Monday, January 2, 2017

My Thoughts on Why I believe the Life Upgrades Method will work

A big part of why I've created this system for the New Year is that a lot of people are hoping the willpower they have on December 31st of this year will compel them all the way through next year. Knowing this, there are a couple of factors here that I hope will actually make this method more compelling and manageable. Some of this comes from personal experience, while also incorporating what many experts state about acquiring new habits.

  1. Giving Future You a Break - If you've ever packed your gym bag and climbed into your cozy warm bed, only to discover that the morning version of you has zero intention of actually getting out of said bed to workout, you've experienced the crux of resolutions. You're making plans for a future version of yourself to do things that current you doesn't really want to do long term. By giving yourself a cut off date for each weekly task, and enough variety that they can wiggle out of it without much guilt, you're frontloading some willpower that future you will appreciate.
  2. Leveling Up - As the saying goes, an object in motion stays in motion. That is, until we enter the workforce. I believe that given the first 20+ years of our life were about leveling up through education, height (I can now get on that ride!), finances, etc. we still have a strong desire to level up in life, which is why the fitness and self-help industry are always booming. By creating a system like this, you are leveling up weekly, while learning a lot about yourself. Authors like Tim Ferriss have documented their forays into Self-Experimentation, testing the boundaries of their physical and mental capabilities. I have done a few 30 day fitness challenges, and they make the day more fun and rewarding. Who doesn't want that?
  3. One Task at a Time - Many people set a lot of New Year's Resolutions that they attempt to tackle at the same time. But with just getting back to work, winter weather and travel, post-holiday finances, and post-holiday blues (no vacations until Summertime!!), trying to muster willpower out of thin, dry, cold air is pretty difficult. Since you only need to do one task each week, and can save a more difficult or daunting task for later in the year, you can build your tasks around when life is more accommodating.
  4. Adding, not Abstaining - A lot of Resolutions end up being about abstaining from things - food, alcohol, etc. Starting off the year with all the things you aren't supposed to do is just pointing you in the wrong direction. You're focused on Past You and what they did that you want to avoid, rather than what Present You wants to accomplish. There's something great in thinking about all the Life Upgrades you'll gain in the coming year, rather than all the resolutions you didn't stick to. You can literally Upgrade Your Life any week of the year, rather than waiting for January 1st.
  5. Systems, not Goals - You may have noticed that nowhere in this process did you set a goal or endpoint for any area of life or task. This was one of the key takeaways I gained from Scott Adams' writing, and given his understanding of human behavior, I'm confident he's correct in this. I deliberately avoided the word "goal" to insure that you are never heading for a destination that you will or will not get to. Think of this system as opting to fly First Class rather than Coach. You're still going the same direction, but your experience will be calmer, more comfortable, more fulfilling. This is the journey of life, and you get to decide how you get there. 

I'll be posting how this process goes for me and would love to hear from you as well. Thank you for reading and wishing you much success in your journey!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Free Trial Subscription - Life Upgrades Part 3

If you've completed Parts 1 and 2 of the Free Trial Subscription - Life Upgrades, it's now time to learn about Weekly Reflections, A/B Testing and How to Stay Motivated.

Step 4 - Weekly Reflections and A/B Testing

Weekly Reflections are a helpful way to A/B Test the efficacy of each new task. You may end up adopting every new task as an essential and valuable part of your life, but if your weekly reflections shows it wasn't that effective, why would you keep it up? These tasks are like a free trial for a product. Weekly reflections are where you sign-up or opt-out, or even re-negotiate better terms that work for you.

On the final day of the week, but before you start planning for the next task, please take a few minutes to answer the following:

Weekly Reflections Questions

  1. How did this week's task go? (Write freely and at length. You might discover something valuable you hadn't realized that the task brought about.)
  2. Did you feel the task was a positive addition to your life?
  3. How would you adjust the task to make it more effective?
  4. Do you want to continue doing this next week?
  5. If not, can you adapt a version that you will want to continue, or is the task not adding enough given the effort?

That's it! Those five questions should help you determine whether the task is a net positive, a challenge but worth tweaking and continuing, or a novel trial that doesn't fit into your life. Either way it goes, you'll have a new skill, tool or understanding about how you work and what adds to your life.

Preparing for the Next Week

Looking at the following week, if on Saturday you find you are not motivated to do the next task, and I mean zero interest, not just a sense of wanting to avoid an upcoming obligation, grab your original list and find a task in that same life category that does excite you and swap it in. A lot of the joy in life comes from the planning phase, which plants the first seeds of motivation. Take some time on that Saturday to do research on what others have said about that task or method, and how it's helped them. Hit up a bookstore or library, go to Youtube or find a local expert and build up an arsenal of facts and information that you can weaponize against any excuses or malaise that may try to sneak in in the coming week. And if you need some additional help, bring in some Rewards and Motivators.

Bonus -  Rewards and A/B Testing Your Motivators

In theory, doing these tasks would be reward enough, but who am I kidding?!?! We all need a little extra motivation here and there.

Small Rewards can help if willpower starts to fail. Usually the reward is something you have had to abstain from because of the task (TV, junk food, sleeping in, etc.) but I would also suggest small purchases that you won't get to use until a certain task has been completed. A friend of mine keeps a box with unopened items that she's been given or ordered that she won't access until she's exercised a certain number of days. Hey, it worked on us as kids, it may very well work on us now. Take that new purchase and store it in a special spot with the goal in mind that you'll get it once your task is complete.

See It! - You may also like the daily experience of physically seeing your accomplishments completed. If this is you, creating a physical calendar where you can put a big X on each day that you complete the day's task might be the feedback that your mind enjoys. Place it somewhere that you'll see it daily, and make it aesthetically pleasing so it adds to the room.

Accountability Partners can help keep you focused by checking in on your progress and reminding you why you started this in the first place. Ideally, they would be working on something that you could support them in as well. Additionally, there are online communities for just about everything nowadays, so if you can't find a friend, you may be able to make a new one with your shared task interest.

Public Declarations can be a great way to stay motivated, but I caution that some studies show that just stating that you will do a challenge can give you the same rush of actually doing the challenge before you've even started, especially as pre-challenge congratulations start rolling in. Test this one for yourself to see whether it's better for you to keep it a secret, or if the thought of public shame is compelling enough.

Bet On It - Sometimes having a little skin in the game helps. There are Online Apps where you can place small wagers on whether you'll get to the gym or jog a certain distance, and . If your task doesn't work for these apps, you can make the commitment that if you don't complete it, you'll have to donate X amount of dollars to a charity that you like, or more deviously motivating, one that you don't want to support. Signing up for a class, thus creating a financial transaction and a loss if you don't attend, can also be a motivator.

A/B Test Your Motivators

While you're doing your tasks, tinker with each of these rewards/motivators to see which works best for you. This is, again, incredibly valuable information that you can use in other areas of your life or down the line with more challenging weekly tasks. A big part of this entire process is gathering information about what works for you, so don't skip out on realizing that having a high end chocolate bar sitting unopened in the cupboard or a friend who expects you to call them after you complete your task can be applied to any number of situations in your life to help you push through when you need it.

So one more question to add to your Weekly Reflections would be

  1. What was the key motivator for me in doing this task? 

In some cases, the task itself may have been motivating enough, or it may have been a promise you made to someone you love. It could be a mentor or role model that you admired enough to push you through. Again, the information gained from this single question can end up being used in other areas of your life to push you through a daunting challenge.

I'd love to hear from you on how this goes for your chosen tasks and motivators. Again, these are all small trials that when added up over a year, can lead to some great personal data and insight, as well as some major Life Upgrades. It's all in how you build and apply it.

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I suggest Bookmarking this page so you can come back to it at the end of the week for the Weekly Reflections questions. I plan to copy and paste these questions into a Word doc so I can look back at them at the end of the year for insight as well as a journal of the year's accomplishments, which can be a great motivator for the following year.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Free Trial Subscription - Life Upgrades Part 2

If you've completed Part 1 of the Free Trial Subscription - Life Upgrades, it's now time to start getting organized for the month, or even the year, ahead.

It's time to start putting your tasks into your calendar. If you have a planner or calendar program already, I suggest having it close by so you can see whether any events you already have scheduled will conflict or derail particular tasks, and schedule around those. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed with these Task Trials. Now you can start the process of upgrading your life!

Step 3 - How to Organize the Year Ahead, plus Baseline Tasks

Looking over your list, choose one task from each category to do in the coming month: Physical Well-Being, Mental Well-Being, Inner World and Outer World. I plan to choose these just a month in advance, and re-evaluate as needed for the following month based on my Weekly Reflections and interests. If you want to do six months or the whole year, go for it, but in my experience, Future Me is not as stoked about all the things I'm scheduling for her to do, so you may, at some point, have to revisit both your tasks and your reasons for doing them.

For January, my weekly challenges are as follows.

Week One (P) - Run One Mile Per Day
Week Two (I) - Pomodoro Technique
Week Three (M) - Daily Affirmations
Week Four (O) - Be Complaint Free (read my previous post on this here)

These are in no particular order. I realize I have some extra time off because of the holidays so running will be easier the first week of January, and thus, easier to stick to in the beginning, so you may want to look at your calendar to see when each task will be easiest to manage for your month.

My next recommendation is to use technology to help with Task Management and Scheduling. I've created a recurring task on Saturday mornings for Reflections on the Week (Learn more in Part 3) and to prepare for the next week's task. This may include picking up a book, purchasing particular food, scheduling time for a particular task, booking a meeting, etc. For my Daily Affirmations, I'll need to figure out what those will be so I'm ready to go on Sunday morning. If I'm scheduling a certain time for a task, I'll set an alarm in my phone as a daily reminder.

If you prefer, you can buy or print out a calendar with the weekly tasks written on whichever day starts your week, or if you think your tasks may change, use Sticky-notes in different colors for each category to map out the year, with the option of swapping weekly tasks around as needed. (I've provided a link to a Google Doc with a 2017 Calendar you can Make A Copy of and use for this challenge.)

Bonus - Baseline Tasks

Baseline tasks are activities that I am going to do daily regardless of the weekly task. The two that spring to mind are in part because I created a habit of them in the past and found they have added to my life in a way that means I don't want to skip over them while committing to other "Life Upgrades." You may have a few similar tasks that you can re-commit to as part of this process. They will anchor your efforts and should support the other goals and your quality of life.

10 minutes of movement/exercise per day - The first Baseline Task is doing at least 10 minutes of movement/exercise per day. This might not seem like a lot, but I find by just setting a goal of 10 minutes, I usually end up doing more, and the quality of life benefits are too valuable to pass up. Since only one week each month is fully dedicated to "Physical Well Being" this Baseline Task is a given. Back to Scott Adams' insight, he recommends doing a level of exercise that insures you don't feel discouraged from wanting to workout again the next day due to exhaustion or soreness, which can derail your willpower to workout. Additionally, sometimes just setting a timer to get moving, knowing you can stop when it goes off creates enough momentum to lead to a bit more movement, a few more sets. This will help increase your endurance and you'll get used to including exercise in your schedule, making the whole process easier.

Going offline at 9 pm - The second Baseline Task is turning off my phone and laptop at 9 pm. The science behind disconnecting is huge (improved sleep, better posture, more focus) but I haven't completely separated myself from gadgetland yet, and I hope to use the coming year's tasks to thrive more offline. For now, I have an alarm on my phone that goes off at 9 pm, after which I put my phone in Airplane Mode and start to wind down for the night. This provides time to meditate, read, tidy my home, take care of my skin and teeth, journal, lay out clothes, write down tasks for the next day, have some tea, or just be disconnected for a bit.

I hope you'll consider signing up for this Free Trial Subscription of Life Upgrades. You can renew every week for all of time with no cost or obligation, and everything you receive is yours to keep.

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Part 3 will include How to do Weekly Reflections and A/B Testing, plus Rewards/Motivators (Posting on 1/1)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Free Trial Subscription - Life Upgrades Part 1

What I'd like to attempt in 2017 is to develop a system by which one starts a new task, habit or way of thinking each week, evaluates its efficacy and whether its addition is a gain or loss to their quality of life, and then adopt it or let it go and try something else. The point of all of this is not to reach certain set-in-stone goals of pounds lost, money saved, connections made, but instead, just a series of life upgrades that help enhance every area of your life in unique-to-you ways.

My chosen weekly tasks are things that caught my eye from different authors and thought leaders, and which seemed like they might make me happier, healthier, smarter. Since I can't possibly know how happy, healthy or smart I can ever be, and because my personal experience shows that there isn't a final goal in those areas, I can punctuate my life with "free, no obligation trials" to see which of the ideas of all the gurus, nutritionists, self-helpers and business leaders work for my life and which ones don't. Learning what doesn't work is just as useful as knowing what does.

This is the time of year when people often start, and quit, their New Year's resolutions. My hope is that I can circumvent the usual pitfalls of the resolution process to find a system that enhances all the areas of our lives with little reliance on the willpower that often runs out before we've reached a certain goal.

Step One - Write Down Everything You Think Would Make Your Life Better

To help figure out your year of challenges, create a list by thinking of all the things you'd like to do, believe would add to you life, or have read about but haven't implemented. You can add to this list as the year commences, but this gives you a great place to see what experts have said and what you're personally drawn to trying. I wrote all of mine down on paper, and then proceeded to the next step, categorization.



Step Two - Be Well Rounded in Your Pursuits


So as not to over-tax yourself in any one way (All Physical Well-Being by Going Raw Vegan, while trying Power Yoga and Morning Cold Showers +++), plan to divide the tasks up into a four week rotation which will feature activities that will enhance different areas of your life. In Scott Adams' book "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big" he talks about the importance of having a talent stack, meaning you can do fairly well in a variety of areas, (public speaking, marketing, video editing and fitness, for example) which will create opportunities to do well in any number of fields. Adams states "One of the most powerful systems I have seen involves layering one modest skill on top of another until the effect is something special… When you learn to see the world in terms of systems, not goals, everything comes into focus."

By varying the different tasks you choose to focus on in the coming year, you will...

1) Have time to expand or develop the other areas while you tinker with a new one
2) Create variety which our brains very much enjoy
3) Develop your own talent stack

The Four Areas of Life that I created tasks or challenges for are as follows:

Physical Well Being (P) - This includes exercise, nutrition, skin and hair care, physical challenges, etc.

Mental Well Being (M) - This includes spiritual development, brain training exercises, gratitude, focus, self-control, mindset, anything that goes internal that is strictly for you and your own experience.

Inner World (I) - These are the tasks you develop to better equip you for the outside world such as stress management, continued education, skill development, managing your finances and future, and language learning.

Outer World (O) - These are tasks that interact with others including your relationships with partners, family, friends, colleagues, how you present yourself and your home, how you communicate and network, and how you curate your environment.

Through all of my reading, I could have a weekly task for each of these categories. For now, I'll stick to them being a priority for one week per month, while I adapt to the others. Since my willpower gets a special New Year's boost, I'm going to start with some tougher challenges early.

Taking the list from Step One, I went through and wrote a P, M, I or O next to them, to create the list below. Some of your tasks may fall into a couple of categories, so tinker with them in a way that you don't feel will overwhelm one particular category if they're done close together.

Here's my list. Some of these you may want to try, others you might think are not valuable to you. Create a list of things that excite and challenge you. I've included hyperlinks on a few so you can learn more about them, while others are self-explanatory.

Physical

Cold Showers
Run 1 Mile Per Day
Dry Brushing
Stretch
Go to Bed Early
Spend Time Daily in the Sun/Outdoors
Hydrate
Intermittent Fasting
No Heat Hairstyles
Avoiding bread/pasta/rice/potatoes
Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Eat Mindfully
Eye Exercises

Mental

Meditation
Affirmations
Positive Mental Attitude
Journal
Express Gratitude
Single Tasking
Read Philosophy and Spiritual Books
Practice a Daily Hour of Silence
Speak Less

Inner World

Budget/Save X Amount
No Credit Cards, Pay with Cash Only
Mind/Memory Games
Public Speaking Course
Learn Video Editing
No Internet
No TV
Wake Up Early Daily
Read Non-Fiction and Biographies
Create Task Lists
Try Nootropics
Pomodoro Technique
Practice Spanish

Outer World

Volunteer
Don't Complain (Previous post here)
Tidy Daily
Make a New Recipe
Coordinate a Group Outing
Say Yes to Social Invitations
Find a Networking Opportunity
Master the Art of Conversation
De-Clutter

As an added component for your own personal understanding, you can rank them in terms of ease and/or interest, and toggle months to feature a range of really exciting ones, those you can do easily, and those you're reluctant to do or know will be more difficult.

I suggest not being too legalistic about this. If you realize a task you have slated no longer serves you, change it, but don't skip that category. Additionally, if a future task excites you and you want to add it now while attempting some other task, that's fine but they can't replace each other. There's no penalty for any of this, but the intention is for these to improve your world enough that you decide to incorporate more of them because they make your life better. Again, life upgrades!

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Part 2 will include How to Organize the Year Ahead, plus Baseline Tasks (Posting on 12/31)

Part 3 will include Weekly Reflections and A/B Testing, plus Rewards/Motivators (Posting on 1/1)


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

For Adre...


Photo Courtesy of Tatiannna at Deviantart
Hello Jessica!
I'm Adre and we met on Saturday at the opening season workshop. I just wanted to say thank you! It was great meeting you on Saturday and I hope to see you soon. Also, I think it is very cool what you do for *****! Planning their events and things like that, so awesome! I'd think I'd like to do what you do "when I grow up." (Haha!) So yes, I also just wanted to tell you that you are an inspiration because what you do, I think, is really cool. If you have any advice, I'd love to hear it! 
Thank you so much Jessica!
I met Adre briefly over the weekend at Welcome Day. We had spoken while she waited to meet the executive director and as she was leaving, she asked if I would write down my email address in her new journal.  I was so overwhelmed when I received this email.  She thought I was inspiring?!?!  And that what I do is both cool and awesome!?!?  With all the planning for this upcoming season (partnerships, sponsors, negotiating venues for the workshops, planning fundraisers) I've felt far from cool and mostly just tired, overwhelmed and inevitably a bit stressed.  Her email reminded me of why I chose to work with an organization like *****.  I hit reply and typed the message below.  

What advice can I give you on what I do?  Gosh, I guess the thing I try to remind myself of daily is "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."  In events, something always goes a little awry, but you really have to learn to roll with it and if everyone is safe and having a good time, then the rest will take care of itself.  The best way to get good at a thing is doing it, and if you are ever afraid of trying something because you might not get it "just right," hold your head up and do it anyway.  I've learned more from the things that didn't go as planned (not wrong, just un-planned) than anything else.

Play. Invite people over for no reason just to see what kind of furniture designs and impromptu event decor you can come up with from what you already own. Go to the flower mart downtown and see what the planet is growing. Try every food. Say yes to invitations.  And don't save your nice shoes, jewelry, dishes, dresses, whatever, for someday when things will be special.  Every day is worth celebrating.

As I typed it, I might as well have been writing it to myself.  We are so blessed to have opportunities to encourage others to live their best lives by doing that very act ourselves. What have you done to live your best life lately?  Remember, there's a good chance someone is watching you and being encouraged to do the same.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ouspensky's "The Fourth Way" and Negative Emotions

Recently, I read back over some of my favorite passages from "The Fourth Way" by P.D. Ouspensky, and there were several important points that he made in the book and in his later works on negative emotions, our attachments to them, and the way to move from our addiction to negative expression. Yes, many of us are addicted to negative emotions, in spite of all of our affirming that we want to be happy, positive people.

In his book, he notes that "there is not a single useful negative emotion, useful in any sense. Negative emotions are all a sign of weakness." Many will say that we need to be able to express when things are bad or dangerous or we are hurt, and in the moment, this is true. However, many of us dwell on the negative far past the time when it is relevant, allowing it to diminish the joy of the present. In politics, in jobs, in personal life, we take great liberties in imposing our negative emotions on others, and we often derive a great deal of pleasure from it. Ouspensky points out that "almost all of our personal negative emotions are based on accusations, somebody else is guilty," but if we realize "we are the cause of all that happens to us, that changes things..." He goes on to say that "You do not realize how much you lose by these spontaneous manifestations of negative character. They make so many things impossible."

Ouspensky suggests that one of the cures for negative emotions is to confront our struggle with identification. We like to think that there are circumstances that create negative emotions, when in reality, "all negative emotions are in us, inside us." We are so quick to proclaim that things are out of our control, but we are each given the freedom to decide if we will succumb to negativity when faced with adversity, or rise above it, staying present, and holding fast to what is in fact, our true positive reality. In the "Power of Now," Eckhart Tolle speaks of a mentor who would raise his index finger and ask "What, in this moment, is missing?" basically stating that "The past has no power over the present moment" unless we grant it to the power to do so.

The next time you feel compelled to sit down with a friend to languish over your trials, stop and think "What, in this moment, is missing? Am I identifying with circumstances that will manifest more negativity, rather than eradicating it?" As you see that kind face across from you, loving you, being there for you, reconsider whether remembering and reliving the negative is worthwhile, or if you can find the strength to let go of your need for negative expression and instead find positivity and bliss in each moment.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What does ladylike look like?

I've seen many women struggle with the idea that being lady-like looks like the picture above; passive, well-coiffed, well dressed, demure.  Being a woman who transcends just her gender identification and acquires the description of "a lady," should be based more on one's character than costume and good cosmetics.  In general, we have given too much weight to the appearance of refinement instead of the actual acknowledgement and valuation of behavior and lives that showcase good core values, manners, sound character and compassion. The traits and behaviors that we admire in a lady are just as admirable in a gentleman, and the sooner women embrace them, the sooner men will be encouraged to do the same.  So for fun, take a moment to determine whether the words of wisdom below are from a man or a women, and whether they are gender specific or not.


1. No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.


2. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

3. In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.

4. All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind.

5. A man's character is like his shadow, which sometimes follows and sometimes precedes him, and which is occasionally longer, occasionally shorter, than he is. 

6.  Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

7. The more a man knows, the more he forgives.

8. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

9. The extent of your consciousness is limited only by your ability to love and to embrace with your love the space around you, and all it contains.

10. Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.

Answers

1. Aesop 2. George Washington 3. Marianne Williamson 4. Abraham Lincoln 5. Madame de la Rochejaquelein 6. Leo Buscaglia 7. Catherine the Great 8. Audrey Hepburn 9. Napoleon Bonaparte 10. Margaret Thatcher

I very much believe that women set the tone for the way that men and children think about and carry themselves as we have been given the gift of understanding how best to nurture one another as well as how to express love and compassion. When we falter in these modes, the others suffer and are not encouraged to rise to the greatest expression of themselves.  Don't worry about how to sit properly or wear pearls as much as finding ways, everyday, to enliven your highest self.

"Elevate the girls, and you elevate the world."   That's mine.  ;)