Keeping Calm, A Critical Keystone Habit

What are Keystone Habits?

Habits are what we do every day. Habits can help us grow or hold us back. Some habits are more important than others — they have the power to transform our lives.

Keystone habits lead to the development of multiple good habits. They start a chain effect in your life that produce a number of positive outcomes.

Getting enough restful sleep every night is a keystone habit. It will help you face the next day with energy, help you be more productive and think more clearly.

Exercising everyday is a keystone habit. Walking and working out will give you strength, keep off unhealthy pounds and boost serotonin to the brain, a chemical that will keep you serene.

Saving some money for the future is a keystone habit. Socking away a few bucks will keep each week will have you feeling more secure about that unpredictable rainy day ahead.

Read more about keystone habits in The Power of Habit.

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Keeping Calm, A Crucial Keystone Habit

Chances are if you are reading this, you are to some degree stressed out. Focusing on managing our emotions while nurturing a peaceful mind is imperative to navigating the chaos of every day living.

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The Multitude of Benefits that Come from Keeping Calm

  • Keeping a cool head, remaining calm, no matter what situation arises is key to retaining common sense and gaining others’ respect.
  • Managing our emotions in times of stress helps us maintain control over our lives.
  • Standing composed while all around you is flipping out in a chaotic crisis helps keep your thoughts collected.
  • A calm mind will bring about peaceful contentment.
  • No matter what is happening, remaining calm will give you a sense of confidence.
  • A peaceful and clear head will keep your vision for the future clear. Calm begets clarity.
  • Staying calm during the biggest of battles will help you appear less crazy than your colleagues.
  • Your concentration increases with each calm breath you take.
  • Your worries become lighter and your state-of-mind more carefree.
  • The thoughts that you have and words that you speak are less crass and more compassionate.
  • Life is easier when we move with through challenges creatively in a calm way.
  • We become more proactive and less reactive.
  • We become kinder and less cruel when we are calm and take more thoughtful calculated risks instead of impulsively moving in every direction.
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A calm demeanor is contagious. Try it. The next time you are in a situation where everyone is flying off the handle, stay calm. Don’t speak, don’t yell, don’t move. Just be the calming force, the rock, the reminder of how powerful a calm state-of-mind can be.

Okay, My Ideas on How to Stay Calm 

Know that things are bound to go wrong today. They just are. Ain’t no getting around it. Someone will piss you off, drive you crazy, make you angry, but on the other hand, something good will happen today too. Guaranteed. Life is peppered with a bit of both.

Redefine what stress means to you. A dropped cell call? A cracked laptop screen? The wrong dressing on your salad? What does life-threatening stress look like to you?  Define what a real threat looks like. Categorize what constitutes a real problem before you get hit with one. Everything else is easy.

Slow your speech and your gait. Seriously. Walk like a old wise spirit. No rushing, just simple, confident steps with your posture strong and your head held up high. Or sit still. Unless the house is burning down or someone is bleeding out, don’t react. Process the pain in the moment and then decide how you will react.

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Put your hand on your heart. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Remember what really matters. Remember how short life really is. Ask yourself, what is most important to you right now? 

Smell your way to serenity. Use calming oils throughout the day. Inhale lavender, rosemary or geranium before you send that scathing email or make that frustrating phone call. Keep an oil by your desk or burn a soy-based scented candle in your home or office.

Take calming action. Take care of what is in your control. Don’t hesitate. Get what you can get done.  Don’t know what to do first? Make a priority list and check it off. Realize that life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.

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Clear all the clutter from your life. Your home, your desk, your relationships. If it isn’t serving you well, get rid of it. If you are going through a crisis, keep everything in your life really, really simple.

Carve out moments of joyful time. Hack your happy chemicals. Slip away for a while, get lost in a book, go for a walk, ride your bike, safeguard your sanity.If you are in the midst of a long-standing stressful situation, like caregiving for the terminally ill, making your way through a divorce, trying to find your next job, take a moment to do what you enjoy. Lower your level of cortisol by doing something that makes you happy.

Ask yourself what is good about this? Even though this horrible thing is happening right now, what is good about it? Perhaps it is a problem that finally came to a head? Maybe it will finally move you in a new direction that you knew you were suppose to go? Perhaps this problem offers you an opportunity to try something new?

Slow down on the consumption of everything. This includes drugs, alcohol, food and caffeine. Purposefully chew more slowly. Talk more slowly. Walk more slowly. Slow down to a very soft and gentle pace. Rushing to nowhere will bring no good effect.

Watch a sad, sad movie and cry really fucking hard. Cry until your eyes sting with pain. A list of heartbreaking movies to get you going here.

Realize how short life really is. Check out the internet’s friendly reminder of how long you are going to live, aka the Death Clock.

Give up your mind. Listen to a guided meditation. Author of Radical Acceptance and mindful meditator, Tara Brach offers a free podcast.

Play with puppies or watch puppies. Check out these live puppy cams.

and. . .

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For more powerful tips on how to remain calm throughout the day, check out this article on LifeHacker and  this one on Forbes.

Credit for today’s Illustrations and Ocean inside me

 

 

 

 

Nine Ways to Strengthen Your Mind

This post ponders the idea of turning sour feelings. a.k.a. – a shitty state-of-mind – – into persevering resoluteness.

I am thinking about the alchemy of emotions. Turning fear into fascination; frustration into fortitude, pain into power and anxiety into assurance.

It’s about turning my life around. Drilling deep into my psyche to pull through life with courage and conviction.

What I believe to be True

When we do things thoughtfully we have a better chance at transforming for the better.

Think about it. . .How numb have we made ourselves to our heart felt emotions?

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When we are thoughtful we consider more possibilities. New ways of doing the same old things. Even the possibility of doing things differently. Disregarding old habits. Doing less of the busy and more of the productive. Challenging the status quo. Removing the habitual actions we have done in the past that no longer serves us well today.

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New decisions lead us to a new destiny. A better, more balanced life.

Beware of Bad Decisions

Unfortunately, even smart people make bad decisions when they are in a lousy state of mind.

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Good decisions come from clearing the head and pondering the problems. Becoming curious about why we are so dissatisfied with our lives.

What needs to change about our thinking?

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Real change, sustainable change comes from deliberate choices. What new choices can we make today?

 

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Problems are reversible when we get to the root of the cause.

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I want to change. . . .

Feeling Rushed & Overwhelmed

I despise the feeling of racing through my day. Moving so fast, juggling so much, attempting to “get it all done”. That rushed and over whelmed feeling leaves me discouraged and disappointed.

The Solution

Realistically predict the amount of time something will take me to do and add 60 minutes to that as a cushion. Build in some thinking time. Breathable time. Note to self: Realize life is a process, not just a checklist. It’s my pace, my life. If I can, I will always do it on and in my own time. 

Slow down, stay as organized as I can, surf the waves instead of fighting the tide, so that I get the work done and not drown in a sea of distraction. No matter who is pushing me to move faster.

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Feeling Tired & Exhausted

Serving others, really helping those you care for  is our true purpose. I believe it is the most important thing we can be doing. To be of service. However, becoming a slave (persona non-grata) to everyone’s whim is simply enabling and demeaning to myself.

Solution

I choose to review every request for help I get today. I will no longer run myself into the ground for anyone or anything. I will take breaks throughout the day. I am not a puppet, I pull my own strings. Oh, and I rest at the end of the day. Sometimes in between projects too.

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Feeling Insecure & Helpless

One of my best traits is that I am always learning something new, discovering new ways to do my job, developing more skills and increasing my worth. One of the worst things I do is say I can do something before I have mastered the skill. Yup, I do that and it is wrong. This lets people down. I over promise and under deliver.

Solution

I will never overestimate my talent or skills again. I will practice and become better, while only taking on paid projects that I know I can manage and execute.  I will be very careful to accept money for something I am still learning. I commit to asking plenty of questions and never saying I understand something, until I truly do.

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Feeling So, So Scattered

I am the dive right in type and I believe this is a good character trait to have, but I must learn to evaluate the waters before I jump in to the next project or relationship.

Solution

I promise to consider the possibility that I might not have the time to add anything else on my plate. I must have a plan before I attack. I must really look at what needs to be accomplished and not blindly beginning doing the task at hand.

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Feeling Frighteningly Frustrated

Why do I rush? Who is pushing me to move any faster? Is it the warped sense of time that this global interactivity thrusts upon us? Must everything be done in an instant?

Solution

Hell to the hasty and heedless. No more rushing. It is time to calm my heart’s dark waters.  I will take pauses, collect from deep thoughts and breathe deeply through it all. Especially the most difficult projects.

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Feeling Like a Victim

Okay, I will own it. When I am in a lousy state I tend to repel those around me. I bark at people. I speak to them like they are inferior. This in turn has them on the defensive and they return the favor. They bark back.  It becomes one big ugly dog fight.

Solution

I promise to stop taking on the world. Not everything is my problem to solve. I speak my truth more assertively and clearly without dictating or treating others unkindly. Sure I point out the elephant in the room but without embarrassing anyone. I will remember, it pays to be more patient.

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Feeling Super Guilty

Us alpha types, we just like to stay ambitious. We have so much to do – to accomplish. Then soon come the distractions once again. The texts, tweets, Facebook messages and phone calls. The favors asked.  In an endless loop of “I don’t have time for this!” I begin to feel guilty. I get confused about doing the right thing vs doing the “what I want to do thing.” Oh I hate disappointing others.

Solution

I leave room for interruptions. I prioritize helping those that I know need me. I question how important their requests might be. I help by empowering, not by doing it for them. I understand my responsibilities with each role I have in life. Mom, marketer, wife, daughter, writer, creator, friend – while giving my 100% imperfect effort to each role.

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Feeling Scammed

You know, I am a bigger believer in that we know who we should and should not get involved with – but we continue to make the same mistakes over and over. We give people second and third chances. We continue to pick the worst friends, business partners, clients. People that let us down.

Solution

I hold my standards higher. I listen to my instinct the first time around and I promise to be realistic about the people I am getting involved with.

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Feeling Sad and Down

Luckily my regression to the mean is happy. Not happy in a ceremonious and demonstrative way, but in a satisfied way. I am not a high maintenance human. I require little to keep me satiated. However, sometimes, when I feel a pity party coming on, I can go places dark.

Solution

Move more and laugh more, while getting out of my own way. I make a thoughtful decision to have more fun with problems.

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ReSet Your Thinking

Have you ever wished you could just change the way you think? Rewire your brain? Take action and move forward in a new and improved direction?
I have recently met someone who is helping me do just that and her name is Laura Simao. I feel so blessed to know her. Laura is in the middle of creating ReSet.

What is ReSet? 

ReSet is a transformative personal development frame work that incorporates self-applied design thinking and cognitive and behavioral neuroscience insight and techniques to help you become a more self-aware, creative thinker and problem solver.

So far, my ReSet sessions with Laura have helped me uncover my deeper values, beliefs, goals and skills to ultimately achieve a higher level of success in all aspects of my life.

My big challenge is that I want to produce excellent work. I don’t want to rush and I want to be very thoughtful about everything I am creating. This is not an easy thing to do in our very busy and fast moving world.  Don’t you agree?

How it is done – Laura’s process
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So here we have my new mindset, after four sessions with Laura.
Clarity
I achieve a new level of excellence as a leader today by remaining organized and focused with clarity about my current goals. I target and focus on the results I want to achieve. This is my mantra, my daily ritual to achieve a state-of-mind and new trait of excellence with everything I do.
Today’s results included -(these will change as I grow, create and focus on different projects)
  • Securing an additional consulting client that I really want to work with and help succeed.
  • Completing the most timely task for each current client.
  • Building out one more additional section of ThePRPlaybook.com.
  • Reviewing and adding one brilliant idea to my social media strategy.
  • Adding shareable content to my social media platforms.
  • Immerse myself in an energized spin, swim and dance class.
  • Some evening time spent well with my husband.
  • Being as helpful as I can for my daughters in whatever capacity they need me.
  • At least one hour mastering my video and editing skills.
I don’t need to rush. I am thoughtful every step of the way. I remember, I cannot fail, as I am co-creating with God.
I am talented, experienced and a strategist. I do not need to fret, rush or feel pushed to create work in a hurry.
Discerning
I am discerning about all of the projects I decide to take on today and in the future. I do not chase after every shiny new thing.
My criteria for choosing anything else to focus on today –
Is this task critical to achieving the results I want today?
Will this add any long term value to my goals? To my work?
Is this something I may be interested in the future?
I am discerning about who I associate with and the projects I take on. I say no to most and I say it kindly.
I choose my posse, my pack, my people that I work with and I am always humble and kind. I learn from everyone. I grow as I go.
Grounded
I am grateful and grounded today. I am calm, centered and serene. I don’t rush. I make time for everything I am creating today. I am thoughtful and capable of producing excellent work.
It takes time to create and I remember I have God as my co-pilot. There is never need to worry about sloppy work.
I remember Emerson. “God will not have his work made manifest by cowards”.
Smart
I am dedicated to life long learning. I am always improving my skills of storytelling, writing, video and editing. I make smart decisions.
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely
Depth
The time I gain not rushing around being busy gives me time to think and create. To think critically and to review my work with a discerning eye and to add as much emotional creativity as possible to create excellent work.
What’s inspiring me right now:
The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly
How to Be Here by Rob Bell

Stretching Our Boundaries

This blog is about personal transformation and stretching our boundaries. It’s a diary of my own quest to become a more critical thinker and stronger and better version of myself. I want to become  more useful and valuable to others. And if I am really open and honest, I also want to stay relevant.

Change- Stretching Our Boundaries

I have come to understand that change, transformation and growth is difficult. It’s painful and it’s challenging.  Change is hard. Evolving is frustrating and uncomfortable.

I just started reading Kevin Kelly’s newest book “The Inevitable” Understanding the technological forces that will shape our future.  If you are currently reading The Inevitable and want to discuss the book, leave a comment below.

Change is Inevitable

A quote from Kevin’s new book.

We are different from our animal ancestors in that we are not content to merely survive, but have been incredibly busy making up new itches that we have to scratch, creating new desires we’ve never had before. This discontent is the trigger for our ingenuity and growth. We cannot expand our self, and our collective self, without making holes in our heart. 

Holes in our heart. Of yes. I agree with Kevin, the path to our “enlargement” is hard work. It’s not glamorous, exciting or even fun at times. But I believe it is necessary.

A world without discomfort is utopia. But it is also very stagnant.

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Fresh vs Familiar

To “see-saw”

To change rapidly and repeatedly from one position, situation, or condition to another and back again.

My mind is twisted in a knot this morning, it is see-sawing back and forth between wanting to rewind my mind, my attitude and my approach to life back to a time when the day  brought something new, inspiring and very fresh to

. . . the comfort of this moment now, the familiarity and “security” of knowing how things will probably pan out.

I’ve been lying to myself. I think I don’t like to be too comfortable yet I try to control it all. Perhaps if I didn’t try to command the day so much with lists, tasks, goals and the determination to “get it done” . . perhaps a few hours of letting it all go – letting life unfold. . .

The day is brand new, the possibilities are endless. Only as endless as I pave the way and invite new experiences into my life. Personal growth doesn’t come to me. I must seek it out every day.

 

This is beyond feeling “uncomfortable” and learning something new. Every day I am learning, growing, stretching my mind and body to learn how to film, edit, write, expand my vocabulary, create art. I break things, mess them up, get completely frustrated and spend hours trying new software programs. I fumble and fail miserably in the new fitness class. By 10 pm, I roll into the bed, collapsed from mental and sometimes physical exhaustion. I’ve squeezed the juice out of me.

I think self-awareness may begin with letting go, losing control and living life without the comfort of a “to do” list.

How about you? Do you ever yearn for a fresher approach to the day? What do you do to keep your mind open?

Side note: I have been using this crowdsourced Power Thesaurus but if you have a great writing tool, please share it. I have heard the Hemingway App is rather useful.

Self-Awareness – Observing and Learning

A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson “We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state.”

Paul Coelho, author of “The Alchemist”  said something very enlightening on Tim Ferriss’ podcast “The Habits of a Master” interview about observing, listening and learning as we live our lives. He believes it is not so important to journal and evaluate every action we take. He believes if we think about our lives and contemplate our actions and then let it go, the important will remain with us.

Somewhere between Paul’s no need to take notes, go live and the daily habit of keeping a diary/notebook of our daily thoughts, I believe we can grow so much faster and in turn become better versions of ourselves.

I know keeping a journal (morning and evening) helps me observe and consider my emotions and behavior in any circumstance that moves me. There are lessons that life teaches us from every situation that we could never learn in “school”. Every encounter that makes us angry, happy, sad or relieved is an opportunity to learn.

If we observe our thoughts and behavior as life unfolds we can begin to see what type of people we are and decide who we want to become. Like a scientist taking field notes from the front lines, we can observe ourselves and contemplate why we do what we do.

And hopefully, the important will remain.

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I really appreciate practical approaches for creating meaningful change in my life.

In the last few days, I have gathered some tips from Tony Schwartz author of The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal and Robin Sharma The Greatness Guide: 101 Lessons for Making What’s Good at Work and in Life Even Better

My focus this week, moving from the survival zone to thriving in the performance zone.

This is where many of us spend a good portion of our days. I  was just a mess yesterday as I spent my morning commuting through Manhattan’s busiest transportation hubs thinking about terrorist threats. I shut off the news immediately and stayed out of the subway.

Letting anger, frustration or fear take control. We don’t normally choose it, most of the time it happens to us. Whether we don’t feel appreciated, valued, respected or recognized, it doesn’t matter. We just can’t really live our best lives in this state.

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A place where we feel clarity, freedom and a sense of accomplishment. This is a nice place to be. I like it here.

Robin Sharma recommends starting each day with a 20/20/20 lift off.

20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of journaling (gratitude and thoughts) and 20 minutes of learning.

Tony Schwartz recommends the four following simple ways to living better days.

Physical –  sleep more -it’s more important than eating. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier and wake up 30 minutes later. Play around with the time and see how you feel.

Emotional – feeling frustrated? Don’t send that email just yet! Quiet down the body with deep breathing in for a count of three and out for six. Do it slowly for three minutes.  This cuts out the flow of cortisol and puts your body and mind into a more relaxed state.

Mental – do the most important thing every morning for 60- 90 minutes (no more) every day. Do the work that will add the greatest value to your life and business first.

Spiritual -remind yourself who you are serving and reconnect to your values. Doing the right thing. Ask yourself everyday How would I behave at my best today?

I am curious, how do you lift off for better days? All practical tips and advice are welcome. Please share!

On Deliberate Practice. Pointers from a Boston Marathoner

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I started this blog to connect with brilliant thinkers and doers like yourself with the intention of making new friends from all around the world so we can inspire each other to move in the direction of our dreams.
I recently discovered Johnathon Jones, creator of Building United.  Johnathon is creating a community of readers and followers who have a vested interest in living a life full on consistent personal and professional growth.  One of my favorite pieces of inspiration here.

Performance and Endurance

Johnathon is a runner. For most runners, a marathon is not just 26.2 miles of physical endurance – it means months and months of arduous, painstaking preparation.

Typically, those signing up commit to long periods of meticulous planning, a careful diet and a regimented program of progressively longer runs.

Here Johnathon gives his advice on creating a habit of deliberate practice for maximum results and success.

What is Deliberate Practice

Practice makes perfect.  Practice like you play (or perform).  Practice what you preach (do).
The list goes on, and I could spend the next several minutes reciting quotes about practice that we have all heard at some point in time.  Practicing a skill, task, or act is vital to our long term success in achieving what the said skill or task prepares us to do.

However, there is a significant difference between the act of practicing in order to ‘get in your repetitions’ and deliberate practice in order to become better.  There is a difference between going through the motions and passing time and spending time honing and refining a skill in attempt to perfect it.

Quality of Practice
After all, if you’re going to devote time out of your day towards bettering yourself at a particular undertaking, then it is in your best interest to focus your energies on being as productive as possible in that short amount of time.

Maximizing Results
The question I get asked, though, is “How can I be most effective in the little amount of time that I have?”  In other words, how can I be deliberate in my efforts to maximize my results?
In my own experiences, I have found that utilizing a three step approach has been crucial to my development.  For example, I began running on a consistent basis nearly 6 years ago.  The goal was always to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  In order to arrive at this goal, I had to be deliberate in my methods.

How did I get there?  I implemented these three steps.
time-calendarStep One – Dedicating a Time Slot
You must dedicate regular time slot intervals to deliberately practice.  It needs to be built into your calendar, as do your work appointments, children’s activities, and family events.  If it’s on the calendar, then you are committed to it.  For me, I set an alarm nearly everyday for 4:30am or 5:00am to wake up and commit myself to training programs for various marathons.  This is when my body functions best for this type of training.  For you, it doesn’t need to be 5:00am, but it does need to be at a time when you feel best about working on that skill.

to-do-listStep Two – Eliminating Other ‘To-Do’s
Let’s face it, we are all challenged with varying obligations each morning when we wake up – meeting a project deadline, meeting with a client, taking the kids to school – these activities can overwhelm our mental capacity.  In your deliberate practice, it’s not only important, but necessary, to eliminate any fleeting thoughts of these other tasks.  This will help you to better identify how you feel, what worked, what didn’t work, and what to improve upon next time.  Moreover, this is the difference between ‘being present’ and ‘being in the moment’.

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Step Three – Refine and Repeat
Even those who were born with natural tendencies and talents still had to work hard, and continue to work hard at their specific skill set in order to be the best they could possibly be.  Michael Jordan never quit practicing throughout his entire NBA career, and is highly regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  Steve Jobs never stopped refining his products and technological advances because it was necessary to grow Apple into the company that it is today.  This is the step where you utilize and build upon what works well, and trash what wasn’t useful.

Achieving Your Goals
It took nearly five years for me to finally achieve a Boston Marathon qualifying time.  It didn’t happen overnight, but that’s not important.  What is important is the deliberate intention I had of achieving a goal.

This same principle is applicable in your own life.  Consider how you can you apply it in your office,  your marriage, friendships, etc.

Passion, Enthusiasm and Dedicated Work
Not only does being deliberate display a commitment to become better, but it also exemplifies and defines passion, enthusiasm and work ethic.  I have never known someone whom had these three characteristics that didn’t achieve a goal.
How about you?  When was the last time you were truly deliberate was about what is was you were engaging in?  Did you feel the passion burning inside, the enthusiasm from without and the reward of working hard?

Moving forward, as you engage in practice, make it deliberate – intentional if you will.  Implement the three step approach and see where it leads.  Chances are, it will lead you directly where you want to go.

About Me Johnathon Jones

From a personal standpoint, running has been my true passion for nearly 6 years, but since moving to Denver, CO, I am spending quite a bit of time outdoors – hiking, road biking, climbing, etc.  I’m a firm believer that those who achieve the most in life are the ones who take advantage of the opportunities that surround them.  That being said, I love to travel (especially on the whim), cooking is a daily thing I love, and meeting people in order to build relationships.

Connect with Johnathon on LinkedIn

Join the Building United Community. Visit his blog

Learn more about refining your deliberate practice.

talent

Read:  Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else