Review Your Entire 2015 to Learn About Yourself

I never post on Tuesdays but I really wanted you to read this before 2015 ends.

In this post you will learn why it is important to review your 2015 and what to pay special attention to going forward into 2016.

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Review your entire 2015 by writing down details of the past year on a piece of paper.

What you did. Where you’ve been. What you achieved.

Reflect upon your year, month by month. See what phases you went through. What realisations you had. How far you’ve come.

Look through your calendar diary. Look through photos you’ve made. I looked through my iPhone notes which held a lot of clues about my 2015.

If you can’t fit it all on an A4 page – that’s even better.

The purpose of this exercise is three-fold.

1. Is life happening to me? Or am I taking charge and making life happen for me?

2. Am I progressing?

3. Are there hidden messages in what I’ve done in 2015? Is there anything I should be paying more attention to? Are there things I should explore further?

When reviewing your 2015, be mindful of a few things:

1. Try to find common themes

Were there any overarching themes that recurred throughout the year?

You might even have to backtrack and go a few years back to see a common thread of interest throughout the year.

Was it drawing? Was it Mixed Martial Arts? Maybe you dabbled with animation and video editing as a stepping stone to completing a project?

Once you’ve established those themes, make a plan to continue to incorporate them into your life.

2. Plan forward with these themes

Plan forward with those themes so they occur with purpose, as opposed to being reactive and just letting them happen to you.

If you incorporate these themes into your future plans and do this consciously and with purpose – then you will have given direction to your pursuit.

And that’s why making your New Year’s Resolutions is a good reflective exercise to make sure that you actively pursue your interests with purpose. You can read about how to make Resolutions that last an entire year here.

Then maybe there will be an event ahead to culminate a period spent in immersion.

3. Build systems around these themes

If you don’t have a system that you can follow to make sure you are tending to your long-term plans, you’ll likely experience feelings disappointment when you do your year in review.

Because you’ll realise that you had a bunch of goals but had no system to support you in achieving them.

That’s why it’s important to build systems that will feed into any overriding long-term goals you might have.

A system is a self-imposed structure that is supposed to help you achieve your long-term goals.

For instance, basketball legend Kobe Bryant would wake up early in the morning to perfect his craft by shooting some hoops.

Cristiano Ronaldo has a habit of staying on the football pitch to practice some drills and free-kicks after all of his teammates have gone home and called it a day.

These athletes have built these systems with one goal in mind – to be the best in their sport.

And by religiously following these systems, they have achieved their long-term goal.

If you build systems and follow the process they entail, then you know you’re on track.

And whenever you might have doubts about your progressknow that you’re on track because the system you’ve built for yourself was specifically designed so that you succeed in getting what you want.

If times get tough – don’t scrap the system. Tweak it, build upon it, refine it until it best serves your progress.

These systems will be the ultimate metric to your progress.

If you don’t have these systems, what do you measure your progress by?

You might want to “have a model’s body” but how are you going to do that if you don’t have a system built around a gym routine or a healthy nutritious diet that would fuel your workouts?

Build a system and have faith in the process. Be mindful that the system you put a lot of thought into developing will carry you to your goals.

You might want to achieve your goals ASAP because we humans are inherently impulsive creatures.

But you have to be prepared to play the long game.

Know Your ‘Why’ & a Thank You to What My Bro Said Readers

I’ve been blogging consistently for 2months now.

I have managed to publish a new post every Monday since the end of October 2015. Sometimes I even managed to get a new post out on the odd Thursday.

Going into the new year,  I will continue to create fresh quality content for your enjoyment.

Thank you for sticking around.

Some have stuck by since day one. Some have found the messages on this blog to be of value only recently.

Either way – welcome and thank you for your readership.

It hasn’t been easy keeping to a schedule, especially with constant doubts creeping in.

Doubting yourself sucks. And we all do it.

But as long as you trust the process in whatever it is that you do – you’ll be fine.

Doubt is a natural part of the process. But don’t let it sway you from the system you’ve built for yourself.

Your gym-going routine. Your ‘saving more, spending less’ regime.Your healthy eating habit. The structure that accommodates your writing.

Don’t break the chain of little successes you might have going for you. Don’t stop the momentum.

Even if you experience a hiccup – get right back on it. As long as it’s an outlier in the grander scheme of things, there’s nothing to worry about.

But above all else – know your ‘why’. 

Whenever you take up a project – either it be investing in yourself somehow, investing in something long-term or whatever – you have to know your ‘why’.

Why are you doing whatever you are doing?

This will help give you direction, a sense of purpose in what you’re doing, as well as a reason to keep going when times are tough.

My ‘why’ for whatmybrosaid

I have a list of reasons why I started whatmybrosaid. Sometimes, I re-read them as a reminder.

Yes, I’ve written them down. There’s something magical about writing things down. Active commitment.

It grounds me in and brings me back to centre.

I’ve written about a few general reasons in my previous post where I share 10 reasons why I think you should blog.

But above all else, I really wanted to improve my writing skills. Writing is such an irreplaceable skill and it’s something I simply crave to master

I also wanted to be read more so that it would supercharge my 2015 New Year’s Resolution of reading 15 books (I’ll tell you whether I succeeded or failed in a future post.)

By reading more, I wanted to synthesise huge amounts of cool info in easily digestible posts for you to enjoy.

In doing this, I would my own add unique spins on ideas that I could share here. I feel that with my psychology background, I’d be able to introduce things in a new, interesting light.

And you’d be able to benefit from this.

And with time maybe we’d be able to build a community of people who love linking ideas together. Who knows.

***

Know your ‘why’ and never forget it.

Hopefully my ramblings add value to your life – at least in some minute, nuanced way.

Thank you for your time and trust,

Pawel

How to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Last The Entire New Year

“How are your New Year’s Resolutions going?”

I asked my friend this question back in October 2015 and he laughed.

I found his reaction equally amusing, but for totally different reasons.

Aren’t New Year’s Resolution are supposed to be for the entire New Year?

When people make their New Year’s Resolutions, they have an upbeat attitude towards their goals and dreams; a new energy injected into their lives, a genuine impetus to change.

Fast forward to mid-year and they’ve all but given up.

Heck, fast forward to February of the New Year and already there’s more space to navigate the gym.

If you want to make something happen, you have to build a system around it.

Build a structure around going to the gym that would compel you to workout consistently, bit by bit over time.

Build a system around saving more and spending less.

Build a routine that would allow you to lose (or gain) weight systematically.

If you don’t – it’s game over before you know it.

It’s easy to plan for the future because you look at those future events in abstract terms.

“Yeah, I’ll workout. I’ll go to gym more often. Maybe jog, do some yoga, lift weights.”

But when it comes down to putting in the work, people start to flake on the promises they’ve made to themselves.

Why?

Why can’t your New Year’s Resolution stick?

 1. Future events are viewed in abstract terms

But when that once upon a time future event looms large and turns into a present event; it’s NOW – they are faced with various practicalities that they need to think about before going to the gym.

What will I wear to the gym?

What should I eat before my workout?

How long before my workout should I eat?

What routine will I do? What muscle group should I focus on today?

You’re expending precious mental resources and willpower on things you should have sorted out long ago – preferably when you first set out to introduce this new habit into your life.

And sometimes we just can’t be bothered to think of all of this stuff. It’s too much hassle.

And we give up.

2. The volitional phase

You might be motivated, but what will help your volition?

In health psychology, there are various models that are supposed to support behavior change, whether that be to promote fitness, start eating more fruit and veg, or stop smoking.

According to the Model of Action Phases, there is a motivational phase and a volitional phase to every change in behavior.

The motivational phase is where you form your intention and get motivated to act on that intention – “I want to workout more!”

The volitional phase is where you realise your intention and make specific plans on how to act out that intention – “I should do this, this, and this to workout more!”

When you form your New Year’s Resolution, you’ve covered the motivational phase. But have you focused on the volitional phase?

So what can you do to make sure you’ve covered both phases? It’s easy to cover the motivational phase – all you have to do is want to change (sometimes this can be tough on its own).

To cover the volitional phase – you have make a plan.

The when. The where. The how. The If-Then.

They call these little plans Implementation Intentions.

If it’s Monday then I will do a chest workout.

How? 3 sets of chest flyes, 3 sets of chest presses, 3 sets of bench presses.

If it’s dinner time then I will eat at least half a bag of spinach/green beans/kale.

How? Always have a bag of veg ready for before dinner.

If I get my monthly paycheck then I will immediately transfer £100/£200/£300 into my savings account.

How? Create a savings account so that I can transfer money easily.

In a nutshell, the key to making your New Year’s Resolutions successful are:

1) a focus on the practicalities of your goals

2) details and plans to help you in your volition.

***

92% of people fail to achieve their New Year’s Resolutions.

92% is a big number. Is it the norm?

Looks like.

But you’re not part of the norm.

Not if you’re reading this.

Sure, it’s difficult to keep your New Year’s Resolution going all year.

But anything worthwhile is difficult to achieve.

Otherwise everybody would be doing those difficult things. And it wouldn’t be so special anymore.

It’s difficult to achieve your long-term goals. But all it takes is a little bit of structure and discipline initially – then it becomes automatic. It becomes second nature. It becomes a habit.

So how would you feel if you were in that 8%?

The 8% that managed to achieve the long-terms goals they set out to conquer since January 1st.

It’s much easier for you to be part of that esteemed group now that you know these 2 simple tips.

If you use this knowledge wisely and put in the work – you will thank yourself for it.

A new you awaits.

Talk soon.

P.S if you found this helpful, share this with a friend – it will help them achieve their long-term goals 🙂

 

4 Psychological Tricks You Can Use To Improve Your Productivity

What if I told you that…

There aren’t any perfect conditions to start.

That you don’t have to wait for ideas and creativity to just happen to you.

To wait for a jolt of inspiration to unleash your creative flair.

That you don’t have to wait until ‘you feel like it’ to start working.

To wait for some chance emotion to propel you to work.

“You’ll likely find that your work habits have drifted to accommodate your surroundings rather than to meet your preferences.”

-Scott Belsky, Manage Your Day-to-Day

It’s important for your work to happen on your terms. Don’t respond to other people’s work agenda.

You know. Emails. Texts. 

“Hey man, do you have a sec?”

You know. All these things vying for your attention. 

Other people’s work agenda. Not yours.

These are the things that will distract you from your work and force you into reactionary workflow.

“We need to rethink our workflow from the ground up. Paradoxically, you hold both the problem and the solution to you day-to-day challenges.

No matter where you work or what horrible top-down systems plague your work, your mind, and energy are yours and yours alone.

You can surrender you day-to-day and the potential of your work to the burdens that surround you. Or, you can audit the way you work and own the responsibility of fixing it.”

-Scott Belsky, Manage Your Day-to-Day

You are an active participant in life. Don’t fall into passivity.

How do you take full reign of your workflow?

You can use certain psychological tricks to get you into that state of productivity. 

In this post you will learn the tools that will help you dictate your workflow.

You will learn how to work on your terms.

The Solution – Professionalize your art

“There are many ways you can signify to yourself that you are honing your practice.

For example, some people wear a white lab coat or a particular pair of glasses, or always work in a specific place – in doing these thing, they are professionalizing their art”

– Seth Godin, Manage Your Day-to-Day

1. Put some clothes on! 

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Scott Adams, author of the comic strip Dilbert, has a habit of putting on his sports clothes before he gets in his car and drives to the gym.

On the podcast with Bryan Johnson, he says that whenever he puts on his sportswear his body starts vibrating and foot can’t stop tapping.

Scott’s body committed itself to the habit. So much so that the pre-game routine of putting on clothes sends a signal to his brain. The signal is that it’s time to start exercising.

Scott says that he’s moved his ‘gym-going’ from the realm of thinking about it to the realm of habit, where his behaviour is automatic and no longer subject to the rational mind.

2. Use tiny rituals and routines to talk to your body 

Sometimes tennis matches can last for a few hours at a time.

How do tennis players stay focused and at peak performance for that long?

Here’s what Olivia Fox Cabane said on the Art of Charm podcast:

“High-level athletes direct[ed] their brain to either peak performance or recuperation mode through specific routines and rituals.”

Olivia gave the example of world-renowned tennis player Joe Mcenroe.

Between each point, Joe would use tiny rituals and routines to tell his brain and body to either ramp up for peak performance or ramp down for recuperation.

How does this look like in practice?

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Photo Credit: adiqiucorp via Flickr

Before each point, Joe would tap the ball with his left hand 3 times and fiddle with his racket. This set of rituals signalled his brain and body that it’s time to go into peak performance mode.

After each point, he would wipe the sweat of his brows with his left hand, which signalled that he has only a few seconds to ramp down and recuperate.

That’s why regular breaks are important in anything you do.

When you take a break, you totally disengage. It’s your way of telling your brain and body to ramp down.

3. Make your environment tell you what to do

A perfect example of someone who professionalized their art was successful copywriter Eugene Schwartz.

Everyday he would sit at his desk for 33 minutes and 33 seconds and write.

That was his copywriting system.

Using this very system, he wrote 9 books – including the seminal Breakthrough Advertising – dozens of successful ads, and countless articles.

Eugene created a powerful trigger with his immediate environment. Whenever he sat at his desk, everything was the same.

The context in which he would work was identical every time he would sit down to work.

Think of it like a puzzle.

In Eugene’s case, one piece is his desk. The other is the cup of tea to the left. And yet another piece are the pens to the right. The pieces ‘desk’, ‘cup’ and ‘pens’ have already been put together.

All you need to do is add the missing piece – that’s your work. And it fits right in. Every time.

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Photo Credit: Michael.DK via Flickr

When you manufacture a environment to always be the same, your performance in that environment will also be the same.

You just need to teach your brain to associate hard work with that specific context through repeated exposure.

You will need to associate productive personality traits with that setting.

You will need to anchor emotional states like enthusiasm, ambition, determination, and confidence to that workspace.

And when you do, you will have created a contextual trigger that brings out the best in you.

4. Create a pre-game routine to fight through the moments when you’re not feeling it

Do you sometimes show up to the gym but quickly realise you’re not quite feeling it? 

You show up but you’re not feeling too motivated and you know you’re not at your peak. 

Or you make the trek to get to the library but can’t concentrate and do your work?

 You’re sitting there, staring at your laptop or you just can’t muster the focus and will to get started.

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Photo Credit: Jonathan Schwartz via Flickr

I can’t even count the number of times that’s happened to me.

To avoid/overcome these situations, create a pre-game routine.

Mood follows action. By acting and behaving, your body literally summons certain emotional states.

Allow me to illustrate this point.

When you smile, your brain will start creating dopamine to make you happy.

When you straighten up, expand your chest, breathe deeper, and take up more physical space – guess what happens.

Your testosterone levels will increase and your cortisol levels will decrease. Expect a post about this in the future (sign up for updates).

By creating a routine, you’re telling your body to start acting in a certain way.

Let’s go back to our earlier examples:

If you’re at the gym but can’t be asked – do what you always do to get started.

Do what you always do to get things moving in the right direction. That might be jogging on the treadmill for a few minutes, doing stretches, or warming up using light weights.

This sort of pre-game routine will send signals to your brain telling it – it’s game time.

If you’re in the library – do what you always do. Either type a sentence to start your essay writing. Or read a mere sentence from a textbook. Then another. And another. And so on.

Eventually, you start a self-perpetuating chain that you can’t stop. You lock in and you’re in the zone.

Worked example: my personal safe haven for maximum productivity

Is there a place you go to suddenly feel a newfound vigour and energy to tackle your work with?

For me, it’s a coffee shop 10 minutes away from where I live. 

I head there whenever I want to get down to work (contextual trigger).

I walk through a park where I zen out and try to be in the moment. It’s like a forgotten pocket of green and calm; a far cry from the city noise (pre-game routine).

Once I get to the place I order a decaf flat white and sit by the window (tiny rituals and routines).

3rd

I chill out and soak in the vibe and atmosphere of the place while waiting for my coffee. I get my coffee, spring out my laptop and get to work.

I usually work for 50minute sprints and take regular 10 minute breaks (telling my body when to ramp up/ramp down). Check out my earlier post on why this is a good idea.

Sometimes I’m tempted to go for longer. In the long run though, this burns me out quicker than if I just took regular breaks.

This always works for me. Sparks start flying, I experience a surge of energy, vigour, and creativity, and everything just clicks. I zone in and I’m in flow.

In a nutshell – professionalize your art

The power of context

  • Manufacture an environment that you associate with passionate work and effort.
  • Associate that setting with personality traits that will help you get your work done.
  • Anchor certain emotional states that will propel you to success.

Tiny rituals and routines

  • Tell your body when to ramp up for peak performance and when to ramp down for recuperation.
  • Work in focused sprints and take regular breaks.

Create a pre-game routine

  • Mood follows action. Tell your body what to do.
  • Run your routine to jump start you body into the desired state.

What pre-game routine do you have?

Do you have any associative triggers?

Let me know in the comments.

Talk soon.

P.S. Thanks for reading! If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my free weekly newsletter for more life-optimising stuff.

10 Reasons I Think You Should Blog

1. It’s a personal journal

It’s a timeline of understanding for your personal growth.

It is a digital trail of all the epiphanies, realisations, nuggets of wisdom, and moments of clarity you’ve experienced.

It’s your body of work. A testament to your personality.

2. It will boost your overall level of happiness

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor suggests reflecting upon your week through a positive lens. This way you scan the week for good memories and slowly contribute to your overall level of happiness.

By having a blog, you scan the week for enriching and valuable experiences that you could share with the world.

Just by doing this you rehearse the interesting reads, valuable nuggets of wisdom and advice, and intellectually stimulating discussions you had over the past week.

3. You build an online presence

What’s one of the best things you can do for yourself before you graduate?

In his free e-book The Recession-Proof Graduate (click here for free download), Charlie Hoehn says you will maximise your chances of getting a job you’ll be happy with once you graduate by building an online presence.

How do you do that?

Charlie’s advice is to build an online presence by starting a blog:

“You can use it to write about what you’re learning, or jot down your ideas, or post travel pictures, or even videos where you talk about the latest project you’re working on.

There are absolutely no rules to what you can put on your blog. You just need to give people something positive to read and look at when they Google your name.

Why? Because it can help establish trust before employers ever talk to you.”

4. It establishes trust before employers even talk to you

By having a blog, you reveal your thought processes to the world. It becomes a reflection of your personality. It gives valuable insight into who you are as a person. It’s a personal journal (see #1).

For these reasons, it can be useful in differentiating you from the faceless résumés and set you on the right track to building trust with potential employers.

Here’s Charlie:

“If you want to use your blog as a way to get employers interested in you, I suggest you write about things that they’ll find valuable and relevant.

So you can write about your past experiences in a particular field, things you’re learning about, current projects you’re working on, etc. Just be honest and donʼt over-inflate your accomplishments.”

5. You can circumvent the gatekeepers with ease

If you have a book you want to publish, there really is not much point to selling it on Amazon unless you already have a following. If you don’t have a following – who are you going to sell to?

The best thing you can do is offer your work for free. If your book has 13 chapters – that’s 13 blog posts. One chapter per blog post.

This strategy worked for Tom Reynolds, the London ambulance driver who got a book deal based on his blog writings.

And of course this strategy worked for Hugh MacLeod. His book Ignore Everybody initially started out as a 13,000-word essay on his blog, gapingvoid.com.

“It was downloaded and read about a million times, then the next thing you know publishers started approaching me. Happy Ending.”

-Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody

6. Over time, you will build a community of likeminded individuals with whom you can share awesome stuff

Over the couple of weeks or so I’ve connected with some really cool likeminded folk here on WordPress.

It’s awesome to see that there are others out there that share your passions and interests, and can reciprocate value.

“Who are the stars of today’s Internet world? Bloggers.

Those freewheeling cybernauts who set up sites and online journals to provide information, links, or just empathy to a community of like-minded individuals.

They do it for free, and they’re often rewarded with a devout following of people who, in return, offer as much as they receive. It’s a loop. In connecting, as in blogging, you’re only as good as what you give away.”

– Keith Ferrazzi in Never Eat Alone

7. You become more giving

Writing for this blog has helped me tap into the ‘giving’ part of my personality on a regular basis.

That’s not to say I’m not giving. We all are, but irregularly. I think you can agree with me on that.

As Keith Ferazzi noted in his book, by engaging in a continual effort to provide value to others, by sharing my knowledge and resources, time and energy, empathy and compassion – I coincidentally increase my own value.

8. You work on the irreplaceable skill of writing

Writing well is a valuable life-skill. I go into detail on how to improve it here.

9. You will become more productive

By acquiring this beneficial new habit, you will quickly realise that you’re becoming better at structuring and managing you day-to-day.

You will be able to fit a variety of different projects and things that tend to different areas of your life. You build momentum. You get more things done.

10. You can talk about your ongoing projects, which produces a self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing cycle

Just by talking about the different projects you’ve been working on, you motivate yourself to keep pursuing them. You also commit publicly to your projects.

Having more people know about your pursuits will make it less likely for you to abandon them.

P.S. Thanks for reading! If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my free weekly newsletter for more life-optimising stuff.