Although we welcomed in the New Year not too long ago, right about now is when most people start experiencing a die-down of some of the mojo with which they embraced the New Year and find themselves slowly reverting back to their old ways and no longer as dedicated to their New Year’s resolutions.
With each New Year, we get caught up in trying to create perfection and delude ourselves into believing that we require the clean slate that a New Year presents to finally start making the most of ourselves and our lives while failing to realize that each new day we witness presents us with the opportunity to fully embrace life and do things differently.
Here are a few things we can do and habits we can embrace to make this and every year our best year ever:
1. Say “I do” to yourself
The words “I Do” symbolize commitment, convey promise and the willingness to do whatever it takes to uphold a vow.
Most of us have an easier time keeping promises and commitments we make to others while struggling to uphold those we make to ourselves. I guess the underlying reason behind this is because we don’t see ourselves as worthy of our goals and dreams.
Make a commitment today to honor yourself moving forward by making yourself and your aspirations a priority and allowing yourself to embrace everything you need to fulfill them and create the life you desire for yourself.
“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti
2. Be fearless for once
Fear keeps us paralyzed in life and will rob us of many wonderful opportunities if we aren’t careful. We should be bold enough to acknowledge that we are afraid when faced by situations that intimidate us, courageously stare fear in its face and do whatever we have to do anyway.
Allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone today by doing at least one thing you have been putting off or avoiding because of your fears and limiting beliefs. You will never know what you are capable of and what life has in store for you as long as you keep giving fear power.
The more you allow yourself to confront fear, the more it will lose its hold in your life and the more you will find yourself willing to embrace things that once intimidated you with ease.
3. Do one thing for 21 days straight
It is believed that it takes 21 days to form a habit; the reasoning behind this being that the brain is extremely adaptive to repetitive behavior. Our habits define our character and say a lot about who we are more than our words ever could.
Challenge yourself to embrace a self-supporting habit you have been meaning to by committing to doing it for 21 days straight without fail or compromise. This could include working out, giving up junk food or social media, spending more time with your family, getting to work on time and so on.
The more self-disciplined and consistent you become in practicing this habit, the sooner you will realize just how easy forming self-supporting habits really is and will feel inspired to continue on down a path of self-improvement and empowerment and take on more healthy habits.
4. Learn how to say no
We are all guilty in one way or another of taking on and embracing commitments and engagements that use up our time, energy and resources and interfere with our personal obligations thereby making our wellbeing and aspirations less of a priority and leaving us with very little to dedicate to them.
Make a commitment to start setting up healthy boundaries, to stop taking on more than you can handle and to say no to things that distract you from your aspirations, zap your energy and leave you feeling depleted and aren’t self-supporting as far as your overall well being is concerned.
5. Stop making excuses
We all make them and unfortunately allow them to sabotage our efforts as far as pursuing our goals and aspirations are concerned. They can range anywhere from not having enough time, to conditions not being favorable enough to not having what it takes to make things happen. Whatever the case, they keep us stuck in life where action is required and leave us feeling defeated in the end.
Today, commit to starting where you are and with what you have. Time will never be perfect; the nature of life requires that we be able to flow with it regardless of circumstances and situations. As you allow yourself to embrace your pursuits, you will discover that life will support and accommodate you by bringing the right people and opportunities your way thereby making conditions favorable for you.
“Most people don’t have that willingness to break bad habits. They have a lot of excuses and they talk like victims.” – Carlos Santana
6. Commit to following through
Following through on the promises we make to ourselves can sometimes be challenging because at times they require more from us than we are willing or prepared to give and force us to leave the safety of our comfort zones or embrace our fears.
Doing everything we set out to do builds both character and self-discipline, and allows others to view us as dependable and reliable. Following through includes not leaving any jobs half done, finishing everything we start and hanging in when obstacles and challenges tempt us to quit.
7. Say goodbye to the toxic people in your life
You’ve heard it before, “If they aren’t for you, they are against you.”
Take an inventory of every single person in your life and determine if they add value to your life, support and celebrate you, lift you up or do the exact opposite. It is said that we become like the people we associate with and are influenced by them in one way or another.
Let go of people who bring you down, cause you to doubt yourself and those who don’t support who you are or your dreams. Naysayers, haters and dream killers shouldn’t have a place in your life and will keep you from your destiny and dreams if you allow them to have any influence in it.
Which habit will you embrace? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?
When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?
As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?
Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.
Let’s park this one for now and we will come back.
Categorization is essential to our survival
There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses.
The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.
An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.
In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.
When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting!
Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.
- lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin
- lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin
The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.
Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored.
This amazing skill has its drawbacks
As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.
Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)
Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.
This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.
Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.
The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people?
We can overcome unconscious bias
Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals.
Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms.
Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds.
The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals.
What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!
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