Awareness is the first step towards taking new action and so my hope is that by making you aware of these 5 habits you will learn something valuable that will assist you in taking new action. When you change these habits you’ll find yourself more content and living in line with your ideal.
#1: You don’t look for the good in every occurrence
Looking for the good is a healthy habit to build and like any other strength, it gets better with practice. Looking for the good means focusing on what you have, not what you don’t – what’s right instead of what’s wrong. You can train your brain to look for the good by practicing gratitude every day. The commitment to keeping a gratitude journal helped me learn how to look for the good. Keeping a gratitude journal is a life changing habit because over time it induces a permanent paradigm shift toward seeing the good without having to look very hard.
I rarely used to look for the good, and because of that I didn’t always see it. I wasn’t a glass-half-empty perspective holder, but rather the glass is there and it has some water in it…I considered myself a realist back then. Regardless of what label you choose to identify with, looking for the good is compatible with them all. If you look closely enough, you can always find things to be grateful for, regardless of context. It may take some time if you are new to the practice, but it’s a mistake to not invest that time if you want to lead a life of greater joy and fulfilment.
When you are so focused on all that you don’t know and what you don’t have, you lose sight of how much you can offer already
#2: You don’t regulate your emotions with your physiology
The brilliance of our brains and bodies is the continuous feedback loop they share with each other. Just as we can change how our bodies appear by the emotions we’re experiencing (smiling when happy, frowning when sad) the opposite holds true.
A University of Kansas experiment found that when participants were smiling in any form (genuine, artificial, and when chopsticks were used to prop participants mouths open into a forced grin) they had lower heart rates when performing stressful tasks. At the University of Cardiff, researchers gave two groups of women questionnaires about their depression and anxiety. One group had Botox and physically couldn’t frown and the other group did not. Even when controlling for perception in attractiveness so that was not a variable that could interfere, the botox group reported significantly lower depression and anxiety.
Research from Harvard Business School demonstrates that we can feel more confident and capable just by spending two minutes standing in a power pose (think Wonder Woman: feet hip width apart and hands on hips) because it significantly reduces our cortisol levels and increases our testosterone levels. If you’re feeling insecure, it affects your physiology by making you want to hunch your shoulders and make yourself smaller. It’s a mistake to allow yourself to do that because that just continues to make you feel unsure, so you want to interrupt that pattern by changing your posture and facial expression. You can actually make yourself feel happier by fake smiling when you’re sad, or stressed, it’s a mistake not to, presuming that you actually want to feel good.
#3: You “should” on yourself
Why should (or shouldn’t) you do anything? And according to whom? I hear people say this word so often that I can’t help but wonder about the thought patterns it reinforces in their brains.
“Should” happens sometimes. I will admit that I catch myself saying it occasionally and when I do, I stop to correct myself. If it doesn’t hold true when I replace “I should…” with “I’d love to…” I realise that it’s not my own true desire and I’ve let myself be compromised by someone else’s ideal. Since I’d much rather act in accordance with my ideal instead of society’s, my family’s, my partner’s, the media’s, etc., I don’t say it unless it works with I’d love to. Example: if I should go to the beach today = I’d love to go to the beach today, then it’s fine. If not, reconsider what it is you really would love to do.
No one deserves to be should on. Life is too short for that. Do what you love.
#4: You spend more time thinking (especially about your shortcomings) than doing
My brilliant clients often say that they can’t do or have X, Y, or Z that they want because they need to learn or achieve A, B, C, and D first. At first I thought it made perfect sense, but then I realised the list never seems to end. After they learned those things they decided they needed to know L, M, N, O, P too, and all of these things they need to know before they could take action.
Now I don’t doubt one of the reasons why clients like that flock to me is that for years I thought that I couldn’t do what I most wanted to do until I learned all there is to know about the brain. A bit ambitious of me, huh? No wonder I so often felt overwhelmed and like my dreams were impossibilities.
The truth is that we’ll never be able to learn absolutely everything that we want to study, but we can’t let that hold us back from taking action. When you are so focused on all that you don’t know and what you don’t have, you lose sight of how much you can offer already. Don’t sacrifice your strengths by focusing exclusively on your shortcomings. That’s a terrible mistake to make.
Spend less time thinking and more time doing – that’s the trick. Just keep taking action and small steps eventually turn into big strides.
#5: You are too concerned with being reasonable
If you’re anything like most of the brilliant people I know, you’re so absorbed with being rational and reasonable that you don’t permit yourself to dream big as big as you can. I’m talking about entertaining those wild and wonderful wouldn’t-it-be-great-if type of dreams that you have in your heart, but that you don’t dare give voice to lest people think that you’ve lost your marbles.
Be unreasonable in your dreams
George Bernard Shaw once said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
Be unreasonable in your dreams. Dreams like: wouldn’t it be great if we could create a car that runs on poop? How awesome would it be to carry computers in our pockets? I’d love to turn a light on by clapping. Wouldn’t it be lovely to live in a world where mental illness was not stigmatised? Those are the dreams we need to move our world forward.
Quit making the mistake of being so darn reasonable in your thinking and dream bigger. Make your dreams as unreasonable as you can.
Change these habits and your life will change for the better. By learning to look for the good, regulating your emotions with your physiology, removing should from your thoughts, thinking less and doing more, and being more unreasonable you can create a more radiant life than you had previously been able to imagine.
Divya is a Brain Trainer and ardent advocate of a daily practice of mindfulness and gratitude. You can connect with her at Intrinsic Brilliance and pre-order your own gratitude journal through her crowdfunding campaign at www.pozible.com/gratitudejournal