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The Simple List

December 16, 2016 by  
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Last week, I suggested you make lists of what you want to do, accomplish, become, and experience in the coming year. Those, of course, are called goals or resolutions and to begin thinking about them early on can lead to much better goals and better ways to reach them. So, what did you come up with?

For some people the list can get pretty long with many, many goals and objectives. Recently I’ve been reading Living the Simple Life, a book by Elaine St. James. At one point in her life she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and become so she starting writing and making lists of different categories. She came up with five categories: Personal, Career, Financial, Spiritual and Civic. Then she made a list within each category. Under ‘Personal’ she’d ended up with a list of 20 items. That was a lot of goals to aim for all at once.

She goes on to recommend that if you want to simplify your life, you might want to limit your resolutions and goals to just a few. She says, “If you’re an incurable list maker, be open to the possibility that you may have to cut your lists back to more realistic proportions. If you’re not a list maker by nature or by habit, you might find it helpful to come up with a brief list of four or five things you’ll want to concentrate on as you begin to simplify your life. Just don’t get carried away.”

I totally agree with keeping the number of goals or resolutions that you make to just a few. Why? If you set too many or create goals that are too big, it may not be achievable and you may become very, very discouraged and depressed when you see yourself falling way short of your objectives. This can lead you to totally throw in the towel and give up, convincing yourself that resolutions–whether they are made at the beginning of a new year or in the middle–just don’t work, at least not for you. So, I hope the lists you made this past week (or are about to make) are not too long or too huge.

That is not to say that great, big goals are not okay because they are. But if they are really huge, they probably need to be spread out over many years so that they are manageable. So, look at what you’ve formulated for the new year and break these goals down into the smaller steps it will take to reach them.

Also, break them down into regular and specific items such as what you are going to do each day and maybe even what hour of the day are you going to work on them. Then, next, determine what kind of progress you’d like to see. Ask, yourself where do you want to be by, say, the end of January and then end of February, etc. Remember, baby steps can turn into a thousand miles, given enough time.

So, concentrate on those small things but keep on doing them each day and each week. Next week I’m going to talk more about financial goals that, of course, can help you with many other goals.

 

 

The Staying Young Secret: Keep Body and Mind Moving

November 18, 2016 by  
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My dear wife gave me a Fitbit on my last birthday and that little tool has truly helped me get in better shape, just a little ‘bit’ at a time. Last week I broke my all-time record for steps and distance by walking and running just over 186,000 steps or 71.9 miles for the week. Wow … did that ever make me feel good and young again. And it’s now just a few months before my 73rd birthday.

Fitbit … what a great name for that little device that propels, persuades and motivates people to compete with themselves to keep moving and hit bigger and bigger numbers. It gets you fit a bit at a time.

An additional way to feel and stay young is to work on the top of our body–that would be by being kind to your mind. You have to keep the brain moving too and there are lots of ways to do this.

One way is to put a little bit more strain on the brain or, in other words, push yourself to think more, read more, and a do a bit of writing to others or in a personal journal. These kinds of activities have been proven to expand and improve the human mind.  You might even push yourself to write a book.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t get someone to publish your book–I couldn’t initially get published with my first book. You can do what I did instead–I published it myself and later Bantam books decided to publish it.  Don’t know what to write about? You can start by writing an autobiography or memoir type of book. Remember, it’s not only good for your brain but just think of what you’ll be passing on to your kids and grandkids. They’ll love it and will probably still be reading it long after you check out of this life.  It’s a win-win … you end up helping your brain and, no doubt, the brain of others.

It’s really a shame that so many people, as they age, begin to give up on physical and mental movement.  I’m not saying that it is easy but most things in life that are really worthwhile take effort and even a bit of pain.  But at the end of the day or the end of life the rewards are so very worth it!

So why not set some goals to read more books and write one yourself and at the same time? Get up off the sofa and go for a walk or a run and do it every day. And one other good brain builder is to have good, deep conversations with other people. So, let’s all go out there and create permanent good habits for the brain and the body so you can feel younger for many, many years to come.

 

The Easier Way to Reach Your Goals

November 12, 2016 by  
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Okay, first of all, there is no particularly ‘easy’ way to reach your goals but there are certainly easier ways and harder ways. Whether your goal is to make a million dollars, write a bestselling book or visit 100 different countries, the easier way to reach those goals includes a very simple thing … making lists. And I don’t mean in your head. I mean writing that list down. Why does writing out a list make reaching a goal easier? Because if you write it down it does some very good stuff inside your brain.

Chapter 7 in Henriette Klauser’s wonderful little book entitled Write It Down, MAKE IT HAPPEN tells the great story of her friend Sydne who turned her life around mainly from the single action of writing down her list of goals. Klauser says, “Writing a list gets it out of your head. Heads can be dark swamps, the conversations, the constant chatter, whatever you want to call it, keeps interfering. Writing a list gets it out of the swamp, onto paper. You can see a list in black and white and it’s real. When you reduce your goals to a list, it helps keep your focus.”

So, if you write your goals it basically changes things in your brain. She goes on to say that if your lists are very specific your brain will more likely help you reach those goals. “When you are vague and general, you are safe. Get to the essence of it; that’s when things happen. Nothing can happen when you’re generalized and safe–nothing changes.” When the writing of those lists put Sydne on the path of reaching virtually all her goals, her motto then became simply “Do it easy.”

The author’s advice is to “use listing as an opportunity to crystallize your intent–to learn what matters most to you.” She goes on to say, “Keep that list handy, and look at it regularly, especially if you lose heart or feel scared. Emblazon it in your mind. Repeat to yourself ‘This is what I want and it is waiting for me.’” Remember, keep your list very specific even for things such as buying a car. As the author says, “Don’t simply write ‘car’, write the type of car with make, model, and mileage.”

I must say that goal setting and writing down the specifics has changed my brain and improved my life in many and huge ways. When I was 27 years old I set the very specific goal to make a million dollars by the time I was 30 and yes I wrote it down and looked at that written goal on a regular basis. I went to work to find ways and means, along with great help from a couple of fantastic mentors, to hit my target. Oops I missed the goal, that is I missed the date by one year but reached it at age 31. Pretty much the same thing happened when I set the written goal to write a bestselling book. That book was How to Wake Up the Financial Genius Inside You which eventually sold over one million copies.

I am absolutely convinced that writing it down did in fact change my brain and made it all happen.  I know that it works and if you are not already writing your specific lists of goals down, I hope you start doing so right now.

 

 

I Have the Perfect Life—-Not

October 28, 2016 by  
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My last 2 blogs told of the super wonderful and exciting African Safari that my wife and I took along with our dear friend Francoise Eriksen. It was a perfect trip–all went well without any hiccups or unpleasant surprises! I’m guessing that some of my readers are thinking “Oh, what a perfect life that guy Mark has. He’s wealthy, had his 15 minutes of fame, probably lives in a mansion, and travels the world first class.”

I remember so vividly thinking exactly that as I read about the rich and famous people of the world. I really thought they must have had a perfect life—but, oh, how wrong I was.

p1020832Right after we returned from the African Safari two things happened. I watched and listened to a super famous and wealthy man on T.V. (worth hundreds of millions) talk about the tragedies in his life. He was miserable but how people all around him didn’t believe him. They really thought he had a smooth and perfect life without any bad stuff but that was so far from the truth and the reality of his life.

The second thing that happened was me coming down with the worst common cold that I’ve had in many years. Wow. Talk about major mucus and a constant hacking cough that left me breathless and with very little sleep. Ugh and super ugh! Then a thought struck me and I said to myself, “Wait a minute … why didn’t I appreciate and give great thanks for my super great health while on the Safari and, for that matter, the last 3 or 4 years that I’ve have without any sickness whatsoever?”

Isn’t it quite amazing that most of us human beings don’t appreciate or give thanks for what we have until we lose it–whether it’s our health, good relationships, money, our jobs, or–how about this one–living in a great and free country. I will say this … traveling through South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe I couldn’t help but think about how good we have it in this great country, even the poorest among us are better off than some of the people I observed as our train passed through African villages where they lived with terrible conditions.

So my message this week is, let’s all take time to pause and think about and take notice and appreciate our health, wealth (however large or small), relationships, and this great country that we live in. And let’s do that right now and not wait till we’ve lost some of it.

Next week I want to talk about some other challenges in my life. Everybody’s life, no matter how rich or famous, has its troubles and its tragedies as well as much to be grateful for.

An Exercise Program for You

September 23, 2016 by  
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Last week I wrote about the “New Science of Exercise” as talked about in Time Magazine.  Since science has confirmed the huge benefits of exercise for both health and longevity, I thought it was pretty darn important to give some more specifics concerning exercise.

We all know that it takes mental and physical energy to make ourselves move and move enough that it really can make a difference for a good, healthy, long life.  As mentioned in the article, the World Health Organization advises “most adults to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week and twice weekly muscle strengthening.”  But what counts as moderate-intensity exercise?

According to the article, moderate-intensity is “everything you think of as exercise plus lots of stuff you don’t, including brisk walking, playing with the kids, walking the dog, carrying heavy groceries or gardening.  Do at least 10 minutes at a time, and break it up however you want.”  This is great news because most of us could easily sneak in 10 minutes of activity here and there to make up that 150 minutes.

If you are hesitant to start or speed up your exercise program or, like many people, are not looking forward to the idea of starting a strength training regimen, please remember the ‘baby step’ concept.  You can go ahead and set big goals but concentrate on taking baby steps, especially at first so you don’t get discouraged. For instance, the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week may sound like a lot but break that up into chunks of time that work for you. It could be just two 11-minute play sessions with your kids or dog each day or 40 minutes of gardening 4 times a week or 30 minute chunks of time 5 days a week doing whatever aerobic activity sounds good that day.  Work in those two strength training sessions each week and you will be in really good shape to live a long and healthy life.

But if this still sounds like too much to take on right away, start with just 60 minutes the first few weeks—maybe 10 minutes a day with one day off–then gradually increase the number of minutes each day until you are at 150 minutes a week.

Here are a few other little secrets that have helped me with my exercise program.  First of all, I tried to work my baby steps into small but regular habits; like instead of driving down my very long drive way to pick up the morning paper I starting walking which takes about 15 minutes. Later on I started to zig zag my walk to increase the time and the total steps it took. Also, I began parking my car on the far end of the parking lot at whatever store I might need to go to. The great thing about these little activities, is that once they turn into habits, you don’t even think about what you are doing, you just automatically do it.

Another of my little secrets is that I made it a goal to get to know and hang out with more active people.  It’s also very helpful to be married to a wonderful person who seems to always be in motion. My wife helps even more by frequently asking me how much exercise or how many total steps and time I logged in for the day. Even my friends started asking me my total minutes or steps logged for the day or week. Having people around you that are interested in health and longevity and are doing it themselves, is very, very helpful and motivating. Try it and I’ll bet it works for you too!

 

 

Is There Really an ‘Exercise Cure”?

September 16, 2016 by  
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Did you see the cover of Time Magazine’s September 12-19 issue with the headline “The Exercise Cure“? That certainly got my attention! But then I wondered what did it cure? The author, Mandy Oaklanders said, “Doctors, researchers, scientists, even ancient philosophers have long claimed exercise works like a miracle drug.” She followed that up with the real attention grabber, “Now they have proof.”

Experts are not only talking about how exercise can cure sickness and disease but also how it can lengthen your lifespan. Now I don’t know about you but I find this to be pretty exciting news. After reading the entire cover story–which I recommend that you take the time to read–I’m certainly more motivated to keep up my exercise program and don’t even need to increase it. The good news is that researchers found that to get these health, curative, and longevity benefits you don’t have to go crazy with hours and hours of working out. Just regularly running or jogging for as little as 5 or 10 minutes is linked to a longer life.

In the article, examples and reasoning are discussed with Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky of McMaster University. He did a study with mice that had terrible genetic diseases. He divided the sick mice into 2 groups and for 5 months the first group was allowed to be very sedentary. (Maybe he had a mouse couch in front of a mouse TV for each of those mice in the first group? Ha ha.) The second group of mice were coaxed into running 3 times a week.

At the end of the 5 months, he found that the sedentary group was just barely hanging on. “The fur that had yet to fall out had grown coarse and gray, muscles shriveled, hearts weakened, skin thinned … even the mice’s hearing got worse. They were shivering in the corner, about to die,” Tarnopolsky says. But there was a huge difference with the second group. Quoting from this wonderful article, “… the group of mice that exercised, genetically compromised though they were, were nearly indistinguishable from healthy mice. Their coats were sleek and black, they ran around their cages, they could even reproduce. We almost completely prevented premature aging in the animals,” Tarnopolsky says.

At this point I was asking myself, “Yes, but does this exercise thing work just as well in humans?” Well, apparently it does. Doctor Tarnopolsky has found similar results happen in his ill patients–he treats kids with severe genetic diseases like muscular dystrophy. “I’ve seen all the hype about gene therapy for people with genetic disease but it hasn’t delivered in the 25 years I’ve been doing this. The most effective therapy available to my patients right now is exercise.”

Tarnopolsky now thinks he knows why. In studies where blood is drawn immediately after people exercised, researchers have found that exercise slows down the aging of cells because it increases levels of a molecule that protects telomeres so those telomeres in a person’s cells don’t shorten as fast. From everything I’ve read over the years the slower your telomeres shrink your cells the healthier your cells will be, so the cells live longer and so will you.

“Going for a run is going to improve your skin health, your eye health, your gonadal health,” Tarnopolsky says. “It’s unbelievable. If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.”

So how do you go about getting the exercise you need to live a long and healthy life? Start now by getting a daily walk or run in if you don’t already. Then next week, we’ll talk more about what is recommended so you can reap the benefits of this exercise cure.

Begin Early on Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

September 8, 2016 by  
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It sure seems like this year of 2016 is winding down at a very fast pace.  I swear, time speeds up as you get older. Time moved so slowly when I was a kid but now it seems to just fly by.  We have just 4 Fridays left of this year which means I have this and 3 more posts for you in 2016. So, for these few posts left, I’m going to suggest that we all start early working on our goals and New Year’s resolutions for 2017. Let’s not wait until the last day or two and rush through what we want to do, experience, and become in the new year.

Starting early gives us more time to really think through what we want and need in our lives and I’m convinced that we will make better choices and set realistic goals as a result.  For many people, the most difficult challenge with New Year’s resolutions is trying to figure out what they actually want.  Some New Year’s goals are easy, such as: “I would like to visit 2 new countries in this next year.”  That’s pretty easy and then you pick the countries and set the date.  But many categorizes or parts of our lives are a bit more complex.  Like personal development goals, family goals, and goals determining what we want to do with the rest of our life that will make a difference in the world.

My suggestion and challenge for this week is for us to really do some deep thinking and come up with a list of what we really want to do, become and experience in the year 2017.  And as most of us know, if we begin by writing down what we come up with, it makes the process easier.  Here are two great questions to ask yourself that may help you figure out what it is you really like and want to do and experience. These questions were derived from Marshall Goldsmith’s great book, Mojo … How to get it, How to Keep it, How to Get It Back If You Lose It.

Look back at the last few years and think though your previous goals—think about what you did and what you experienced then ask:

  1. How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from these activities?
  2. How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in these activities?

After answering these questions, Goldsmith suggests that you evaluate each activity or experience on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the best.  You’ll then be able to see what was truly worthwhile to you. Doing this little drill can help in setting your goals for the next year, now that you know what has worked best for you in the past.

Ready? Let’s get to it!

 

Breaking Big Goals into Baby Steps

September 2, 2016 by  
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A couple weeks ago I suddenly realized that since I got a Fitbit and starting keeping track of my daily steps that my 4,000 steps a day had slowly risen to more than 20,000 steps a day. I had walked the equivalent of a third way around the world since I began with my goal of more movement and more exercise. My big goal now is to walk all the way around the world–or rather the equivalent of that.

I am a big believer in setting big goals, in just about every aspect of life. I’m talking about diet, weight control, fasting for health, and of course in financial matters. But how do you accomplish these huge goals? You take it just one baby step at a time. My January 7th blog was all about how after you set a big goal, it’s a very good idea to concentrate on taking baby steps so you are less likely to get discouraged and give up when you don’t think you are going to reach your goal.

For example, I read a study years ago that going without food for 24 hours every week or even every month is very good for your overall health, longevity and, of course, weight control. Knowing that, I started with baby steps by skipping a meal every few days and then slowly I took another baby step and skipped 2 meals in a day which lead me to go 24 hours with any food and only drinking water.

Those baby steps lead me to hit a big goal I set, one that seemed almost impossible when I set it. The big goal was to go a full week without food and believe it or not I did just that. The first and second day were the toughest but after that it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be! And wow did I ever feel fantastic toward the end and even after it was all over. I then felt that I could accomplish almost anything in entire the world!

That is just one example of how small steps can add up to something really big. Next week I will talk about how you can do this with your financial goals and the importance of sharing what you learn when you see how baby steps can work for you.

Powerful Daily Questions

July 29, 2016 by  
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In the last few posts, I’ve been talking about Marshall Goldsmith’s great advice that you can read about in his book Mojo. He reveals ways to greatly improve your odds of lifting your Mojo (your personal happiness and fulfillment in life) and increasing your chances of making greater progress toward your goals and what you want your life to be.

One of Goldsmith’s very effective methods was to ask his friend, Jim Moore, to pose a daily list of questions that Marshall had put together. These questions included want Marshall wanted to get done and how he wanted his life to be. Both men were amazed at how well that daily questioning worked. Even though they lived miles apart and Marshall does a lot of traveling, their commitment to this has them connecting on the phone and going through the process of asking those same questions about 85% of the time. The process has kept Marshall focused and moving forward.

So if you want to greatly increase your Mojo and reach your goals, write a list of what you want to get done and how you want your life to be and then find a good friend or a close relative to ask you those questions on a regular basis. Remember that it’s important to keep track of your progress as well so you can be inspired by your success and work on the areas that might need a boost.

Although you will want to come up with your own questions, I thought Marshall’s basic 6 questions might be helpful:

“Did I do my best today to …

  1. Be Happy?
  2. Find meaning?
  3. Build positive relationships?
  4. Be fully engaged?
  5. Set clear goals?
  6. Make progress toward goal achievement?

After this list, Marshall goes on to list questions he specifically needs for himself such as, “How many minutes did you spend writing?

Then there are some health questions such as,” How many sit-ups did you do?” To which he gets to answer with statements like “Today I did 200 sit-ups at once. Not bad for a 64-year-old guy.” You know that has to be encouraging!

As for work, it might be “With how many clients are you current on your follow-ups?”

Then there’s family and relationships. “Did you say or do something nice for your wife? How about your son or daughter?”

In the book he also asks himself, “Why does this process work so well?”  The answer is that it forced him and his friend Jim to “confront how we actually live our values every day. We either believe that something matters or we don’t.  If we believe it, we can put it on the list and do it! If we really don’t want to do it, we can face reality and quit kidding ourselves.”

The above is just a brief sample. Your list should be much longer but how long depends on what you want to get done in your life.

Marshall asked his wife, Lyda, a psychologist, if she thought this process would work as well with a computer-generated list of questions instead of sharing with another person.  She said, “No, it is a lot easier to blow-off a computer than another person.”

So the bottom line for you and me is to start making our list and then find a friend to help, the kind of friend that you trust and one that won’t criticize you when you fall short of your goals and ambitions. You can do likewise for your friend and together you can really build up your Mojo!

 

 

Talking Yourself into Great Mojo

July 15, 2016 by  
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Last week I introduced you to a terrific book by Marshal Goldsmith entitled MOJO, How to Get it, How to Keep it and How to Get it Back. Mojo is basically your happiness factor, your zest for living and your feeling of fulfillment. There are a few secrets that can help you get your Mojo back if you’ve lost it, or increase your Mojo if you want to have even more of it.
Some of these methods of are from Goldsmith’s book and some are from my own experience. From his book, Marshal says “When we define ourselves by saying we are deficient at some activity, we tend to create the reality that proves our definition.” I’ve said for years that I am no good at doing the details of anything. Saying that so much to myself and to other people cements this belief in my mind. Then I go on to prove that I was right. However, according to the book, Mojo, I can change that.

Goldsmith makes a big point about this. He says that if we want to change ourselves, we need to ask ourselves who we want to become in the future and/or what we want to accomplish then if we want to become that person we can.

So how do we change ourselves and increase our Mojo? There are several ways to do it. One way is by simply changing our self-talk, what I also call that chatter box inside our head. We need to start saying the positive things that we want to do and become.

I’ve started telling myself that I’m becoming better at detail stuff and I’ve notice a change for the good. Another negative thought that I’m working on is to be more decisive, because as they say, ‘making a bad decision sometimes is better than indecision.’ So I am pushing myself to be more decisive. I’m also working on a lifetime habit of telling myself that I’m no good at fixing things. That’s going to change and, believe me, my wife will love that.

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