Monthly Archives

September 2017

The Ideal vs. the Reality of Changing Your Life

By | Uncategorized | No Comments


“Our plans never turn out as tasty as reality.” ~Ram Dass

By Leo Babauta

If only life went exactly as we imagine it would go … things would be so much easier!

Unfortunately, in my dozens and dozens of habit changes, I’ve never once had a change go exactly as I’d envisioned. The reality is always different.

Here’s the thing: that difference can be an interesting surprise, or it can absolutely derail you.

I’ll give you a few examples.

Example 1: Waking early: When I plan to start waking up earlier, I have this rosy ideal about how nice it will be to get up when it’s quiet, and use my day productively. I’ll meditate, write, read, exercise, do some yoga … life is going to be amazing!

Then I start waking early, and the reality is much different: I am tired, I’m moving slowly, my meditation is fuzzy because I’m tired, I don’t write as well when I’m still waking up, I don’t feel like exercising.

I can become very disappointed with this reality, and in myself. Or I can embrace the deliciousness of being tired, and see it as a thing to be curious about. I can continue with waking early, but instead of thinking I know how things will turn out, I can simply see what it’s like. Take a stance of not knowing, rather than thinking things will match my fantasies. And explore.

Example 2: Exercise: I always have an incredible plan for when I start a new exercise program. I’m going to do a hardcore squat program. Or an ambitious running program. Or some kind of intense Crossfit-style plan. Oh man, I am going to be so fit, and people will admire my new quads!

Then when I start doing the program, not only is it way harder than I imagined, but I struggle to stay with it, and even when I’m able to stay on plan, I might get injured. Or I’m super sore, walking around like a stiff zombie, then for my next workout I can’t push through the soreness. Turns out, my body needs a little more rest than I thought, and I should ramp up to intense workouts more slowly. Who would have guessed?

I can become disappointed with my body, with the reality that meets my optimistic self. Or I can see this as a learning opportunity, and a chance to adjust my thinking and my exercise plan. When met with the cold hard face of reality, we can adjust our plans to be adapted for that reality. We don’t have to grip tightly to the original plan, stubbornly trying to make reality conform with our ideals. Adjusting means we learn to be adaptable, flexible, fluid. This is one of the many lovely benefits of meeting reality.

Example 3: Writing a book: When I decide to write a new book, it’s interesting to note what my ideals are. I have this fantasy of being an amazing writer, who just blows minds and changes lives. People will not only be impressed by the wisdom and richness of my writing, they’ll throw their money at me in gratitude. I’ll wake early, write like a maniac, come back to revise and craft my tender words, and then publish within weeks, triumphantly.

I’m sure you can guess that reality throws some cold water on that fantasy, right quick. When I start writing, I first have to deal with the demon of procrastination. I’ll want to check email, read my favorite blogs, clean my house, do some “research” (those quotes don’t mean something dirty — the research is just an excuse to google things and put my writing off). I’ll fall behind schedule, be less than enthused about the project, and enjoy the writing a lot less than I thought I would. It feels like drudgery, not bliss.

This can derail me, and it has in the past. But my best response is to accept this reality, to see the humor in it (laugh at myself for my hilarious ideals), to find curiosity in the process, to find joy in the small moments of creation. Sure, people aren’t worshipping at my writing god feet, but I am connecting with people through my writing, I’m connecting with my inner, unseen self, and I’m connecting with the written word and all other writers in a way that I don’t fully understand. This is fascinating and something to appreciate at a level of detail that fantasy can’t match.

The Takeaway: Be Open

As you can see, the reality of life change doesn’t come close to what we idealize it to be. When we hit the ground of reality, we are never prepared for its actuality. And for many (myself included), that can be disappointing, frustrating, derailing.

But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If we are open to this different reality, instead of rejecting it, we can:

  • Accept this new reality
  • Be curious about it
  • See it as a learning opportunity
  • Find gratitude in the small details of it
  • Find joy in the small moments of it
  • Adjust our plans, and learn to be flexible, fluid
  • Embrace the deliciousness of drudger, or being tired or sore
  • Explore with a stance of not knowing

This is how we can meet the cold, hard reality of our actual changes. And it can be magnificent.

Procrastination is a Practice Ground for Life Mastery

By | Uncategorized | No Comments


By Leo Babauta

There isn’t a person among us who doesn’t procrastinate — put off your work for the day, distract yourself, put off pursuing your dreams, put off putting your work out in the world for fear of being judged.

But here’s the thing: most people think that this procrastination is a problem.

Most people stress out about being a procrastinator, and feel bad about themselves for doing it.

Au contraire (that’s French, don’t bother looking it up, it means you’re way wrong).

Instead, procrastination is the perfect place to practice all the most important life skills.

Our tendency to procrastinate is exactly how we’ll see how our minds work, and learn to be better at all the difficulties of life. Because life will always have these difficulties, no matter how much we’d prefer to avoid them, and how we respond to them will determine everything.

Let’s work on our responses to the hardest things in life.

How We Usually Respond

When we procrastinate, this is the usual process:

  1. We have something difficult or uncomfortable to do.
  2. We don’t feel like doing it, because it’s difficult, uncertain, uncomfortable.
  3. Our minds habitually turn away from this task, and find a more comfortable, certain thing to do, like watching videos or playing games or checking email or social media.
  4. We run to the easier thing, and then put off even thinking about the other thing.
  5. We feel bad that this happens, and start to form a negative image of ourselves. We rain harshness and criticism upon our psyche.

This makes us less likely to do better the next time around. It’s a vicious cycle, I tell ya.

We can learn to do better.

Procrastination is an Opportunity, Not a Suckfest

So what should we do instead? Ideally:

  1. We set a hard task before us.
  2. We feel the difficulty, but see this as a signpost that we’re pushing into uncertain ground.
  3. We relish the opportunity to push into uncertain ground, and dive in with gusto. (I love the word “gusto,” btw.)

But that’s not where we are. We have to practice in this way:

  1. Set a hard task, feel like procrastinating because it’s uncertain and uncomfortable …
  2. Start to procrastinate by going to something easy.
  3. Once we’ve switched over and noticed that we’re procrastinating … we pause. This Pause is the key to everything.
  4. We see this Pause as an opportunity to practice a key life skill, and we light up with joy. And yes, gusto.
  5. We practice with discomfort and uncertainty. What does it feel like? Is it horrible? Can we work in the midst of it? Can we open up to the discomfort of it all, embrace the uncertainty, and see it as a beautiful part of what we’re doing?

Slowly, through this practice, we can get better at not running, at staying with the discomfort, at embracing it all, at being patient and joyful in the middle of chaos and the unknown.

Commit yourself to this practice. You’ll find it life-changing and gorgeous.

Practicing with Discomfort & Uncertainty

So you are in the Pause. And you see that you have a chance to practice with discomfort and uncertainty.

Here’s what you do.

You turn toward the feeling — the physical feeling in your body, not just a mental idea of it — and see how it feels. Where is it located in your body? How would you describe the sensation? Can you give it an energy, a color, a sound?

You stay with the feeling, with curiosity. You surrender to it, with trust in yourself. You allow it to be there, with acceptance.

Then you go forth and do the work. The hard thing. The thing you’re completely uncertain about. And accept the uncertainty as part of life, as part of the mission you’re on, because no worthy mission will be fully certain. No hero sets out on a journey knowing how it will end. You’re that hero, and yes, you’re completely up to this mission.

You do the work, notice the discomfort, allow it to be there. You notice your urge to turn away and run, and you don’t follow the urge.

You mess up, and start all over again, like the goldarn hero that you are. You fall down a thousand times, get up two thousand. You are courageous, inspirational, and stronger than even you believe.

One step at a time, you’re expanding your comfort zone, your zone of genius, your hero range. And with each step, you’re getting stronger, and inspiring the world to do the same.

The Action Habit: Put Everything Into the First Step

By | Uncategorized | No Comments


By Leo Babauta

The things that stop us from taking action are all-too-familiar:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Fear
  • Not knowing where to start
  • A habit of procrastinating and doing easier things

It’s easy to get into a mode of inaction, but building the Action Habit can be a lot more difficult. The reason is that the feedback loops in our lives are set up the wrong way: it’s easier to put things off than to act, it’s easier to seek comfort than to push into discomfort, fear and stress.

So how do we start taking action in our lives: changing fundamental health and productivity habits, getting out and looking for a job, putting our creativity out there in the world, taking steps to finally work on that project you’ve been wanting to start?

The answer lies in a simple method for creating the Action Habit:

  1. Pick one positive action
  2. Make it tiny and easy
  3. Set up positive feedback
  4. Put everything you have into it
  5. Repeat

This might sound too simplistic for some people, and you might be tempted to skip this and go read something else. This is a mistake — try this method and see if you can create the Action Habit today.

Pick One Positive Action

Yes, I know that you have a thousand things you want to do, in all areas of your life. But thinking about all the things you need to do can be stressful and overwhelming, and lead to inaction. You can’t do it all right now!

Instead, focus on something you can do right now.

But how do you choose among all the things you want to do? Try this:

  1. Make a list of the main things you want to do. Feel free to make a second list of the smaller tasks and errands you need to get to as well. Don’t get stuck on this step — if you are overwhelmed by this, just think of the biggest things you need to get done.
  2. Mark the top 3 things on your list — what feel most important to you right now? If you can’t decide, ask someone else to decide for you.
  3. Pick the No. 1 thing in your top 3. If it’s too hard to choose, make a random choice — it’s better to make a slightly less-than-optimal choice than to get stuck in indecision.

Once you have your No. 1 thing you want to get done (let’s say, “Write a book” or “Get in shape”), then you need to pick one small action you can get done on this project in the next few minutes.

What about the other projects or tasks on your list? You’ll get to those later, but worrying about everything all at once is counterproductive. Pick one thing on the list, and get moving with it. After that, you can re-evaluate and pick the next thing on your list to get moving on. In this way, you’re getting in the habit of taking action rather than getting stuck.

Make It Tiny & Easy

Now that you have something you want to focus on, ask yourself, “What tiny action can I take right now?”

For “Write a book” it could be as simple as “Open a document and write down a few ideas.” For “Get in shape,” you might choose something like, “Go out for a short walk,” “Do a few pushups,” or “Send an email to my sister to go for a run tomorrow.”

You don’t have to do the whole project right now. Just one tiny step. Once you get into the Action Habit, you’ll be able to do the other steps later. But for now, just focus on one tiny step. This is how you create the habit.

Make it as ridiculously easy as possible, so that you can’t really say no.

Are you tempted to put it off? Then make it even easier — 30 seconds of working out is so easy that anyone can do it.

Thirty seconds of working out is not going to get you in shape, but the Action Habit is about removing barriers and getting moving.

Set Up Positive Feedback

If you get one or two people into an accountability team, you’ll make it much more likely that you’ll succeed. That’s because with accountability, you get negative feedback for not doing the actions (a bit of embarrassment) and positive feedback for doing the actions (a bit of pride in your accomplishment).

It’s simple:

  1. Ask one or two friends to be on your team. This is as easy as sending an email or text message.
  2. Tell each other what tiny steps you’re going to do today towards important long-term goals.
  3. Check in at the end of the day, or when you’re done with your three tiny actions.

If you’d rather not have a team, then simply put up a list on your wall (or somewhere very visible) of your three top tiny actions for this morning, and allow yourself to check them off once they’re done. It’s rewarding to be able to check the off.

Positive feedback means you’re going to enjoy taking the tiny actions, rather than seeking comfort in putting them off.

Put Your Entire Being Into It

Once you have your accountability set up, and a tiny action chosen, then it’s time to take action!

Now put your entire self into starting the action.

All you have to do is start.

Act as if your life depends on it.

Act as if nothing were more important than keeping your word to yourself.

Act as if this one tiny action were the entire universe.

All you have to do is get moving — open a document, start an email, write one item on a list, put on your running shoes. Devote yourself single-mindedly to starting this tiny movement.

Repeat, to Create the Habit

Doing your first tiny action is amazing. Now focus your entire being on the next tiny action. This is how you create the Action Habit: by doing it repeatedly.

If you’ve taken a tiny action on an important project, congratulate yourself! Check it off your list, report it to your accountability team, feel gratitude that you got moving. Now ask yourself what is the next small step you can take on this project. Can you take it right now? One small step at a time, you’re getting some momentum on this project.

Or perhaps there’s nothing else you can do right now. Look at your Top 3 list, and see if there’s another project you can take a tiny action on right now.

If not, maybe one of your other important items. Or maybe you take action on your smaller tasks (though don’t let yourself use this as a way to put off the hard stuff). Do the hard stuff first if you can, but you need to get to the small stuff sometimes. The trick is, you’re turning the hard stuff into the small easy stuff.

Just repeat this method, re-evaluating your list once a day or so, taking tiny actions all day long, with breaks in between. This is how you form the Action Habit, and it will be incredible.

How to Train Yourself to Stay Focused

By | Uncategorized | No Comments


By Leo Babauta

It’s a common problem these days: switching between browser tabs and apps on your phone, checking social media and messages and email, thinking about the million things you have to do but putting them off …

Anything but staying focused on one task at a time.

And it’s hard to break out of the mental habit of switching, being distracted, letting the monkey mind jump from one shiny thing to the next.

So how do you train your mind to stay more focused? It’s possible to get better at focusing, but I don’t recommend expecting to be focused anywhere close to 100 percent of the time. Not even 80 percent, and perhaps not 50 percent. Just more than now, which is more than enough to see big differences in effectiveness in your day.

Recently I took on a coaching client, and his biggest area for improvement is focus. So I gave him a plan, and I’m going to share it with you here.

Start with the Why

Why should you care about this? It’s best to give this a moment’s thought before diving into any plan, because when things get uncomfortable, you have to know your Why. Otherwise you’ll crumble at the first urge to switch.

This is important because constant switching and distraction leads to your time being frittered away, so that the day goes by and you’ve barely done anything important. You’ve procrastinated on the big tasks to take care of the little ones, and worse yet, squandered the day in distractions. Your life is too precious to waste, so you want to use your days better.

Staying focused on one task at a time, at least for some of the day, will help you get the important things done: writing, programming, studying, taking care of finances, creating of any kind, and so on. Those things tend to get pushed back, but staying on task will increase your effectiveness with the most important things by leaps and bounds.

If you’re feeling stressed out by all you have to do, unhappy with your lack of focus … then this one skill will help you turn that around in a big way.

So let’s move on to the how.

The Method

It’s fairly simple:

  1. Pick an MIT. First thing in the morning, before you get on your phone or online, think about what you need to do. What would make the biggest difference in your life, your work? If you have several, it doesn’t matter … just randomly choose one for now. You can get to the others later. Don’t waste your time in indecision, the point is to practice with one task. This one task you choose for today is your one Most Important Task (MIT).
  2. Do a 15-minute focus session. As soon as you start working for the day (maybe after getting ready, eating, yoga/meditation/workout, whatever), clear away all browser tabs, applications, and anything you don’t need for your MIT for today. Start a timer for 15 minutes.
  3. You only have two choices. For these 15 minutes, you can not switch to anything else (no checking email, messages, social media, doing other work tasks, cleaning your desk, etc.). You can only a) work on your MIT, or b) sit there and do nothing. Those are your only options. Watch your urges to switch, but don’t follow them.
  4. Report to an accountability partner. My coaching client is going to succeed in large part because he has me to keep him accountable. Find a partner who will keep you accountable. Create an online spreadsheet or use an accountability app that they can see (he introduced me to Commit to 3, for example). After your focus session each day, check in that you did it.

That’s it! One focus session a day for at least two weeks. If you do great, add a second focus session each day, with a 10-minute break in between sessions. If you have any trouble at all, stick to one session a day for the first month before adding a second.

After six weeks to two months, you should be fairly good at doing two 15-minute focus sessions, and you can add a third. Then a fourth when that gets easy. Stop there for awhile, and then add another session in the afternoon.

Some Important Tips

With that simple method in mind, I have a few key ideas to share:

  1. Turn off your Internet. Like disconnect from wifi or turn off your router, or use an Internet blocker. Turn off your phone. Close your browser and all applications you don’t need. This is the ideal method. If you need the Internet for your MIT, then close all tabs but the one or two that you need for the task, and don’t let yourself open anything else.
  2. If you turn off the Internet, keep a pencil and paper nearby. If you have an idea, a task you need to remember, anything you want to look up … jot it on the paper. You can get to those later. Don’t allow yourself to switch.
  3. Don’t allow yourself to rationalize putting off the session. It’s easy to say, “I’ll get to it in a bit,” but then you’re putting it off until late morning, and then the afternoon, and finally you’re doing it at 8pm just to say you did it. This defeats the purpose of the practice. Watch your rationalizations, and don’t fall for them.
  4. That said, don’t aim for being perfect. There are some days when you just can’t do it — for me, it’s when I travel or have guests. If something big has come up where you don’t have time, don’t stress about missing a day. Get back on it as soon as you can. Worrying about keeping a streak going is counterproductive.
  5. If 15 minutes is too long, just do 10 minutes. If that’s too long, do 5 minutes.
  6. Increase your number of sessions as slowly as you can. There’s no rush to do more. Focus on building a solid foundation.

OK, you have the method. Now get on the practice!

The Amazing Self-Confidence Habit

By | Uncategorized | No Comments


By Leo Babauta

How often has a lack of self-confidence, or a feeling of inadequacy, stopped us from doing something awesome?

I would guess that for lots of us, this feeling of inadequacy stopped us from:

  • Putting ourselves into uncomfortable social situations were we might make new friends or start dating
  • Starting a new business, creating a book or art, putting our ideas out there into the world
  • Sticking to a new exercise, diet or meditation habit because we messed up (confirmation that we can’t do it, right?)
  • Learning something new and amazing, like a new skill, because we might embarrass ourselves
  • Being confident as we socialize with others (perhaps in the rare cases we do socialize) — a lack of confidence which might make them less interested in us

I’ve experienced all of this myself, and I know many people who know this lack of self-confidence and feeling of inadequacy very well.

It can plague all areas of our lives. And learning to feel worthy, learning a confidence in ourselves … it can change everything.

This month, I’ve created a new course in my Sea Change membership program: The Amazing Self-Confidence Habit.

I believe that self-confidence is a mental habit that we can develop. And I believe that its opposite, the feeling of inadequacy, is a set of mental habits that we’ve developed since we were young — habits that we can train out of ourselves, with diligence (and forgiveness if we mess up).

So what’s this course about?

It’s about becoming aware of our old mental patterns that sabotage our happiness, social life, habits and more. It’s about retraining our minds with new mental habits that will make us more confident in ourselves. And how to apply that to all other habits, learning new skills, and more.

Here are the video lessons — the first one just came out:

  1. How Feeling Inadequate Affects Everything
  2. How to Train the Mental Habit of Confidence
  3. See & Interpret: The Key Mental Skills
  4. Keys to Developing Mental Habits
  5. The Confidence Habit Makes You Better at All Habits
  6. Being Present Instead of Stuck in Our Story
  7. Confidence Through Skill Mastery
  8. Continuing Practice Beyond the Course

Here’s how it works:

  1. Every week this month I’ll publish two video lessons
  2. There’s a challenge to spend 5-10 minutes each day to working on one of the skills presented in the video lessons
  3. There are weekly check-in threads in the forum and discussion threads for each lesson
  4. I’ll hold a live video webinar on with a talk and a Q&A session on Sept. 13

This is all included in my Sea Change Program, which you can sign up for today. You also get access to a huge library of other courses and content for changing your life, one step at a time. I hope you’ll join me, I’m really excited!