards more Softness you begin by developing an awareness for theses states/attitudes in your life. Realise they are occurring throughout your day in your body, mind, emotions, communication (how you talk with yourself or others),  See when there a feeling quality of hardness present. See when there is tension. Try to feel it and explore it. Don’t try to change it at that point but just learn more about it. On the other hand also feel the openness and expansiveness, joy and happiness. Notice these moments. This way you will realise the contrast throughout the day and that you may spend more time in unbeneficial states than you may like. This will motivate you to change.

What can you do when you notice Hardness as tension? Just notice the tensions that arise in your mind or body and relax them (it is a simple step but it has to be repeated many times). A great place to start is your attitude towards yourself. This is a big source of stress for many people. Unlike things in the outside which may vanish from our view, our relationship to ourself is ever present. So that makes it even more important! Watch out for Hardness and Tension there and see how you can bring more Softness and Relaxation into your relationship with yourself! What is your attitude with yourself, how do you talk with yourself? Filter through the qualities of Softness and Hardness and it will be easy to recognize a harmful attitude. Other things you can do to bring more Softness to your life are to try the Smiling Meditation or you can have a look at Metta (Lovingkindness) Meditation which I like to practice. Again the process is simple. First you get clear on what Hardness and Softness means for you. Then you observe them in your life and this will give you the motivation to develop more Softness in your life (because you can feel the benefit!). The last step is to implement the change in your life and find ways to go from Hardness to Softness more easily on your own.

Here at the end you can find the worksheet (5-10 minutes) which I mention in the video. Answering its 5 simple questions will let you go a bit deeper on this and help you start to change your behaviour.

Hardness And Softness Worksheet

When you practice recognising Hardness and moving towards more Softness and Relaxation then you are actively engaging in Self-Love. You do have a choice. When you become aware of that choice you can choose wisely more often. I hope this was useful for you. See you next time!

Getting Up Early

Your relationship with your mornings has a huge impact on all areas of your life. Most successful people get up early and many of them follow a morning routine. There is nothing like proactively starting your day to make progress with your goals, whatever they may be. It also helps you to become a happier person.
Four Reasons for Getting Up Early:

  1. Proactive versus Reactive
    When you get up like most people – reactively instead of proactively then you are starting your day with resistance. It is very bad to use the snooze function as it just amplifies this negative mindset (I used to snooze heavily, but since a few years I don’t do this anymore). If you get up with purpose and by consciously choosing to get up then that creates a state of flow and motivation. You feel empowered rather than disempowered. That’s the way to start your day if you want to make the best of it.
  2. Morning Rituals
    If you get up early and motivated then you can do a morning ritual – this can be exercise, meditation, reading something that is important for you or that is motivating, affirmations. Doing something that will benefit you in the long term and that conditions your mind to function at a high level during the day and that energizes your body. You can set the tone of the day and have a positive impact that will make things go more smoothly throughout the day. I like to write out things I am grateful for and plan the things I want to do during the day.
  3. Morning Time is precious
    The morning time is a very quiet time. You will especially appreciate this if you are living with a family or in a crowded space. You can do something where you need good concentration. Your mind is fresh and not yet overloaded with stimulation and outside demands and distractions. This clarity is great for creative work, for example for writing.
  4. Identity Level Change
    Like with Making Your Bed and the Smiling Meditation getting up early in the morning is a way you can change your identity. If you change your identity then you are going to feel differently about yourself and certain things that didn’t feel familiar are going to become second nature to you. This way you can become a more driven, productive and happy person – because your identity changes and you feel happier with yourself. You are living your life in a more beneficial way for yourself, a way that is in alignment with your goals and values. Getting up early with a purpose gets you in the habit of being proactive instead of passive. This is an extremely important attitude to cultivate.

The first twenty years of my life I hated mornings. I never liked getting up and even skipped eating breakfast so that I could snooze a little bit longer before going to school at the last moment. A few years ago I did a meditation retreat and for ten days I was getting up at 4:30 each morning. People were walking around with a gong in the morning and the first few days were very rough. But then I really grew to appreciate it. I grew to appreciate how in the morning the sun was just coming up, everything being quiet and really making use of that time int he morning because it is such an amazing time. It can feel so great to get up in the morning. When you go by public transport in the morning and you see people being really tired or angry and in resistance and you are sitting there and you know: “I’ve done my morning routine, I’ve exercised, I’ve done my meditation and I feel great.” You are feeling completely different and instead of sabotaging yourself right in the morning you are kickstarting your day with enthusiasm, mental clarity and purpose. After the meditation retreat I experimented with getting up early but I didn’t manage to do it consistently. I still had this belief of “I’m not a morning person”. I didn’t feel comfortable getting up early all the time. But then I read an amazing book called “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. In this book he says that if you read the book and apply it then you’ll become a person who even on the weekends wants to get up early. I thought: “Yeah right…”. The funny thing is that’s exactly what has happened for me. Even on the weekends I’m getting up early because I enjoy getting up and I have stuff to do. I feel that there is a purpose to my life and a meaning to getting up early. I feel like it is significant and I feel motivated doing it, I enjoy it. I don’t enjoy sleeping in like I used to. It doesn’t feel right to me. I changed my identity around that. If you feel inspired to get up earlier and to establish a morning routine, to start your day proactively and with motivation:
Here are five steps you can do (from the book):

  1. A clear intention
    The last thought you have before falling asleep carries over to your morning. So set a clear intention before falling asleep (I do this every evening before I fall asleep). I think to myself: “I’m gonna wake up in the morning and I’m going to feel happy, and I know that there are some things I’m going to do in the morning”.
  2. Put your alarm clock away from bed
    Moving your body in the morning right away will help you wake up. You might be very motivated to get up the next morning on the day before, but then after you actually wake up it is a whole different story. This is why having a clear strategy and a strong reason for getting up early is very important. Then you are going to do it. You are going to feel great once you are doing it.
  3. Brush your teeth
    That’s a very simple mindless activity. It does not take a lot of mental effort and further wakes you up. You can also say to yourself: “Okay, I’m just going to brush my teeth and afterwards I’m allowed to go back to bed.” That’s how I did it in the beginning. But the thing is that once you are up and moving it becomes increasingly easier to stay awake and continue.
  4. Drink some water
    It’s very important to hydrate yourself in the morning as a lack of water can make you feel fatiqued and tired.
  5. Dress
    Put on your workout clothes or whatever is suitable for starting your morning (ritual).

Also remember to turn on your lights as soon as possible. It’s a little uncomfortable for the first few seconds but it helps to wake up. I know that might seem obvious but it’s really helpful.
If you change your attitude towards your mornings – the attitude in your whole life is going to shift. The way you start your days and what you bring to your mornings is going to impact your whole day. Your life is simply one day after another after another. If you change your mornings you change your days and you change your life. It’s really that simple. It has a huge impact. I’m not kidding. It completely changed my life and how I feel. It takes some effort to change that but once it has become a habit it will actually be easier to get up early than not. You’ll feel more comfortable getting up early and proactively starting your day than lying in bed or kind of wasting your morning and not making use of this precious time and opportunity.

I hope I was able to motivate you to try this and I’m excited to hear if you have tried this because this has helped me so much and I really wish that someone else can also benefit from it. I totally recommend “The Miracle Morning”, by Hal Elrod. It’s a great book and it is going to motivate you a lot.

Reduce Stress By Eliminating Causes

There is a really simple way you can substantially reduce your levels of stress and be happier and have a much clearer mind. It might sound very simple and it takes just a little effort and awareness on your part. It is not by doing more but by doing less. Doing less of what harms you and is a cause of stress and more of what is good for you. In our life today there are many potential causes of stress. Many people live in a city where there are a lot of things going on (loud noise, visual stimulation, many other people – just think of going by public transport during rush hour). Even if your environment is quite calm there is your computer and phone which is a constant source of stimulation and a potential cause of stress. But most people don’t leave it at these external causes of stress – through the way they are acting they are creating new stress and tension in their mind without even realizing it. All the while thinking the cause for their mental agitation lies in the outside, with external things and other people. In this post I want to create some awareness for how each and every one of us is responsible for the state of our mind – through the way we condition it via our thoughts, speech and actions.

There is a very simple way of living your life with more self-awareness, it takes just a little effort and your life will be so much more harmonious, peaceful and happy. Many people look for peace of mind in meditation. While this is certainly helpful, I would advise to first start by developing awareness and self-regulation regarding your behaviour (thoughts, speech and actions). Why? Let me use a simple analogy; Let’s say you are driving a car and you notice the handbrake is on (not completely, but just a little). You would like to go faster. So now you have two options. You can either step on the gas OR you can release the break. When you use meditation without first becoming aware of where you are causing stress for yourself and taking responsibility for that, that is like stepping on the gas and ignoring that the break is on. If you want to actually move ahead (ie. reduce your overall level of stress and have more peace of mind, happiness and contentment) releasing the break is the most intelligent and obvious choice (learning about how certain things you do are harmful and making a different choice). Of course if you engage in meditation in a holistic way then there will also be improvement in self-awareness and a change in your behaviour. But it is better to focus directly on the cause of stress. You don’t need to watch your breath to train mindfulness. You can watch your behaviour, which has a very big effect on your mental state, and develop self-awareness and mindfulness there first. It is much more important and will lead to better results. Remember when you reduce the causes of stress then you will have a reduction of stress. It will be a very stable improvement and it won’t be dependent on your formal meditation practice.

So now, how can we actually reduce our levels of stress?
The first step is to develop awareness for good and bad. You recognize that there are certain things that are harmful  to you in your life and also to other people which you are currently doing. Harming others and harming ourself goes hand in hand. I’ve never hurt somebody or treated them badly and afterwards felt good or contented. Maybe for a little, while the anger lasted, but once my mind cooled back down then it was obvious that what I did was not a good thing and I felt bad for it, I felt uncomfortable or guilty and uneasy. Sometimes this might not be easy (especially if you really dislike someone). But remember, here we focus on your behaviour and how it impacts YOU emotionally. This is about your well-being. It is good to recognize what effect your actions have on other people but it’s most important to see what effect they are having on you, because this will motivate you the most to change your behaviour. This way you can judge the things you are doing, not by an external standard but by an internal one and you will progress quickly. We start developing awareness with our physical actions. Are we taking physical actions of hurting or harming another person? Are we cheating on our romantic partner, stealing something? The physical level of action has the longest delay and it takes quite some getting worked up about something to actually “do” something. So this is easiest to start with. Then comes actual speech and things we say and then thoughts. If you feel like physically your behaviour is good then have a look at the things you are saying out loud. Now after some situation happened where you did something that you don’t feel too comfortable with (obvious or not-so-obvious) take a moment to reflect and put your hand on your heart. Ask yourself: “How am I actually feeling about this?”. Then you wait a few seconds and you give yourself time to really feel it. You will get an answer. You don’t have to ask other people – ask yourself and your own heart. When you feel that: “Yeah, I shouldn’t have done that, I’m feeling uncomfortable, I’m feeling pain and I’m feeling uneasy.” So next time when this happens (you insult another person for example) – maybe mid-sentence you will stop and you will realize what you are doing. And when this happens, this is important, what you will feel is you will feel a calming effect on your mind which springs from refraining from that negative action. You can notice this. Maybe not in the beginning, but gradually you can begin to notice that. Of course you will feel the agitation related to how much action you have already taken. So if you made three insults and then stopped yourself, you will feel a level of agitation related to these three insults. But if you would have done ten more then you are now ten insults calmer and happier! What a relief. We often think that other people are the cause of our unhappiness or stress and then we insult them to let off steam. This feels good for a little while, but it actually agitates us more. When we think in this way we are deluded by our own emotions and not thinking clearly. If you practice what I suggest then you will gradually come to see how this process works. Only by stopping the chain of action that springs from negativity on our mind can we actually affect the root of this negativity and have a real decrease in stress and an increase in happiness. Now if that is not desireable! This is a very simple and straightforward way to improve your life.

The method is simple: Feel for yourself what is causing you harm in the long term – what is an action that you deem a “bad action” because it actually harms you. Then on the other hand when you do certain things: when you do things for another person, you are acting in a healthy selfless way, you are helping someone, then you can feel afterwards and reflect. Again put your hand on your heart and reflect and go like: “How am I feeling now? What effect did this action have on me?”.
So first you develop your awareness or mindfulness by recognizing moral (something that leaves you with a pleasant, positive feeling) and immoral (something that leaves you with a painful, negative feling, stress and tension) The second step is to stop doing those immoral (harmful to you and others) things and start doing more moral (beneficial) things. How do you actually stop doing things that are harmful? It’s like dropping something that is hot. If you are holding a cup of tea and it is too hot (like burning hot) you will drop it (or put it down if it is not too hot, if it is as hot that it is actually burning your hand then you might not even care if it makes a mess on the floor). Also you will only experience relief of the pain in your hand once you drop the cup. And there is no other way to drop the cup than to drop it. It has to be done, not thought or talked about. So the dropping of negative actions is a natural consequence of clearly realising the implications of such actions for yourself. It is based on your own experience. You cannot theorize this or think your way there. This is why I am telling you to focus on what you are feeling after doing certain things. Once you understand it you will naturally stop doing these harmful things. Be patient and give yourself time to learn about yourself and how these things work. Also make enough room to actually feel what is coming up for you. It’s important to do this properly and really be honest with yourself. This is about improving the quality of your life and it’s only you who is responsible for it. No one else can do this for you. As I said, it takes some effort but it is totally worth the effort many times over.

Other things you can look at once you get a general sense of how this works: Lying. You can see where you are twisting the facts, maybe for personal gain or to hurt another person. A habit of lying twists your mind and you might not even know what really happened in a given situation because you convinced yourself of the lie you were telling. Using insults which you are putting “out” but also self-talk, things you are saying to yourself in your head. Slandering other people, putting them down or talking very negatively. Basically if you wouldn’t feel comfortable if the person you are talking about would stand next to you while talking, it is an invitation to be careful about what you are saying. So it is best to start with the bodily level of action and then add what you are saying and to keep refining. As you engage in this process your mind will become calmer and it will also become easier to see where you are doing harmful things and to stop doing them. Someting I would like to add is how we often think that we are putting for example anger “out” onto another person. But anger or negative emotions (as well as positive ones) are like an explosion. The energy moves both ways. Another person can feel your emotion, but it always hits you as well. When you practice what I am talking about here then you can begin to feel this for yourself very clearly. “Anger is not just pushing something out – it is pushing something towards myself as well.” Once you realise that on an emotional level you will be very motivated to stop these actions. We also affect the body and mind in another way – the way we handle food or drugs (alcohol or harder drugs). Again we can use our own experience of the effects of things we are doing to judge whether it is a good thing for us or not. If you really understand that certain things are harmful, they hit you, you feel the negative impact. Then you are going to stop. You are not going to put your hand into the fire if you are actually feeling the pain. You won’t leave your hand there. But you have to develop your awareness. This is where “Meditation” or formal meditation can help. Yet what I am talking about here in this post IS meditation. You don’t have to sit down. By looking (and reminding yourself to look) at your behaviour you are training your mindfulness. It does not and cannot only be trained in formal sitting meditation. If you do this “training of morality”, that’s how the Buddha called it, you are actually training your mindfulness and you are working at the most effective point that you can work at in the start. Because if the handbrake is on: stepping on the gas is not the most impactful action. It’s taking away the handbrake.

I really want to encourage you to try this. It has helped me immensely. Just see for yourself. You can also combine it with what I explained in my recent post on “Smiling Meditation”.  The smiling can help you to recognize when unwholesome (harmful) things come up in your mind, and how they get stronger (you lose the smile?!) and at some point you start insulting another person or talking very negatively with yourself and getting tense. Also gentle smiling can help you uplift your mind in general and be more motivated. These two practices can really benefit each other. If you are unsure where to start then begin with paying attention to your bodily actions. After situations where you feel like it might not have been proper, put your hand on your heart and ask yourself: “Was this alright? How am I feeling? Was this for my own benefit, for other people’s benefit?”. And then when you are in a similar situation again, from the understanding that what you did was harmful, you will just drop the negative action. Look for yourself how things affect you. If you do this, it is going to have an amazing effect on your life. You are going to experience a much greater level of calm and happiness. In the absence of causes of stress you are going to have: absence of stress.

I hope this was helpful and that you try it out and see for yourself! Feel free to ask questions, leave a comment or write me a personal message. Also feel free to share this article with someone you think it might be helpful for. I’m very excited about this and about you trying this. See you next time!

Smiling Meditation

I want to introduce you to a simple and effective way you can practice meditation in your day-to-day life. Meditation does not only have to happen secluded in a dark room or on a retreat. It can happen right in your current life and during your day. You can experience the benefits here and now. Smiling meditation is an amazingly simple, effective and also fun way to incorporate meditation into your life. How to do it? You just try to keep up a light smile (the guys at Dhammasukha Meditation Center where I got this idea from say to smile “with your mind, eyes, lips and with your heart”) throughout your day. When you lose it you notice and bring it back again. This is really simple but it accomplishes many things:

  1. You strengthen your ability to remember to be mindful* (of your own behaviour and keeping an intention)
  2. Smiling has a positive impact on your and other people’s mood. It makes your mind lighter
  3. As smiling and having a lighter mind becomes your setpoint (if you practice diligently) you will more easily recognize when you tense up or worry, creating mental problems for yourself and being aware of this will enable you to release those states and not dwell on them (talking about depression). By noticing that your smile is gone you become aware. When you bring back your smile you help yourself to release those states.

*Actually mindfulness is most relevant when we are mindful of our behaviour in body, speech and mind and recognize when we are doing things that harm us or that leave us with a bad feeling (thinking negative thoughts about someone else, insulting people, acting with anger, treating ourself badly etc.). Mindfulness of the breath can calm the mind but mindfulness of the nature and effects of our actions is more important than just mindfulness of movement or the breath if we want to gain more stability, clarity and peace of mind.
These points are achieved by simply making a determination to smile and to keep this smile.
In this article on Psychology Today there is some more scientific information about what smiling accomplishes. The physical act of smiling has a measurable effect on your brain. The reason this works is that by smiling you are creating a background to your usual mental activity (like a contrast). As this contrast is always the same and does not change it kind of shows you the things that do change (your mental states/moods, thoughts) more clearly. Practicing this meditation will help you to get a better overall sense of what your mind is doing throughout the day which will enable you to nudge it in a more wholesome direction. In addition to the “chemical” implications (release of dopamine, endorphins and serotonin) that one can scientifically observe in the brain there is the added benefit of you learning how to establish a new mental habit, which can help you in other ares of your life. Also it can give you a very positive experience of making a change in your life which will motivate you to change other things in your life for the better as well. It can be a great spring board to get you out of a depressive slump or a lack of motivation and low self esteem. It is really as powerful as it seems simple.

How to do it:
In the beginning first make an overall determination to try this for 1 day, 3 days, a week and see what happens. Then on each day you are doing it pick a specific time window where you will be putting in extra effort (this is so that the new habit doesn’t just get lost in your other habitual behaviours and daily stresses). Like on your way to work when you are commuting, while walking or taking the public transport or driving with your car. Doing this is important because this way you will develop this habit very effectively. It takes a certain amount of intensity to affect your old conditioning and make an impact with the new behaviour.
In the begining it is going to build slowly and the more you do it the more you are going to smile and the more you are going to experience the amazing benefits of this simple exercise.
I suggest you just give it a try and see what happens for yourself. I look forward to you having a good experience with this and to you sharing what it has done for you in your life so that it may encourage others to also do it. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section or via the Contact Form.

Make Your Bed To Change Your Life

If we want to change our self-identity and the results we experience in our life then we have to start at some point. So many people try to change their life. They make a plan, they are inspired and motivated but: after taking action for a few days or maybe a week slowly their old habits start to take over. Why does this happen? The reason is not, as many people believe, because they are simply lacking in willpower. There is more to it. The reason is they are not following a strategy that works with their brain, but one that works against it. Our brains are habit-driven. It is good that our brains are habit-driven. If our brains wouldn’t work in this efficient way, we probably would not have survived to the present day. As I mention in my other resources: Our brain tries to conserve energy and time. It does this by building habits. Once a habit is established, it is much stronger than new impulses or behaviours. When your conscious focus for acting in a new, different way, wanes – your old habits take over. But if we keep our conscious focus on changing up and maintain the new behaviour – this slowly replaces the old habit. We have to be persistent and patient.

As you might know the results we achieve in our life are connected with our identity and self-image. Our brain always tries to keep what we are thinking, feeling and doing in alignment with our self-image. It is this image which we have to change. Changing our self-image also involves how we act in the world. Here comes the problem many people run into: If we change too much too quickly, we get overwhelmed. Then what happens is that our old habits take over. Like people making a new years resolution, to implement big changes and many times they fail. What I am suggesting here is inspired by an approach which I learned from the book „Mini Habits“, which has helped me a lot in changing and adapting my behaviour and identity. If you follow this strategy diligently: It works!

It is: changing a tiny thing, which seems totally innocuous. But let me tell you that the change this small shift in attitude and behaviour brings is mindblowing. If you want to change you first of all have to believe that change is possible. If we don’t believe change is possible – how should we start? Many of us don’t believe that we can change because we don’t have a strategy for changing. Also we tried changing in the past and it didn’t work. How valuable would a reference experience be for you in which you can clearly see before your own eyes: Change is possible. I can change! Following this strategy you can experience this quite easily. What is it? It is a simple step, taken on a daily basis, which can build a new, more productive self-image that is in alignment with the vision you have of your life. With achieving your desires and aspirations. It is:

Making your bed.

Before you raise your eyebrow, let me explain what this behaviour represents. Or you can watch this convincing 1’40s long video by Adminral McRaven before continuing.

  1. Making your bed in the morning is a little success – a single doable task – and you did it! When you’ve made your bed in the morning pat yourself on the shoulder and smile. Say: “well done!”. This may seem ridiculous, but it cheers you up and motivates you! This feeling of success carries over into your day. One little success leading to another and before you know it your whole day will be a big sucess. This. Changes. Your. Neurochemistry.
  2. Habits give you familiarity. Stability. If you are having an intense or rough morning (maybe something has happened the day before or the day ahead is going to be very challenging) – this routine will give you something to hold onto. Stability. Peace of mind. A predictable little part of your morning. A ritual.
  3. Doing this communicates to your subconscious: ”Order is importan to me. Order is good.” This can help you become and be more structured and organized in other areas of your life as well. It seems simple but do not underestimate this habit’s power!
  4. Learning this habit you can experience yourself in the process of learning a new habit. You are learning how to adopt a new habit by adopting a really simple behaviour.Plus when adopting the next positive habit you will think: “I can do that. Remember how I successfully taught myself to make my bed every day? *glances at made bed*”. You notice how good building a new habit feels and how easy it can be. Amazing, isen’t it?
  5. The feeling you get when you go to bed in the evening – to a made bed! You can’t help but feel like a VIP.

So by believing that change is possible, and implementing this small adjustment in your behaviour what will happen is: Your self-image and identity will gradually begin changing. Each time you are making your bed in the morning you are strengthening a self-image where you are doing what you say you are going to do.Where you are acting in a way that contributes to order, rather than to chaos in your life. Where you are making progress towards the realisation of your goals. Even if it is a tiny step: You are progressing. You are now a person who is proactively working towards the realisation of his or her goals. This is extremely gratifying and motivates you to keep going on your path of self-improvement. As a consequence you are more likely to do other things that are in alignment with this identity as well – it becomes easier and easier for you to succeed. This reminds me of a quote by the Buddha: “Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.” Do not underestimate small positive actions that affirm who you want to be and how you want to act.

So if you are still on the fence about this: I challenge you to give it a go for at least a week and write down your observations about what this is doing for you in your life. I bet that after a week you will realise that this little innocuous seeming step really has the power to start you on a new path that eventually leads you to the fulfilment of your goals and aspirations. Decide that you are going to implement this step now and don’t delay. Then stick to your decision. It’s that simple. Also check out this article on Lifehack on making your bed. 

Change happens gradually

The models we have about the world might seem unimportant, but they are extremely significant. Like a singing instructor once told me, if you have the wrong picture of how your diaphragm works, and you for example compress your belly and tense up when breathing in, trying to press air into your lungs – it’s not going to work. Likewise with matters of personal and behavioural change, once we adopt a working model that supports us in change, we already have made a big step towards lasting and satisfying progress. 

Now when working with yourself you have to be aware of one thing. I like to view the human as an ecosystem, like a pond for example. I look at the water and how clear it is, and then I think about why it is so clear, or murky. Is there an imbalance in the pond? Too many fish? Is there some source of waste close by or some other pollutant that is harming the ecosystem. I think about what factors contribute to the water getting murky and thus a bad habitat, and about what factors are contributing to clearing the water and making it a good environment for life to blossom. I think about all the little plants and organisms that filter the water, that filter out the dirt and

So when you are working on yourself and changing your behaviour you have to think of yourself like a pond, like a little ecosystem. Your emotional states, your productivity, your health and general enjoyment of life are the water quality, it is how clear the water is. All the little influences that are either damaging and polluting you, are the thoughts, beliefs, habits, paradigms and actions that are harmful to you. Likewise all the positive factors are contributing to making the ecosystem of you more healthy, effective and happy.

You can imagine helpful information and our coaching as a collection of little plants and organisms, that you, as a diligent gardener, are planting in your own pond. You are both the ecosystem and the gardener. Aren’t you lucky? Consider this fact. The fact that we as humans are able to self-reflect and adapt, and actually improve the quality of our life. Do you feel grateful for that freedom? Nobody said that it is easy, but it’s worth it.

So as a diligent gardener you take whatever plants and organisms you like, the ones you think will do the job for clearing your pond, and you plant them. You are very careful and you are also careful that the fish don’t immediately eat away at them. Maybe you put them in a part of your pond where there’s not too much water movement – so they can multiply and grow strong, until then you can put them to the main area of your pond and they can get to work purifying the water.

In the many years I have been working on changing and optimising my own behaviour, I have experienced many fulfilling and liberating, yet also many frustrating and overwhelming things. One thing which can really hamper your progress, I want to swiftly address here:

As in the parable with the pond, you are currently at a certain „set-point“. The state you are in emotionally and behaviourally has a certain momentum. Now when you are starting the process of change, if you do it whole-heartedly and put in real effort, the process is starting to work right away. Yet as your current situation has a certain momentum, you might not immediately notice a change. Like in the pond, where the plants and organisms start cleaning the water right away, it takes time – depending on how clean or murky the water is in the first place. So you might be working with the techniques to increase your „grounding“, confidence and feeling comfortable and strong with yourself, you might be doing some exercises in the morning and for a few minutes or half an hour you feel really strong and confident. Then something happens, some trigger, or a memory surfaces and you feel even worse than before. Why is that? Is the technique not working?

Going back to the pond we can observe that the little organisms and plants have begun to clean the water. Now as you know from when you mix some solid material (like cacao powder with milk) – there is a saturation point. Beyond that point the liquid cannot take up any more powder. It is likewise with the water in the pond and also with you. Once the water gets cleaned, some reservoir of dirt hidden deep within the pond might start to get dissolved into the water, and you look and see: „Oh! Where is all this dirt coming from. I thought the water would get cleaner, not dirtier…“

It is important to not get discouraged by this. All the things that are coming up from your subconscious and the storehouse of your past conditioning are with you when you are aware of them and when you are not aware of them. Simply not being aware of them or having a base level of stress where there is simply no capacity for your body to show you these things is not a real solution as you can imagine. So it is helpful to view these things showing up as what they really are – signs of progress. Furthermore it is a good sign of your self-awareness increasing, which is one of the most important skills for creating change in your life. Consider this: What if these things have been with you all along, only now you have started noticing them?

So the process of change is gradual. With these tools and your constant application of positive, constructive thought, you are setting a contrast to your old programming. A programming that might have been less satisfying and productive, prompting you to read articles this one and investing time and energy in developing yourself and clearing the waters of your muddy past conditioning. I have great respect for you and for what you are doing, because I know it is in no way easy. On many days it can feel as though one is regressing, rather than progressing and people around who are enjoying short-lived pleasures and entertainment, distracting themselves from their problems rather than facing them – seem to have it easier. Again, it’s not easy to change and to keep striving, but it’s totally worth it. The more you keep at it the more you will enjoy steering your life in a worthwhile and positive direction – and the easier and more second nature these positive habits, paradigms and thoughts are going to feel to you.