12 Life-Changing TED Talks (and what to read next)

I'll be honest, I love a good TED talk.

They're short and to the point. Just long enough to get you interested, and just motivating enough to get you started on a new journey. More than once, I've taken what I'd learned from a TED talk and applied it to my life, creating positive changes to my character and habits that have stuck with me to this day.

I love how TED talks give you a great kicking off point to explore a subject— kind of like those 'brief history' guides, that seem to cover just about every topic imaginable— and I've often gone looking for more material after watching one.

So, without further ado, here are 12 life-changing TED talks, and the book that you'll want to read after.

 

 
 

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1. How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over,
Mel Robbins

Ever find yourself watching people dance and think: damn, I wish I could join in? And just for a second you get the impulse to actually get up and do it? Mel Robbins teaches you how to harness those gut instincts and make shit happen in your life. If you struggle with getting out of bed in the morning, this is the talk for you.

THE BOOK: The 5-Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage


2. The POWER OF VULNERABILITY, Bréne Brown

I think we've all heard of Brené Brown by now, but I never quite believed the hype until I heard her speak. Humble and hilarious, gentle and strong, Brown's TED talk transformed the way I saw vulnerability and encouraged me to take more chances and connect more deeply with those around me.

The book: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead


3. Smash fear, learn anything, Tim Ferriss

I'll admit it: I have a small fascination with Tim Ferriss. The guy guineapigs himself in the name of physical, mental, and emotional betterment— then shares the best of his finds in a way that's accessible and digestible for those who aren't quite so daring.

The book: Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers


4. Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are, Amy Cuddy

In this super popular TED talk, Amy Cuddy shares how your body language— the way you hold yourself and your expression— can absolutely transform your confidence, how you perform at work, and how motivated you feel on a day-to-day basis.

The book: Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

 

5. The Power of Introverts, Susan Cain

Did you dread group projects in school? Find networking unseemly? Would rather read a book on a Friday than party until yoou vomit in a corner? You're not alone, and you're not broken either. Susan Cain teaches you how your introversion might be your greatest strength— even in a society built for extroverts.

The book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking


6. 12 Truths I Learned From Life and Writing, Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is one of those people who just gently reaches in with her words and changes your life, and sometimes you don't even notice until years later. Both the TED talk and the book are whimsical, inspiring, and infinitely relatable— if you've ever thought maybe someday you'd like to write, this one will help you get there.

The book: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


7. The Key to Success? Grit, Angela Duckworth

Ever wonder how successful, passionate people got to be so successful and passionate? It's grit. Not grits, grit. Some people are grittier than others, but Angela Duckworth is here to help you succeed and find joy with the things you love by harnessing your inner gritty.

The book: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance


8. How to get your ideas to spread, Seth Godin

Have you ever felt like you have a good idea, but you don't really know how to get it out there, and maybe it's not quite good enough after all? Take some advice from Seth Godin, extraordinarily prolific and successful entrepreneur and idea genius and feel instantly empowered to shake up the world.

The book: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us


9. The Surprising Science of Happiness, Dan Gilbert

What makes us happy? Why? Is it what we think it is? Is it winning the lottery? Career success? Fame? Family? Dan Gilbert explores the history and science of what makes us happy, why we're so bad at understanding what will bring us happiness, and what the hell we can do about it. It's just a little bit mind-blowing. Alas, the TED talk is just a tease; you'll want to read this book after, trust me.

The book: Stumbling on Happiness


10. The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer

Part advice for life, part memoir, this book pulls my heart out a little every time I read it, yet leaves me feeling immeasurably more connected to everyone around me— even the people I don't yet know. Her talk will make you want to think big, take chances, and build connection with your community.

The book: The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help


11. The walkable city, Jeff Speck

Have you felt a little unhappy with where you live, but can't put your finger on why? Jeff Speck makes the case for how a walkable city can improve our health and our happiness, and how a car-centric society is basically making everything shit (and what you can do about it).

The book: Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step At A Time


12. Flow, the secret to happiness, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Don't worry about trying to pronounce his name, just watch the talk. Csikszentmihalyi dives into the concept of 'flow' and how finding 'flow' in the things we like to do can help us to get happy— even when things are rough. The book is basically a classic, and an absolute must-read.

The book: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

 

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So, I want to know: have you watched any of these or read any of the books? What was your favourite? Share your recommendations below!


12 Life-changing TED Talks (and what to read after)! // Ever watched a TED talk and become totally fascinated only to be left wanting more at the end? Well, here are 12 inspiring, motivating, and thought-provoking TED talks, and the book you should read next.

12 Books That Changed My Life

Books.

I even went through 7/8ths of a masters in Library Information Science, thinking (mistakenly) that since I had such a passion for books, that was the career for me. Bad graduate school choices aside, books have undoubtedly shaped my life, supporting my dreams or helping me make a change when the time was right.

Today I'm sharing with you ten to twelve (I think twelve) books that have shaped my life in some way or another. These are a mix of fiction and non-fiction of many varieties, and you may find yourself a little baffled by the collection. But hey, it's like one of those treat bags you used to be able to get at the corner store for a dollar. You never knew exactly what was going to be in it, but there was always at least one thing you liked. And you don't even have to pay a dollar.

 

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1. THE ART OF ASKING

Amanda Palmer

I'll admit it, I found out about Amanda Palmer through Neil Gaiman— but this book truly holds its own as a book that changed my life. It reminded me that the people around us are all too willing to catch us, if we're only brave enough to give them the chance. I can't count the number of times I cried reading this book. 

 

2. The Power of Habit

Charles Duhigg

Most of what we do during our day is habit— and that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you had to actively remember how to do simple tasks like driving or washing dishes, life would be exhausting. Duhigg shows us how we can break out of this cycle when we need it most, take action, and change our lives by forming habits— the good kind.

 

3. DARING GREATLY

BRENé BROWN

Oh Brené, how I love thee. Reading this book was like a thousand small epiphanies, and completely flipped my ideas about vulnerability on their head. Vulnerability is not our greatest weakness, but our greatest strength, allowing us to connect deeply with each other as humans and lead with compassion, kindness, and bravery.

 

4. HIS DARK MATERIALS

Philip Pullman

My favourite fiction series of all time. HDM taught me that it was okay to be flawed, to be fiercely passionate, and to be a girl that takes action in her own life. He gave me one of my all-time favourite characters, Lyra, and inspired in me a life-long passion for writing fiction of my own. This book revealed to me one face as a child, another as a teenager, and another as an adult.

 

5. THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE

NEIL GAIMAN

When I got to the end of this book, I flipped it over, and started reading it again. Something about this book validated all the things I felt about childhood— how adults seem to grow up and forget how scary, unfair, and often unpleasant it is to be a small thing under the control of others, and yet how magical and powerful and wild.

 

6. HARRY POTTER

J.K. ROWLING

Harry Potter was an unshakeable foundation for me growing up in a way that nothing else was. Reading Hermione taught me that yes, in fact, there were other people just like me all around the world— and we weren't the loser, we were the hero (even if we were insufferable know-it-alls). These books stoked a life-long love of reading and helped me to realize that I too wanted to be a story-teller someday.

 

7. EAST OF EDEN

JOHN STEINBECK

I wish I could say more about this book without spoiling the ending! This was my husband's first book recommendation to me, and while I was extremely hesitant to read it, thinking it would be dry, it's now one of my all-time favourites. The ultimate sweeping family saga, complete with one of the most repulsive characters ever written. Best.

 

8. H IS FOR HAWK

Helen Macdonald

Part auto-biography, part nature-writing, part shadow-biography of T.H. White, this book mesmerized me from start to finish. Every time I think of this book, I have a little shiver of wonder. Macdonald writes with fierce beauty on things that are at once incredibly unfamiliar (falconry) and intimately familiar (grief, love, and slowly unclenching your iron-fist grip on life).

 

9. THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT

CHRIS GUILLEBEAU

Have you ever wanted to be on a quest? This book will make you want to take on a quest. I've never felt so powerfully compelled to run out the door and be swept along by the road. The best thing is that Guillebeau is right: it really is in the pursuit that you find the joy and purpose. I challenge you to take up a quest of your own, no matter how silly it might seem, or how scared you might feel.

 

10. ESSENTIALISM: THE DISCIPLINED PURSUIT OF LESS

GREG MCKEOWN

The reading of this book is currently transforming both my life and my business in the best way possible. If you've ever felt like you're taking minuscule steps in a thousand different directions and not getting anywhere, this is the book for you. I'm seeing more success in my business, and more happiness in my every day life. Greg, cheers.

 

11. THE SECRET HISTORY

DONNA TARTT

A reading experience that has yet to be matched. Magical, terrible, wonderful, haunting, and written in some heart-stoppingly gorgeous prose, this book makes me want to rent a cabin and spend several months penning my masterpiece. It may also inspire you to take up Greek, or start drinking excessively. I didn't know books could have all the things I loved all in one place. I didn't know I could do the same.

 

12. WE ARE ALL WEIRD

SETH GODIN

A book that really shook up my business thinking (and what a fabulous beard, really). Before reading, I spent an awful lot of time trying to figure out how I could make my business like the businesses of others to be more successful, not realizing I was throwing away the one thing that could make me successful— my unique perspective and personality. Weird is good. I promise.

 
 

HONORARY MENTION:

I'm not even finished reading Tools of Titans, by Tim Ferriss, and already it's changing my thinking in a total unexpected way. If you want to become the happiest, healthiest, wealthiest, and wisest version of yourself, pick this one up.

 
 

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And, I want to know: what books have changed your life? Let me know in the comments

 
 

12 Books That Changed My Life // Fiction and non-fiction of every kind, books have shaped my life from the moment I could read. I'm sharing you my top 12 in the hopes that maybe one of these books can become a part of your story, too. xx

Why Life-Changing Happiness is as Simple as Riding a Bike

If you were to ask the average middle class North American what they would change in their life, you’d expect to hear things like, “I’d love to get in better shape!” or, “I wish my financial situation could be a bit better”, or even “I want to spend more time outside, enjoying nature.”

But hey, we’re all pretty busy, right? As much as we’d like to improve our lives, who’s got the time? Between a busy work week, spending hours in traffic on your commute, and paying for your house and car, there’s no time for working out, or money left over at the end of the month to put away.

The solution to these problems is obvious once you know it, but may be difficult to make sense of. Simply replacing your car with a bike can make you happier, healthier, and wealthier!

If you haven’t read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, do so ASAP. In it, he explains the concept of a keystone habit. A keystone habit is one that brings with it a multitude of other lifestyle changes. By simply commuting to work (or any other short errands) by bike, you’re building a keystone habit that will lead to a whole new way of thinking about your place in the city.

Let’s start with the obvious benefits first. Riding a bicycle requires you to pump your legs, making you stronger and more fit. That’s step one toward getting in better shape. And unlike a gym membership, which is a recurring monthly cost, you can get a good commuter bike for a single payment of a few hundred dollars. A bike like that will last you for years, and get you in better shape than a forgotten Goodlife membership that’s now lying unused under your bed somewhere. On that note, bike commuting forces you to put some stakes into your workout. You have to get to work, right? So you can’t just weasel your way out of doing it with excuses like “I’m too tired, I’ll just skip today and workout tomorrow instead.” If you want to keep your job, you’ll have to get some exercise in!

Biking is also a net time advantage. Unless you live ridiculously far from work,* travel time by bike will be comparable to driving. If you work in a particularly traffic dense area, you might even get to work faster! Even if it takes longer to bike to work, you’ve repurposed the task of commuting to work into a workout as well. You’ll be getting a good workout five days a week without having to open a large block of time in your day to go to spin class. Simply by biking to work, you’re now a healthier version of you, with free time to spare!

There’s also a less obvious benefit to your mental health. Getting outside and walking or biking on a regular basis helps to relieve stress, improve your memory and other cognitive functions, improves your sleep patterns, and gives you a sense of control over your life. Building outdoor biking time into your commute ensures you get many of these benefits on a daily basis. So not only will you look like you’re in better shape, you’ll feel like it too! All of this from simply choosing to get to work under your own muscle power.

So now that you’re happier and healthier, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little spare cash to throw around? Luckily, biking to work has you covered there as well! It’s not unusual for a middle class North American to spend 20% of their salary on vehicle ownership. Gas, insurance, monthly car payments, and maintenance costs make vehicle ownership a very expensive endeavour. If you can ditch the car entirely in favour of a bike, you’ll be able to recover that lost 20% of your income. Talk about a nice pay raise! But even if you still need to keep the car around, the costs of car ownership decrease greatly when you rarely use it. First, you can negotiate lower insurance costs; second, your gas usage will drop significantly; finally, maintenance costs will decrease with decreased wear and tear on your car. Simply by choosing to ride your bike to work, you will get the immediate benefits of improved health, happiness, and financial security!

But those are just the instant payoffs from biking. You may also shift the way you think about and interact with your community. By limiting errands to comfortable biking distance, you will be supporting smaller, local businesses, and helping to make your neighbourhood a friendlier, more vibrant place to live. You’ll also cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, making biking the eco-friendly choice. Who knows, you just might set an example and convince your neighbours to start biking more too, making your neighbourhood streets safer and quieter! An entire community revolution can begin from making this one small change to your daily routine. After a few weeks, you’ll wonder why you ever drove to work in the first place!


*And if you do, you should find a new job or a new house! Commuting long distances sucks precious hours from your day, and that’s not even mentioning the impacts on your mental well being.

 

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adam'snoggin.png

by Adam Koberinski

Adam is a PhD student studying the philosophy of physics. He is also an avid reader and weightlifter. He wants to help people organize and gain control over their personal and financial lives. He's also my husband.

Why Life-Changing Happiness is as Simple as Riding a Bike // Replacing your car with a bike can make you happier, healthier, and wealthier: here's why.

Why Following Your Passion Is A Load of Garbage

Did I draw you in with the dramatic and controversial headline? I hope so.

As a blogger of two dear blogs, editor of a digital mag, and an online business owner, I read a lot— especially online— about following your passion. About stickin' it to the man (do people still say that?) and striking out on one's own to create the business of their dreams (tried that road, longer than expected, and came with shitty directions).

We're supposed to tap into our womanly intuition, listen to our hearts, and follow our calling so we can make waves in the world, so we can inspire other women everywhere to do the same, to take their destiny into their own hands, rather than bumbling along on the conveyor belt.

And this sounds pretty nice, right? In theory, I love everything about this. I love taking chances, I love empowerment, I love boldness, bravery, and self-reliance. What I don't love about this ideal is the idea that we come with a ready-made passion, that we're somehow assigned a calling a birth, and when the time is right, we're going to jump out of bed one morning, shouting about how exactly we're gonna change the world— or at least, our world. We're expected to flounce into our twenties knowing in our deepest, most spiritual heart, that we're supposed to be life coaches, or pianists, or motivational speakers, or yoga teachers, with unshakeable certainty. With limitless devotion and passion. 

The problem?

This is rarely the case. In fact, I'm not sure it's ever the case. Passions are not in-built. They're a combination of personality, character, and circumstance. 

For example: I quite enjoy creating brands and websites for think-outside-the-box entrepreneurs. It's what I spend just about all of my work-time doing, when I'm not doing supportive tasks like blogging, social media work, etc. Is this my passion? I'm not really sure. It's certainly not what I expected I would be doing. Just before I graduated high school, I thought I would apply into history programs at university. When I graduated high school, I wanted nothing to do with university (I was 16) and instead took two years to work, and visit my dear friend whom I met online, in England. For a short while I thought backpacking around the world was some how essentially me, and I began to prepare to do this. Then, on a whim, I visited my old high school guidance counsellor, applied to university for Global Studies, and two weeks later, moved across the province for university. After changing my major four or five times and finishing with a degree in English Language & Literature, I applied directly to graduate school for a masters in Library and Information Science, completed 7/8ths of the program, then dropped out to start my own business.

Sort of. Even that wasn't exactly the way I expected. I thought for quite a while that I would rock a personal blog, open up a little online shop, and somehow make it. Instead, after several years of floundering, I ended up building websites for people— and I love this most of all.

But I didn't head into business ownership thinking I would see my passion of web design realized. It was something that grew up organically out of a few years of blogging, then blog coaching, then doing website reviews, and finally after noticing that the visual aspects of the blogs I was reviewing was the first thing I gravitated to, and the area I felt the most comfortable, I started teaching myself more about web design, and finally offered my services. 

The point, girl?

You don't just follow your passion. You do things, lots of things, and after a while you may find that you connect deeply with one of them. Or you may not. I'm not sure I believe that everyone even has some sort of deep life passion. Maybe not everyone finds that thing— maybe some people spend their lives trying lots of things, enjoying the journey, but never finding a passion to which they want to devote their entire life. I'm not sure I have one— but I really love trying new and different things, and devoting myself to learning about them, at least for a little while.

The other thing I want to remind you, is that you have a lot of time. Yes, your life could be cut tragically short, but otherwise, you likely have many decades before you. You have time to find many passions and to enjoy the pursuit of them. You could spend five years learning how to draw, and getting pretty good at it, but decide that it's not really for you; then you could spend the next 10 years becoming a master of krav maga. Another 10 years becoming a botanist. Another 10 years learning to sail. 

So try things. Try lots of different things, even things you don't necessarily think you'll like. And stick with them for a least a couple of months before calling it quits (and read the book Grit, by Angela Duckworth. Seriously.). Do you think that most famous, successful musicians started out at 8 years old, professing their love for practising guitar or piano for three hours a day? Probably not. Instead, after years of practising and dedication, they discovered that the music, and the work of it, were meaningful things. 

Just like you can't find your soul mate sitting at home (yes, you'll actually have to go outside, go to bookshops, cafes, dog walking meets, etc), you won't find your passion without trying many different activities.

I encourage you to take up a list of hobbies, pick a few that appeal to your nature, and spend at least 30 days giving it a try.

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Recommended reading:

The Happiness of Pursuit, Chris Guillebeau

Born for This, Chris Guillebeau

Grit, Angela Duckworth

Roadmap: The Get it Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do With Your Life, Roadtrip Nation

 

 
 

Why Following Your Passion Is a Load of Garbage // A bold statement, I know. We see messages from all directions telling us that we should follow our passion, chase down our dreams, take on the unknown. But what happens when you can't seem to -find- your passion?

Breathe: 7 Tips for Coping With Anxiety

I struggled with anxiety for many years.

In some ways, I'm still coping with anxiety— it's simply not winning anymore. It never really goes away, though. It's still there, in the back of my head, the worries and panic a little quieter now.

On another day, I'll share my anxiety story (because I know that when I was first experiencing how terrible and alienated anxiety and panic disorders could be, I would have given anything to know that so many other people were experiencing the same thing— that I wasn't some kind of freak), but today I wanted to share a few things that helped me cope.

A caveat? This is what worked for me. I'm not suggesting that this will work for everyone, and I'm certainly not offering medical advice. This is what helped me, after many years of suffering and depression, begin to live with anxiety, and not merely exist with it.

 

1. Don't try to go at it alone.

Part of my fear was that people would notice I was acting strangely or say something about it. The solution? Let people in on your big secret. Confide in someone who can help cover for you. For me, it helped immensely just having someone who knew, someone whose hand I could squeeze when I felt like I was going under. Someone to whom you can say, "Hey, if I disappear for a moment, don't worry. I just need a minute alone."

 

2. Tell people how they can help you.

In my case, this meant teaching people how they could chatter away to distract me (rather than asking if I was okay), or what they should do if I passed out in the middle of a Gap store (true story— smashed my head on the checkout counter on the way down and the next thing I knew, I was sitting on the ground and a firefighter was kneeling there, making sure I was okay).

If I feel terrible, I'm not trapped. I can make sure that I have someone to drive me home in an emergency, I know where I can go for a quiet moment, I know where the cups are in a friends house so I can slip away and get a glass of water without drawing attention to myself.

 

3. Become the master OF your brain.

I acknowledge this might be controversial, and it's not for everyone at every time. It worked for me, however, when I was ready.

When I struggled with anxiety, I had a lot of very obvious physical symptoms if a panic attack was coming on: I'd be pale, shaky, cold, sometimes throwing up, and sometimes dropping unconscious in the middle of public places (hallways, class rooms, the aformentioned Gap). Although the physical symptoms were very much real, anxiety begins in the brain. I could draw my attention away from the physical symptoms and lessen their power on me by telling myself: "Yeah, I might feel nauseated right now, but it's not real. It's just my anxiety brain telling me I feel nauseated." If it was in my head, and not a real symptom, than it couldn't really hurt me.

Instead of becoming fixated on the physical location and sensation of the symptoms and thinking over and over: "Oh god, I'm nauseated. I feel so sick to my stomach right now", I could tell myself: "You know what? The physical symptoms are just a thought, and if I stop focusing on them, they'll go away."

And, to my astonishment, they did.

 

4. Breathe.

Find a breathing technique that works for you, and stick with it. Not only does it help slow your breathing and your heart rate, it places your focus on something simple and non-frightening— your breathing. My favourite breathing method is something called 4 by 4 breathing (and if I remember correctly, it's also used by military people, and other folks who find themselves in stressful situations more often than they care to).

It's simple: breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breath out for 4 seconds (I also like breathing out long and slow for 8 seconds instead of four). I notice within about a minute how much my heart-rate has calmed, and my brain seems to get a little less scattered and fuzzy, and well.

 

5. Know your surroundings.

Like a ninja, or a secret agent. That's fun, right? All joking aside, knowing where things were in any given building was immensely helpful to getting my anxiety under control— more specifically, knowing where washrooms where, and were I could be alone. 

More often than not panic attacks would make me very nauseated, and the idea of feeling nauseated and maybe even tossing my guts in public made the anxiety worse— leading to worse anxiety. Typical spiral. I quickly found that knowing where individual washrooms were when I was at uni (you know, the kind with one toilet and a locked door), instantly took away that fear of having to be sick in public, and thus, lessened the power the anxiety symptoms had over me. So what if I felt a bit ill? I had a place to go, which meant I wasn't trapped.

Now, your weird anxiety fixation might not be the same as my weird anxiety fixation, but whatever it is that you need to make yourself feel a bit better— find it.

 

6. Find the right people.

My step-sister once yelled at me in a hotel-room that the reason I had no friends was because I was a "fucking freak"— referring, of course, to my anxiety. 

We no longer speak.

The people who matter will work with you. They'll push you when you need to be pushed, and understand when your brain is telling you you're dying and you just can't cope with more.

 

7. Remember that it's okay to medicate.

Anxiety is real. Panic attacks are real— and both of these things can be life-ruining in a hurry, brining on social isolation, confusion, and depression (I can safely check all three of those boxes). I remember feeling that I really really didn't want to be on some kind of medication for my brain, as though that made me an Official Freak, but looking back, I can see the flaw in my thinking here.

If someone had a terrible infection, a dangerous flu, or cancer, you wouldn't deny them life-saving medication.

Mental illness is an illness, just like any other.

 

If I can leave you with one thing, it's this: anxiety doesn't maker you weak. It makes you a fighter.

You're not alone. 

 
 

Breathe: 7 Tips for Coping With Anxiety // I struggle with anxiety for most of my life. This may not help everyone, but it's what helped me.

The 5 Whys: Getting to the Bottom of It

Sometimes, when faced with a problem or tricky decision, we tend to linger near the surface, taking our first thought or reaction as truth.

"I have to speak in public, but I don't want to."

Why?

"I'm scared."

And that's where it ends. A moment of exploration and possibly deeper understanding stuffed unceremoniously under the couch.

When we do this— and we all do it— two things happen:

1. We take our reactions and initial thoughts as truth

2. We don't change and grow

Of course, only scratching the surface is easier. Facing down your fear and uncertainties, prodding and picking at them over and over before they fess up the truth is hard— and we can often encounter unsettling truths about ourselves.

When we get to the truth, we can no longer ignore the dusty things accumulating under the sofa. They start to grumble, begging to be acknowledged.

What can we do?

The first step to radically changing your outlook it so assume you might be wrong— yes, even about your own thoughts and first impressions. Thoughts can become habits, too.

An example? I've struggled with anxiety most of life. When something new and unfamiliar is near on the horizon, I catch myself thinking or even saying something like:

"Oh god, I'm so nervous about meeting with this new client."

But when I stop myself and take a moment to challenge this feeling, I realize, hang on, I'm not nervous or scared, I'm excited!

A similar feeling, but with a different outlook. Nervousness is just negative excitement.

I can't wait for x to happen: excitement

Oh god, what if x happens: nervousness/dread

The first step is to assume you could be wrong. The second step involved a lot of 'whys'.

Five, in fact, as you may have guessed from the title (although, to be fair, you may only need four).

The Five Whys

When you encounter an idea, you challenge it with why, and that response with why until you get to the really good stuff.

I'll get super vulnerable here and share an example from my own life. The thought is this:

"I don't want to play volleyball with the people from your office."

Why?

"I don't like it."

Why?

"I'm not very good, and I don't want others to see."

Why?

"Because I'm scared they'll think I'm not good enough and won't value me."

Why?

"Because that's how I'm valuing myself."

 

Ah. There's something. I could certainly ask one more why but to be honest, I'm not really sure I know the answer. Maybe because the popular crowd when I was in public school were always the athletic bunch, and so I associate that with being valued, being wanted.

Either way, I learn a few things here:

  1. My reluctance has nothing to do with my not liking sports.
  2. If you have friends who make you feel like garbage for not being great at volleyball, you have bigger problems than being garbage at volleyball, i.e., picking shit for friends.

Before you leave here thinking that the five whys are only for negative situations, you can also apply them to goals or desires as well to see if you're really on track for the kind of life you want to lead.

"I want to get the six-figure job this year."

Why?

"So I can have nicer things. I'm tired of my old car."

Why?

"Because having these nice things will make me happy."

Why?

"Because then people will admire me, and I'll know I've made it—"

 

Hang on, we've found the problem here. The beginning isn't so bad, but the end result simply won't do. There are good reasons to strive for a six-figure job, including:

  • wanting to advance your profession
  • wanting to challenge yourself and learn
  • wanting to feel powerful and seen
  • wanting to fund your dreams

Striving for a six-figure job with the aim of collecting things and impressing others, will leave you stuck on the hamster wheel of hedonic adaptation and ultimately, not very happy— but that's a tangent for another day.

If you want to really get to the bottom of your deepest thoughts, desires, and ambitions, I recommend giving the five whys a try and seeing what you find.

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The 5 Whys: Getting to the Bottom of it // The 5 Whys are all about getting to the core of who you really are, what you really want, and how you can challenge yourself each and every day. Here's how this method can change your life.

15 Journal Prompts for a Transformative Year

Welcome to 2017.

But if you're reading this at any other time of the year, that's okay too— and you know why? It's never too late to look back. If you're reading this on September 1st, and you're like, shit, this year hasn't exactly gone so great– it's okay. There are 2928 hours left this year.

It can be a little comforting to remember that the secular Western New Year is a completely arbitrary date that means nothing in either the personal or greater universal world. Today can be your New Year. 

So, without further ado:

1. When in 2016 did you feel the most fulfilled?

2. What went better than expected? Not as great as expected?

3. Who did you have the best conversation with in 2016?

4. What are you most looking forward to in 2017?

5. Do one thing that scares you in 2017. What is it?

6. Who do you want to learn from this year?

7. What is one habit that you're trying to change, and how are you going to make it happen?

8. What bring you the most joy? 

9. What can you do to make time for these moments?

10. What's one thing you're saying good riddance to in 2017?

11. What gives you confidence?

12. When do you feel the most powerful? What steals your power?

13. When do you feel the most vulnerable? What can you learn from these moments?

14. What 3 things can you do in the morning for the best day possible?

15. What's holding you back, and how are you busting through those barriers?

 

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15 Journal Prompts for a Transformative Year // Ready to give your year a little boost? Here are 15 journal prompts that will help you get right to the heart of what matters, and shape your most epic year yet.

How I'm Changing My Life In 2017

2016 may not have been the best year on record (although, to be honest, it was a good year personally for me, and while lots of rough things have happened this year that have been emphasized by the media echo-chamber, lots of good things have happened globally, too).

I am, however, determined to make 2017 particularly stellar. I can already feel that it's going to be amazing (the past four days have certainly been great. That must be a good sign, right? Right?). I've been waking up feeling especially fabulous, work has been going really well and I've been working on some fantastic design projects, and I'm overall feeling like I can take on just about anything.

Bring it on, 2017 (should I maybe not be tempting fate?)!

New Year resolutions are a thing that people love to make fun of— millions of people flood into gyms annoying regular gym-goers only to fail weeks later, and new shitty diets pop up left and right promising you the most perfect beach-ready bod. But New Year resolutions can be incredibly powerful if you do more than just name the thing that you want to change. You have to go beyond that. You have to plan.

Here's what I've got in the works for 2017.

1. Learning Norwegian

Why? I say why not. I've always loved Scandinavian languages, and apparently Norwegian is the easiest of them for English language speakers (I've certainly been having a better go at it than Swedish). I'd love to visit Norway some day, and it would be even better if I could have a nice Norwegian chat, even though I know most Scandinavian folks speak excellent English and probably won't want to suffer through my patchy Norwegian.

I've been using and will be continuing to use Duolingo for 20-30 minutes a day because it's free, easy to use, and also sort of addictive. If you want to be Norwegian-speaking buddies with me, seriously, send me an email (jordannarowan@gmail.com).

Elgen liker brunost?

 

2. Reading 75 books

This one probably won't be a problem for me since I've been doing it for a couple of years now with the 50 Book Pledge (you don't have to do 75,or even 50. I highly recommend checking it out!), but I'd like to keep it up nonetheless. This year I'd like to read more non-fiction, particularly history. I'm also focusing on reading through all of the books I already own and haven't read before purchasing any others, and making sure that I'm donating books that I won't be reading or lending to the local used bookshop.

Books I'm stoked to read:

 

3. Growing my design business

Depending on how you came across this blog, you may already know that I have a design business over at The House of Muses, where I build brands and websites for creative entrepreneurs. This year, my goal is to be totally booked out with about 18 projects this year (could vary if I end up taking an unexpected vacation).

The road map to this goal is far too detailed (and frankly boring) to leave here, but it includes: 

  • testing out a new website
  • building up my portfolio
  • hosting a few webinars
  • building great client relationships

 

4. Getting fit

This is probably the biggest and scariest goal of the year for me. In my life, fitness has always been an incredibly challenge, an experience saddled with many years of negativity, body issues, and bad experiences. But this year? I'm determined to change that.

In January, I'll be doing roughly 30 minutes of body-weight exercises everyday, then down to about 3 times a week for the rest of the year as I'll be taking on both a dance class, as well as 2-3 days of jogging each week (when the weather isn't shit).

I've been totally inspired by 100 Days, a project by John Green and his friend Chris who are taking the first 100 days of 2017 to kick their asses into shape, eat better, meditate, and generally change their lives. I'm feelin' it, guys. I'm feelin' it. It's that kind of year. If you want to watch fully grown men flail their way through American Ninja Warrior-style gyms, you'll like this.

I'll be sharing my progress here, so if you're interested in that, click here and subscribe. You can also read about my Couch to 5k journey here.

 

5. Meditating

I'll be meditating for 10 minutes a day, at the very minimum for the next 30 days, and sharing my results.

Not much more to it than that. I'm using the Calm App.

 

Alright, I wanna know: how are you changing your life this year, and what steps are you taking to get there? Join the Facebook community and let us know so we can all cheer each other on.

 
 

How I'm Changing my Life in 2017 // Need a little goal inspo? I'm putting 2016 behind me (good or bad) and making 2017 my most epic year yet. Here's how.

How to Break Through Stagnation With Deliberate Practise

We all feel stuck sometimes.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a wonderful book called Outliers, examining what exactly goes into the making of experts. It’s a wonderful book, and I highly recommend giving it a read. A major theme in the book is the 10,000 Hour Rule. Based on some scientific studies (which have recently been questioned), it states that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. While the research is more subtle than the 10,000 Hour Rule makes it sound like expertise is simply a matter of putting in the time. If you’re patient and disciplined enough, you will become an expert.

Though true to a certain extent, there’s more to it than that. I’m sure you’ve been there before; you’ve decided to pick up a new skill, and you’re making pretty good progress. You’re now past the ‘beginner’ stage, and are starting to really get the hang of things. All of a sudden, your progress stagnates; you keep pushing to get better, and putting in the practice, but the results just aren’t following. I know I’ve had this happen far more frequently than I’d like to admit.

The solution is usually something minor that you’ve either neglected to focus on, or hadn’t known about until it was too late. But there’s never a general method for dealing with this situation, right?

Wrong. While the specifics will obviously vary from skill to skill, there is a systematic method of practice to avoid stagnation on your way to mastery. That method is known as deliberate practice. Practice by itself will not lead to mastery; you have to know how to approach each lesson or practice session to maximize the bang for your buck.

 

Shoring up the fundamentals

When you first take up a new skill— knitting, writing, running, whatever— you must pass through the beginner stage. At this point, you’re learning the basics, and most of your practice time is spent thinking very hard about things that will later be as natural as breathing. Once you get comfortable with the basics, your skills begin to stand out.

Passing to the intermediate stage— the longest, most difficult stage to escape— means that you’ve completely internalized the fundamentals, and now you’ll never have to think about them again, right? Wrong again, bucko. Now that your focus is dedicated to more advanced techniques, you’re focusing less attention on the fundamentals, and that can mean you start to get sloppy.

One of my hobbies is weightlifting. I often notice that my lifts are feeling off, and I spend ages trying to find little fixes that make everything smooth again. Sometimes these work, but more often than not I find that I’m neglecting the fundamentals. I’ll go back to the beginner stage at the start of each workout, and make sure I go through the movements consciously hitting all the ‘basic’ cues. I always find at least one major thing that I have drifted away from consistently doing during my lifts. When I remind myself of the importance of the basics, the rest falls into place.

In general, you want to make sure that you spend a little bit of time every now and then going over the basics. It will refresh your memory, and ensure that everything else on which the basics depend rests on solid foundations. This is one of the aspects of deliberate practice.

 

Push yourself into new territory

Okay, so you’ve got the fundamentals down, and you’ve even mastered some more advanced skills. But you’re nowhere near an expert yet. What gives? Should you just spend another 8,987 hours doing the same things over and over? Is that how the 10,000 Hour Rule works? If you’ve made it this far into this article, you’ll probably be catching on to a pattern in answering my rhetorical questions. The answer is No, of course not!

To become a better writer, for example, you need to find your weaknesses. Writing 1000 words everyday will only get you so far if you don’t reflect on that writing. Read your work critically. Have someone else read it, and get external feedback. What do you do well? What needs work? Now, spend the majority of your practice time working on your weaknesses.

If you’re bad at writing dialogue, look up some authors that write excellent dialogue. Copy out their work, then reconstruct large portions from memory. Compare your work to theirs. Try to paraphrase your own work in the style of a better author. In short, get creative in addressing your weaknesses. Do things that feel awkward and uncomfortable. The point is that, with deliberate practice, you’ll extend your comfort zone to include what was once horribly uncomfortable. Experts have a large toolbox of skills to draw on, and you’ll have to build your toolbox before you can ever become an expert.

Now, deliberate practice puts you on a better path toward becoming a true Outlier, but you still need to put in the time to get to the top. Where do you think you can implement deliberate practice to get over a hurdle? Even if you don’t want to be the best at something, mindfulness in practice will make you better faster, and make practice more fun.

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by Adam Koberinski

Adam is a PhD student studying the philosophy of physics. He is also an avid reader and weightlifter. He wants to help people organize and gain control over their personal and financial lives. He's also my husband.

How to Break Through Stagnation With Deliberate Practise // Find yourself feeling like you're not making any progress? You might be practising wrong— and it's not just for musicians. Here's how you can break through.

4 Things Self-Loving People Do (And You Can Too)

Self-love.

It's a phrase that for some brings to mind entitled millennials (bullshit), candle-lit baths (truly excellent), and that really sensitive person at uni who gets a teacher fired because they don't like something the teacher said (unfortunately that last one is legit).

But don't let a bunch of bottom feeders on Reddit convince you that self-love is selfish, or worse yet that it doesn't matter.

Self-love isn't about sticking your head in the sand and pretending that there are no problems in the world. It isn't about thinking only of yourself and becoming so massively ego-inflated that you can't fit your giant head through a regulation doorway.

It's about facing your challenges with kindness and compassion— not just toward others, but toward yourself, too. It's about not wallowing in shame and telling yourself that you're worthless when you experience a failure or come up against hardship. It's about filling up your own cup (aka: taking care of yourself so you don't end up burnt out and hospitalized) so you can fill up the cups of others (aka: help out your friends and family when they're having a shitty time of their own).

It's about acknowledging that your imperfections don't make you any less of a person worthy of respect, kindness, and love. 

So without further ado, I present...

4 Things self-loving people do:

1. They are kind to themselves in words and thoughts

Yeah, it's definitely easier said than done; nonetheless, scrapping negative self-talk is one of the biggest parts of the self-love journey (and it is a journey, not a destination. You will succeed, fuck up, succeed, fall down, and get back up again day, after day, after day).

What is negative self-talk? It's that little voice in your head that says:

"Why bother? You're pathetic, and useless, and you screw up everything you do. May as well quite now and save everyone the embarrassment."

Which is blatantly untrue, because you're awesome, and I know it, and you'll know it soon, too.

The self-loving person works to treat themselves as thought they were a dear friend— and good people simply don't call their friends pathetic or useless.

 

2. they work to forgive themselves when they slip up (and are not so kind in words and thoughts)

Beating yourself up for beating yourself up over a failure is a Crazy Carpet down a slippery slope (remember those things?). We all fuck up sometimes, we all have moments where we revert to old habits in moments of crisis. The self-loving person acknowledges that these moments are sure to happen on the self-love journey, but they don't invalidate the journey.

Remember that's it's not the absence of shitty-thoughts that makes you a self-loving person— it's the ability to apologise to yourself for them, and get back on track without resentment. Past screw-ups do not invalidate future attempts.

 

3. They extend kindness to their bodies

Yes, this is a general statement. No, I'm not hating on folks who aren't able to be as active as they would like to be. No, filling your body with ho-hos doesn't count as self-love.

The self-loving person does the best that they can, when they can (and understands that some days, an hour-long workout simply isn't in the agenda).

When you're feeling your worst, heading out for a simple walk is good for the body and the brain. Logically, I know this, but my husband still basically has to drag me out the door. I've given permission for this, because despite my protesting, I thank him every time after we've gone about a block and I immediately feel better.

The self-loving person doesn't restrict calories unnecessarily, but they also do their best to put good food in their bodies, and to make healthy-choices when and they can.

 

4. They say 'no'

For those kind-hearted, empathetic people out there, helping people out is what they do— sometimes at the cost of their own wellbeing or happiness. The self-loving person knows that they cannot help others without first taking time to take care of themselves— kind of like how they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before your kiddo. You can't help anyone if you're unconscious.

If you're faced with a barrage of requests, saying 'no' to some of them will help you to say 'yes' to the ones that really matter— the ones where you can make the biggest difference, that are most fulfilling to you and those around you. Pushing yourself to your limits isn't helping anyone and will only foster resentment.

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4 Things Self-Loving People Do (And You Can Too) // Self-love isn't about sticking your head in the sand and pretending that there are no problems in the world. It's about facing your challenges with kindness and compassion. Here are four ways you can get started with self-love.

Why Complaining is Setting You Up for Failure and What You Can Do About It

Complaining.

We all do it. Whether it’s having a good whinge with a co-worker about your boss or commiserating with friends about your shitty public transportation experience/shitty professor/shitty money situation— a little complaining seems to bring people together. It’s a bonding experience that says I’m like you. It helps us feel less alone in dealing with our problems and frustrations. It’s cathartic, and it can ease the tension when you’re getting to know someone new and you’re not sure what to talk about (but seriously, way less interesting).

Mostly, it’s much easier to do than to take control of your thinking and take action to change the situation. Half the time (yes, that’s the Official Statistic), we probably don’t even realize we’re doing it— complaining has become a comfortable, default reaction.

Here’s the thing: situations fall into two groups, those in which we do not have control (complaining is useless), and those in which we do (complaining is ineffective).

If you find yourself in the first group, there is good news! Complaining will do absolutely nothing for you no matter what you do— in fact, it’s only going to bring you down. If you’re in a situation where crappy things are happening to you and you really can’t do much (although we’ll get to that later on), your best bet is to try and make the best of it, and move on.

If you’re in a situation where you do have control, here’s why complaining isn’t the best course of action:

1. You’re driving away the kinds of people who would otherwise be there to support you— whether you know it or not. Your good friends will stick around, but eventually, relentless negativity will start to drive a wedge in even the best friendships— unless, of course, those friendships are entirely built on getting together to have a good complain.

You’ve probably heard the saying “you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” or “surround yourself with people that force you to step it up”. Either way, the message is this: the people you spend time around have a huge effect on your life. You can choose to surround yourself with people who challenge you, support you, and are there to help you figure out how to pick yourself up when things get shitty, or you can surround yourself with people who will listen to your complaints, and then one-up you with a complaint of your own.

Why am I telling you this? Because the kind of people you want to be surrounding yourself with (aka: the Fab Five in group one), aren’t going to be sticking around through an onslaught of negativity. They’re action-takers, and if you’re not doing what you can to make your situation better, they’re not going to dump their own time into listening to you complain.

 

2. You’re setting yourself up for failure. Ever heard the saying “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right?" Yeah. I’m not going all ‘law of attraction’ here on you, but this saying is so much #truth. If you don’t think you have control over a situation, you don’t, because you won’t be attempting to take whatever action you can to improve it.

If you act as though you have control, even if you don’t, you’re much more likely to see the kind of results you hoped for.

If you’re giving yourself an ‘out’ right from the start by saying ‘Oh, I guess I’ll try’, you’re not taking your attempt seriously— and if you’re not taking your everyday attempts to improve your life seriously, how are you supposed to take a true commitment seriously?

 

I’ve been there, I used to be a major complainer, too.

I’d like to think I’m improving, but hey.

If you find that things don’t seem to be going your way very often, here’s what you can do about it:

1. Recognize when complaining is taking over. Sometimes it’s hard to be aware when this is happening. Do you find all of your conversations tend to end up in a negative place? Do you notice that your friends’ responses are a little lacklustre when you’re telling them about something that happened to you (lots of ‘mmnnnns’ and 'yeahhhh' and ‘wow, that sucks…’)?

Chances are you’re heading to Complainer-city. It’s not a great city. It’s a little bit like Windsor (sorry, Windsor). When you catch yourself griping unnecessarily, hold yourself accountable, apologise for the rant (no need to get too out of hand, Canadians), or move on to step two.

2. Acknowledge the real feeling. When we’re complaining, it’s because we’re feeling very strong emotions and we want to a) get them out and b) find someone who can relate, and tell us that what we’re feeling is okay. But sharing your real feelings? Helps you get nice and close with what is actually going on, to get vulnerable, and to acknowledge your reaction.

We’re not always at fault, be we are always responsible. No matter the situation, you are responsible for how you are choosing to react. When we complain, we’re often scared, frustrated, confused, hurt, or angry. If you’re chatting with a friend, you can absolutely share your experience, but frame it this way:

“Hey Julia. I’m SO frustrated and totally embarrassed because I forgot my keys at home again, and my boss yelled at me for being late. What do you think I can do?”

And then move on to step number three.

3. Take action. The best thing you can do when you're in a shitty situation is to start taking steps to change that shitty situation— no amount of complaining is going to make that work for you. Yes, taking action is difficult, and yes, pulling yourself out of a rough place can often leave you scraped— but the alternative is staying there and continuing to let outside circumstances dictate your life and your happiness.

Happy people don't let that happen.

Ask yourself: what can I do today to help make this situation better (and better yet, what can I do to prevent it from happen again)?

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