15 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Brain Power and Your Mood

These days, you feel like a robot.

You drag your feet into work and you have to deal with your boss. You’re hustling this year yet again to try and make more money than last year.

You come home to kids who always need something from you and all the things that need to be done around the house barely gives you any time to connect with your spouse.

You don’t even have a moment to yourself and it’s beginning to stress you out to the point of burnout.

But life doesn’t have to be this way.

What if there was a simple solution that’s been scientifically proven to decrease your stress levels? Something that will clear your mind of all the clutter and help you feel refreshed each morning with more focus and energy? Like you’re ready to take on the world?

This is exactly what meditation does.

In fact, over 50 years of scientific research has unearthed a whole bunch of evidence of all the different life changing meditation benefits. Here are 15 ways meditating regularly has been shown to significantly improve your brain function and mood.

1. You get fluent at making good decisions.

If you’re stressed out often, you’ve probably had those moments in your life where you made bad decisions as a result. Whether it’s details you missed for an important project or a big mistake you made that negatively affected other people, you know what it’s like when you’re not at your best.

What’s being impaired in moments like this is a skill called executive function.[1] Simply put, executive function is the part of your brain that helps you get results for goals you are trying to achieve. It’s what helps you do things like manage your time, pay attention, plan, organize and remember details.

Studies have shown compelling evidence that it helps people who have impaired executive functioning skills from conditions such as Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).[2] A study run by Dr. Lidia Zylowska showed 78% of adult participants with ADHD experienced a reduction of overall ADHD symptoms when they regularly used meditation practices.[3]

2. You become an expert at handling stress.

Moments of stress triggers your amygdala, also known as your “lizard brain”. It’s the primal part of your brain which is associated with fear and emotion and its primary function is to help you survive.

High levels of stress can make you enter into lizard brain mode where it is dominated by the amygdala. It can be described when one “flips his lid” and is controlled by overwhelming emotion such as fear or anger. Think about it as times you’ve been in a heated argument or deathly afraid of something that might hurt you.

When you are in this mode, other important parts of your brain like the pre-frontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that is capable of higher level thinking such as decision-making, self-awareness, empathy and morality, are turned off

Because the amygdala isn’t as great at logical thinking for the less straightforward situations of daily life, meditation can help decrease your stress levels by first getting you out of your lizard brain and back to being in the present moment, which then empowers you to respond to stress in a much better way.

For example, you might be in lizard brain mode thinking all the time about how to survive by making more money, but through meditation, you connect with what’s most important despite all the stress. You realize before it’s too late that you’ve been ignoring the more important things like connecting with your kids and maintaining intimacy with your spouse.

MRI scans have shown that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the amygdala appears to shrink. And as the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex becomes thicker.[4]

Basically, science has shown that meditation can help you become better at handling your stress by activating the part of your brain that makes better decisions.

3. You naturally remember useful information.

Imagine a time where you told yourself a list of items you wanted to buy at the grocery store without physically writing it down. By the time you get to the store, you’ve forgotten what some of those items were.

This is when your working memory capacity has fallen short. You use your working memory when you need to place a sticky note in your mind so that you can use it in the near future. The problem is sometimes those sticky notes fall off by the time you need it.

If your working memory is the information that goes on these mental sticky notes, then your working memory capacity is how long you can have these sticky notes stay on before it falls off. The longer time you have to hold information, the more time you have for reasoning and comprehension to occur.

Meditation has been shown to improve your working memory capacity.

One study had about 200 teenagers assigned to either a mindfulness meditation practice, yoga, or were wait-listed as a control group.[5] Results showed that the teenagers participating in the meditation group had significantly better working memory capacity than those participating in the other groups.

4. You become an amazing smooth talker.

If you’ve ever had a time when you were talking with someone and you had trouble finding the right words to express what you were trying to say, you’ve had a moment where your verbal fluency wasn’t at it’s best.

​Verbal fluency as defined by verbal skill expert, Min Liu, is the “ability to find the right words at the right time or in the right situation.”[6]

When sixty-three University of North Carolina, Charlotte students with no meditation experience volunteered for an experiment that studied the effects of meditation on their verbal fluency, results showed that there was a significant improvement in verbal fluency in those who engaged in mindfulness meditation versus those who did not.[7] And to add to these impressive results, the group who meditated only did it for 20 minutes a day over four day period.

5. You develop laser-like focus.

With all the information at our fingertips in this digital age, it’s easy to get distracted. We are exposed to an average of 10,000 marketing advertisements a day and it’s hard to discern what the important things we should focus on are. The artificial A.D.D. culture we’ve created has made us have significantly shorter attention spans due to information overload.

Taking as little as 20 minutes a day for five days to engage in meditate has improved one’s attention, which shows the power of simply making a subtle shift and spending a tiny fraction of your day simply being present.[8]

6. You superpower your brain.

All the signature folds you see on the outer surface on the brain that look like windy roads have been formed to help increase the speed of brain cell communication. The formation of these folds is known as gyrification. Since your brain doesn’t have any space inside your skull to get bigger, it undergoes gyrification to increase the capacity of your brain function.

Long-term meditators have been shown to have a larger amount of gyrifcation compared to those who don’t practice meditation.[9] More interestingly, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, which is proof of the capability of our brain to continue growing even as adults.

This means the more you meditate, the faster and more efficient your brain becomes at processing information, which can be especially useful in moments where you need to think fast.

7. You are better at problem solving.

When your brain is solving a challenging problem, it requires the skill to focus attention on what’s most important amongst a large amount of information.

A simple example of your brain at work engaging in such conflict resolution is when you’re at a loud party talking to a friend. If your brain didn’t detect and resolve all the conflicting stimulation around you by helping you ignore all the noise around you and focus on your friend, you’d probably have a sensory overload.

The same principal applies when you run into larger conflict resolution challenges. You need to be able to determine what’s most important and focus your attention on it.

Multiple studies have shown that participants in groups who partook in meditation practices had performed higher on evaluations that tested conflict resolution skills compared to groups that didn’t.[10]

This goes to show why those who meditate generally have a lower stress level. Their brains are more adept at conflict resolution.

8. Your creativity starts to flourish.

The Harvard Business Review has conducted experiments that have shown that 10-12 minutes of mindful meditation practices were enough to boost creativity.[11] The majority of participants who were part of the meditation arm of the study reported that it helped them “clear their minds, focus more on the task at hand, and come up with original solutions.”

Mindfulness meditation gets ideas flowing directly to your neocortex, which is where all of your creative thinking takes place. It’s no surprise why some of the most leading companies have introduced meditation in the workplace as a result:[12]

“The Walt Disney Company was an early adopter of meditation in the workplace, as they noticed a dramatic increase in creativity after employees meditated on creative solutions. General Mills is another company which reports improved innovation as a result of sitting in stillness and has meditation rooms available to their staff. Google has an in house mindfulness program called ‘Search inside Yourself’ and has built a labyrinth for mindful walking meditations.”

9. You kill your anxiety and experience more peace.

About 6.8 million Americans suffer from General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and even if you’re not one of them, chances are you at least worry about something on most days.

When worrying becomes a normal part of your daily life, it can take its toll on you and you find yourself losing sleep, being tense and have a racing mind that won’t sit still.

Meditation has been long established as an antidote for anxiety. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist recruited fifteen healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety to test out this theory.[13] The participants had no previous meditation experience. After engaging in four 20-minute mindfulness meditation classes, it was reported that anxiety was noticeably reduced in every session that they meditated.

The brain imaging scans taken of these individual revealed that meditation was providing anxiety relief by activating the anterior cingulate cortex which is one part of the brain that helps with the control of worry. Scans also revealed decreases in the grey matter of the amygdala which is the part of the brain that plays an important role in anxiety and stress.

10. Your brain stays young forever.

Most of the neurons in your brain are contained within a portion known as grey matter. It’s within the grey matter where essential things such as memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control take place.

After you reach 30-years-old, your brain begins to slowly shrink.[14] But evidence shows that those who keep their brain in shape by engaging in regular meditation practices can prevent the shrinking altogether.

One study from UCLA showed that in long-term meditators, age-related grey matter loss was less pronounced compared to those who didn’t meditate.[15] Brain scans of the participants who had been meditating for an average of 20 years even showed more grey matter volume throughout their brain than expected.

11. You become great at adapting to changes.

Cognitive flexibility is the vital function that’s been described as the ability to adapt behaviors in response to changes occurred in the environment.

Imagine if you started to live in a new country, your level of cognitive flexibility will determine how fast you can adjust to all the changes to your environment such as having the steering wheel on the opposite side of the car, learning the local language and figuring out the nuances of the new culture.

Meditators performed significantly better than non-meditators as examined in a study which brought participants through exercises that tested cognitive flexibility.[16] The study indicated that mindfulness is closely linked to improvements to cognitive flexibility.

So if you’re ever having trouble adjusting to a new situation, maybe a little meditation will solve your problem.

12. You begin to win your battle with the blues.

A research review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of Internal Medicine in January 2014 showed meditation was about as effective as an antidepressant.[17]

Another study on mindfulness meditation published by psychologists from the University of Exeter found it to be better than drugs or counseling for depression.[18] They found that after four months of meditating, about 75% of patients felt well enough to stop taking antidepressants.

Even if you aren’t suffering from clinical depression, meditation will uplift your mood if you’re feeling down.

13. You grow stronger and experience less pain.

Mindfulness meditation has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent and that seasoned meditators can reduce it by over 90 percent.[19] Brain scan studies show that meditation can physically alter the structure of the brain so that it no longer feels pain at the same level of intensity.

Hospital pain clinics now prescribe mindfulness meditation to help patients suffering from all kinds of diseases such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease.

Just like many other studies researching meditation benefits, you can see the results of meditation within a short time frame even if you’ve never done it before.

Wake Forest University conducted a study that took 15 healthy participants and performed brain scans while inducing pain. A certified instructor took them through mindfulness meditation over the next four days and by the fifth day, there was about a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity ratings while they were meditating compared to when they weren’t.[20]

14. Your ability of self-control goes up another level.

If you’ve ever found yourself giving into the temptations of eating that tub of ice cream when you’re on diet or lighting up that cigarette when you’re trying to quit, meditation might be the exact thing you need to give you that extra push of self-control.

In fact, meditation can even help people recover from various types of addictions. Meditation activates the anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex which are the parts of your brain related to self-control.

One study showed that smokers who were assigned to do 5 hours of meditation spread over two weeks showed a 60% reduction in smoking compared to the smokers who didn’t meditate.[21]

15. You gain an overall sense of happiness up another level.

If you’ve ever experienced the pleasurable experience of the “runners high,” then you know what it feels like to have a release of endorphins in your brain. While endorphins are neurotransmitters that your body uses as a natural painkiller, it’s also responsible for the overall sense of happiness you sometimes feel.

When a study compared 11 elite runners and 12 highly trained meditators, results showed that both groups had noticeably elevated levels of endorphins after running and meditation. More interestingly, the pleasurable effects of endorphin release were measured in these groups and the meditation group scored higher.[22]

The easiest way to start meditating

On top of all these amazing meditation benefits, meditation is easy to do and you can actually do it right now.

Here’s a very straightforward and simple step-by step instructions that you can immediately implement to start experiencing the benefits of meditation:

  1. Set aside 5-10 minutes
  2. Find a safe space with little distractions.
  3. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor with your back straight.
  4. Take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth
  5. Close your eyes or focus your gaze on the object you’ve chosen.
  6. Breathe normally and gently bring your focus to the breath.
  7. If your mind wanders, gently steer it back to focus on the breath.
  8. When finished, just take a moment to let the effects of your meditation feeling sink in before going about your day.

If you want some more live guidance or would love to learn more about meditation, Headspace is an amazing app that I use regularly. They do an amazing job of explaining what meditation is and walk you through how to do it even if you’re totally new to the concept.

The road to your best self

The ultimate solution to being happier in life isn’t to try and make things easier, but to make yourself stronger. Meditation will develop the mental strength you need and lift your mood.

Imagine yourself starting your day feeling ready and prepared to take on what comes. Stress keeps knocking on your door but you let it right in and send it right back on its way out.

You’re able to stay focused on what matters to you most and you feel intimately connected with yourself again. You feel like you’re in your prime. You’re no longer a mindless zombie who’s going through life in a daze. You’re finally living instead of just existing.

So take a moment, practice being present and soak it all in. You’ve now just figured out how to keep your life beautiful.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Web MD: What Is Executive Function?
[2] NCBI: Meditation, mindfulness and executive control: the importance of emotional acceptance and brain-based performance monitoring
[3] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation Training for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adulthood: Current Empirical Support, Treatment Overview, and Future Directions
[4] Scientific American: What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?
[5] NCBI: A Randomized Controlled Trial Examining the Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Working Memory Capacity in Adolescents.
[6] Min Liu: How To Increase Your Verbal Fluency
[7] Science Direct: Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training
[8] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation
[9] Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: The unique brain anatomy of meditation practitioners: alterations in cortical gyrification
[10] NCBI: Focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation: effects on attention, conflict monitoring, and creativity – A review
[11] The Harvard Business Review: Can 10 Minutes of Meditation Make You More Creative?
[12] Huffington Post: “How Mindful Meditation Boosts Creativity and Innovation”
[13] Psychology Today: How Does Meditation Reduce Anxiety at a Neural Level?
[14] Brainscape: 25 Facts About Your Gray Matter You Should Know
[15] Frontiers in Psychology: Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy
[16] Science Direct: Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility
[17] Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of Internal Medicine: Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being
[18] Psychology Today: Curing Depression with Mindfulness Meditation
[19] Psychology Today: Can Mindfulness Meditation Really Reduce Pain and Suffering?
[20] The Atlantic: Treating Chronic Pain With Meditation
[21] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction
[22] EOC Institute: How Meditation Boosts Melatonin, Serotonin, GABA, DHEA, Endorphins, Growth Hormone, & More

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Goals vs Objectives: How to Use Them to Become Successful in Life?

You’re at home with your family and you’re planning a vacation for the upcoming summer time. The family sits down and you start discussing options and after an hour, you decide you will rent a modern trailer and drive from your current location (New York) to Miami for vacation. Miami is your goal and all the necessary steps to getting there are your objectives.

Throughout the article, I will refer to the above-mentioned metaphor to explain goals, objectives and the relationship and differences between those two. So buckle up and prepare for this ride because we will cover:

What are goals and objectives?

The easiest way I can explain what goals are is to tell that they are your final destination. It’s the place where you want to be– mentally, physically, spiritually, intellectually.

A goal represents a future we desire to happen and it serves as a focal point to where we want to go in life (Miami in the case above).

Objectives, on the other hand, are the ways of you getting to your goal. For any single goal, you could have many objectives. An objective in the case above would be renting a trailer (way of getting to Miami) but as I said, you can and should have many objectives for a single goal.

You could add additional objectives to the goal of reaching Miami by stating that you will drive every day for 6 hours (one objective). Also, objectives can serve as indicators that tell you that you are on the right way of achieving your goal.

If you take the road from New York to Miami, along the way you should pass through cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond and Jacksonville. All of these serve as indicators that you are on the right way and that you should be continuing your way.

But is there a systematic difference which will help to differ goals and objectives? Yes, there is and the following chapter is all about that.

Goals vs Objectives

Goals answer the question of what.
“What do you want to do?”
“I want to take my family on a vacation to Miami”

Objectives, on the other hand, answer the questions of how.
“How are you getting to Miami”
“We are renting a trailer and driving all the way”

Goals can be vague, qualitative statements that are hard to measure. Sometimes they can be binary where you measure them by either done/not done. An example is a goal Napoleon had: “I want to conquer Russia.”  It can be easily measured by done/not done. In his case, it was not done.

But then, there are those goals which are completely unquantifiable. For example, “I want to be the best clarinet player in the world,” or “I want to be successful,” or “I want to find the love of my life.” These goals are unquantifiable because they are based mostly on feelings and feelings are impossible to measure.

Goals are mostly vague and impossible to measure, yet we need them as they provide direction. So we need something which is measurable and quantifiable and that is why objectives exist.

Objectives are completely measurable, specific things we do to achieve our goal.

In the family vacation example mentioned, where the goal is to get to Miami, objectives provide checkpoints that can be measured. These provide the much necessary objectives measurements that tell us if we are on the right path or we need to change something.

Goal: Drive to Miami from New York in 3 days

Objectives:

  • Reach Richmond by 7 p.m. the first day,
  • Reach Jacksonville by 7 p.m. the second day
  • Drive in Miami at 7 p.m. the third day

If we don’t hit the objectives above, we need to change something. Otherwise, we won’t achieve our goal.

If we get late to Richmond on the second day, that means that we either need to adjust our speed (drive faster), adjust our driving time (drive more hours in the day) or make fewer stops (less resting time). There are multiple different ways we can adjust our approach to get to our goal.

But then, there is the question of importance. What is more important, goals or objectives?

Is one more important than the other?

Goals and objectives are two sides of the same coin. There is no value in having just one or the other side- only when we combine them do they serve the purpose.

Goals are there to provide direction- future- of where we want to go. Without a goal, there is no bigger picture and no motivation of pursuit.

Without objectives, a goal is just something that lives in our heads. Objectives provide the waypoint for us to achieve our goals.

Simply having objectives without a goal is mindless action. I could tell you to practice math for 7 hours a day but for what reason? If you don’t want to be the best mathematician in the world, there is no point in you doing that.

The same thing would be with the family vacation example.

If you know that you need to pass through Richmond and Jacksonville but have no idea what your goal is, how will you know when you get there (whatever “there” is).

“A man without a goal is like a ship that set sail to nowhere – always getting nowhere and never getting ‘there’ “

A goal without objectives is simply daydreaming – it’s a fantasy. In the family vacation example, it would mean for us to know that we want to go to Miami but we have no idea of getting there. The signposts that say Chicago, Houston, or Boston mean nothing to us when we have no idea how to get to Miami nor what is a good road to there.

“A goal without a plan is merely a dream…”

Okay, but what will I do with all of this information? The last chapter of this guide will tell you what.

How to utilize goals and objectives to succeed in life (step-by-step guide)

So far I have shown you examples of goals and objectives, the difference between the two and importance of having both. Let’s see now how we can use these to achieve our dreams.

There is a simple framework I use for all my dreams, goals and objectives and it’s called the Hawkeye-Wormeye framework.[1]

The Hawkeye-Wormeye Perspective

Step 1: The Hawkeye

Imagine that you’re a hawk and that you fly high above the forest which represents your life. When you’re a hawk, you see endlessly beyond and know where the mountains, rivers and hills are. You see where you need to go and you get clear on the bigger picture.

“I want to get to the hills beyond the murky swamps.”

The hawkeye is the first thing you do because it provides the goal, the bigger picture or whatever you call it.

When you get clear on where you need to go from a hawkeye perspective, now it’s time to get down in the dirt by becoming a worm.

Step 2: The Wormeye

Okay, so we know where we are headed right now – it’s the “hills beyond the murky swamps.” But to get there, we need to become a worm now. Why a worm?

Because a worm can see just 2-3 steps in front of him. This ensures that even though you know your final destination, you are just focusing on the 2-3 steps that are right in front of you.

As Will Smith said in an interview

“You are building a wall. But you are not, in fact, building a wall. You are laying brick by brick as perfect as possible and one day, if you lay your bricks perfectly, they will become a wall.”

The same thing is with the wormeye. You know where your destination is but you decide to focus only on what is in front of you. This way you ensure that you “lay the perfect bricks which will one day become a wall.”

The transition from Wormeye to Hawkeye to Wormeye

Every 3 or 6 months, you should spend a couple of days only in the Hawkeye perspective. You do this because you need to make sure that you are heading in the right direction and to see if you need to change/iterate anything in your worms path. You take as Bill Gates calls it – a “Think Week”.[2]

The rest of the time (over 95% of it), you spend it in the wormeye perspective. You are on the ground, doing work, getting new skills or getting better at old ones. You step out from the wormeye to hawkeye only to see if you are still on the right way.

But what do you actually do in wormeye perspective?

Chunking goals into objectives

You have the bigger picture, the goal you want to achieve. Let’s say that goal is to become the best non-fiction writer in the world. So how do you become that?

First of all, you take apart what writing actually is. And there, you realize that writing isn’t just writing – that writing consists of four different parts:

  1. Generating ideas
  2. Researching
  3. Writing
  4. Editing

Okay, we now know what we actually need to work on to become the best writer. The four above are the skills we need to master to become the best writer in the world.

By putting big, vague goals/dreams into smaller compartments which can be easily practiced (daily habits), we are, in fact, chunking our work to something that can be done.

The hawkeye perspective of becoming the best writer is focused down on the wormeye perspective of working on four different parts of writing.

But what do we do with chunks in the end? This is where we get to the actions and behaviors (objectives) you do daily and the last part of our big puzzle – daily habits.

Daily habits

So we chunked the “become the best writer in the world” to “practice generating ideas, researching, writing, and editing.” So what do we actually do with that?

We form daily habits.

This isn’t something big we need to do – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. We take small actions every single day and those actions accumulate over time to get us to our goal. We take it one step at a time, slow and steady, and as Eric Edmeades would say it “I do less today to do more in a year.[3]

In the writing example, a simple and easy daily habit would be “Write 500 words a day.” This way, you have a daily habit which takes care of the “writing” part of you becoming the best writer in the world.

For generating ideas, you start leading a journal (3 things that happened to you today), for researching you start reading books (20 pages a day) and for editing you create a list of forbidden words you simply delete from your writing (“like”,”very”, “thing” etc.).[4]

You don’t need to start doing all of these- actually I advise you not to. I advise you to start with one of these and then, when it becomes a habit, add up another one. That is what I did.

I started with reading habit (20 pages a day). After 150 days, I added a writing habit (writer 500 words a day). The next one coming is generating ideas habit and at the end, the editing habit.

If I started with all of them immediately, none would stick. As the saying goes “Do less in a day to do more in a year.”

Learn more about how to build good habits and make them stick in this guide: How to Build Good Habits (Step-by-Step Guide)

Conclusion

We started with an explanation of goals and objectives, went over the difference of those two, understood that one can’t go without the other one. Then, we saw how to use goals and objectives in our daily lives.

For that, we used the hawkeye and wormeye perspective where we saw that we need the bigger picture of the hawkeye but the focus of the wormeye- the steps that are right in front of us.

In the end, we chunked down the big goals we had into the smallest possible actions and made daily habits out of these.

Now, we know what we need to do every single day to achieve our goals and dreams. Everything standing between us and the goal we want to achieve is a small daily habit – so just start doing it.

Featured photo credit: Skitter Photo via skitterphoto.com

Reference

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How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve More and Become Successful

Risk is something we all have to face in our lives but appreciating its value and impact on our lives is not always easy.

I asked my social media friends on a survey whether they felt risk was a good thing and 100’s said yes and yet I know from my clients that this doesn’t equate to 100% of people taken every risky action they could to achieve more and live a life that fulfils them.

Take the client that needed a coaching session to get them to take the jump into self employment. They knew in their heads that with over 20 years at the pinnacle of their career, they could do it. But they needed their coach to be the one that took the training wheels off and said “let’s do this!”

We don’t all take the risks we should in life. What makes a risk feel too big? What external impactors change our perception of risk and what’s the difference between good risk and bad? When should we be risk adverse? And how can we work out the difference and step up to take the risks that could change our lives (for the better)?

What is calculated risk?

Let me ask you:

“Would you cross a 3 lane road of fast moving traffic?” The answer is likely to be “no” right?

What about if I asked “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic at night?” Still a “No?”

What about if I said “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic that had a pedestrian crossing?”

Look how the risk changes. It is the same road with the same cars, but we’ve gone from a risk that we are unprepared to take to one that has an element of control and expected outcomes. That is what a calculated risk is.

Would you quit your job right now and set up in business on the street corner in an hour’s time? No of course not. However, would you quit with a plan of action in a set period of time? Possibly?

The thing about calculated risk is that humans have to deal with their perceptions or reality, their emotions, feelings and even beliefs to be able to take on risk. And that is why you may see 100% of people saying “Take the risk”. However if questioned further, I could probably find at least one occasion where every single person should have taken the risk and they didn’t.

I’ve seen people turn down contracts, delay travelling, delay saying “yes” to marriage, delay quitting their job and even delay having their hair chopped off because they’ve not been able to calculate the risk with an outcome that they deem will be satisfactory.

Is all risk calculated?

In a speaking engagement, I once re-enacted the moment when the hero of the film is hanging on for dear life to the side of a mountain. There’s no hand places left going up. They can’t go down and there’s no way out, the baddies are shooting at them from every angle and you think “there is no way out of this!” and then miraculously they let go tumbling through the air, landing in a helicopter that flies into view being flown by the gorgeous incredibly clever side kick.

Risk is a bit like that.

The first time James Bond, Jack Reacher or Lara Croft let go and went in a new direction, they were probably experiencing massive levels of fear. However, by overriding that fear, they were able to create a new definition of what is possible. It’s not called mission impossible for nothing.

But how can we know it’s a good idea to jump and when it’s going to lead to impending doom?

Interestingly, children seem to be risk blind for a while. It is adults that stand behind them shouting “don’t do that, you will fall and break your neck!” Do children stop doing stupid things? A and E departments would argue no.

But if we didn’t take on risk we’d never learn to walk. The first time you pulled yourself up on to your legs and stood there jumping up and down with a grin that says “Look what I can do” was sheer joy, not so much fun the next time you tried it and nearly removed your nose. Most parents will have a story of how their child made their hearts leap with absolute terror as they did something stupid, but risk needs us to test its limits or we will all be still sat in baby gyms unable to reach the cool toys.

The reason some people achieve great things is because they are prepared to test their risk limitations.

How to grow your risk tolerance to achieve more?

Here I’ve aimed to break down what you need to keep your eyes peeled for, how to fix what you find and what you need to do so that you can calculate risk and achieve more with the following methods:

The RRIS method

R – Research everything you aim to achieve.

But also know when to stop researching and get on with it. The amount of clients I’ve worked with who are so ready they could be the most intellectual person on the planet on their area of expertise.

It’s easy to get in the trap of “doing just a bit more research” to get you out of taking action. So do your research and use the other tips to help you to take action on your knowledge.

R – Rationalize your reality.

I often hear clients say things that once said back to them they can quickly (and often embarrassingly) see that it’s just not true. They’ve twisted reality to enable them to stay safe.

Question what you believe to be true and the results you perceive to be impossible to avoid. Do you have evidence to prove your reality or are your thoughts just enabling your comfort zone to stay the same size?

Comfort zones are like big thick duvets. Glorious in the middle of winter with the rain battering the windows and you are curled up safe and warm, but hideous in summer, when the same duvet can wrap itself around you becoming a sweaty trap for your legs to get caught in.

If you know that a comfort zone is twisting your reality, you can be like two versions of my clients:

  1. They like to get so far out of their comfort zone that they can’t see it any more. They do big actions putting into action the right support to achieve them. Learn and move on.
  2. They would literally feel stuck in fear if you offered them option 1, therefore they like to do things in small tiny morsel sized bites. If this is you, arrange to challenge your beliefs around anything in your life (not just related to the calculated risk to achieve more).

If you like structure, start the day in a way you wouldn’t. Get dressed before you brush your teeth, listen to a different radio station, choose a different route to work.

Silly things that make you think about what you are doing can help you see that different is not bad. Different can be exciting, new, rewarding and so much else. And tiny steps can be right for some.

I – Ideas can reduce or inflame our capability for calculated risk.

Before you do anything, somewhere in your head it was a thought. When you really appreciate this, you are able to see that before you take on any risk, you have to have the ideas behind it to achieve.

Ideas like this will be exciting, life changing, and will work and make my career. What phrases would you create to describe the result of your idea?

If you notice they are negative, where’s your evidence? Clients often tell me that I make them take risks. As a coach, that’s impossible. My job is to enable them to see what they really want and overcome the beliefs and obstacles towards going for it.

Once we are faced with our facts on our skills, past successes and capabilities, we can’t help but ask “what is stopping you?” By doing this, you are creating solid foundation to get great results because your ideas are positive and not made up of illogical untruths like “it won’t work”, “what if I fail”, “it’s not done like that”, “I will end up looking stupid”.

S – Success over scares

It is a calculated risk and therefore something that is worth investing in and going for when our level of fear is reduced and our belief about success is raised. Where do you stand on this scale?

Scared! vs Success!

Now add in the following words to the above scale. Where would they sit?

  • Staying safe
  • Stuck
  • Self esteem
  • Stopping myself

Can you start to see how there is a big gap between scared and success? And between the two there will always be elements of feeling safe or stuck and worrying about whether you can do it. The important thing to remember is that you will never completely bridge the gap between scared and successful. A little fear is really good for you.

I’ve never had a speaking engagement where I don’t feel a little nervous. 9 years ago that wasn’t nervousness that was absolute terror. And I once read “it’s not stage fright, it’s performance energy.”

What description would you like to use do describe your calculated risk? If you were to say it out loud, would it be a positive sentence or one that reduce you to fear? Your words and finding your place on the scared to success scale could define your likelihood of success.

The know-it kit

Taking the risk is scary, from the client that wanted to confront their boss of 10 years and make a suggestion that they knew flew in the opposite opinion of their boss, to the singer who is too scared to stand in front of an audience. The important thing is to remember that you are in control of the risks you take and a know it kit can help.

Know the times you’ve been successful.

Lot’s of clients will tell me that their fear is overriding their beliefs about what can be achieved. At times like that it’s no good to think something different and expect it to magically make it seem easy.

Get the facts on your side. As much as you heart will fill your head with negativity, hanging on to the facts of what you’ve already done in life is something you can’t argue with.

Know the skills you have.

As above, when we take on a risk, we need to know we’ve got what we need to get the results we want.

Know that mistakes are good.

No exceptional rise to success didn’t have set backs, no great inventions didn’t have failures (with many of those becoming inventions in their own right) knowing that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and good for the end results can ensure you take action even when the fear is raising its ugly head.

International Vocal Coach Gemma Milburne shared,

“I think many of the greatest singers are the most willing to take risks. You have to risk going out of tune, making mistakes, sounding awful, in order to get REALLY good at singing. As a vocal coach a lot of what I’m doing is helping singers to face that ‘mental’ risk that’s in a person’s head.”

Know the people you can trust.

When everything is in place, you’ve got the evidence, you’ve done your research, you are accountable, focused and ready for action, sometimes just a chat with the right person can be all you need.

Who is in your Know it Kit? You can trust them to say what you need them to say. And not just “you will be great dear, go for it.” Having the right people there that will challenge, empower and ensure you’ve ready in every capacity to make it happen.

Before a petrified public speaker has taken to the stage or a client has walked into a room to go for their big dream, I’m often the one they text as they walk in for that last minute reminder that they’ve got this.

Know the way you have to feel.

And lastly, don’t forget that even with the right words from the right people, it is still down to you.

Sometimes cultural beliefs and feelings can slip into our mindset, other people in the same industry can tell us “it’s never been done like that” and it can knock our focus and derail our thoughts.

How do you need to feel to get the results you want? If I told a person from 200 years ago that they could fly anywhere on this planet in the same day, I’d likely have been locked up. Our beliefs change with time and experience. Do you want to be the person that creates the thoughts and beliefs of the future? Or wait for someone else to have taken the risk (and the glory!) and to leave you wishing “I wish I’d taken that risk”?

Face your fear and take risks

Looking back to myself years ago, Mrs. Nervous Wreck lacking in confidence…

She looked up at the chandelier that was taller than her house and tried to focus her thoughts. No amount of “thinking positive” was working and she just wanted her spleen to burst so she could end up in hospital safely away from this extravagant room and all these people. How could she ever have thought it would be a clever idea to speak to a room full of her peers?

Less than 5 months prior to this moment, she’d stood in front of just 25 business owners and faffed, and fumbled through her words, feeling like a complete fake wishing to never see any of these people ever again. Heck even a career in a local fast food place would be better! She’d made a memorable impression but for all the wrong reasons and one of the audience had taken great delight in reminding her of her epic fail, so what had driven her to do it again?

That was me but for some reason, I’d decided to take the risk and speak on another stage in front of more people.

In many ways, I was hardly recognizable from 9 years ago to today when I’m described as “one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard” and “changed my life in one hour.” Clearly my ability and attitude to speaking to an audience changed but what else?

It was how I faced my fear and how I grew my risk tolerance to achieve more.

By taking my advice on how to take calculated risks, you will gradually find yourself becoming braver and embracing more opportunities. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

The post How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve More and Become Successful appeared first on Lifehack.

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How to Make Positive Changes Now (And Start Living a Fulfilling Life)

Whether you find yourself facing redundancy or the loss of a loved one, stuck in a rut or unable to stay motivated, making positive changes is likely to feature in the things you’re going to need to do to feel happy and successful again.

However, it can be easier said than done.

In this article, I will share with you how I helped my clients to make positive changes and lead a fulfilling life again, and how you can make it too.

From losing control over life to radiating happiness again

They sat opposite me and didn’t just look dejected, they looked like the world had caved in on them and was likely to stop their heart with the effort of living. Everything felt wrong and seemed wrong. How could they move on from that?

This client had come to me because they felt like they’d lost all control over their life and it didn’t matter what they did, how they acted or who they spent time with, everything seemed to go wrong. When that is how life is, how do you make changes then?

Why should you even bother? This is exactly how the client had been feeling with the “what’s the point?” feelings. The point of change is that although it can feel tough and difficult to even get started, let alone keep up the changes you’ve made.

Change is something we can learn to do organically to live the life we want to, and feeling the way we want to. When we feel good somehow, we feel stronger and more capable like we can tackle anything.

Wind on 6 months and this client doesn’t just smile when they walk in, they radiate sunbeams and happiness. It’s almost like a different person is before me. And they’ve not just gained a smile and got rid of “the world hates me” look about them, they’ve “magically” found they are earning more money and attracting opportunities that hadn’t seem imaginable, let alone possible 6 months before.

What happened? How did they do that? No, we didn’t bring anyone back to life or help them win the lottery.

I want to share with you the tools and techniques we used. Before I do that we need to look at why we need to change.

Why change is necessary for everyone

Like many things in life, the need to bring about change rarely happens overnight. It takes something like a Eureka moment, a coach or an accident for us to really look at ourselves and realize that something needs to change.

We don’t wake up one day mega stressed and feeling like life is like climbing a mountain of sand in heels, with our hands tied behind our back. These things gradually descend upon us until we start to suffer the results. It is often the results that we notice first and not the need for change.

Signs you need some change

Here’s some signs your life needs some change:

  • Can’t get to sleep or can’t stay awake.
  • Can’t concentrate on a book.
  • You spend too long on social media scrolling through stuff you’ve already looked at.
  • Can’t focus your mind on work or study.
  • Lack interest in further learning or hobbies.
  • Gained some weird rash, random pains or headaches.
  • Eating too much or lost your appetite.
  • Steering clear of friends and family.
  • Snapping or moaning all the time.

All classic “My life needs some changes” results. What is worse, all the above damage your health, your career, your relationships, your earning potential, your happiness, your contentment and your life in general.

Perks of making a positive change

Ever noticed that person that seems permanently happy and in a good mood? They aren’t necessarily the person with the biggest bank account and yet somehow, they exude true happiness. They are highly likely to be a person that is in touch with what they need so that they can be like that.

To really excite you about change and its potential for overhauling your life, here are some of the results I’ve seen with clients through change:

  • Higher earnings.
  • Stop fearing what people think of them.
  • Stop trying to please everyone and put themselves at the top of the importance list.
  • More confidence.
  • Happier.
  • Healthier.
  • New relationships.
  • New careers.
  • Overcome lifelong fears like the fear of public speaking.
  • Stood up for what they believed in.
  • Overcome shyness.
  • Better at sales.
  • Business growth.
  • Overcome agoraphobia.

To say the list is extensive would be an understatement, although I have coached thousands so I really believe in what I share here.

Let’s look at how you can create positive change in your life.

How to create positive change in your life

Feel it – Pain

One of the reasons we don’t create positive change in our life is because we don’t have a big enough desire to do it. Before you do anything else, feel the pain of the way things are for you right now on a level that makes you physically want to squirm in your seat.

When I do this with clients, I lay it on thick. For instance, when a client told me that they want financial freedom, they talked about their over enthusiastic love of the credit cards. I picked up a note and a credit card and through them in the air joking “Fly free my pretties, fly free!” the client was highly embarrassed (as you would be with someone throwing money around a desk) but when the credit card landed on their notepad, they flicked it away.

I asked them if they felt the credit card was dangerous or something? And they were able to feel the full pain that the credit card was bringing to their lives and their families. Together we could see that the credit card was a symbol of all of the emotions and negative feelings that they hated in their lives. When they left, they made a point of saying they were going to leave a credit card on the side in their home to remind them powerfully why things had to change.

Imagine every aspect of the pain so that it makes you feel miserable and every other bad emotion that hides in your mind.

Feel it – Pleasure

Once you’ve felt the pain and realize powerfully why you want to get away from it, now consider the opposite emotions.

If you want to be financially free, what does that look like? How does it feel? You could concentrate on the car and home you will own, however in my experience that is harder to powerfully visualize than emotions are. You see when you get accomplished at this, you are able to change your emotion and feelings in less than a second because you appreciate why you need to and the damage of not doing so. Therefore if you can really feel the emotions, this can help you stay on track when you have a new plan for change.

I find that for most clients, this exercise is best done last thing at night as you drift off to sleep:

  • It stops you from stressing about everything that is going on in life.
  • You are ending your day with a surge of positive emotions
  • You give your mind clear ideas on what to work on.

I honestly believe that creating space in our brain enables us to get answers that we’ve been struggling to find. It’s almost like asking a giant computer to create the formula for success, and your job is to recharge your mind and body while the computer gets on with it. That may sound daft, however I’ve seen astonishing things achieved by clients that have asked the question, worked out what they wanted and gone off to Sleeplyland.

Feel the pleasure of what you wish to achieve on a level that makes you grin. You remember the excitement and happiness you felt on Christmas Eve as a child? The level of energy that felt like it was going to burst out of you? That is how feeling the pleasure of change should feel. No need to work out why, how, where or with whom. Just think about the way you want to feel.

Feel it – Fear

We can’t move forward without accepting that change can bring fear. My book Fight the Fear – How to Beat Your Negative Mindset and Win in Life helps people to deal with 12 of the top fears that impact on success — whether it’s the fear that you can’t really change, or that you will never have the confidence to say or do that, or the fear that you set the wrong goals or worry constantly about what other people think.

Many fears hide, lurking in our way just as we aim to change. By feeling the fear and understanding how it impacts on you, you can make a decision to do something about it. Fear is the result of a lack of confidence and confidence comes from doing. The irony is (and what stops positive change) is that we are scared to do something different and so stay stuck in the place we are with the results we get.

Here are 5 ideas to help you fight the fear;

  1. Know why you are awesome. We often have plenty of proof that says we rock but we are unlikely to pay attention to that when fear of change is encroaching upon us. I call it the head to heart disparity. Appreciating why you are awesome and all the things you have achieved enables you to ignore the heart’s noisy “you can’t do it” attitude to hear the facts that the head holds on to.
  2. Lean on someone. Whether people do this deliberately from a place of love or spite, or whether they are unaware of the damage they are causing to your confidence and thus helping to reinforce fear; the wrong people will keep you fearful and stuck. There are many reasons for this – they don’t want you to fail and be sad, they don’t want you to be different, they don’t want you to look better than them, it’s a long list. Your job is not to change their minds, it’s to find the right people to help you. They don’t ever have to say a word about what you aim to do, just be the positive, “can do” people that will help you stay on track.
  3. Love failure. Failure is good for us. At the time it doesn’t feel like it, it can feel more like we were not just the last in the running race at schools sports day but like we are the biggest loser on the planet. Don’t let that happen. Accept that through failure, you learn. By learning what went wrong, you have powerful information to help you move forward. One failure doesn’t make a life of ineptitude.
  4. Understand and accept that fear can be fixed in 2 ways. Some fears I can fix for a client in an hour because it is about dealing with their mindset, others need a little longer because the client also has to learn new skills. Skill set and mindset are the key to fighting fears that stop change. What skills do you need?
  5. Action. Fear hates action. It’s very happy when you do nothing, divert your eyes from the fear and feel stuck and out of control. That makes fear smile. Fear hates it when you get a plan. When you get a plan, it won’t always go right. Fear will try and be a noisy voice in your head that says “ha ha, I told you that wouldn’t work.” Ignore it! At the start it doesn’t matter a great deal what action you take, just that you take action. Remember to ask yourself “how will I shut up fear when it tries to keep me here?”

Essential steps to make positive change

Lastly here are the steps I’d take to make change:

  1. Know what fears and obstacles you could experience. List them – for me this is always in a mindmap. It can be visual or a list. Knowing your natural style can be powerful for other things you aim to achieve in the future.
  2. Ignore the rules. When we say we are looking to change, we can often feel like it’s a good idea to look at what everyone else is doing. Only get your ideas from inside you. One of the reasons change is so hard is because we try to do it like other people. You are not them and they are not you. Learn to know your values, loves, beliefs and how they fit into your way of change. If you find yourself comparing yourself with your friends, peers and family, you are not working according to the most powerful way, which is your way.
  3. Challenge your thoughts. Thoughts can sneak into your head and before you know it, you are the one damaging your chances of success. What thoughts do you have connected to this change? For instance, I had a client advise me that they felt our plan of action we had created was going to be hard work. On exploring this, the client admitted that everything they had achieved had just “fallen in their lap” and they “were allergic to hard work”. How likely were they to succeed if they felt it was going to be hard? Be mindful of the way you word your change and actions. For example, instead of saying “this is going to be hard work”, say “this is the next stage in my life and I’m excited to get on with it.” (And yes it did work for this client!)

Create the change YOU want

The personal and professional development industry is worth billions. That’s because while we may know what needs to happen, we often want a magic pill or something that will make it happen instantaneously. Anything you truly want in life takes effort, a change in thought and time. So if you don’t create the space to think about it, how will you create the space to actually do it?

Change is powerful and change is natural but it does take some effort on your part. Nothing in nature is ever the same. Follow this plan and you could create the understanding of yourself, the plan of action and the results you want.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

The post How to Make Positive Changes Now (And Start Living a Fulfilling Life) appeared first on Lifehack.

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