Best New Year’s Resolution? A ‘Stop Doing’ List

Here is a great article by Jim Collins, the author of numerous books like “Good to Great” and “Great by Choice” (which I am currently reading). Jim has a legendary work ethic and capacity to focus. He goes so far as to use a stopwatch to monitor and log the time he spends on creative tasks (good!) vs other nonsense and consuming information. His goal is to spend half of his time every day being creative.

In a world where people are overly fixated on to-do lists, he sets goals by first focusing  on the things that aren’t worth doing as a means to help clarify the things that do matter.

The 20-10 assignment mentioned in the article got me thinking.

She then gave me what I came to call the 20-10 assignment. It goes like this: Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?

With clarity here you can move on to deciding what really matters. Here are three questions from article to help contemplate those things:

  1. What are you deeply passionate about?
  2. What are you are genetically encoded for — what activities do you feel just “made to do”?
  3. What makes economic sense — what can you make a living at?
Another pic from the Methow Valley, near Winthrop, WA.

Goal setting

The best way to increase the odds of achieving a goal is to actually set a goal.

What’s your big goal?

Vegan meal at the Microsoft cafeteria in Beijing, China. Tofu, Rice, Seaweed, Diced Potato, Rice roll, Baby Chinese Broccoli. If you can't tell already....the pics I include in my posts often have no relationship to the content of the posts!

Stretch Yourself

I stretch everyday, in some way shape or form. I practice yoga or just do a few stretches to move my physical body and get the blood flowing. Stretching isn’t just about flexibility, it also makes you strong.

When you lengthen your muscles you increase the amount of blood that can flow through your tissues, which helps your cells cleanse and fill up with nutrients. The more nutrition you can provide your cells, the stronger and healthier you will become. So yes, stretching can and does make you stronger!

I also stretch myself in other ways every day. I stretch myself at work by taking on challenging projects. I also stretch myself at work and home to use my own creativity to solve hard problems. I stretch myself to motivate others and improve my own levels of health and wellness. I stretch myself to teach more uplifting yoga classes. I stretch myself to just blog more often 🙂 .

How did you stretch yourself today? Before you answer…..get down on the floor, sit with your legs together and straight out in front of you and just fold forward in a relaxed forward bend. Don’t try to touch your toes, just fold over your legs and surrender to gravity and hold the pose for a few minutes. Releax your head down toward your legs too.

OK, once you get in the pose, now ask yourself the question…how did you stretch yourself today? If you don’t feel completely satisfied with your answer, what are you going to do differently tomorrow to give your self a  more inspiring answer?

The Power of Purpose

This weekend I got in my car, turned the key and did so with a purpose. I was taking a trip for the weekend. I didn’t just get in my car and start driving around aimlessly. I knew where I wanted to go (Portland, OR) and why I wanted to go there (to spend time with my family). I had a purpose. It might have been a straightforward one, but it was still a purpose.

Throughout our lives, we do things for reasons. Conscious or unconscious as those reasons may be. Lucky for all of us, it is simple for us to consciously direct our reasons for acting in a manner that provide us with a strong incentive, motivation and momentum for moving in an appropriate direction. This is the power of purpose.

What is a purpose? A purpose is a reason for acting that is bigger than the act itself. It is a source of energy for sticking to your guns even when things might get tough. It is an intention.

Cultivating a strong purpose for doing simple things in daily life makes it easier to also identify with a strong purpose when tackling big goals. For example, some people seem to struggle to get out of bed every morning. For decades, it becomes a battle against the alarm clock. Coffee and other stimulants come into play for a little added motivation. Invariably we get up because we feel that have to, not that we want to. This is the problem.

For others, the so called early risers, waking up is not a struggle. Or at least, it isn’t any more. Is it really the case that these people are biologically different than the rest of us? Do they really know something the rest of us do not? Or perhaps, is it really that they just have more compelling reasons for getting out of bed?

I know for me, getting up is no problem at all when I know there is a ton of snow dumping down in the mountains, and I’m bound for a full day of snowboarding. Why then, don’t I have the same zeal when it comes to getting up early to prepare for an 8am meeting at work?

At the end of the day, it is the purpose for doing things that is the ultimate motivator for us. If the purpose for getting up early is simply to avoid the shame of being the last person into the meeting room, or to do something that we have to do (as opposed to want to or get to do) – we’re bound to feel like we are swimming against the tide.

However, if our motivation for getting up early is to make a difference in the world, learn something new, make progress against our biggest goals or in some way enrich our lives – waking up becomes a whole lot easier.

In other words, the purpose behind our actions is where all of our power lies. Cultivate a strong sense of purpose for the simple activities that you do in life, and you’ll approach those activities with an entirely new perspective and far more energy and vigor than you ever thought you had. Who knows….you just might end up waking up earlier as well!

Cultivating a strong sense of purpose for simple activities will also make it easier for you to apply the same way of being to the big goals in your life. Want to get super fit? Really tap into the real purpose for why you need to exercise. Need to grow your business 20% in the next year? Connect with how doing that will really make a big difference in the world. I think you get the point.

So here is a simple exercise to help you develop a stronger sense of purpose in your daily life. Try it out for a week and let me know how it works for you.

  1. Every day in the morning, write down a list of things that you are looking to accomplish that day.
  2. Pick one, two or even three of these things. They could be activities relating to big goals that you might have, menial duties around the house (like cleaning!) or just something that you have a tendency to procrastinate on (maybe exercising?).
  3. For each of these items, write a few sentences about why the activity is important for you and those around you. Make sure you think about how the activity has a purpose beyond just your own life. How does it help your family, your community, your world? How does it align with your overall goals? Of course, if you are really struggling to find a purpose for the activity, then maybe it isn’t serving you and deserves to be dropped from your list of activities!
  4. Now, write down the few specific things that you will do to make progress against each of these outcomes.
  5. Re-read through everything that you wrote a few times.
  6. At the end of your day, go back to what you wrote, and reflect on how your new purpose impacted what you were able to accomplish during the day.

Try this out and leave a comment letting me know how it goes.

5 Reasons To Live A Purpose-Driven Life

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For every person you meet who has a clear goal and direction for some aspect of their life, there are another 9 who are going through life aimlessly.

This is not to say that they may not be successful, happy or fulfilled. It is just to point out that not everyone lives a purpose-driven life.

Life just happens, and people seem to make the best of it.

I see this often in my workplace, with very few having any sense of where they would like their careers to head, just taking it day by day and hoping for the best. I also see it in the gym and in the yoga studio, where people just go through the motions, making little progress.

If you were going on a grand voyage….the biggest and most massive adventure (as one might use as a metaphor for life which is the grandest adventure of all) would you not at least start with a purpose?

When I get in my car, no matter where I am going, I at least have some sense of why I am in the car and where I would like to end up. If I didn’t have any idea, I would not get in the car to begin with! On the occasion (rarely) when I just drive around aimlessly, even that is done on purpose.

Why then don’t people take the time to consider what the purpose for their own lives are? This could be a simple purpose for their job, their family-caring and home life, their fitness plan, yoga practice, etc.

If I ask a half dozen people on the street to clearly state at least 1 goal in their life right now, I doubt any would be able to do so.

A purpose can even change over time. It does not need to be “right.” The point is to just have one. Why? Well, here are five reasons why I feel it is critical to have a purpose driven life:

  1. If you are not growing you are dying. Without progress in some aspect of your life, you are not just staying still, but regressing. When you understand the reality of this world and that all living things are slowly evolving, you are either evolving yourself or falling behind.
  2. Harness the untapped potential of your brain. The brain is a deletion machine. Of the millions of pieces of information that your brain captures in each day, it doesn’t keep everything. As I wrote in my post about vision boards, having a goal helps you focus your brain to notice things that will serve you in the pursuit of your goals. There is massive power in this, and takes no conscious effort on your part.
  3. Inspire the people you care about most. Achievement isn’t just about you. As you focus and work towards a goal, you’ll see that your efforts will in turn inspire others to look inward and cultivate their own character and ambitions. They say actions speak louder than works and your own purpose-driven actions will indeed speak volumes and influence those you care about in a positive manner.
  4. It keeps negativity at bay. The more you work to towards a positive end, the more you will notice that you have far less negativity entering your life. It is simple accounting. If you are consuming your thoughts, feeling and actions with energy directed towards a positive intent, you will have fewer mental, physical and emotional cycles to spend on things that drain your body, mind and soul.
  5. It is incredibly fun. Yes, making progress is fun. With a clear goal and purpose that is a stretch yet achievable, you’ll notice that each day will become more fun. It’s a pleasant byproduct of a purpose-driven life.

I could go on for days writing about how important it is to have a purpose-driven life. Remember, it is not so critical to figure out your overall and grand purpose for being on this planet! What matter most is to just focus on one thing (or a few things) that you feel is a positive and motivating ambition. It can be related to your family, body, finances, career, etc.

Just pick something, focus on it daily, work towards it sincerely, and watch what happens.

Don’t worry so much about the end, that is to say, don’t worry about the outcome. Just keep working towards the goal with confidence and see what manifests in your life. You’ll be amazed at the results, even if they end being something that you didn’t quite expect.