How to Transform Your Life

Transforming your life does not require massive action or big goals. It requires steady and methodical progress.

If you have set big and lofty goals for the new year, that is ok. Just remember that it is the daily actions that will slowly but inevitably create the big change you are looking for.

Just like interest in a bank account, the small things compound per time. Losing just an ounce a day of body weight will completely remake your physique over the course of a year. Saving an extra $100 a week will amount to big long term savings over the course of a few decades (invested well, it could pay for a child’s college education!). Meditating for just 10 minutes a day can dramatically improve your ability to focus on everything else you do and give you emotional calm and poise when dealing with other people.

Instead of fretting over having to radically shift your daily routine, focus on the small things you can do consistently. Those are the things that will make all the difference. The hard part is focusing on the long term impact of your decisions, and not getting caught up on the need to see massive shorter term progress. Most people will give up on the early part of the curve in the diagram below. Sticking with it is key!


Know what you don't want

As you start setting your intentions and aspirations for the new year, don’t fret if you can’t pinpoint the exact things that you want to do, places you want to visit, people you want to meet or other experiences you want to have. Try as best you can to make your intention something that is empowering and motivating for you, and back it up with a few specific actions you can take to realize that intention in the world (e.g. goals).

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Then recognize that there are a lot of things going on out there in the world, and you might not be able to pinpoint the exact experiences you want to have and goals you want to achieve in the coming year…yet.

For me, I create a list of intentions for every new year, and a few goals that substantiate each one. For example, one intention I have this year is to Embody My True Personal Power and Vitality, and one goal in line with this is to compete in a off-road trail running race this year (distance isn’t important). That said, I don’t at this point have all my specific goals nailed down, and that is ok. I know that as the days move on I’ll have a clearer idea of the specific goals I want….goals that are lined up with my intentions for the year.

However, this year I am also going to try something new….I am going to spend a little (not a ton, but some) time doing is identifying a list of things I don’t want to experience this year! I am motivated to do this after reading this little quote by Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

It got me thinking. I think many people, especially those who are motivated to grow personally and professionally, often get oversubscribed with doing things…and this makes it tough to 1) really focus on the things that matter and 2) take advantage of ad-hoc fun experiences that pop up from time to time.

For example, just a few days ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to go to go snowshoeing for a few days….staying in a “Yurt” near Mt. Rainier. Apparently, someone in the group fell sick and a spot opened up. With 24 hours notice, I was able to take advantage of this since I hadn’t booked my weekend full of random stuff to do. It ended up being one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in a long time.

So after you’ve spent time setting your intentions and creating your vision board, think about a few things you are willing to cut-back on or totally cut-out. Do so and you might just end up creating the free time and space to really achieve those lofty goals, and have a ton of fun in the process.

Talent and Skill

If you’ve watched this video from my last post, you probably picked up on this theme. It’s a clue into one of life’s great mysteries. Success depends on both talent and skill. They are similar but radically different at the same time. One is a gift you have been given. The other is completely up to you.

Incredible Talent + Years of Acquired Skill

Talent is something that you acquire due to your genes, upbringing, experiences as a child, etc. You have them or you don’t. Maybe your father took you out on the golf course since the age of 5, or enrolled you in swim lessons as a pre-schooler, or you had that piano sitting in your living room in the house you grew up in, maybe you happened to be very tall, maybe you have incredible hand-eye coordination, maybe you have a photographic memory, etc.

Skill is something you acquire by working hard day after day. The most talented person in the world will get schooled by a hard-worker if they don’t train hard and focus (as an example,  watch the movie “Tyson,” I just did and it is quite good). I think we all know examples of people who seemed to cruise through school without studying….only to hit a wall in college or in the workforce when skating buy doesn’t cut it. Without skill a talented person will have no way of illustrating their craft in the world – they will lack the physical and intellectual capability to live up to their potential.

Similarly, someone who lacks natural talent can overcome and excel through acquired skill. Look at Dean Karnazes, not a natural runner by body-type,  but boy can he run and run and run (for hundreds of miles at time)! Look at the numerous corporate leaders with learning disabilities (e.g. Billionaire Richard Branson has written about his dyslexia). Muggsy is another example, how someone who is 5′ 3″ can excel in the NBA is beyond me (and at that block 39 shots???!).

However, put the two together and you really have an explosive combo. What are you talented at? Are you willing to put the required effort in to really develop your skills in the area? How will your life, and the world, be different if you did so? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to cultivate your potential?

As the new year approaches, these questions are worth some thought.

Get Back in the Groove

I have a tendency to go to extremes. I set clear and sometimes audacious goals, achieve them (at at least give it a good attempt) and then frequently fall off the bandwagon a bit as I succumb to what I call the “post-goal blues.” When I raced triathlons, I found this “disease” to be common amongst my racer friends.

We’d train hard all year for a big race, and then the day after – feel relieved that the event was over. No more worries about squeezing a workout in, dealing with soreness or dreading another track workout. A week later, we’d be enjoying our time off from training. A month later, we’d be scratching our heads while looking at our ever-growing bellies and wondering what the next big goal is gonna be – but feeling too unmotivated to actually come up with one. I experienced the “blues”big-time after my last Ironman – totally stopping any sort of training routine for over a year.

Time away from a purpose-driven and goal-driven life can be a good thing. It is like going on vacation and getting away from all the demands you might have at work or home. However, at some point, you need to get back in the groove and reconnect with those things that really motivate you long-term, even if those things might require a bit of work on your part (like getting in the gym, learning to speak that language, hitting the trails or writing that book you’ve been putting off, whatever it is!).

All athletes have an off-season, even folks like Lance Armstrong – 7-Time Tour de France champ – takes at least a month off at the end of each season, chowing down on burritos and drinking beer. Even in my place of work, our executives tend to check-out during the month of August, enjoying the summer time and relaxing while they can. The key, though, is not to let yourself take too much time off and fall off track.

I’ve written a lot about goal setting and vision boarding. One of the great things about vision boards is that they give you a visual reminder of what is important to you. They become super important at times when you feel yourself getting off track and taking things too easy. We all know the difference between taking a little break and just being lazy.

If you haven’t checked in on your new years resolutions (or as I like to call them, new years “intentions”) or looked at your goals sheet or vision board in a while. Now is the time. Take it out, dust it off and remind yourself what is important, and think about what you can do right now to make progress against those things that at one point were so incredibly important to you, and assuredly are now too.

(a 1-room cabin in the high in the Rocky Mountains, where I spent 5 days fasting and meditating in utter silence).

Better yet, if you have a chance to get away for a few days and check-in on your goals and new years intentions, that can be incredibly powerful. Find a cabin or a bed & breakfast that is away from the hustle of your current life, and just take time to reflect on what you achieved this year so far, and what you are looking forward to achieving during the rest of the year. Recommit to achieve those things that are most important to you. Get yourself back on track.

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.

Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Randy Pausch, a long-time Professor at Carnegie Mellon recently passed away. This video. from his last lecture at the university a few month ago, is a powerful reminder of how precious every moment is in life. It’s well worth watching, a few times.

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.

The Power of Vision Boards

Vision boards are simple and powerful.

What makes them powerful is that they help you marshall all the strength and power that you have locked away in your mind. This is a strength that is not born from conscious thought necessarily. It is the strength that is present in your other than conscious mind.

You see, your brain is a deletion machine. That is, you encounter so many images, sounds, smells, feelings and experiences in your life that your brain has no choice but to focus on the few things that it feels are most important to your own existence.

What are those things?

You probably know all about Maslow’s hierarchy. That’s a starting point. Self-survival and basic human needs are a priority for everyone, and your brain is hard-wired to make sure it is capturing things that help in this regard.

What about goals and dreams? Will my brain support my pursuit of those things?

This depends. Do you believe that you can really achieve the goals that you hold so dear? Do you have a clear image in your mind of what success looks like? Do you even have goals to begin with?

As Tony Robbins is fond of saying, “without a vision people perish.”

As far of your brain is concerned, until you get clear about what you are after, your brain will have a tough time marshalling it’s other-than-conscious resources to help you out.

Take the classic example of buying a new car. When I purchased my Silver 2001 Honda Accord Coupe several years ago, I hadn’t seen a single one on the road. Definitely not in that color at least!

Now, hardly a day goes by that I don’t run into my exact same car model, being driven by someone else. Did the car just get that much more popular or did my brain actually start to notice it more because it was not top of mind for me?

Anyway, this is a long winded way of saying that one of wonderful things about vision boards is that they help you to get clear and STAY CLEAR about what some of your big goals are in life.

By using fun visuals and powerful slogans on your vision board, you make it interesting and inspirational, and just looking at it for a few minutes (or even seconds!) each day will be enough to remind your brain (at a conscious and other-than-conscious level) what is really important for you.

Here’s an example of my first vision board. I started out by scribbling this down in a notebook at Date With Destiny back in December 2006. I then used Microsoft Office PowerPoint and Clip Art to trick it out! It is now printed on 4 foot wide poster board, and is hanging on my living room wall. Not a day goes by that I don’t see this thing.

May 2007 Vision Board
December 2006 Vision Board

Next up, I created this Vision Board in May 2007 with more of a creative and visual feel. It was produced as part of a Goal Setting Workshop that I led for the Seattle PowerGroup. We had about 20 people all setting goals and building vision boards together. Wow, what power there is in doing this type of activity with other motivated people!

May 2007 Vision Board
May 2007 Vision Board

Lastly, this vision board I created about eight months ago, again, as part of another Seattle PowerGroup vision board workshop. This time, I took a few of the key themes from my previous vision board (fitness, health, yoga) and expanded on them.

November 2007 Vision Board
November 2007 Vision Board

How To Create an Outstanding Vision Board

There is really no right or wrong way to create a vision board. The most important thing is to be in a positive and upbeat mindset. Below are a few general guidelines that I follow:

  • I generally like to start by thinking about goals. I will take out a sheet of paper and think about all the things I want to see, have or experience in my life. I put on some good music and write for 10 minutes nonstop!

For those who have never written for 10 minutes nonstop…this is a big challenge. I’ll usually get a list many pages long. Be sure to think about things relating to yourself, your family, your career, education, health, wealth, relationships, etc.

  • I then look at the list, and write a 1, 3, 5, 10 next to each item, based on the number of years that I wish it to take to manifest each thing in my life.
  • I then review the list, and circle the top 3 goals for 1 and 3 years. These are things that I will focus on right now. I write a paragraph for each of these 6 items, focusing on how my life will be different once I have achieved the goals. I also like to focus on how other people’s lives will be better as a result of my progress as well!
  • Now the fun begins…I get as many magazines as I can find. If you can do this friends….even better…since they may have magazines that would be useful for finding great quotes and visuals.
  • I then just start ripping out photos that resonate with me. Don’t worry about arranging things or cutting them out nicely. Just pull things out that FEEL GOOD.

TIP: For financial goals, I like to just make out a check to myself for the monthly income I expect to make at some point in the future!

  • Now, I sit back, and start arranging the images and quotes on my vision board. I’ll usually use a piece of poster board that you can pick up from any drug store for less than $1.
  • Once I have an arrangement, I use a glue-stick to make it permanent and use colored markets to draw or write in more quotes.
  • Lastly, I put the board in a place where I will see it daily…right now, I have 1 vision board on the wall right behind my computer (which I use daily) and two others sitting on my living room table. Not a day goes by that I don’t see them!

That’s it! I hope this was helpful for you and motivated you to make your own vision board. They are a ton of fun, and a great little project to do with your family or friends on a lazy weekend.

If you have a vision board already and would like to share it, please leave a comment to this post with a link to it! I get motivated by seeing what other people are dreaming about…so please do share!