Use competition to push you

You need a 7 Day BrainwashI don’t know about you but when I am put in a position where I’m competing against one or more people, my motivation shoots up to a whole new level. I have talked to many others who experience the same.

When you compete against someone, in any area of life, you setup 2 incredibly powerful forces.

The first is the desire to be triumphant. Imagine the excitement someone must feel when they win a gold medal in the Olympics. They have achieved a personal dream and they get a flood of recognition from friends, family, media, fans and ultimately their entire country. What person would not love this kind of validation of success? The same kind of triumph can be experienced (maybe not at the same level of intensity) when you win a competition that you have been involved in, no matter how small it may be.

The second (and more powerful) force that gets created in competition is the desire to avoid defeat. Most humans instinctively associate any form of loss with pain and in most cases, will do anything necessary to avoid that pain. If you enter some kind of competition that will help drive you towards your goals, this pain avoidance force may be the deciding factor in your success.

Use competitive scenarios to drive you forward but remember to detach from the outcome. If you happen to lose your competition, don’t get down in the dumps. Focus on what positives came out of it (usually a drastic increase in results) and continue moving towards your goals.

The Forgotten Skill of Focus

You need a 7 Day BrainwashLately, I have noticed a common theme among many friends, colleagues and associates. It seems we are all struggling with the same issue the ability to stay focused on a single task for a prolonged period of time.

When I recently took a mental inventory of my typical day, I quickly became alarmed by the number of concurrent tasks I found myself working on at any given time. Worse yet, when I examined my results and productivity levels, it was evident that I was struggling to keep up with previous outputs during the earlier phases of my business.

Then I came across an article written by Josh Waitzkin that pinpointed the direct cause of my reduced effectiveness. The article was on a topic he calls the “Multitasking Virus” as posted on Tim Ferriss’ Blog at http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog.

In the article, Waitzkin demonstrates the detrimental effects of multi-tasking and makes reference to a recent study at the British Institute of Psychiatry which ” showed that checking your email while performing another creative task decreases your IQ in the moment 10 points. That is the equivalent of not sleeping for 36 hours more than twice the impact of smoking marijuana.”

This was a real eye opener for me! I would have a hard time counting the number of times I had been checking my email throughout any given work day. On more than one occasion, I would completely stop a task (often an important, revenue generating task) to tend to a new email that popped up in my inbox regardless whether it was an important email or not.

When I discovered that this type of distraction was literally decreasing my IQ, I could immediately see certain areas where the quality of my work had been impacted. But it also forced me to stop and think about all of the other distractions that I was allowing (knowingly or unknowingly) to impact my work.

Between news and information websites, email, phone calls, instant messaging and business research, I was probably getting distracted a minimum of 10 times a day! If you think that sounds like a high number, take a few moments right now to mentally review some of your own personal distractions. You will likely notice that they add up pretty quickly! In my case, these distractions would actually make me stop the task at hand and move on to something different. Often, I would move on to something of lower priority but I was unable to recognize this at the time due to the fact that I had been so severely distracted from my previous train of thought.

Like anyone else, I am at my best and produce my most valuable work when I am able to stay focused and concentrated on one item of work. This really applies to any task we perform. If you have ever learned a manual skill like laying a hardwood floor, using a weed remover for your lawn, or even running large stacks of paper through a laminating machine (these all happen to be tasks that I recently performed), you likely noticed a learning curve. At first, you might have felt awkward and you may have even fouled up your first few attempts at the task. Gradually you got the hang of it and developed a rhythm. After a certain period of time, you actually started to master the skill and eventually you were able to do double, triple, quadruple (or even better) your productivity.

The same thing applies to practically everything we do in life. If you want to learn a new skill, the best way to do it is through a complete immersion process. If you want to run a marathon, you focus on running and likely divert from the weight room until after the competition. If you want to learn how to speak Spanish, your best bet is to get into a Spanish class and postpone your French class until you have mastered Spanish. Regardless of what you may be trying to accomplish, you will produce your best results when you are able to consistently focus on the highest priority activities.

When I want to write an article, I remove myself from all distractions. I even remove myself physically from my office and go to the library or another spot where I have no choice but to focus on the task at hand. My local library happens to have neither wireless internet availability nor cell phone reception. This combination makes for the perfect cure to my typical interruptions! I am often able to complete my articles or reports in less than a third of the time it would have taken me had I been working from my office and connected to my world of distractions.

An empowering discovery I have made about utilizing the power of focus is that it becomes increasingly easier to stay focused for longer stretches as you develop the mental discipline. One of the six intellectual faculties of every thinking person is something called “will”. This is our ability to sustain concentration on one item for an extended period of time. If you think of your “will” as a mental muscle, you can actually grow and develop this muscle similar to the way you would develop physical muscles at the gym; through frequent exercise.

If you are experiencing problems with productivity, take some time to carefully review the key points of this article. Then, try to determine if and where you are falling victim to distractions. Make a commitment to eliminate these distractions (disconnect from the internet, turn off the cell phone, etc ) so you can begin to practice your focusing exercises. You may want to start with 30 minute blocks. Work on staying 100% present with the task at hand. Monitor your progress. As you feel comfortable and find your rhythm, work on stretching it out to an hour, then two hours and then go beyond if you can.

But don’t forget to listen to your mind and body. Taking breaks is absolutely critical for your long term success. Since I often work from home, I use my breaks to drop all work from my mind and spend quality time with my wife and son. Whatever your situation, make sure you have an outlet to relieve your mind from your work for at least 15 minutes at a time.

Then when you’re ready, go back and continue to strengthen your focusing skills.

Improve Yourself Programatically

You need a 7 Day BrainwashFor the past 3 years, I have spent most of my time developing my business and along the way, have had to overcome a number of fears and self-limiting ideas. What I was really doing was reprogramming my mind to think differently.

Here are 3 techniques you might want to try that will help you reprogram yourself to a new and improved YOU:

1. Hang out with an influencer.

When I first got started in business, I was struggling to pay the bills and find enough clients to keep me going. Even when I did find clients, I did a terrible job billing for my time and I was not recognizing my own value as a service provider.

I was then lucky enough to meet another business owner who had built a number of successful companies and had already been through all of the tough business lessons that I had yet to be exposed to. Over time we became friends and I was able to absorb an incredible amount of information about business, mindset, dealing with clients, social skills, etc… all of the things that made him so talented at business.

The challenge here is that you can’t just walk up to someone and ask them to be your friend. When you meet someone who you would like to learn from, show them that you value their time and bring something of your own to the table. If they feel they can also learn from you and your life experiences, they will be far more willing to hang out with you.

2. Wage a war against the whiny voice in your head.

Have you ever had an idea that totally captivated your imagination and inspired you to think about a life far beyond the one you are living today? If so, were you also among the majority of people who had that cynical, whiny, negative voice pop up and immediately tell you all the reasons why this new idea could never come true?

Instead of falling victim to that defeating voice, try turning the tables. Picture that voice as a vicious enemy trying to steal your life, power and happiness away from you. Challenge the voice. Question its authenticity. Question its reasoning. Make it powerless against your will.

Realize that you have the choice to replace that voice with a more encouraging, faithful and friendly one. A voice that will consider your goal not just a possibility, but a probability. A voice that does not look externally for validation before taking action, but rather, uses self-belief as its driving force. A voice that realizes that any person who has ever achieved greatness had to do so against similar odds and that all things are possible to those who commit to their vision.

3. Get the competitive edge.

When you want to accomplish something new, try setting up a competition against one or more people who want the same thing. This creates two powerful forces.

The first is the desire to be triumphant. Imagine the excitement someone must feel when they win a gold medal in the Olympics. They have achieved a personal dream and they get a flood of recognition from friends, family, media, fans and ultimately their entire country. What person would not love this kind of validation of success? The same kind of triumph can be experienced when you win a competition that you have been involved in, no matter how small it may be.

The second (and more powerful) force that gets created in competition is the desire to avoid defeat. Most humans instinctively associate any form of loss with pain and in most cases, will do anything necessary to avoid that pain. If you enter some kind of competition that will help drive you towards your goals, this pain avoidance force may be the deciding factor in your success.

Use competitive scenarios to drive you forward but remember to detach from the outcome. If you happen to lose your competition, don’t get down in the dumps. Focus on what positives came out of it (usually a drastic increase in results) and continue moving towards your goals.

Move Towards Your Fear

You need a 7 Day BrainwashThere’s no feeling like it. It is real and it is powerful. It creates intense physical sensations that cause our brains to scream “RETREAT”! It is also useful because it keeps us alert and keeps us safe. It is the emotion of fear and it has been one of my greatest adversaries.

Growing up, I was never once accused of being a major risk taker. I was not interested in being adventurous or exploratory. I remember being afraid to try the big toboggan hill, terrified of going on roller coasters and the thought of doing a student exchange program simply didn’t enter my realm of possibility. For whatever reason, I was very much controlled by my fears.

I’ll never forget a specific incident that occurred over 17 years ago. I was in grade 7 and my teacher recognized me as one of the top spellers in the school. He invited me to participate in the spelling bee which would take place in the auditorium in front of the entire school. I can still vividly remember the crippling sensations of fear as I visualized myself spelling a word incorrectly in front of the entire school. Without hesitation, I declined his invite and told him “it’s really not something I’m interested in.” Yeah right! This was exactly something I was interested in but the fear once again kept me in the bleachers. What made the whole event so tough to swallow was that I actually would have won had I participated. I knew how to spell every word in the competition including the word that eliminated the final participant. Fear took me out of the game before it started. Fear cost me a huge win, personal success and school fame.

My sister, on the other hand, seemed to have been born with a higher threshold for fear. I remember her bombing down that same toboggan hill that I was scared to try and she is 4 years younger than me. As for travel, at age 15 she took the first opportunity to travel across the world alone and live with a family in Germany for a few months. To this day, she continues to live an adventure-filled life including moving 5000 kilometres away from home to do her master’s degree, snowboarding down a mountain and even skydiving! Does she experience fear? Of course, but she does not permit fear to be a deciding factor in her goals and aspirations.

When I finally adopted the same mindset and made a commitment to take action in spite of fear, I was able to take full control of my life and implement lasting change. As I began to work on myself and learned what my fears were and why they existed, I started to truly understand the limitations that fear had created in my life. Once I placed my focus on what my fears had been costing me, the motivation to overcome the fears seemed to blossom. I actually felt angry because I was now associating the pain of missing out on life’s adventures with my inability to transcend my fears.

I now see fear, doubt and worry for what they truly are; imagined catastrophes. I once heard an author say that fear stands for “Fantasized Expectations Appearing Real” and I could not agree more. When I am feeling fearful, I can effectively deal with the emotion because I now understand that I am literally using my imagination to contemplate a disastrous outcome to a situation. Having this awareness allows me to move forward, experience the physical sensations being caused by the fear and ultimately overcome the feeling.

The best part about learning how to overcome fear is the true sense of liberation. To set the record straight, yes I was a fearful kid but I still had some amazing experiences and many came when I mustered up enough courage to do something that scared me. When Canada’s Youth Television Network YTV was at our school doing auditions for a kids game show, not only did I step up to the plate, but I actually made it on the show! Despite feeling extremely nervous and fearful of looking foolish on television, I went ahead and gained a life experience that my family still talks about today. I let them off the hook for making fun of my 1980’s mullet hairdo

From a professional perspective, I have had to work extremely hard at dealing with fear when it comes to public speaking. Despite the fact that I quit my software career to pursue a business in personal development speaking and coaching, I had a significant amount of anxiety when it came to standing up in front of an audience. You see, my ultimate goal is to be a top ranked platform speaker like so many of my mentors. But I set this goal with the awareness that I had a fear of speaking and that I would have to transform and reinvent myself completely to fulfill this desire. I would consider this particular task to be a work in progress. I continue to get up and speak in front of audiences. The size of the audience is progressively growing larger and the size of my fear is progressively getting smaller. Instead of worrying about my next presentation, I am eagerly practicing and preparing to deliver a performance to the best of my ability. The audience feedback is indicating that I am on the right track.

It is the culmination of these positive indicators that continue to chip away at my fear and move me towards liberation. While I accept and embrace fear as a part of the equation that keeps me sharp, I am able to continually move forward and develop myself to new levels and plateaus. Life is much more exciting now that I have learned to step into the fear!

The Secret to Instant and Lasting Motivation

You need a 7 Day BrainwashDo you have a list of goals and desires that have yet to be fulfilled? Do you find yourself generating exciting new ideas only to find that you lose the motivation to complete them shortly after you get started? Perhaps you talk yourself out of that great new idea even before you even begin to pursue it.

The good news is that there is a very simple yet powerful technique that you can adopt immediately to help you commit to completion. The technique is called decision.

Proper decision making ability is a vital life skill that many people fail to develop at all. At first glance, this idea may seem trivial and possibly not useful but consider the context of this discussion.

When I talk about decision, I refer to someone’s personal commitment to the completion of a set objective. For some people, the simple act of making a binding agreement with themselves is enough to get the job done. For the majority of people, however, a more bold approach to decision making can be applied for maximum effectiveness.

Consider the following personal example:

Before I started my personal development company, Ignite Your Essence, I had been interested in becoming a speaker and I was always studying and testing various ideas and techniques that I was learning about the personal development industry. I knew that I had an inner calling to follow this passion and teach people what I knew about these ideas and philosophies.

I attended an inspirational seminar where the speakers were talking about this very topic. The main message I received that day was that we are all 100% responsible for our results and we are capable of setting any goal we want for our life.

I really took this to heart and started to contemplate the idea of becoming a platform speaker – teaching, inspiring and motivating audiences much like the people who I was watching that day. Because I was in a state of mind that allowed me to get emotionally involved with the idea, it grew beyond a daydream and I started thinking about how I could make this happen.

I started studying personal development principles for many hours a day and taking note of which techniques I was already using in my current career while learning and applying new ideas in various areas of my life (family, fitness, financial as well as career).

Eventually, the idea of starting a business as a speaker grew so heated that I knew I had to do something. For about a week, I played a mental chess match with myself thinking about all the reasons why I should pursue this dream while simultaneously thinking about all of the reasons why I couldn’t do it. As soon as I learned this lesson about decision, everything changed and my life has never been the same.

I woke up one morning and made a committed decision to book my first public workshop. I picked a date about one month out, found a hall to host it and booked the hall with a down payment. I was locked in and committed to doing this! It was both a mental and physical move that made a world of difference.

The ambivalence instantly disappeared and my mind moved into a much more creative mode. Instead of worrying about whether or not I could even accomplish this goal, I started asking myself a new set of questions. What topic do I run the workshop on? How do I advertise? Who do I market to? Needless to say I completed that workshop a month later and so began the inception of my own personal development education company, which I now run as a full time business (my dream realized).

The key point to be emphasized is that I made a committed decision and backed that decision with a tangible forcing function. Like the stories of the Renaissance explorers, I had arrived at a destination, “burned my ships”, and had no choice but to move forward and deliver the goods.

Can you think about a committed decision you could make today, RIGHT NOW, that could ultimately alter the entire direction of your life?

Perhaps there is a trip you have been meaning to take that could open a new window of opportunity – call the travel agent now! If you have been struggling with your health and fitness, maybe you can find a competition to enter and pay the entry fee? Whatever it is, make the decision and lock yourself into the decision to ensure you have a solid forcing function.

For me, if I did not put a down payment on the hall rental for my first workshop, I may very well have let the doubt and fear push me to cancel the entire event and ultimately abandoned my dream. If the idea moves you in the direction of your dream or purpose, make the committed decision today!