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Here’s Proof That Exercise Can Basically Stop Your Body From Aging

Photo by Trinette Reed / Stocksy

If you’re like me, you probably assume that slowing down is a natural result of aging. Obviously your 5K run time will be faster at age 28 than it will be at age 68, right? Not exactly.

It turns out that exercise—especially cardio—really can keep you young, according to a new study from the Journal of Applied Psychology. Researchers found that the muscles of active 70-year-olds were nearly indistinguishable from the muscles of active 25-year-olds. In fact, the study’s authors concluded that these active seniors appeared to be biologically 30 years younger than their actual age.

Ball State University researchers set up this study with three groups: The first was made up of 28 older adults, most of whom were well into their 70s and had been physically active for five or more decades. The second group was made up of older people who were healthy but had not exercised at all during adulthood. The third group included active young people in their mid-20s. All of the participants spent time in the university lab, where researchers recorded information about their aerobic capacities and took tissue samples to measure the capillaries and enzymes in each person’s muscles.

Scott Trappe, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State and the lead author on the study, told the New York Times that he and his team expected to see hierarchical results, with the younger people possessing the most robust muscles, the lifelong exercisers being slightly weaker, and the non-exercisers weaker still. But that’s not what they found. Rather, the study results showed that the older exercisers and younger exercisers had nearly identical-looking muscles, despite the nearly 50 years between them. The younger folks were a bit stronger aerobically, but the senior exercisers still appeared to be 30 years younger compared to the non-active seniors in the study.

Past research has suggested that some of the physical effects of aging may in fact be avoidable: One recent study suggested that your running times may not slow as quickly as you’d think as you age. But that study was based on the times of competitive athletes; this new study, however, was based on average-but-active seniors. It shows us that staying active aerobically (which means doing cardio like brisk walking, running, swimming, or cycling) really can slow the negative effects of biological aging for all of us, not just professional athletes. Researchers even found that the intensity of that exercise didn’t matter much—rather, it was just about moving somehow, in some way, for decades.

Thus, what we now consider to be normal physical deterioration with aging “may not be normal or inevitable,” Dr. Trappe told the NYT.

All the more reason to sign up for that cycling class you’ve been considering recently: Future you will thank current you.

Why you shouldn’t exercise to lose weight, explained with 60+ studies

SOURCE | By Julia Belluz, Javier Zarracina


“I’m going to make you work hard,” a blonde and perfectly muscled fitness instructor screamed at me in a recent spinning class, “so you can have that second drink at happy hour!”

At the end of the 45-minute workout, my body was dripping with sweat. I felt like I’d worked really, really hard. And according to my bike, I had burned more than 700 calories. Surely I had earned an extra margarita.

The spinning instructor was echoing a message we’ve been getting for years: As long as you get on that bike or treadmill, you can keep indulging — and still lose weight. It’s been reinforced by fitness gurus, celebrities, food and beverage companies like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, and even public health officials, doctors, and the first lady of the United States. Countless gym memberships, fitness tracking devices, sports drinks, and workout videos have been sold on this promise.

There’s just one problem: This message is not only wrong, it’s leading us astray in our fight against obesity.

To find out why, I read through more than 60 studies on exercise and weight loss. I also spoke to nine leading exercise, nutrition, and obesity researchers. Here’s what I learned.

1) An evolutionary clue to how our bodies burn calories

When anthropologist Herman Pontzer set off from Hunter College in New York to Tanzania to study one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer tribes on the planet, he expected to find a group of calorie-burning machines.

Unlike Westerners, who increasingly spend their waking hours glued to chairs, the Hadza are on the move most of the time. Men typically go off and hunt — chasing and killing animals, climbing trees in search of wild honey. Women forage for plants, dig up tubers, and comb bushes for berries. “They’re on the high end of physical activity for any population that’s been looked at ever,” Pontzer said.

By studying the Hadza lifestyle, Pontzer thought he would find evidence to back the conventional wisdom about why obesity has become such a big problem worldwide. Many have argued that one of the reasons we’ve collectively put on so much weight over the past 50 years is that we’re much less active than our ancestors.

Surely, Pontzer thought, the Hadza would be burning lots more calories on average than today’s typical Westerner; surely they’d show how sluggish our bodies have become.

On several trips in 2009 and 2010, he and his colleagues headed into the middle of the savanna, packing up a Land Rover with camping supplies, computers, solar panels, liquid nitrogen to freeze urine samples, and respirometry units to measure respiration.

In the dry, open terrain, they found study subjects among several Hadza families. For 11 days, they tracked the movements and energy burn of 13 men and 17 women ages 18 to 75, using a technique called doubly labeled water — the best known way to measure the carbon dioxide we expel as we burn energy.

When they crunched the numbers, the results were astonishing.

“We were really surprised when the energy expenditure among the Hadza was no higher than it is for people in the US and Europe,” says Pontzer, who published the findings in 2012 in the journal PLOS One. While the hunter-gatherers were physically active and lean, they actually burned the same amount of calories every day as the average American or European, even after the researchers controlled for body size.

Pontzer’s study was preliminary and imperfect. It involved only 30 participants from one small community.

But it raised a tantalizing question: How could the hunting, foraging Hadza possibly burn the same amount of energy as indolent Westerners?

As Pontzer pondered his findings, he began to piece together an explanation.

First, scientists have shown that energy expenditure — or calories burned every day — includes not only movement but all the energy needed to run the thousands of functions that keep us alive. (Researchers have long known this, but few had considered its significance in the context of the global obesity epidemic.)

Calorie burn also seems to be a trait humans have evolved over time that has little to do with lifestyle. Maybe, Pontzer thought, the Hadza were using the same amount of energy as Westerners because their bodies were conserving energy on other tasks.

Or maybe the Hadza were resting more when they weren’t hunting and gathering to make up for all their physical labor, which would also lower their overall energy expenditure.

This science is still evolving. But it has profound implications for how we think about how deeply hardwired energy expenditure is and the extent to which we can hack it with more exercise.

If the “calories out” variable can’t be controlled very well, what might account for the difference in the Hadza’s weights?

“The Hadza are burning the same energy, but they’re not as obese [as Westerners],” Pontzer said. “They don’t overeat, so they don’t become obese.”

This fundamental concept is part of a growing body of evidence that helps explain a phenomenon researchers have been documenting for years: that it’s extremely difficult for people to lose weight once they’ve gained it by simply exercising more.

2) Exercise is excellent for health

Before we dive into why exercise isn’t that helpful for slimming, let’s make one thing clear: No matter how working out impacts your waistline, it does your body and mind good.

A Cochrane Review of the best available research found that while exercise led to only modest weight loss, study participants who exercised more (even without changing their diets) saw a range of health benefits, including reducing their blood pressure and triglycerides in their blood. Exercise reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart attack.

A number of other studies have also shown that people who exercise are at a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment from Alzheimer’s and dementia. They also score higher on cognitive ability tests — among many, many other benefits.

If you’ve lost weight, exercise can also help weight maintenance when it’s used along with watching calorie intake. In an October 2017 study published in the journal Obesity, researchers examined what happened to 14 of the contestants on the Biggest Loser weight loss reality show, six years after they attempted to slim down for TV. They again found there was no relationship between physical activity and weight loss during the active weight loss of the show.

“So the people who lost the most weight on the show weren’t necessarily the people who did the most exercise — instead, it was the people who ate the least,” said study author and National Institutes of Health mathematician and obesity researcher Kevin Hall. But they also found there was a strong relationship between exercise and keeping weight off. (The study participants who managed to maintain their weight loss after six years got 80 minutes of moderate exercise per day or 35 minutes of daily vigorous exercise.)

“Consistent with previous reports, large and persistent increases in [physical activity] may be required for long-term maintenance of lost weight,” the researchers concluded.

So exercise, in summary, is like a wonder drug for many, many health outcomes.

3) Exercise alone is almost useless for weight loss

The benefits of exercise are real. And stories about people who have lost a tremendous amount of weight by hitting the treadmill abound. But the bulk of the evidence tells a less impressive story.

Consider this review of exercise intervention studies, published in 2001: It found that after 20 weeks, weight loss was less than expected, and that “the amount of exercise energy expenditure had no correlation with weight loss in these longer studies.”

To explore the effects of more exercise on weight, researchers have followed everybody from people training for marathons to sedentary young twins to post-menopausal overweight and obese women who ramp up their physical activity through running, cycling, or personal training sessions. Most people in these studies typically only lost a few pounds at best, even under highly controlled scenarios where their diets were kept constant.

Other meta-analyses, which looked at a bunch of exercise studies, have come to similarly lackluster conclusions about exercise for losing weight. This Cochrane Review of all the best available evidence on exercise for weight loss found that physical activity alone led to only modest reductions. Ditto for another review published in 1999.

University of Alabama obesity researcher David Allison sums up the research this way: Adding physical activity has a very modest effect on weight loss — “a lesser effect than you’d mathematically predict,” he said.

We’ve long thought of weight loss in simple “calories in, calories out” terms. In a much-cited 1958 study, researcher Max Wishnofsky outlined a rule that many organizations — from the Mayo Clinic to Livestrong — still use to predict weight loss: A pound of human fat represents about 3,500 calories; therefore, cutting 500 calories per day, through diet or physical activity, results in about a pound of weight loss per week. Similarly, adding 500 calories a day results in a weight gain of about the same.

Today, researchers view this rule as overly simplistic. They now think of human energy balance as “a dynamic and adaptable system,” as one study describes. When you alter one component — cutting the number of calories you eat in a day to lose weight, doing more exercise than usual — this sets off a cascade of changes in the body that affect how many calories you use up and, in turn, your bodyweight.

4) Exercise accounts for a small portion of daily calorie burn

One very underappreciated fact about exercise is that even when you work out, those extra calories burned only account for a tiny part of your total energy expenditure.

“In reality,” said Alexxai Kravitz, a neuroscientist and obesity researcher at the National Institutes of Health, “it’s only around 10 to 30 percent [of total energy expenditure] depending on the person (and excluding professional athletes that workout as a job).”

There are three main components to energy expenditure, Kravitz explained: 1) basal metabolic rate, or the energy used for basic functioning when the body is at rest; 2) the energy used to break down food; and 3) the energy used in physical activity.

We have very little control over our basal metabolic rate, but it’s our biggest energy hog. “It’s generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure,” Kravitz said. Digesting food accounts for about 10 percent.

That leaves only 10 to 30 percent for physical activity, of which exercise is only a subset. (You can read more about this concept here and here.)

“It’s not nothing, but it’s not nearly equal to food intake — which accounts for 100 percent of the energy intake of the body,” Kravitz said. “This is why it’s not so surprising that exercise leads to [statistically] significant, but small, changes in weight.”

5) It’s hard to create a significant calorie deficit through exercise

Using the National Institutes of Health Body Weight Planner — which gives a more realistic estimation for weight loss than the old 3,500-calorie rule —the NIH’s Kevin Hall created this model to show why adding a regular exercise program is unlikely to lead to significant weight loss.

If a hypothetical 200-pound man added 60 minutes of medium-intensity running four days per week while keeping his calorie intake the same, and he did this for 30 days, he’d lose five pounds. “If this person decided to increase food intake or relax more to recover from the added exercise, then even less weight would be lost,” Hall added. (More on these “compensatory mechanisms” later.)

So if one is overweight or obese, and presumably trying to lose dozens of pounds, it would take an incredible amount of time, will, and effort to make a real impact through exercise.

That’s why Hall thinks researchers find again and again that exercise can help maintain weight loss, but it doesn’t help people lose weight. “You need a huge volume of exercise to [burn enough calories for weight loss],” he said. “But to maintain weight loss does not require a deficit of energy.”

6) Exercise can undermine weight loss in other, subtle ways

Exercise can even undermine weight loss in subtle ways. How much we move is connected to how much we eat. As Hall put it, “I don’t think anybody believes calories in and calories out are independent of each other.” And exercise, of course, has a way of making us hungryso hungry that we might consume more calories than we burned off.

One 2009 study shows that people seemed to increase their food intake after exercise — either because they thought they burned off a lot of calories or because they were hungrier. Another review of studies from 2012 found people generally overestimated how much energy exercise burned and ate more when they worked out.

“You work hard on that machine for an hour, and that work can be erased with five minutes of eating afterward,” Hall added. A single slice of pizza, for example, could undo the calories burned in an hour’s workout. So could a cafe mocha or an ice cream cone.

There’s also evidence to suggest that some people simply slow down after a workout, using less energy on their non-gym activities. They might decide to lie down for a rest, fidget less because they’re tired, or take the elevator instead of the stairs.

These changes are usually called “compensatory behaviors,” and they simply refer to adjustments we may unconsciously make after working out to offset the calories burned.

7) Exercise may cause physiological changes that help us conserve energy

The most intriguing theories about why exercise isn’t great for weight loss describe changes in how our bodies regulate energy after exercise.

Researchers have discovered a phenomenon called “metabolic compensation.”

“The more you stress your body, we think there are changes physiologically — compensatory mechanisms that change given the level of exercise you’re pushing yourself at,” said Loyola University exercise physiologist Lara Dugas. In other words, our bodies may actively fight our efforts to lose weight.

This effect has been well documented, though it may not be the same for everyone.

For one fascinating study, published in the journal Obesity Research in 1994, researchers subjected seven pairs of young, sedentary identical twins to a 93-day period of intense exercise. For two hours a day, nearly every day, they’d hit a stationary bike.

The twins were also housed as inpatients in a research lab under 24-hour supervision and fed by watchful nutritionists who measured their every calorie to make sure their energy intake remained constant.

Despite going from being mostly sedentary to spending a couple of hours exercising almost every day, the participants only lost about 11 pounds on average, ranging from as little as 2 pounds to just over 17 pounds, almost all due to fat loss. The participants also burned 22 percent fewer calories through exercise than the researchers calculated prior to the study starting.

By way of explanation, the researchers wrote that either subjects’ basal metabolic rates slowed down or subjects were expending less energy outside of their two-hour daily exercise block.

In a more recent study, published in Obesity in May 2016, Kevin Hall’s group again looked at 14 of the Biggest Loser reality show participants. They took a number of measurements — bodyweight, fat, metabolism, hormones — at the end of the 30-week competition in 2009, and again six years later, in 2015.

Though all the contestants lost dozens of pounds through extreme diets and hours of exercise at the end of the show, by the six-year mark their waistlines had largely rebounded. But the most remarkable finding was that the participants’ metabolisms had vastly slowed down through the study period. They were essentially burning about 500 fewer calories (about a meal’s worth) each day than would be expected given their weight.

This metabolic effect persisted, despite the fact that most participants were slowly regaining the weight they lost.

Dugas calls this phenomenon “part of a survival mechanism”: The body could be conserving energy to try to hang on to stored fat for future energy needs. Again, researchers don’t yet know why this happens or how long the effects persist in people.

“We know with confidence that some metabolic adaptions occur under some circumstances,” said David Allison, “and we know with confidence some behavioral compensations occur under some circumstances. We don’t know how much compensation occurs, under which circumstances, and for whom.”

8) Energy expenditure might have an upper limit

Another hypothesis about why it’s hard to lose weight through exercise alone is that energy expenditure plateaus at a certain point. In another Pontzer paper, published in 2016 in the journal Current Biology, he and his colleagues found evidence of an upper limit.

They cast a wide geographic net, recruiting 332 adults from Ghana, South Africa, Seychelles, Jamaica, and the United States. Tracking the study participants for eight days, they gathered data on physical activity and energy burned using accelerometers. They classified people into three types: the sedentary folks, the moderately active (who exercised two or three times per week), and the super active (who exercised about every day). Importantly, these were people who were already doing a certain amount of activity, not people who were randomized to working out at various levels.

Here, physical activity accounted for only 7 to 9 percent of the variation in calories burned among the groups. Moderately active people burned more energy than people who were sedentary (about 200 calories more each day), but above that, the energy used up seemed to hit a wall.

“After adjusting for body size and composition,” the researchers concluded in the study, “total energy expenditure was positively correlated with physical activity, but the relationship was markedly stronger over the lower range of physical activity.”

In other words, after a certain amount of exercise, you don’t keep burning calories at the same rate: Total energy expenditure may eventually plateau.

“That plateau is really different than the standard way of thinking about energy expenditure,” Pontzer said. “What the World Health Organization and the people who build the Fitbit would tell you is that the more active you are, the more calories you burn per day. Period, full stop.”

In the “constrained” model of total energy expenditure, the body adapts to increased physical activity by reducing energy spent on other physiological activities.Photo by: Javier Zarracina/Vox

Based on the research, Pontzer has proposed a new model that upends the old “calories in, calories out” approach to exercise, where the body burns more calories with more physical activity in a linear relationship (also known as the “additive” model of energy expenditure).

He calls this the “constrained model” of energy expenditure, which shows that the effect of more physical activity on the human body is not linear. In light of our evolutionary history — when food sources were less reliable — he argues that the body sets a limit on how much energy it is willing to expend, regardless of how active we are.

“The overarching idea,” Pontzer explained, “is that the body is trying to defend a particular energy expenditure level no matter how active you get.”

This is still just a hypothesis. Pontzer and others will need to gather more evidence to validate it, and reconcile contradictory evidence showing that people can burn more energy as they add physical activity. So for now it’s a fascinating possibility, among all the others, that may help explain why joining a gym as a sole strategy to lose weight is often an exercise in futility.

9) The government and the food industry are doling out unscientific advice

Since 1980, the obesity prevalence has doubled worldwide, with about 13 percent of the global population now registering as obese, according to the WHO. In the United States, nearly 70 percent of the population is either overweight or obese.

A lack of exercise and too many calories have been depicted as equal causes of the crisis. But as researchers put it in an article in BMJ, “You cannot outrun a bad diet.”

Since at least the 1950s, Americans have been told that we can. This Public Health Reports paper outlines the dozens of government departments and organizations — from the American Heart Association to the US Department of Agriculture — whose campaigns suggested more physical activity (alone or in addition to diet) to reverse weight gain.

Unfortunately, we are losing the obesity battle because we are eating more than ever. But the exercise myth is still regularly deployed by the food and beverage industry — which are increasingly under fire for selling us too many unhealthy products.

“Physical activity is vital to the health and well-being of consumers,” Coca-Cola says. The company has been aligning itself with exercise since the 1920s, and was recently exposed by the New York Times for funding obesity researchers who emphasize a lack of physical activity as the cause of the epidemic.

Coca-Cola is just one of many food companies that are encouraging us to get more exercise (and keep buying their products while we’re at it): PepsiCo, Cargill, and Mondelez have all emphasized physical activity as a cause of obesity.

The exercise myth for weight loss also still appears in high-profile initiatives, like the former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign — largely because of the food industry’s lobbying efforts, according to Marion Nestle, a New York University nutrition professor. The White House’s exercise focus to end childhood obesity, Nestle said, was “a strategic decision to make the message positive and doable and, at the same time, keep the food industry off its back.”

But this focus on calories out, or the calories we can potentially burn in exercise, is “an inadequate and a potentially dangerous approach, because it is liable to encourage people to ignore or underestimate the greater impact of energy-in,” an obesity doctor and professor wrote in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

In other words, we can lose sight of the fact that it’s mostly too much food that’s making us fat.

“There are all kinds of reasons to exercise that are good for your health,” says Diana Thomas, a Montclair State University obesity researcher. “However, if you’re trying to lose weight, the biggest problem I see is food. We need to cut back the food we’re eating.”

The evidence is now clear: Exercise is excellent for health, but it’s not important for weight loss. The two things should never be given equal weight in the obesity debate.

10) So what actually works for weight loss?

At the individual level, some very good research on what works for weight loss comes from the National Weight Control Registry, a study that has parsed the traits, habits, and behaviors of adults who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a minimum of one year. They currently have more than 10,000 members enrolled in the study, and these folks respond to annual questionnaires about how they’ve managed to keep their weight down.

The researchers behind the study found that people who have had success losing weight have a few things in common: They weigh themselves at least once a week. They restrict their calorie intake, stay away from high-fat foods, and watch their portion sizes. They also exercise regularly.

But note: These folks use physical activity in addition to calorie counting and other behavioral changes. Every reliable expert I’ve ever spoken to on weight loss says the most important thing a person can do is limit calories in a way they like and can sustain, and focus on eating healthfully.

In general, diet with exercise can work better than calorie cutting alone, but with only marginal additional weight loss benefits. Consider this chart from a randomized trial that was done on a group of overweight folks: The group that restricted calories lost about the same amount of weight as the group that dieted and exercised, though the exercisers didn’t cut as many calories:

If you embark on a weight loss journey that involves both adding exercise and cutting calories, Montclair’s Thomas warned not to count those calories burned in physical activity toward extra eating.

“Pretend you didn’t exercise at all,” she said. “You will most likely compensate anyway, so think of exercising just for health improvement but not for weight loss.”



Want a Happier, More Fulfilling Life? 75-Year Harvard Study Says Focus on This 1 Thing


Positive Alacrity is the art of creating micro-experiences that have an emotionally uplifting impact on others. But I’m getting ahead of myself …

A quick Google search for “secret to happiness” brings up over 7,500,000 results.

That’s a lot of people writing about and searching for something that, according to a groundbreaking Harvard study, has already been found.

That’s right: Thanks to Harvard’s Grant and Glueck studies — which tracked 724 participants from varying walks of life over the course of 75 years — we’ve already uncovered the key to long-term happiness and fulfillment.

The answer? Our relationships.

Here’s Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development:

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

In other words: The quality of our life — emotionally, physically, and mentally — is directly proportional to the quality of our relationships.

But there’s a catch. If there’s one thing most of us have learned, it’s this: Just knowing a lot of people isn’t enough.

True fulfillment in relationships is about genuine connection, and one of the most efficient ways to form that connection is by practicing what we at Mindmaven call Positive Alacrity; a skill we define as creating micro-experiences that cause an emotional uplifting in others.

The Uncomfortable Truth About Relationships

Did we really need a 75-year study to tell us relationships are important?

Probably not; I bet many of you already knew that. So why do we so often struggle to treat many of the most important relationships in our lives with the reverence and priority we know they deserve?

For example, do any of these situations sound familiar?

  • When under stress, you may have a tendency to be ruder to your spouse than you’d ever dream of being to a complete stranger.
  • When building a business, you’re willing to work 60-hour weeks but somehow never “have time” to check in with lifelong friends.
  • Speaking of business: You may fail to consistently and proactively invest in deepening the professional relationships that might provide the breakthrough opportunities you need.

So why do we do this? Because …

Although many things in life are deadline and urgency driven, relationships almost never are.

As a result, they’re often one of the first parts of our lives that we neglect until we “find the time.”

The good news is, building those deep, meaningful relationships isn’t as daunting or time-consuming as it may sound. In fact, by focusing on one habit, anyone can build more fulfilling relationships every day.

The Secret Factor Controlling the Quality of Your Relationships

But what determines the level of fulfillment we find in our relationships?It isn’t simply “knowing” the other person.

What makes you feel happy or fulfilled isn’t the relationship itself, but the interactions that make that relationship up.

Here’s what it comes down to: The only path to achieving the goal of a fulfilling life is to have fulfilling relationships, and those relationships can only be created by consistently connecting through meaningful interactions.

Let me illustrate with a few examples.

#1: “I just want you to know how much I appreciate you.”

John’s wife Sarah welled up with tears as she read the unexpected thank you note her husband had written her before he left on a 6:00am flight for a business trip.

John — the CEO of an aggressively growing startup — thanked his wife for all the support and grace she’d given him over the last three years as he worked long hours to reach his — and his company’s — fullest potential.

The short note left Sarah feeling appreciated, loved, and truly known by her husband.

#2: “Thank you for sacrificing your time for our vision.”

Hannah, a recent intern-turned-engineer at a public company, felt pleasantly surprised and greatly affirmed after Erin, the CEO, walked over to her cubicle specifically to say thank you.

Without prompting, Hannah had recently pulled an all-nighter in order to ensure a backend patch was completed on time to restore server stability. And even though Erin’s visit was shorter than 30 seconds, the fact that the interaction was focused solely on thanking Hannah left her feeling appreciated for stepping up and excited to work for the company.

#3: “So you never have to lose something again.”

Cole — a die-hard Atlanta Falcons fan — laughed in amusement as he wrote back “Thanks, but I hate you lol ;)” to Rob, a friend who had sent him a Tile following the Falcon’s 2017 Super Bowl loss so he’d, “never have to lose something important again.”

The practical joke made Cole smile and deepened the sense of connection and friendly rivalry the two of them shared.

The Science-Backed Power of Positivity

Here’s the key takeaways from those examples: Each time, someone performed a small, lightweight gesture. For example:

  • John’s handwritten note to his wife,
  • Erin’s 30-second interaction, or
  • Rob’s quick email and gift.

And despite the ease of each interaction, they all delivered an uplifting sense of connection to the other person.

But perhaps the best proof of the power of interactions comes from Dr. Martin Seligman’s famous Gratitude Visits. For those unfamiliar, Dr. Seligman — founder of the positive psychology movement — introduced the concept of Gratitude Visits in a University of Pennsylvania study.

Here’s how it worked: Participants were asked to write a 300+ word letter of gratitude to someone in their life, and to then visit the recipient and read the letter aloud to them.

Simple though that may be, the effects were profound: Although Gratitude Visits were one of many positivity practices recorded in the study, they were the only practice that had participants reporting increased happiness and decreased depression for a full month after completing the action.

And while I fully support the practice of Gratitude Visits, they come with a challenge: Most of us don’t have time to sit down and write a 300-word letter every time we feel positive or grateful.

So I figured if Gratitude Visits are truly one of the most fulfilling things we can do, there must be a way we can simplify it into a habit that can be practiced daily.

Building Happy, Fulfilling Relationships with Ease

The solution? Positive Alacrity.

At the end of the day, this concept’s all about consistently delivering small, simple experiences that leave people feeling genuinely uplifted. So how do we do this? It all comes down to a single habit:

When you think something positive and you genuinely believe it, voice it.

As simple as that habit may be, we believe the impact of Positive Alacrity is as profound as Gratitude Visits, with one distinct advantage: That same simplicity allows you to practice it anytime, anywhere, with practically anyone.

Why? Because most of us already think positive thoughts on a daily basis. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised if you often thought things like …

  • “That’s a really insightful way to look at the situation,”
  • “I really appreciate the way she listens to me,” or
  • “Wow, he handled that ordeal really well.”

Pause a moment and test it for yourself: When was the last time you thought something positive? I’d venture to bet it was within the last 24 hours.

The problem is, we often let these thoughts come and go without ever practicing Positive Alacrity. But when we forgo voicing these thoughts to others, we cheat ourselves out of a valuable opportunity to enrich our relationships in three key ways:

  1. When you voice positive thoughts, you make the recipient feel emotionally uplifted.
  2. This feeling elevates their appreciation of you and the relationship you share.
  3. Because you were the source of that interaction, their emotional response creates an incredibly fulfilling sense of happiness and satisfaction in you.

That last part’s key: By uplifting others, we inadvertently uplift ourselves. Why? Because …

The effects of Positive Alacrity go both ways.

For instance, remember the example above with Hannah the CEO and Erin the engineer?

As a seasoned leader, Erin closely observed Hannah as she thanked her for working so diligently on that patch; so she noticed as Hannah’s expression slowly shifted from shocked confusion to recognition and, finally, to realization.

Seeing Hannah’s cheeks flush, smile spread, and eyes gleam made Erin realize she’d just delivered something truly meaningful, and Hannah’s reaction created a tremendous sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in Erin as the one who delivered that interaction.

If you’ve ever been in a similar situation to Erin’s, you probably understand exactly how she’s feeling, and know just how uplifting those feelings can be.

When you practice Positive Alacrity, you’re not only uplifting others. Above all, you’re uplifting yourself.

Positive Alacrity in Action: Mastering the Habit of Intentional Positivity

The action itself is simple: Think something positive? Voice it.

But until we turn that conscious action into an unconscious habit, we won’t be able to fully leverage it to impact our relationships and enrich our lives. And that all starts with a shift in awareness.

By default, positive thoughts often slip through the cracks before they ever reach conscious acknowledgement, let alone vocal affirmation. So how do you become more aware? By becoming intentional.

Once you’ve become aware of a positive thought, consciously label it “Positive,” then ask yourself: Do I genuinely believe this?

If you believe it, voice it. Positivity works so long as it’s perceived as genuine, and as long as you truly believe what you’re saying you can usually count on a positive outcome.

Habitualizing and Compounding the Secret to Happiness

Keep in mind: As with any new habit, practicing Positive Alacrity is probably going to feel a little clumsy or unnatural at first. But as long as you genuinely believe what you say, it doesn’t matter how awkward it comes out because it’s real.

The most important thing is that you’re voicing it. And if you’re able to push through that initial awkwardness, I can practically guarantee the process will become second nature in no time.

So how do you start? Thankfully, the practice is as simple as the theory. Try following this three-step process to utilize Positive Alacrity today.

  1. Recognition: Think of something positive that happened within the last 24 hours, then ask yourself: “Who was the cause of (or involved in) this experience that I could thank or compliment?”
  2. Specificity: Ask yourself: “What specifically did I like or appreciate about this experience/situation?”
  3. Action: Now, voice it. Pay this person a face-to-face visit. If that doesn’t work, call them. If you can’t call them, then text or email them; immediately, before you finish reading this.

Keep in mind: The steps above are an example of how to leverage Positive Alacrity retroactively, but it’s even easier to perform as you move forward in your day-to-day life.

The only thing you have to do is increase your ability to recognize these thoughts as they occur, then voice them as you become aware of them (rather than once a year when the holidays roll around).

John, Erin, and Rob are prime examples of these principles in action:

  • While getting ready to leave on his business trip, John looked over at his sleeping wife and realized just how appreciative he was for her continued understanding about his hectic travel schedule. So instead of just grabbing his jacket and heading out the door, John went over to the study, picked up some stationery, and wrote Sarah a short note expressing those feelings.
  • After learning of Hannah’s all-nighter, all Erin had to do was have a 30-second conversation genuinely thanking her. The only risk she took? Potentially being a few seconds late to her next meeting.
  • And as the Falcon’s loss made Rob realize how long it’d been since he and Cole talked, the only actions he had to take were writing his friend a tongue-in-cheek note and asking his assistant to mail it off along with a package of Tiles.

John, Erin, and Rob all spent less than a minute acting on their positive thoughts, but the uplifting emotions from those simple interactions have the potential to last for months.

And what about Sarah, Hannah, and Cole, the recipients of those interactions? They’re probably going to walk through the rest of the day feeling uplifted and empowered. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, later that same day, they provided a similar experience for someone else.

That’s the Pay-it-Forward principle in practice:

A single positive interaction can have a multiplicative effect, building and spreading further than you’d ever imagine.

Ultimately, those simple interactions are the heart of Positive Alacrity and the foundation for meaningful relationships. And, as that 75-year Harvard study taught us, those very same relationships are the secret to lifelong happiness and fulfillment.

Want to master the art of Positive Alacrity to revolutionize your relationships and enhance your life? If this was intriguing and valuable to you, and you’d like to learn more …

Click here to learn how to incorporate Positive Alacrity into your day-to-day life!

About the Author:

Patrick Ewers is the founder and CEO of Mindmaven, an executive coaching firm and educational platform focused on helping startup CEOs, executives and their team members achieve their fullest potential by delivering exceptional experiences to the most valuable relationships in their network.

Check out his blog, then follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more content like this.

Everything You Fight Has Power Over you. Everything You Accept Doesn’t


“two red boxing gloves on grey surface” by rawpixel on Unsplash

We continuously seek answers outside of ourselves. We look for them in self-help books, podcasts, seminars, mentors, and spiritual teachers. But continually looking outside ourselves for answers isn’t exactly a vote of confidence in the expression of our soul’s calling. Eventually, to find our answers, we must turn inward. But going inward requires us to brave the wilderness, explore uncharted territory, and in the words of my friend AJ Leon, not follow well-lit paths, but grab a machete and hack our own.

When we go inward, we can no longer avoid our pain. We have to confront it. But there’s a strange paradox to pain. The more we fight it, the more we empower it.

Everything you fight has power over you. Everything you accept loses its problem it never gets solved? But when you finally let it go, somehow it gets sorted out. A perfect example is dating. In his course on relationships, Mark Manson says one of the best ways to meet somebody is to find something better to do than trying to meet somebody.

When the longing, striving and pushing to get what you so desperately want finally come to an end you’re free. It’s only from that place of freedom and unapologetic, no-bullshit, self-expression that you can create what Jennifer Boykin calls your beautiful immortal work and live a meaningful life.

When we surrender to the circumstances we’ve been fighting, they lose all of their power over us. But we have to be careful not to confuse surrender with resignation or apathy. When we surrender, all of our actions come from a place of peace and abundance. When desperately we fight a circumstance, we do so with the frenetic energy of chaos and scarcity.

A few days ago I was in a meeting with my content strategist. We were looking at book sales for An Audience of One, and I saw that we’d sold roughly 50 copies over the course of the week. That wasn’t going to put me on any bestseller list, or make my publisher salivate. But it made me recognize the importance of playing the long game. It was my moment of surrender. With surrender, I found clarity. I asked him what small things we could do to move the needle, and all of the following ideas came to surface:

  • Change the copy on the home page and feature someone’s Amazon review
  • Create a new graphic with all the pictures readers had posted on Instagram and use it in our newsletter.

A focus on progress gives you power. A focus on perfection disempowers you. When we’re obsessed with perfection, we overlook progress and fail to appreciate our accomplishments.

If I were only satisfied when I sold 10,000 copies of my book, I would have completely disregarded and not appreciated the fact that I had crossed the threshold of my first 1000 copies.

It’s likely we can find everything we crave from some external source within ourselves. However, it requires inner work. We can’t order it on Amazon Prime and have it show up at our doorstep the day after tomorrow. The hedonic treadmill is necessary for economic sustainability. If everybody woke up one day and decided they were enough, had enough, and didn’t need to buy anything else, the economy would collapse.

When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Surrender doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be disappointed and that everything will go your way:

  • Somebody will break your heart when you put it on the line . My sister had probably the most wise perspective on relationships I’d heard in ages. “Everybody is going to break up with you eventually until you meet the person you marry.”
  • You might get fired from a job, but it could end up being the best thing that ever happened to you.
  • A creative project might fail to live up to your expectations, but what you learn from it could be a profound personal growth experience.

If you choose to live a full-color, full contact, and fully self-expressed life, you’re going to have setbacks and disappointments. The only way to avoid disappointments is not to take any chances at all. That’s an incredibly limited way to live your life. As I said in An Audience of One, “Your circumstances can give you colors to paint with.” It’s all material.

Honor the Past

For most of us, when we think of a challenging experience from our past, whether it’s a relationship that didn’t work or a job that we got fired from, we focus on the negative and overlook the positive. We carry that energy with us into the future, and the future ends up looking like the past. But when we honor the past and take the most valuable lessons from it, and the power it has over us dissolves.

One of the exercises in a book I was reading was to write something great about every person who broke up with you. But you don’t just have to apply this to intimate relationships. It can be applied to just about anything. When you do that you see that often people give you many amazing gifts despite the pain they might have caused you. As Dani Shapiro wrote in Still Writing, the blessing is next to the wound.

  • If weren’t for the bosses who fired me, I might not be an author today
  • One girl I dated taught me how to cook, another to dress better, and so on. It didn’t work out. But it didn’t mean there wasn’t a positive gain from it either.
  • A few weeks ago my business partner Brian Koehn and I decided it was time for us to part ways. But we both agreed ending our friendship would be a much higher cost than ending our partnership. He kept us from going out of business in 2014, helped turn our business around, and because he’s left it’s forced me to step into the role of CEO finally.

When you let go of the resentment you feel towards a person who hurt you and forgive them or make peace with a difficult experience from your past, it loses its power over your and more importantly over your future. When you accept your setbacks, they become an opportunity to turn endings into new beginnings.

As somebody who has dealt with cycles of depression, I’m hyper-aware of the fact that this is easier said than done, particularly when you’ve just come out the other side or are still braving the wilderness. Here are some things that I’ve found to be helpful to both honor and let go of the past.

  • Gratitude: While gratitude doesn’t magically solve problems, it is a subtle energetic shift that can also begin to shift your mood. When you practice gratitude, you become aware of all the great things in your life you usually take for granted.
  • Upgrade Your Environment: Nothing has a more profound impact on your behavior and your emotions than your environments. While you don’t have to burn everything from your past in a blazing inferno (although that can be fun), you want the environment to be representative of who you’re becoming, your next chapter, not your previous one. This alone can have a dramatic impact in making you feel better. My conversation with Jim Bunch goes into extensive detail about the role of environments.
  • Go to Therapy: I think everyone should see a therapist at least once. A therapist is like a trainer, but for your brain instead of your body. They raise your awareness of patterns in your life. And they’re objective. You can tell them anything without any shame or fear of how you’ll be judged.
  • Self Care: Do something nice for yourself to close a chapter of your life and start a new one. Upgrading your environment is a form of self-care. Exercise, travel and new hobbies can all be forms of self-care.
  • Perspective: The other night I took a Lyft from Denver to Boulder. My driver was from Congo. He told me about the civil war, corruption, and poverty in Congo. Then I asked him about his work schedule. He drove for 10 hours each day or until he earned $200.00. It was 1 am when he dropped me off, and I asked him if I was his last ride of the day. He said that he planned to keep driving. When I heard his story, suddenly all the things I was feeling stressed about didn’t seem to matter all that much. Who would have guessed that my Lyft driver would become a spiritual teacher?

When we honor the past, we create an open space for the future. When we cling to the past, we’re likely to repeat it.

Honor What Could Be and Embrace Uncertainty

There are many things I thought would have happened in my life by the time I turned 40: marriage, family, etc. And they haven’t. For the first time in my life, I’m being forced to accept that kids might not be in my future. There are three potential scenarios for every life circumstance:

  • The way we thought it would be
  • The way it currently is
  • The way it could be

When the way it currently is isn’t the way we thought it would be, we’re shut off to the possibility how it could be. We are effectively trying to turn the past into the present.

Honoring what could be means honoring uncertainty. And for most of us, uncertainty causes fear, anxiety, and a projection of worst case scenarios. But as Michelle Florendo said on a recent episode of Unmistakable Creative, what we overlook when it comes to uncertainty is the amazing things that could also happen.

The Divine Order of the Universe

If you’re feeling behind the eight ball and you’re thinking you should have the bestseller or the marriage, or why did that happen, or why’d you get fired, if you’re in a dark place, just take one grain of what I’m saying now. Just believe me for a nanosecond, that really, there is a divine order to things. Every single disappointment and I’ve had some significant ones. Every failure, every heartbreak, everything that I went after so, you know, vigorously that didn’t turn out, thank God. I was spared some kinds of destiny. I just have a deeper level of trust now. Doesn’t mean it’s easy all the time. Doesn’t mean I don’t want what I want.” — Danielle LaPorte

There seems to be divine order to the events of the universe:

  • Every loss becomes an opening for a gain
  • Every setback becomes an opportunity for a comeback

But embracing the divine order of the Universe requires faith in forces beyond our control. It’s difficult to see the good that will come from something terrible in the moment that it happens. It’s often something that we only recognize in retrospect :

  • I thought not getting a job offer from Intuit after my summer internship and graduating into the great recession was the worst thing that could happen to me career-wise. But it turned out to be the catalyst for starting what eventually became the Unmistakable Creative Podcast.
  • In 2013, I was laid off from a freelance writing gig. The woman I reported to said I was outgrowing the role. Shortly after that, I self-published The Art of Being Unmistakable, which became a Wall-Street Journal best-seller, and eventually led to a book deal to write An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake, and Unmistakable: Why Only is Better than Best.

Thanks to the divine order of the Universe, I was spared working at a job I probably would have hated, and spared writing about subjects I didn’t care

Surrender goes counter to nearly every one of our cultural instincts, in which we’re taught to, strive, hustle, grind, kick ass and take names. But when you surrender, the result is inspired action. It has a different kind of energy to it. What we know about energy is that like attracts like. Acting out of desperation results in more desperation. Acting out of inspiration results in more inspiration. The paradox of surrender is that it puts you in a position of power.

Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today


Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

Jordan Peterson said that.

It’s rule number 4 of his best-selling book, 12 Rules For Life.

“No one else is really like you in any deep sense,” Peterson said. “The conditions of your life truly are unique.”

You have no idea how much time and effort someone else has put into achieving the results you envy.

Channel your envy into purpose.

“The only person you should try to be better than is who you were yesterday.”

The pragmatic principle of this chapter is to consistently bargain with yourself to make small incremental positive changes in your life.

The idea is not only measurable but also fulfilling to see the little gradual improvements in your own life.

“Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough,” says Alain de Botton.

Peterson encourages us to avoid comparing our progress against others but instead against where we previously had been.

It’s a great way to make progress in life.

The human brain has a natural tendency to make comparisons as a system of developing logic and reasoning.

You can’t stop comparing. It’s inevitable.

But you can channel your brain to make a better comparison in your long-term interest, growth, and happiness.

Change the object of comparison to yourself.

If the urge to compare is too strong to ignore, measure yourself against yourself.

Once you truly understand how to let go of your comparison mindset, you will see the world from an entirely different perspective.

The dangers of pinning our happiness/progress with on how we measure up to others are too great to ignore.

The more you desperately want to be like someone else, the more unworthy you feel. The more you desperately want to be happier, the lonelier you become, despite the awesome people surrounding you.

What do you know about yourself?

You are here to live your own story.

Don’t focus on the actions of other people, but on your own.

Aiming at the wrong thing has serious adverse consequences. It causes us to miss other important things in life.

“There is an endless supply of people to whom you could compare yourself and your accomplishments, but, inevitably, you’ll always end up on the losing side of the comparison. That’s because there will always be someone who has done something that you wished you could also accomplish” says Lisa Quest of Forbes.

Living in constant envy of others is not wisdom.

Wisdom is facing the world exactly as it is and opening our eyes to opportunities to improve ourselves, the world and those around us.

In life we only see what we aim at.

The rest of the world (and that’s most of it) is hidden.

If you consistently focus on everything you don’t have, instead of who you were yesterday and how far you’ve come, you will build self-doubt overtime.

When you start aiming at something different — something like “I want to be better than I was yesterday ” — your minds will start presenting you with new information, derived from your previously hidden self, to aid you in your new pursuit and quest to become a better version of yourself.

The idea is to start using yourself yesterday as a baseline, so you can at least notice the direction and magnitude of the changes you can make today.

With enough information about who were yesterday, you can use this knowledge to influence your future actions so that on average you are improving over time.

The key to the good life you really need is giving a damn about what’s important to your growth, career and total well being.

To improve daily, put your gap time to good use

Anywhere from 1–3 hours of your day is probably spent in “gap time.”

Gap times are those between meaningful activities but aren’t normally long enough to get more done. Or the time you need to recover from deep work.

Whether it’s 10 minutes or 1 hour a day, all of us can devote a small portion of our time to learning, and personal growth.

Your life and career depends on it.

Commuting to work, waiting in line, small talks at the office, small breaks in your schedule, long breaks from work and everything you do when you are not actively working on your tasks for the day.

You can listen to a podcast, learn a new skill, read a book, read the articles you’ve bookmarked, plan the rest of your day, or better still take a productive pause to clear your mind.

You can cut back on other low-value activities (responding to social media distractions) to make time for learning.

I make time for personal growth by making time.

Spend most of your free time learning.

Make most of every little spare time to get better everyday.

“It’s not the big things that add up in the end; it’s the hundreds, thousands, or millions of little things that separate the ordinary from the extraordinary, says Darren Hardy,” author of The Compound Effect.

Extraordinary people don’t manage time, they make time for what’s important. Make time for yourself.

Darren lays out a simple formula in the first chapter of his book…

Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = RADICAL DIFFERENCE

According to Darren, “Small, seemingly insignificant steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference” in your life and put you on the road to the career success you want and deserve.

You don’t need a radical process to grow or become your best self.

The small choices you make daily matters.

Creating a career development plan with goals and objectives; and then work toward accomplishing these at a comfortable pace, bearing in mind what you accomplished yesterday.

Take charge of your life. If you’re unsatisfied with the present, do something different that will improve your odds of success.

Stop giving a f*ck about everything you are not and start living!

Your life will significantly improve if you care less about what you are not, and care more about becoming the best version of yourself.

4 Impressive Ways Great Leaders Handle Their Mistakes


One of the ways you can tell good leaders from great leaders is how they handle their mistakes.

All leaders make mistakes. To be human means to mess up once in a while. But the difference between good leaders and great ones lies in how they handle those mistakes.

What are you modeling to those around you when you make a mistake? Your team will be watching, and what they see will affect their relationship with you and the level of trust they hold for you, so it’s important to get it right. Here are four simple but impressive ways you can demonstrate great leadership when you make a mistake:

1. Acknowledge your mistakes.

Never try to cover up or blame others for what went wrong. If you messed up, admit it and own it. It doesn’t have to be a big deal–simply acknowledge your responsibility and move on. Insecure leaders may be afraid of looking weak, but not admitting their mistake makes them look worse and costs them respect. I believe that in leadership, vulnerability is the ultimate strength. Admitting your mistakes earns you the respect of those you lead and makes your leadership human.

2. Learn from your mistakes.

Once you learn from your mistakes, don’t repeat them. As the old saying goes, when you repeat a mistake it is not a mistake anymore but a decision. The nature of great leadership lies in accepting risks, trying new things, and taking big chances, looking for the limits of what’s possible. And the best leaders know creativity often means breaking rules, making mistakes and learning along the way. Mistakes are among the greatest teachers, and working to understand your mistakes is one of the best forms of self-education. Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes; leadership is learning from them.

3. Teach others from your mistakes.

The times in our lives when we feel we have the least power can actually be the times we have the most–when we can affirm or redefine who we are and what we believe, and make choices that help others benefit from our experiences, good and bad. When you make mistakes, make a point of teaching others what you’ve learned. Doing so builds connection and trust. The best leaders are the great teachers, coaches, and guides who show us the way after they have been down that path.

4. Move beyond your mistakes.

Success is connected with action. Successful people keep moving; they make mistakes but don’t quit. Learn to use failure as a stepping stone away from the past. You don’t forget your mistake, but you don’t dwell on it or let it get you down. Get up and keep moving.

Like all of us, you’re bound to make mistakes. But when you handle them well, they can help you be a better leader and a better person.


Measure wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which you would not take money.


Measure wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which you would not take money. -Anonymous

This might be worth more than a cheap lunch, but it was your grandfathers, and you just won't part with it. Wealth, in this case, is measured in fond memories.

This might be worth more than a cheap lunch, but it was your grandfathers, and you just won’t part with it. Wealth, in this case, is measured in fond memories.

What does that mean?
This one hits consumerism below the belt. This quote is a call-out to all those who pride themselves in what they have acquired. It asks them to take another look at what they have, and what they hold as valuable.

You paid money for that car, or that house. If offered enough money, you’d probably part with it, if only to buy the next item on your wish list, right? But is that what makes you wealthy? What joy do you gain from it?

Instead, the quote asks you to consider valuable the things you wouldn’t trade for any amount of money. Cherished heirlooms, the first dollar (or appropriate monetary unit) you earned, your sports trophy, or similar items.

Most of what I just named are worth roughly a lunch at a fast food restaurant. Most are probably worth less. Yet you’d have to be pretty hungry to part with the things you cherish.

The quote says those things, the things you wouldn’t trade for money, they are what make you wealthy. Not in the traditional monetary sense, but in spirit, deep inside. That’s where true wealth resides.

Why is wealth in spirit important?  
I’ll apologize up front for using the word spirit. It has many other meanings, and those may offend some. I mean it to be the warm feeling you have inside when you look at a prized possession. The things you achieved by sweat and toil. The things you worked hard to attain or obtain.

These things make us feel good inside. They are a core part of our being. They are attached to the seat of happiness within us. This is the kind of wealth that brings lasting happiness, not the shiny baubles you buy and sell, each in their own time.

Take a moment and consider some of the happiest moments in your life. How many had to do with the acquisition of something you’d later sell again? How many were of the kind which you wouldn’t sell at any price? Which made you feel better inside?

Which brought you a sense of wealth, a sense of contentedness, and even a bit of happiness? How do you think of wealth now? Do you see wealth in a slightly different light? Does your new view of wealth change who you consider wealthy?

Where can I apply this in my life?
Now that you have reconsidered what you consider to be valuable, take a look at your life. What in it has a little less value than you used to think it had? What is now a little, or even a lot, more valuable than before this attitude adjustment?

Grab some paper and write down a list of things you were planning to do, and the order or priority you had initially given them. When you’re done with that, think for a moment about each item on the list, starting with the first.

Take a moment and imagine you’ve completed whatever it was, and you’re now done and look at what you have. Is it more valuable with your new definition of wealth, or less so? Should it be more or less important or urgent than it was before?

Repeat this for each of the things on your list, and then put a single line through the order or importance it used to have, and write down what you think your new order or priority should be. With that done, take a look at your list. How different is it now? What changed the most, and what stayed the same?

Now think about all the things you have thought about doing, but didn’t do for whatever reason. How many of them are now more important, now that you have a different way of valuing things? Is there anything which needs to come off the “sometime, maybe” list, and get put on the real list? Do it!

Now take a look at your updated list and figure out what the plan is going to be. Which will you get done first, what others can you start, how can you move forward? How can you get a little more real wealth in the shortest amount of time?

What are you waiting for? Pick the item which will bring the most true wealth and get started on it. Select a small detail and do it right now. Make a phone call, figure out what are the first few steps, find a mentor to help you, find a resource online. It won’t get done if you don’t start!

We all have slightly different definitions of wealth. But the truly valuable things are those which we would never trade for anything. Those are the things which make us wealthy in spirit, and they help us find happiness within us. That is true wealth, my friend.

A Systematic Approach to Life (Habits You Should Adopt Immediately to Improve The Quality of Your Life in The Next 90 Days)


Successful people don’t just drift off to the top. Getting there requires focused action, personal discipline and lots of energy every day to make things happen,” says American author and entrepreneur Jack Canfield.

Jack couldn’t be more accurate.

Don’t let old habits hold you back in life.

Take control of your habits and improve the quality of your life.

Build a system for everything you do

It pays to build systems to keep your life on track.

In “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, author Scott Adams explains: “… A system is something you do on a regular basis that achieves your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.”

Systems are the foundations of a better life and great work.

Using systems can make your life easier.

A system provides you with an inner guidance system and a equip you with the power of habit.

A structure in your life and some routines that help you every day and keep you on the right track is better than a single shot at getting something done.

Start anything with a clear goal and focus on a system to achieve it.

Many people have different successful systems that guide how they work and what actions to take at any point in time to achieve the bigger purpose.

If your current system of work doesn’t work or give the desired results you expect, make a change, create a new system and take steps every day to stick to it.

By spending a little bit of time figuring out what will work best for you and your habits, you can put yourself in a great position to get out of your head and get things done.

Reserving an hour each day for something you absolutely want to get done can be a great system that can help you achieve your big goal.

Guardian’s Oliver Burkman says, “…focusing on a system means focusing on what you can control (your actions) rather than what you can’t (the endlessly unpredictable external world). Keep working your system and you’ll maximize the chances that success will find you.”

You can start building systems one habit at a time.

Focus on incremental progress and consistency to lay the foundation for getting things done.

A daily or weekly routine, a consistent application of even small habits, will transform your life more effectively than striving for an overwhelmingly large goal without a consistent routine to achieve it.

A better life starts with a great daily routine

As simple as it sounds, routines are the key to improving your health, productivity, wealth and total well-being.

creating a daily routine can make a big difference in your life.

How you start and end your day determines everything.

That means, developing a system to guide to guide how you use your time when you awake, when you first start working, when you finish your workday, and even how you use your evenings.

How will that change your life?

It will help you get a great start to your day, and finish your day by preparing for the next day.

It’ll help you build productive routines, and help you focus on what’s important, not just what’s urgent.

Make time for high-value work

Don’t start your day until you have it planned. — Jim Rohn

Spend the first hour of your work day on high-value tasks.

Don’t begin the activities of your day until you know exactly what you plan to accomplish.

Every morning, get one most important thing done immediately.

There is nothing more satisfying than feeling like you’re already in the flow.

And the easiest way to trigger this feeling is to work on your most important task in the first hour.

Use your mornings for high-value work.

Lean to avoid the busy work that adds no real value to your work, vision or long-term goal.

Low value activities, including responding to notifications, or reacting to emails keep you busy and stop you from getting real work done. Make time for work that matters.

In his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

Research shows that it takes, on average, more than 23 minutes to fully recover your concentration after a trivial interruption.

Don’t tackle tasks sporadically throughout the day

To increase your ability to focus, researchers suggest ideas for both boosting our ability to concentrate as well as reducing distraction.

You can improve your ability to focus if you can boost your ability to concentrate. Reducing distractions can change how you work for the better.

Everything competing for your attention when you want to single task can waste your precious time.

In 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, Peter Bregman writes“To get the right things done, choosing what to ignore is as important as choosing where to focus.”

Time wasters such as impulsively checking notifications is a major distraction at work. The few minutes you waste on reactive tendencies doesn’t help your work.

Learn to single-task without compromise

Single tasking changes everything.

In an age of constant digital interruptions, it is no wonder you’re having trouble ignoring distractions.

If you really have to focus on that task, limit the time you have to spend on any given task. Add dates, and due time to your to-do lists.

Push yourself to deliver within the specified time and move on.

Single-tasking is one task at a time, with zero tolerance for distractions.

Try the Pomodoro Technique to improve your chances of success when you embrace single -tasking habit.

Focus on one task for about 30 minutes, then take a 5 minute break, and then move on to another task or continue the task.

Read, read, read

Pick up a book every day. Even for just a few pages.

Reading puts your brain to work.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to your body.

It gives us freedom to roam the expanse of space, time, history, and offer a deeper view of ideas, concepts, emotions, and body of knowledge.

Roberto Bolaño says“Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.”

Your brain on books is active — growing, changing and making new connections and different patterns, depending on the type of material you’re reading.

One of the best ways to gain knowledge is self-education. Period.

It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.

As long as you are genuinely interested in what you are studying, don’t stop.Make the most of your time and get the best education you can can offer yourself.

People who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.

Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.

Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.

Lifelong learning will get most of your questions answered.

You don’t even have to commit long hours everyday to learning. Whatever time you decide to put in your own education, stick to it.

What are the most interesting topics you wish to know more about.

The goal here is to find as many sources of ideas and knowledge as possible.

Brain Pickings is a good place to start. It’s one of my favorites. And it’s free.

Go subscribe and you won’t be disappointed.

Find other blogs blogs, websites or online courses that can broaden your horizon. Read expert opinions about topics of interest on Quora.

It’s a game-changer in the world of question and answer websites. Look for answers to some of your most important questions at places people normally ignore.

Cut back on social distractions

In the age of constant connectivity, distraction is at its peak in life and at work.

Our minds need urgent purification to improve focus, replenish attention, and encourage creativity.

The average adult checks their phone 50 to 300 times each day. And we tap, swipe and click on our devices 2,617 times per day, according to a recent study.

We spend more time online than we do asleep.

Chris Bailey, author of Hyperfocus, writes,“Our smartphones provide an endless stream of bite-sized, delicious information for our brains to consume. It’s easy to get hooked, even to feel addicted. And most of us would prefer not to feel this way.”

I have turned off most of the notifications on my phone.

I choose when I want to check my notifications. I have consciously planned to check social updates at a set time to avoid distractions when I am doing focused work.

Every time you pull out your phone to scan your feeds, your brain is building a habit loop that reinforces itself to encourage the habit.

Notifications prompt task-irrelevant thoughts and disrupt attention performance even if you don’t interact with the device.

The buzzes, beeps, emails, alerts, and notifications never end until you do something about it.

An increasing number of psychologists and doctors are concerned about our relationship with smartphones.

“It’s a spectrum disorder,” says Dr. Anna Lembke, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, who studies addiction. “There are mild, moderate and extreme forms.” And for many people, there’s no problem at all.

According to David Greenfield, a clinical psychiatrist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, smartphones can easily take over your life, because they’re always screaming for attention.

Being constantly plugged in affects our sleep patterns, posture and more in our bodies and minds.

Our lives are becoming more wired all the time, hence the need to take over and control your relationship with mobile devices before they become the only thing you deeply care about at the expense of your relationships.

If you feel your phone is taking over your life, schedule digital detox on your calendar. Start balancing your digital life with real life.

Do a 30-day challenge

The challenge most of us have is starting and sticking to healthy and productive daily routines.

You can start with a 30-day challenge to develop the perfect routine that works for you.

What do you want to improve.

Write them out on paper, along with your motivations, obstacles, and strategies for overcoming them.

Start with a few habits you can consistently focus on building.

Report on your progress each day.

Adjust anything that is not working on a case-by-case basis.

Then do an assessment after 30 days to see how your new routine is working for you. If you fail, figure out what went wrong, plan for it, and try again.

You don’t always have full control over your workday, but you can plan and make the most of your day to help you accomplish your life and work goals.

You can use them to make sure the most important stuff gets done — from working out, to spending time with friends and family, to developing a side business, to reading and engaging in other hobbies.

Keeping these 12 plants in your home can improve your health — and they’re almost impossible to kill


Golden pothos
A simple houseplant can do wonders for your health.
  • Some houseplants are known to help purify the air.
  • A horticulturist told us that keeping a plant is also linked with therapeutic benefits.
  • There are plenty of low-maintenance plants you can keep that could fit your lifestyle.

Eating plants isn’t the only way to reap their benefits. Science has shown that keeping a simple houseplant can do wonders for your health.

Horticulturist Marc Hachadourian, the director of the Nolen Greenhouses at the New York Botanical Garden, told us that plants benefit both your physical and mental state.

“There is actually a lot of scientific evidence that adding plants to any workspace or living environment actually does help to reduce stress,” Hachadourian said. “There are obviously therapeutic effects of caring for plants and gardening has been shown to decrease blood pressure and reduce stress, so the benefits go beyond […] helping to clean the air and add oxygen.”

Certain plants have been found to specifically clean the air of toxic chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, and ammonia, according to a clean air report from NASA. Hachadourian noted that although this data exists, whether you can use plants to filter your air totally has yet to be seen.

“There is some benefit,” Hachadourian said. “I think the debate now is how much of that occurs and whether it is enough to make a significant difference in the overall health and quality of the environment you live in.”

Forest bathing is a popular Japanese practice.
Flickr/Bryan Alexander

Although the air-purifying benefits may not necessarily be extremely significant, Hachadourian has found that the other benefits of nature are. He mentioned forest bathing, the tradition of being in the presence of nature and trees, and it even became part of Japan’s national public health program in 1982, according to The Atlantic. It’s documented health benefits include lower blood pressure and lower stress hormones.

Of course, not everyone has the ability to forest bathe. But, if you’re convinced you need more greenery in your life, Hachadourian recommended getting a houseplant that fits your environment and lifestyle. That way, you can reap all the benefits while actually keeping your plant alive.

Here are some of the most popular houseplants that are especially good for your air — and how to care for them.

1. Golden pothos

1. Golden pothos
This plant made the NASA clean air report.

Although this plant isn’t great at removing formaldehyde, it does remove other chemicals like benzene and trichloromethyl from the air, according to the NASA clean air report. Benzene is in glue, paint, and detergent.

Golden pothos are also especially hard to kill, according to Rodale’s Organic Life, making it a great starter plant for horticulture newbies.

How it grows best: This plant tolerates low-light conditions and irregular watering, according to The Spruce.

2. Peace lilies

2. Peace lilies
The white blooms will freshen up any space.

This plant removes benzene, formaldehyde, and other chemicals emitted from harsh cleaning products, according to Rodale’s Organic Life. Bonus: it’s one of the few plants that can actually bloom indoors.

How it grows best: Place your Peace lily in indirect light near a window, Southern Living reports. Water it only when the soil is dry, and be careful not to over-water.

3. Garden Mums

3. Garden mums
These flowers can add some color to your decor.
Garden mums are inexpensive and remove ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from the air, Greatist reports.

How it grows best: Garden mums require bright, filtered light near a window, SF Gate reports. Water them when the soil is dry to the touch, but the plant is not wilted.

4. English ivy

4. English ivy
Ivies can be grown at the base of other houseplants or in hanging baskets on their own.
English ivy has been found to filter out formaldehyde and, according to HuffPost, is the number one air-filtering houseplant. It’s especially good for people who are sensitive to smoke, CNN reports.

How it grows best: Ivy prefers indirect light, and you shouldn’t let the plant dry out, according to The Spruce.

6. Ferns

6. Ferns
This frilly green plant is easy to grow.

Ferns can increase air humidity, according to CNN. This boost of moisture can help make sure your air and your skin don’t get too dry, Health Essentials reports.

How it grows bets: This plant’s soil should be wet but never soggy, and it thrives in indirect light, according to Apartment Therapy.

5. Bromeliads

5. Bromeliads
This plant blooms in shades of yellow, pink, and red.

Bromeliads purify the air of benzene and can absorb up to 90% of the chemical, CNN reports.

How it grows best: Bright and sunny spaces are ideal for Bromeliads. The plant is known to withstand drought so be careful not to over-water, the official website for the plant reports.

7. Snake plant

7. Snake plant
This plant makes a statement.

The Snake plant is especially perfect for your bedroom. Not only does it remove benzene and formaldehyde, but it absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen at night, HuffPost reports.

How it grows best: You should let the soil dry between watering and place this plant in indirect light, Apartment Therapy reports.

8. Philodendron

8. Philodendron
This plant can potentially last for years.

If you’re looking for a long-lasting decorative plant, a Philodendron might be right for you. According to HuffPost, the plant is good at absorbing xylene which is in paint thinner and gasoline.

How it grows best: This plant needs some sunlight and a moderate amount of water, according to HuffPost.

11. Red-Edged Dracaena

11. Red-Edged Dracaena
These colorful leaves don’t need a lot of water.

This colorful plant can grow up to 15 feet tall. Not only is it big, but it removes toxins like xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air, according to HuffPost.

How it grows best: This plant grows best in bright indirect light, SFGate reports. Only water it when the soil is dry.

9. Spider plant

9. Spider plant
This plant loves humidity and will thrive in a steamy bathroom.

Spider plants are good at fighting pollutants, HuffPost reports. One type of spider plant— the Chlorophytum comosum — can specifically absorb 90% of formaldehyde and carbon monoxide, two chemicals found in cigarette smoke, CNN reports.

How it grows best: This plant needs access to indirect light and only needs to be watered once a week, according to Apartment Therapy.

10. Bamboo plant

10. Bamboo plant
Bring some luck into your life.

This plant will bring you more than good luck. According to Healthline, i t can eliminate formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide, xylene, and chloroform from the air.

How it grows best: Indirect sunlight is best for a bamboo plant; however, it will still slowly grow in less light, SFGate reports. You need to change the water once a week.

12. Aloe vera

12. Aloe vera
Use the leaves for face masks and sunburns.

This plant is a two for one deal. It removes formaldehyde from the air, and the gel inside the plant can help sunburns and psoriasis, according to Greatist.

How it grows best:Keep this plant in a sunny location and water it every three weeks, according to The Old Farmers Almanac.



5 Steps to Becoming an Upgraded Version of Yourself


Image credit: Compassionate Eye Foundation/Gary Burchell | Getty Images

The following excerpt is from Ben Angel’s book Unstoppable: A 90-Day Plan to Biohack Your Mind and Body for Success. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound

When people who’ve been dreaming of starting a business actually decide to take the first steps to making their dreams come true, they can become overwhelmed. Suddenly a state of panic ensues. What if I can’t make this work? I don’t have the money to get this business off the ground! I don’t know if I’ve got what it takes to do what I have to do! This is a normal part of growing as an individual. But in order to prevent the “snapback effect” of getting thrown back into your old routine and your old identity, we need a new technique to stop it in its tracks.

This is where progressive overload (PO) comes into play. PO is a technique used in strength training where you periodically increase the weight, intensity, or duration of an exercise to stimulate new muscle growth. You do it gradually over a period of time so your body has time to rest, recover, and grow. Your body adapts to the change over time, so the increase doesn’t cause a shock to your system or inflict real muscle damage. I’ve applied this same technique when I’m in the process of evolving into a new identity. Here’s how it works:

1. Choose your next three major projects or goals.

I work in 13-week increments and focus on three major goals in that period. It’s short enough to remain excited about the projects or goals and not so long that momentum is lost. Focusing on three goals during this process is manage­able. I break each of them down into smaller goals on a weekly basis.

2. Identify the “educational gaps” you need to fill to make this proj­ect possible.

For example, online marketing, public speaking, health, well-being, writing, product creation, starting a business, improving a relationship.

3. Pick your educational resources.

Search for the top podcasts, YouTube videos, authors, educators and experts within these educational gaps and then make a list you can reference. Listen to one podcast per day while showering, driving to work, or going for a walk. Sign up for online or in-person courses. Watch YouTube videos to fill a gap in knowledge and read or listen to books when you’re working out. Keep a notebook close at hand so you can jot down ideas on the go or record them on a recording app on your cell phone. Do this for weeks or even months before you start your project. This way, you’ll be progressively overloading your brain with new information that will force you to grow, and you’ll be primed to bring your project or goal to life. Once your educational gaps are filled, the fear of not knowing how to bring your goal to fruition suddenly disappears, excuses fade away, and you act without needing willpower to overcome fear. That doesn’t mean you won’t still occasionally be afraid, but now you’ll have the techniques to deal with it.

4. Decide who you need to become to reach these goals.

Do you need to be educated, empowered, fulfilled, confident, self-assured, motivat­ed, driven?

5. Do the Quickfire Visualization on a daily basis to prime your brain for the overall direction you are heading in.

Visualize the person you’re becoming, the attainment of your goals, and the ease and joy you’ll experience along the way. Visualize as well any challenges you may encounter and effectively manage with style and grace. This allows you to grow into the person you’re becoming and prime your mind for the changes you need to make, instead of throwing yourself out there, only to return right back to where you started like a boomerang. When I was working on my first book, I would stand in front of the mirror nightly for months before I ever began writing and hold someone else’s book in my hands with my eyes closed, visualizing it was my completed book. It mentally pre­pared me for the work ahead.

Are you ready to become unstoppable?

Visit and take your FREE 5-minute online quiz now. By answering a series of simple questions, my software will analyze your results and provide you with a comprehensive report that will indicate your identity type and lead you to the tools and tips you need to close that gap between who you are and who you could be.