13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life

Achieving work-life balance can be really tough. More and more people are reporting that managing their personal and professional lives has become more difficult.

Longer working hours, more pressure to get things done quickly, more pressure to succeed and less personal time. Added together this combination of things creates more stress and plenty of daily struggles.

But working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most.

“I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles” — Zig Ziglar

The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control. Here are 13 work life balance tips you can implement right now to start living a more stress free and joyful life:

1. Take more rejuvenation days

When was the last time you took some time out from work to completely rejuvenate?

One of the best ways to create an environment for future high productivity and creativity is to take yourself outside of the day to day and remove yourself completely from work-related activities.

By taking time out for yourself, you will gain clarity on what’s most important, both now and in the future, and you will come back refreshed, energized and motivated. By taking more rejuvenation days, you are investing in yourself which naturally means you are creating more balance.

If you can take this day to yourself every month or two you will start seeing immediate results on all levels of your business and life.

Now get your calendar out and mark down your rejuvenation days!

2. Let go of fear

Many people, be they entrepreneurs, business owners, leaders or managers worry that if they’re not working, or seen to be working every day, they may miss out on something important. The business may fail or they may not get that promotion or something. There’s always something. There is a sense that something bad could happen if not enough time was invested or “I could always be working on something else”.

But, what if you believed you were good enough, you were achieving and doing something meaningful, and that you mattered?

Once you have that belief and confidence, you can let go of the fear that there is ‘always more’. You will feel more joyful, productive, abundant and know that what you accomplished was good enough.

This guide will help you get over your most irrational fears: How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

3. Prioritize your day

If you took a step back and looked at what’s on your to-do list, how many things are critical? How many things MUST be done that day?

It all starts with a clear understanding of what your bigger and better future looks like. Are you planning a year ahead? Three years? Ten years? What are you working to achieve?

Once you understand that, you can work back and create plans and goals that help you achieve your bigger objectives.

You may build 90 day outcome goals, the things you really want to achieve in the next quarter and then lay out the process for getting there. From this plan you will understand your priorities and where your focused time should be.

Don’t have 10 things on your list to complete that day. Focus on achieving just 3 or 5 important things every day. Achieve them and your motivation will go through the roof. Have too many and don’t complete them and your energy levels will drop.

Lifehack’s CEO Leon has his unique way on how to prioritize: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Express gratitude for what you have

Sometimes we are so busy working through and dealing with the day to day and having our mind in the future that we forget about the here and now, this present moment. I believe it’s essential to include proactive gratitude as part of everyday life, to actually look at everything in our lives and appreciate what we have.

Many of us think of gratitude as reacting. Something happens or someone does something and you feel grateful. You say thank you, maybe send an email.

But a far more proactive strategy for creating and living an abundant life is to actively find things you appreciate. This affects your own personal state of mind but also impacts others. You could send a handwritten card to the people you love or someone that means a lot to you.

Try giving thanks for three things at the end of every day and see how this shifts your mood and mind-set.

5. Learn to say no

It’s important to decide what you want to do, who you want to build relationships with and where you want to spend your time. We have so many requests made of us and so many opportunities to do different things that we end up saying yes to things that we really don’t want to do but feel we should do.

Have the self-respect, confidence and courage to live life on your own terms and say yes only to the things that really matter. For everything else, start saying no.

When you are clear on who matters most and what matters most, you gain clarity on what and who is essential and who isn’t.

Your time is scarce. When you start saying no to most things, you will become more focused and be completely present in everything you’ve said yes to.

Learn how to say no more often with these tips: How to Say No When You Feel You Can Only Say Yes

6. Have more fun

If you looked back at the last week, how much time did you spend just having fun? If it wasn’t much, then it’s time to change things up.

Think about what gets you excited, think about the people you love spending time with. Jump into new things and new relationships. Take some risks, try something new, learn a new skill and start laying the groundwork for a big project you’ve always been putting off.

If you need to get out of your comfort zone to have more fun, just do it. However, you want to change your life, having more fun keeps you energized and motivated.

7. Start to journal

One of the biggest things that has helped me in my own personal growth and goal achievement is using my journal every day.

This is the place to house my dreams. It is home to my creative thoughts and my thinking tools. It’s a place to escape to. It’s also a place to write down thoughts and notes on where I am right now — my thinking, my mind-set and my belief system.

The habit of writing in my journal felt like a small step but has been transformative. It has become a routine that has affected other parts of my life.

So, start keeping a journal. Commit to writing every day, even if it’s just for five minutes and see where your imagination takes you. If you need to know more benefits about journal writing to get started, here’re 5 Smart Reasons Why You Should Start Journal Writing TODAY

8. Create one hour a day to think and relax

It’s amazing what we actually have time for, especially when we decide to really make time. I hear the phrase “I don’t have time” constantly. How about you change that mind-set and start dedicating one hour a day to yourself?

One hour to work on yourself. One hour for reading. One hour to learn a new skill.

The truth is we can all find time if it’s important to us. This one hour a day could help us become more creative and increase your energy and focus. Plus, you’ll increase your capabilities.

9. Do one thing you love to do every day

As we get sucked into the whirlwind of the everyday, it’s all we can do just to get by. We often forget to do or enjoy the things that actually bring us the biggest amount of joy.

One of the best ways to bring more balance back into your life is to recommit to do the things that give you the most pleasure. If you don’t have anything, I suggest you find something you’re passionate about. This could be reading, walking, meditating, learning an instrument or a language, or becoming a better cook or gardener.

It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you get joy from the experience. Try carving out time every day to do this one thing. Do it for 30 days and it will become a habit. Plus, it will help you reconnect with what you really care about.

10. Create more family time

This is an area that means a lot to me and was one of the reasons I set up my coaching business in the first place.

I have two young children and I wanted to see more of them and to spend more time with my family. I get to take them to school sometimes and am often home for ‘family dinner’ and bedtime stories. Having the freedom to do this is essential in how I run my business and how I help other entrepreneurs run their business.

If you can create a bit of space to spend more time with the people that matter you will see a massive difference. Here’s a guide on How to Maximize Family Time with plenty of ways you can try immediately.

11. Set clear goals

Successful people are always guided by a vision of their future. To keep them on course and motivated setting clear goals, both long-term and short-term, allows them to achieve their biggest dreams.

Setting specific and measurable goals gives you the best chance to transform how you work and live. They help you move forward and build momentum every single day. As Dan Sullivan says,

“Your future is your property. If you don’t take ownership of it, others will be happy to do it for you.”

Learn how to set clear goals with this step-by-step guide: How to Set Goals: 10 Steps to Stay Focused

12. Focus on results, not time spent

Rather than thinking about working harder, focus your time and energy on achieving bigger results. By simplifying your areas of focus, you free up more time to live a more joyful and balanced life.

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of doing countless activities that drain your energy and take you away from building momentum in moving your business forward. You are being pulled in multiple directions and don’t have enough time and often take on too many projects. This can often leave you drained, worried and uncommunicative at the end of the day.

Remember, getting more things done means nothing when nothing great is done.

By focusing on a smaller number of projects and delivering maximum impact, you have a bigger sense of achievement, confidence and motivation. Plus, you may have more time to stop work early and spend time with the people that matter.

13. Commit to a bigger future

You have the power and control to decide what bigger and better future you want for yourself right now, in this present moment. How far into the future you want to ‘vision’ is up to you. It could be 3 years, 5 years, 10 years or 25 years. This future is yours to create but it only comes from investing time now to think about where you are and where you want to go.

Try this: Look into your ‘future you’ and be clear where you want to go, who you want to be and how you want to live your life. Then bring yourself back to the present day and create an action plan on how you’re going to create and ‘walk to’ this bigger future.

You will feel a higher sense of energy, engagement, motivation, creativity and productivity because you have a clear vision and clarity on exactly where you want to go and the steps you need to take to get there.

Think differently and live differently

Some of these strategies and tips will allow you to think differently and work differently immediately whilst others will take a little longer to implement but will be key to your long-term success.

Creating a balance between how you think, how you work and how you spend your time is essential to your long-term health and mental wellbeing. The desire to create that change only comes from within. Hopefully these strategies and tips will set you on the right path!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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Ultimate Guide to Persuasive Speech (Hook and Influence Any Audience)

Everyone is blessed with a certain level of persuasive skills. Whether it’s a salesperson convincing a customer why they should buy a product or a mother convincing her child why he needs to sleep early – persuading is something that revolves around our lives whether we realise it or not.

This applies to persuasive speeches as well. These are speeches made with the intention of selling an idea, message, service or product to the audience. Some forms of persuasive speeches include sales pitches, legal proceedings and debates.

Here is a definitive step by step guide on how to frame and execute an excellent persuasive speech:

  • 1. Selecting a topic

    People are naturally interested in stories that have a hook. For a speech, this is none other than a topic. Every speaker wants their audience to be engaged and hence, the first step to achieving this is to select a good topic that will capture the attention of their audience.

    Here are ways you can identify a good topic for your persuasive speech:

    a) Brainstorm

    A well-chosen topic is key to the success of a good speech. Brainstorming is a method that helps you generate topic ideas. It also should feel less stressful than other methods. Once you’ve come up with a list of potential topics, it all boils down to identifying what you think is good, depending on several factors such as who your listeners are and what their interests are.

    Once done, start the process of elimination and remove the topics one by one till you find the perfect topic to speak about. Brainstorming is a creative process. If you don’t put in the effort to be creative, your presentation will never touch the minds and hearts of your audience.

    b) Tailor the content of your presentation to your audience’s needs

    Understanding who you are speaking to can help you sound much more persuasive. This helps determine how you can make your tone suitable for them and the content much more relevant and relatable to your audience.

    For example, if you are speaking to a young audience, you should find out how they speak and their capacity of understanding. If you will be speaking about difficult topics like insurance, it doesn’t make sense to use a lot of technical terms or jargons especially since they definitely wouldn’t understand what you’re saying most of the time.

    Furthermore, if you come in to the talk without any effort to adapt to your listeners, it will be a surefire way to lose their interest. And if they do not see a need to listen to their show, how are you going to sell your idea in the first place? Make an effort to show that the speech was tailored especially to them. This will increase your credibility as a result and show you’ve done your homework.

    Questions to get yourself started:

    • Who will be attending your presentation?
    • What are their goals?
    • What motivates them?
    • What values do they most care about?
    • What are some examples that are relevant to them?
    • How can I customize the slide images to resonate with their industry or line of work?
    • What are the words I can use that are relevant to them or are used daily in their conversations?

    c) Make It Personal

    In order to change the minds of your audience, you need to win their hearts first. To do that, it’s important to add a personal touch for your topic.

    One way to incorporate this is to pick a topic you are extremely knowledgeable and passionate for. It shows how much effort and time was spent on understanding and learning the topic. You live and breathe this topic. This passion for the topic will naturally make it easier for you to add your own personal experiences, research and stories. This will help your topic resonate with other people as much as it resonates with you.

    For Most TED talk speakers, their talk is their life’s work. One example is Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” where she spent years studying the human connection. In her talk, you can see she has incorporated touches of personal experiences and stories that make the talk heartwarming and persuasive:

    2. Organize content

    There’s no point in having a great topic with the best content and ideas if it’s not organized in a coherent manner. All it entails is a very confused audience at the end of your speech which means that you did not convey your key message successfully.

    One way to organize your content is to create an outline first – it restructures your speech so that it’s clear and concise. After you’ve decided the points you’d like to bring up, start organizing them in a way where it can smoothly transition from one main point to the other. Similar to how one might structure a video,[1] a speech is not that much different.

    Another method is to insert the important parts at the beginning or end of your speech. According to a study done by Murdock, people recall information better in the beginning and the end of a presentation. This helps create an edge for your persuasive presentation.

    3. Know your content inside and out

    One of the worst sins you can commit as a speaker is to read your script off a cue card or worse – look at your slides throughout as you speak. Not only do you sound rigid, monotonous and boring, you’ll definitely lose your audience’s interest as a result.

    If you cannot engage your audience to listen to you, how are you going to persuade them into buying whatever you’re speaking about? Make sure to practice and understand your speech thoroughly without reading your slides.

    With that being said, however, many tend to memorize their script word for word in an attempt to ‘know their stuff’ which is just a huge recipe for disaster. What if you you get stage fright and your mind turns blank? Or you simply cannot remember? Any hesitation on your part could sprout doubts from the minds of the audience.

    Instead, focus on memorizing the flow of your key points as well as the overall arching message of your speech. According to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This allows you to speak with conviction and allow your personality to shine through, thereby convincing your audience as well.

    4. Storytelling techniques (Hero’s journey)

    You want to capture the attention of your audience with your very first words. To do that, start by telling a story. It’s important you do not bombard them with facts and data as it has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to hard facts.

    This technique is one of the most effective approaches when it comes to persuading your audience to buy your idea, message, service or product. This is due to its ability to stimulate interest, increase engagement and help the audience understand what’s being said.

    So when you start your speech, try telling a short story to provide them with the vision of the goal. It also helps if you can make the story relatable to everyone involved so they are able to resonate with your speech.

    Storytelling is also extremely useful when it comes to escalating the situation in a room full of people who may not be too keen on your ideas.

    There are many ways to tell a persuasive story but one of the most effective and foolproof stories is ‘The Hero’s Journey’ approach.[2] This is because it has the exact built-in mechanisms for creating the connection needed for any audience. This can result in an impactful speech that can inspire your audience to action.

    Described by Joseph Campbell as the The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the Hero’s Journey is the same exact tale every culture tells – just with different characters.

    The tale of these heroes all boil down to three points– the problem, the solution and the reward. You’ll notice that these three elements are always or mostly used in every hero’s journey approach and it never fails to attract the audience. Leverage on this three step approach to help make your speech much more engaging which will empower your audience in return.

    5. Make use of ‘you’ and ‘because’

    There are words that hold more power in swaying our decision making than others. If we can learn how to utilize them, it’ll be easier to persuade our audience.

    a) “You”

    When you’re speaking or even writing or pitching to persuade, use first-person language. That means making use of the word ‘you’. This word not only gets your audience’s attention, it also makes them feel special – like they are a part of something.

    Using “you” makes you sound much more conversational and friendly which makes it easier to establish a connection with your audience. Instantly, you’ll notice the word holds your audience accountable for what you’re saying and makes them feel personally involved.

    b) “Because”

    A study found that using the word ‘because’ would make people the inclined to allow someone else to do something.

    Here is a proven scenario:

    Person A: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

    Person B: “I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I need to make copies?

    Look at both of these sentences. Are you more inclined to allow Person A to cut the line or Person B? Studies find that only 60% would allow Person A to cut the line while a staggering 93% will do so for Person B even if the reasons are ridiculous. This is all because they simply heard the word ‘because’ accompanied by a reason.

    6. Reinforce your message

    a) Power of repetition

    A study of managers in the workplace by Professors Tsedal Neely of Harvard and Paul Leonardi of Northwestern found that,

    “Managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.”

    Knowing this, try to apply the power of repetition in your speech to drive home your message. Don’t rush trying to get your point across but rather, try to convey the message as many times as you can.

    However, be creative in repeating your message. Do not say the exact same thing over and over again or you’ll just sound annoying. Instead, find other creative and effective ways to get the same idea across to your audience.

    b) Visuals

    Visual aids like presentation slides or images not only provide the opportunity to reinforce and drive your message home, it also provides 43% added recall according to Prezi.[3]

    To stimulate emotions amongst your audience, make use of evocative images. It doesn’t steal your audience’s attention but reinforces your key message instead. All this while evoking a certain feelings in your audience which helps in persuading them to believe in your idea.

    c) Colours

    Just like imagery, colours can evoke emotions in your audience as well. Colours signify different emotions and associations. Look at this video to help you understand how humans react to different color stimuli:

    d) Interactive Content

    A study found that interactive ads were found to be twice as memorable as compared to static ads. Knowing this, you should find ways to create interactive content to further engage and persuade your audience. This can be done with the use of PowerPoint as you can add animations, transitions or even embed videos to spice up your speech.

    According to experts, the most recent statistics show that video content isn’t just effective, it’s also on the rise. Furthermore, 64% are willing to watch a video if it’s interactive. If you find that your speech may be boring or full of data, try to present it in a form of an interactive video.

    Here’s a video of Hans Rosling, one of the few speakers who knows how to present data in a fun and engaging manner:

    7. Adopt the Golden Circle Approach

    In order to convince others to buy your idea, message, service or product, find out the purpose for what you’re doing. Before speaking to your audience, find your purpose and/or belief in giving the talk in the first place.

    Here’s a video of Simon Sinek, explaining how the Golden Circle approach is effective in making others buy your idea, message, service or product:

    In the video, Simon Sinek mentions that many of us communicate from the outside in. This means we always start with What, How and then Why. He explains that persuasive speakers do the exact opposite. They start from the inside out. This is also known as the ‘Golden Circle’ Approach:

    • Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
    • How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
    • What: What is the result?

    One example of a company who makes use of this approach is Apple Inc.

    • Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
      Their purpose is to challenge the status quo. They believe in thinking differently.
    • How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
      By making their products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly.
    • What: What is the result?
      They happen to make great computers.

    As Simon Sinek says,

    “People don’t buy what you do but why you do it.”

    Find what you believe in and you’ll realize it’s easier to persuade your audience into buying your message and taking action upon them.

    8. Provide solutions to the problem

    As a speaker, informing is not enough – take it a step further and show the audience how they can take action. And to inspire action, solutions must be provided. Although problems hook your audience, solutions are what activates action.

    Start adopting the “How will my audience change as a result of hearing my speech?” mindset. Your speech can empower the audience if they can take at least one action because of what you’ve said.

    Furthermore, if your audience does take action, this means you’ve successfully persuaded them since they are motivated by your message.

    “That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle’s three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that’s easy to digest, remember and retell.” — Nancy Duarte

    Hence, you should be prepared to provide solutions to overcome any obstacles or challenges your idea may face/anticipate.

    Summing it up

    And there you have it. Make use of all three elements to help your audience buy into your message.

    1. Select a good topic
    2. Research on your audience and content thoroughly
    3. Reinforce your message and make your content engaging
    4. Know the purpose of your speech
    5. Provide solutions

    With my step-by-step guide, you will be able to write up a persuasive speech and influence your audience successfully.

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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    How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve More and Become Successful

    Risk is something we all have to face in our lives but appreciating its value and impact on our lives is not always easy.

    I asked my social media friends on a survey whether they felt risk was a good thing and 100’s said yes and yet I know from my clients that this doesn’t equate to 100% of people taken every risky action they could to achieve more and live a life that fulfils them.

    Take the client that needed a coaching session to get them to take the jump into self employment. They knew in their heads that with over 20 years at the pinnacle of their career, they could do it. But they needed their coach to be the one that took the training wheels off and said “let’s do this!”

    We don’t all take the risks we should in life. What makes a risk feel too big? What external impactors change our perception of risk and what’s the difference between good risk and bad? When should we be risk adverse? And how can we work out the difference and step up to take the risks that could change our lives (for the better)?

  • What is calculated risk?

    Let me ask you:

    “Would you cross a 3 lane road of fast moving traffic?” The answer is likely to be “no” right?

    What about if I asked “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic at night?” Still a “No?”

    What about if I said “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic that had a pedestrian crossing?”

    Look how the risk changes. It is the same road with the same cars, but we’ve gone from a risk that we are unprepared to take to one that has an element of control and expected outcomes. That is what a calculated risk is.

    Would you quit your job right now and set up in business on the street corner in an hour’s time? No of course not. However, would you quit with a plan of action in a set period of time? Possibly?

    The thing about calculated risk is that humans have to deal with their perceptions or reality, their emotions, feelings and even beliefs to be able to take on risk. And that is why you may see 100% of people saying “Take the risk”. However if questioned further, I could probably find at least one occasion where every single person should have taken the risk and they didn’t.

    I’ve seen people turn down contracts, delay travelling, delay saying “yes” to marriage, delay quitting their job and even delay having their hair chopped off because they’ve not been able to calculate the risk with an outcome that they deem will be satisfactory.

    Is all risk calculated?

    In a speaking engagement, I once re-enacted the moment when the hero of the film is hanging on for dear life to the side of a mountain. There’s no hand places left going up. They can’t go down and there’s no way out, the baddies are shooting at them from every angle and you think “there is no way out of this!” and then miraculously they let go tumbling through the air, landing in a helicopter that flies into view being flown by the gorgeous incredibly clever side kick.

    Risk is a bit like that.

    The first time James Bond, Jack Reacher or Lara Croft let go and went in a new direction, they were probably experiencing massive levels of fear. However, by overriding that fear, they were able to create a new definition of what is possible. It’s not called mission impossible for nothing.

    But how can we know it’s a good idea to jump and when it’s going to lead to impending doom?

    Interestingly, children seem to be risk blind for a while. It is adults that stand behind them shouting “don’t do that, you will fall and break your neck!” Do children stop doing stupid things? A and E departments would argue no.

    But if we didn’t take on risk we’d never learn to walk. The first time you pulled yourself up on to your legs and stood there jumping up and down with a grin that says “Look what I can do” was sheer joy, not so much fun the next time you tried it and nearly removed your nose. Most parents will have a story of how their child made their hearts leap with absolute terror as they did something stupid, but risk needs us to test its limits or we will all be still sat in baby gyms unable to reach the cool toys.

    The reason some people achieve great things is because they are prepared to test their risk limitations.

    How to grow your risk tolerance to achieve more?

    Here I’ve aimed to break down what you need to keep your eyes peeled for, how to fix what you find and what you need to do so that you can calculate risk and achieve more with the following methods:

    The RRIS method

    R – Research everything you aim to achieve.

    But also know when to stop researching and get on with it. The amount of clients I’ve worked with who are so ready they could be the most intellectual person on the planet on their area of expertise.

    It’s easy to get in the trap of “doing just a bit more research” to get you out of taking action. So do your research and use the other tips to help you to take action on your knowledge.

    R – Rationalize your reality.

    I often hear clients say things that once said back to them they can quickly (and often embarrassingly) see that it’s just not true. They’ve twisted reality to enable them to stay safe.

    Question what you believe to be true and the results you perceive to be impossible to avoid. Do you have evidence to prove your reality or are your thoughts just enabling your comfort zone to stay the same size?

    Comfort zones are like big thick duvets. Glorious in the middle of winter with the rain battering the windows and you are curled up safe and warm, but hideous in summer, when the same duvet can wrap itself around you becoming a sweaty trap for your legs to get caught in.

    If you know that a comfort zone is twisting your reality, you can be like two versions of my clients:

    1. They like to get so far out of their comfort zone that they can’t see it any more. They do big actions putting into action the right support to achieve them. Learn and move on.
    2. They would literally feel stuck in fear if you offered them option 1, therefore they like to do things in small tiny morsel sized bites. If this is you, arrange to challenge your beliefs around anything in your life (not just related to the calculated risk to achieve more).

    If you like structure, start the day in a way you wouldn’t. Get dressed before you brush your teeth, listen to a different radio station, choose a different route to work.

    Silly things that make you think about what you are doing can help you see that different is not bad. Different can be exciting, new, rewarding and so much else. And tiny steps can be right for some.

    I – Ideas can reduce or inflame our capability for calculated risk.

    Before you do anything, somewhere in your head it was a thought. When you really appreciate this, you are able to see that before you take on any risk, you have to have the ideas behind it to achieve.

    Ideas like this will be exciting, life changing, and will work and make my career. What phrases would you create to describe the result of your idea?

    If you notice they are negative, where’s your evidence? Clients often tell me that I make them take risks. As a coach, that’s impossible. My job is to enable them to see what they really want and overcome the beliefs and obstacles towards going for it.

    Once we are faced with our facts on our skills, past successes and capabilities, we can’t help but ask “what is stopping you?” By doing this, you are creating solid foundation to get great results because your ideas are positive and not made up of illogical untruths like “it won’t work”, “what if I fail”, “it’s not done like that”, “I will end up looking stupid”.

    S – Success over scares

    It is a calculated risk and therefore something that is worth investing in and going for when our level of fear is reduced and our belief about success is raised. Where do you stand on this scale?

    Scared! vs Success!

    Now add in the following words to the above scale. Where would they sit?

    • Staying safe
    • Stuck
    • Self esteem
    • Stopping myself

    Can you start to see how there is a big gap between scared and success? And between the two there will always be elements of feeling safe or stuck and worrying about whether you can do it. The important thing to remember is that you will never completely bridge the gap between scared and successful. A little fear is really good for you.

    I’ve never had a speaking engagement where I don’t feel a little nervous. 9 years ago that wasn’t nervousness that was absolute terror. And I once read “it’s not stage fright, it’s performance energy.”

    What description would you like to use do describe your calculated risk? If you were to say it out loud, would it be a positive sentence or one that reduce you to fear? Your words and finding your place on the scared to success scale could define your likelihood of success.

    The know-it kit

    Taking the risk is scary, from the client that wanted to confront their boss of 10 years and make a suggestion that they knew flew in the opposite opinion of their boss, to the singer who is too scared to stand in front of an audience. The important thing is to remember that you are in control of the risks you take and a know it kit can help.

    Know the times you’ve been successful.

    Lot’s of clients will tell me that their fear is overriding their beliefs about what can be achieved. At times like that it’s no good to think something different and expect it to magically make it seem easy.

    Get the facts on your side. As much as you heart will fill your head with negativity, hanging on to the facts of what you’ve already done in life is something you can’t argue with.

    Know the skills you have.

    As above, when we take on a risk, we need to know we’ve got what we need to get the results we want.

    Know that mistakes are good.

    No exceptional rise to success didn’t have set backs, no great inventions didn’t have failures (with many of those becoming inventions in their own right) knowing that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and good for the end results can ensure you take action even when the fear is raising its ugly head.

    International Vocal Coach Gemma Milburne shared,

    “I think many of the greatest singers are the most willing to take risks. You have to risk going out of tune, making mistakes, sounding awful, in order to get REALLY good at singing. As a vocal coach a lot of what I’m doing is helping singers to face that ‘mental’ risk that’s in a person’s head.”

    Know the people you can trust.

    When everything is in place, you’ve got the evidence, you’ve done your research, you are accountable, focused and ready for action, sometimes just a chat with the right person can be all you need.

    Who is in your Know it Kit? You can trust them to say what you need them to say. And not just “you will be great dear, go for it.” Having the right people there that will challenge, empower and ensure you’ve ready in every capacity to make it happen.

    Before a petrified public speaker has taken to the stage or a client has walked into a room to go for their big dream, I’m often the one they text as they walk in for that last minute reminder that they’ve got this.

    Know the way you have to feel.

    And lastly, don’t forget that even with the right words from the right people, it is still down to you.

    Sometimes cultural beliefs and feelings can slip into our mindset, other people in the same industry can tell us “it’s never been done like that” and it can knock our focus and derail our thoughts.

    How do you need to feel to get the results you want? If I told a person from 200 years ago that they could fly anywhere on this planet in the same day, I’d likely have been locked up. Our beliefs change with time and experience. Do you want to be the person that creates the thoughts and beliefs of the future? Or wait for someone else to have taken the risk (and the glory!) and to leave you wishing “I wish I’d taken that risk”?

    Face your fear and take risks

    Looking back to myself years ago, Mrs. Nervous Wreck lacking in confidence…

    She looked up at the chandelier that was taller than her house and tried to focus her thoughts. No amount of “thinking positive” was working and she just wanted her spleen to burst so she could end up in hospital safely away from this extravagant room and all these people. How could she ever have thought it would be a clever idea to speak to a room full of her peers?

    Less than 5 months prior to this moment, she’d stood in front of just 25 business owners and faffed, and fumbled through her words, feeling like a complete fake wishing to never see any of these people ever again. Heck even a career in a local fast food place would be better! She’d made a memorable impression but for all the wrong reasons and one of the audience had taken great delight in reminding her of her epic fail, so what had driven her to do it again?

    That was me but for some reason, I’d decided to take the risk and speak on another stage in front of more people.

    In many ways, I was hardly recognizable from 9 years ago to today when I’m described as “one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard” and “changed my life in one hour.” Clearly my ability and attitude to speaking to an audience changed but what else?

    It was how I faced my fear and how I grew my risk tolerance to achieve more.

    By taking my advice on how to take calculated risks, you will gradually find yourself becoming braver and embracing more opportunities. You’ve got this!

    Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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    Goals vs Objectives: How to Use Them to Become Successful in Life?

    You’re at home with your family and you’re planning a vacation for the upcoming summer time. The family sits down and you start discussing options and after an hour, you decide you will rent a modern trailer and drive from your current location (New York) to Miami for vacation. Miami is your goal and all the necessary steps to getting there are your objectives.

    Throughout the article, I will refer to the above-mentioned metaphor to explain goals, objectives and the relationship and differences between those two. So buckle up and prepare for this ride because we will cover:

  • What are goals and objectives?

    The easiest way I can explain what goals are is to tell that they are your final destination. It’s the place where you want to be– mentally, physically, spiritually, intellectually.

    A goal represents a future we desire to happen and it serves as a focal point to where we want to go in life (Miami in the case above).

    Objectives, on the other hand, are the ways of you getting to your goal. For any single goal, you could have many objectives. An objective in the case above would be renting a trailer (way of getting to Miami) but as I said, you can and should have many objectives for a single goal.

    You could add additional objectives to the goal of reaching Miami by stating that you will drive every day for 6 hours (one objective). Also, objectives can serve as indicators that tell you that you are on the right way of achieving your goal.

    If you take the road from New York to Miami, along the way you should pass through cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond and Jacksonville. All of these serve as indicators that you are on the right way and that you should be continuing your way.

    But is there a systematic difference which will help to differ goals and objectives? Yes, there is and the following chapter is all about that.

    Goals vs Objectives

    Goals answer the question of what.
    “What do you want to do?”
    “I want to take my family on a vacation to Miami”

    Objectives, on the other hand, answer the questions of how.
    “How are you getting to Miami”
    “We are renting a trailer and driving all the way”

    Goals can be vague, qualitative statements that are hard to measure. Sometimes they can be binary where you measure them by either done/not done. An example is a goal Napoleon had: “I want to conquer Russia.”  It can be easily measured by done/not done. In his case, it was not done.

    But then, there are those goals which are completely unquantifiable. For example, “I want to be the best clarinet player in the world,” or “I want to be successful,” or “I want to find the love of my life.” These goals are unquantifiable because they are based mostly on feelings and feelings are impossible to measure.

    Goals are mostly vague and impossible to measure, yet we need them as they provide direction. So we need something which is measurable and quantifiable and that is why objectives exist.

    Objectives are completely measurable, specific things we do to achieve our goal.

    In the family vacation example mentioned, where the goal is to get to Miami, objectives provide checkpoints that can be measured. These provide the much necessary objectives measurements that tell us if we are on the right path or we need to change something.

    Goal: Drive to Miami from New York in 3 days

    Objectives:

    • Reach Richmond by 7 p.m. the first day,
    • Reach Jacksonville by 7 p.m. the second day
    • Drive in Miami at 7 p.m. the third day

    If we don’t hit the objectives above, we need to change something. Otherwise, we won’t achieve our goal.

    If we get late to Richmond on the second day, that means that we either need to adjust our speed (drive faster), adjust our driving time (drive more hours in the day) or make fewer stops (less resting time). There are multiple different ways we can adjust our approach to get to our goal.

    But then, there is the question of importance. What is more important, goals or objectives?

    Is one more important than the other?

    Goals and objectives are two sides of the same coin. There is no value in having just one or the other side- only when we combine them do they serve the purpose.

    Goals are there to provide direction- future- of where we want to go. Without a goal, there is no bigger picture and no motivation of pursuit.

    Without objectives, a goal is just something that lives in our heads. Objectives provide the waypoint for us to achieve our goals.

    Simply having objectives without a goal is mindless action. I could tell you to practice math for 7 hours a day but for what reason? If you don’t want to be the best mathematician in the world, there is no point in you doing that.

    The same thing would be with the family vacation example.

    If you know that you need to pass through Richmond and Jacksonville but have no idea what your goal is, how will you know when you get there (whatever “there” is).

    “A man without a goal is like a ship that set sail to nowhere – always getting nowhere and never getting ‘there’ “

    A goal without objectives is simply daydreaming – it’s a fantasy. In the family vacation example, it would mean for us to know that we want to go to Miami but we have no idea of getting there. The signposts that say Chicago, Houston, or Boston mean nothing to us when we have no idea how to get to Miami nor what is a good road to there.

    “A goal without a plan is merely a dream…”

    Okay, but what will I do with all of this information? The last chapter of this guide will tell you what.

    How to utilize goals and objectives to succeed in life (step-by-step guide)

    So far I have shown you examples of goals and objectives, the difference between the two and importance of having both. Let’s see now how we can use these to achieve our dreams.

    There is a simple framework I use for all my dreams, goals and objectives and it’s called the Hawkeye-Wormeye framework.[1]

    The Hawkeye-Wormeye Perspective

    Step 1: The Hawkeye

    Imagine that you’re a hawk and that you fly high above the forest which represents your life. When you’re a hawk, you see endlessly beyond and know where the mountains, rivers and hills are. You see where you need to go and you get clear on the bigger picture.

    “I want to get to the hills beyond the murky swamps.”

    The hawkeye is the first thing you do because it provides the goal, the bigger picture or whatever you call it.

    When you get clear on where you need to go from a hawkeye perspective, now it’s time to get down in the dirt by becoming a worm.

    Step 2: The Wormeye

    Okay, so we know where we are headed right now – it’s the “hills beyond the murky swamps.” But to get there, we need to become a worm now. Why a worm?

    Because a worm can see just 2-3 steps in front of him. This ensures that even though you know your final destination, you are just focusing on the 2-3 steps that are right in front of you.

    As Will Smith said in an interview

    “You are building a wall. But you are not, in fact, building a wall. You are laying brick by brick as perfect as possible and one day, if you lay your bricks perfectly, they will become a wall.”

    The same thing is with the wormeye. You know where your destination is but you decide to focus only on what is in front of you. This way you ensure that you “lay the perfect bricks which will one day become a wall.”

    The transition from Wormeye to Hawkeye to Wormeye

    Every 3 or 6 months, you should spend a couple of days only in the Hawkeye perspective. You do this because you need to make sure that you are heading in the right direction and to see if you need to change/iterate anything in your worms path. You take as Bill Gates calls it – a “Think Week”.[2]

    The rest of the time (over 95% of it), you spend it in the wormeye perspective. You are on the ground, doing work, getting new skills or getting better at old ones. You step out from the wormeye to hawkeye only to see if you are still on the right way.

    But what do you actually do in wormeye perspective?

    Chunking goals into objectives

    You have the bigger picture, the goal you want to achieve. Let’s say that goal is to become the best non-fiction writer in the world. So how do you become that?

    First of all, you take apart what writing actually is. And there, you realize that writing isn’t just writing – that writing consists of four different parts:

    1. Generating ideas
    2. Researching
    3. Writing
    4. Editing

    Okay, we now know what we actually need to work on to become the best writer. The four above are the skills we need to master to become the best writer in the world.

    By putting big, vague goals/dreams into smaller compartments which can be easily practiced (daily habits), we are, in fact, chunking our work to something that can be done.

    The hawkeye perspective of becoming the best writer is focused down on the wormeye perspective of working on four different parts of writing.

    But what do we do with chunks in the end? This is where we get to the actions and behaviors (objectives) you do daily and the last part of our big puzzle – daily habits.

    Daily habits

    So we chunked the “become the best writer in the world” to “practice generating ideas, researching, writing, and editing.” So what do we actually do with that?

    We form daily habits.

    This isn’t something big we need to do – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. We take small actions every single day and those actions accumulate over time to get us to our goal. We take it one step at a time, slow and steady, and as Eric Edmeades would say it “I do less today to do more in a year.[3]

    In the writing example, a simple and easy daily habit would be “Write 500 words a day.” This way, you have a daily habit which takes care of the “writing” part of you becoming the best writer in the world.

    For generating ideas, you start leading a journal (3 things that happened to you today), for researching you start reading books (20 pages a day) and for editing you create a list of forbidden words you simply delete from your writing (“like”,”very”, “thing” etc.).[4]

    You don’t need to start doing all of these- actually I advise you not to. I advise you to start with one of these and then, when it becomes a habit, add up another one. That is what I did.

    I started with reading habit (20 pages a day). After 150 days, I added a writing habit (writer 500 words a day). The next one coming is generating ideas habit and at the end, the editing habit.

    If I started with all of them immediately, none would stick. As the saying goes “Do less in a day to do more in a year.”

    Learn more about how to build good habits and make them stick in this guide: How to Build Good Habits (Step-by-Step Guide)

    Conclusion

    We started with an explanation of goals and objectives, went over the difference of those two, understood that one can’t go without the other one. Then, we saw how to use goals and objectives in our daily lives.

    For that, we used the hawkeye and wormeye perspective where we saw that we need the bigger picture of the hawkeye but the focus of the wormeye- the steps that are right in front of us.

    In the end, we chunked down the big goals we had into the smallest possible actions and made daily habits out of these.

    Now, we know what we need to do every single day to achieve our goals and dreams. Everything standing between us and the goal we want to achieve is a small daily habit – so just start doing it.

    Featured photo credit: Skitter Photo via skitterphoto.com

    Reference

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    Why You Keep Waking Up in the Middle of the Night (And How to Fix It)

    Why is a good night of sleep so hard to achieve?

    A bad night of sleep is cumulative. The side effects of a poor night of sleep carry over into the entire day leaving your brain running off fumes feeling fatigued, unable to focus and unproductive. It’s frustrating trying to get tasks done when your brain is screaming at you to just fall flat onto your desk and just “take 5.”

    If you’re someone who finds themselves waking up at odd hours of the night with difficulty getting back to sleep or waking up not feeling refreshed and energized, then listen up because these next sections are for you.

    In this article, we’re going to dive into some of the most common reasons why you’re not getting a good night of sleep and what you can start doing about it.

  • Is it normal to wake up in the middle of the night?

    Shouldn’t we always sleep eight hours straight through the night?

    It’s actually not uncommon for someone to wake up in the middle of the night, even 3-4 times a night. The normal human cycle of sleep is roughly every 90-120 minutes. According to Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep expert, most people will go through three to four “cycles” of sleep per night.

    Towards the end of each cycle, sleep is less deep and you have a higher likelihood of being woken up. Sometimes we are unaware that we are even awake because we just fall right back to sleep, which is normal. This may be the main reason why many people rarely have true uninterrupted eight hours of sleep.

    This becomes a problem when we have difficulty getting back to sleep. If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep, it could be a sign of an issue that may need to be addressed.

    Waking up at the same time every night?

    If you find yourself waking up at nearly the same time every single night, don’t panic. This may actually be a sign of a healthy and dependable sleep cycle. Many people tend to find they most commonly wake up in between cycles roughly 4-6 hours from when they went to bed.

    This infographic illustrates what parts of your body maybe unhealthy based on the time you wake up at night:[1]

    If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with consistent difficulty getting back to sleep, this could be a warning signal that you may need to make a change to your sleep habits using some of the strategies below.

    Why am I waking up in the middle of the night? (And ways to tackle it)

    There are several reasons that may be the cause of why you are waking up in the middle of the night. Let’s take a look at the top 5 most common reasons why:

    1. You’re taking your stress to bed

    Maybe you had a rough day at the office or have other form of stress. Stress doesn’t take a rest when you do. Often times, stress travels with you back to your home and eventually into your sleep unless you deal with it. If you don’t properly handle your stress, you end up lying in bed mulling over your stress for hours, whether you are consciously aware of this happening or not.

    Have you ever found yourself in bed trying to sleep, only to be still thinking about the argument you had or the meeting that you wish went better?

    Our brain tends to ruminate over our stress and it can end up keeping us from deep sleep because of it or it wakes us up in the middle of the night. When you mull over your stress, you are subtly keeping your brains in a state of “fight-or-flight”. When your brain is in a fight-or-flight mode, it has an extremely tough time falling asleep.

    What to do?

    If you find yourself taking your stress to bed or waking up in the middle of the night stressed, a simple strategy to practice is box-breathing. Box-breathing is a powerful strategy that helps calm the stress signals in your brain so that it can begin to fall asleep and stay asleep.

    It’s a modern spin on “counting sheep.” With box breathing, you will count the same time on your inhale, hold at the top, exhale and hold at the bottom. It will look something like this: (you will be in bed for this)

    • Inhale for 4 seconds
    • Hold at the top of the inhale for 4 seconds
    • Exhale for 4 seconds
    • Hold at the bottom of the exhale for 4 seconds.

    This simple strategy can help you release stress from the day so that you can step into a great night of deep sleep.

    2. Bad sleep foods

    A critical hormone in regulating sleep that you may be familiar with is a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin levels rise in your body roughly 2 hours before bedtime, triggering tiredness and sleepiness, then lowers throughout the night until you wake up.

    It’s important to know that melatonin is conversely related to cortisol, your body’s stress hormone. So as melatonin goes up, cortisol goes down and we sleep. As melatonin goes down and cortisol goes up, we wake up.

    Having too much cortisol in our body, especially as we get towards the end of the day, can have a negative impact on our sleep and can keep us waking up in the middle of the night when we really should be sleeping.

    You may be surprised to find there are many everyday foods that we are eating that are triggering a stress response in our brain by creating inflammation. Our brain is extremely sensitive to inflammation and inflammation will leave the brain more sensitive to stress.

    Some of the tops foods that may be wrecking your sleep could be:

    • Trans-Fat – Trans-Fat is a highly processed and highly inflammatory fat source that you should avoid at all costs if you want a good night sleep.
    • Highly processed vegetable oils – Oils like Safflower, Palm, and Canola oil have a few issues. First, they typically oxidize extremely quickly. Oxiditation is a form of “rusting” in fats. When these oils get heated, they “rust” very quickly which creates an inflammatory response in the body. Second, these oils are typically loaded with toxins from their processing which also makes them very inflammatory.
    • Fruit juices and yogurts – These are typically marketed as healthy foods but in reality, they are full of sugar which can disrupt healthy sleep.
    • Alcohol  – Alcohol has been seen as a way to calm down after a long day and many believe it helps them get a good night sleep. It turns out that alcohol actually does more harm than good. Alcohol has been shown to increase wakefulness during the second half of sleep and also increases cortisol levels.[2]

    What to do?

    Make sure to get rid of these foods especially before bed to avoid any interruptions in your sleep.

    3. Electronics before bed

    Our modern technology has made accessing our favorite social media, movies and T.V. episodes available at arms reach 24 hours a day. It turns out that this advancement in technology may be negatively impacting our brain’s ability to sleep optimally.

    Light from LED screens like your smartphone, computer and television has a high density of blue spectrum light.

    Your brain is very familiar with blue light. It’s most familiar with blue light around noon when the sun emits the most amount of blue light. Blue light is an important spectrum of light that helps our brains determine what time of day it is.

    When blue light is highest around noon, it helps the brain calibrate it’s circadian rhythm to the correct time of day so that we’ll be ready for bed at the appropriate time in the evening.

    Getting blue light from your smartphones or T.V. before bed can unknowingly be triggering your brain to think it’s actually earlier in the day than it truly is, which can inadvertently be affecting your circadian rhythm and optimal sleep.

    What to do?

    Avoid all electronics use at least an hour before bedtime to avoid unnatural blue light and allow your brain to start to calm down so you can get great sleep.

    4. Working until bedtime

    You only have 24 hours in a day so you want to maximize it. Sometimes that means working late into the night. As soon as you shut down your computer or finish the call, you hop into bed, hoping to get some reprieve and recovery from the day.

    When the brain is actively engaged in mental activities or work, the brain is typically generating “beta” brain waves. Brain waves are what keep us focused and alert to the task at hand, but unfortunately being alert and focused does not lead to great sleep. It takes time for the brain to transition from an alert phase to the rest phase.

    What to do?

    The key is to give the brain a “cue” that work is over and it’s time to make a switch to a relaxed state so that we can begin the process to unwind and eventually sleep.

    Some cues you can use to tell your brain it’s time to unwind are:

    • Shut everything off and begin to take 20 slow deep breathes.
    • Read a fiction book.
    • Take a hot shower.
    • Watch an episode of your favorite show, just make sure it’s at least an hour until you go to bed.
    • Play some relaxing music

    Use whatever works best for you but the key is to stay consistent. The more consistent you are with your cues, the better the brain gets at making the transition from work to relaxation.

    5. Not making a sleep routine

    Your brain loves routine. There’s a saying in neuroscience that says “The Brain Wires The Way It Fires,” meaning the more the brain engages in the same activity or habit, the more wiring the brain lays down make it easier and simpler for the brain to accomplish.

    When it comes to getting great sleep, having a “sleep routine” is crucial to helping the brain relax from the day and begin to set the stage for a great night sleep.

    Think about the last time you went to workout, did you arrive at the gym and immediately start throwing weights around or start running? Of course not. You warmed up (hopefully) and got your body prepared to workout.

    Think of your sleep routine as a warm-up for your brain to get ready for sleep. The only difference is that the more you “warm-up” with your sleep routine, the better the brain gets.

    What to do?

    The best way to get started is to set a specific time every night, typically an hour before bedtime, where you’ll commit to shutting down work and electronics to transition into your sleep routine. Whatever routine you chose, make sure to stick to it for a few weeks to give your brain time to adapt to the new schedule.

    If you’re looking for a good night routine to follow, here it is: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    Your blueprint for “lights out” sleep

    If you want to be able to stay productive and have incredible amounts of energy, you’re going to need great quality sleep.

    Not sure where to get started?

    Here’s your blueprint to help you get an amazing night of sleep and keep you from waking up in the middle of the night.

    1. Create a great sleep routine and stick to it.
    2. Write down everything you need to do the next day so you can get it off your mind and let your brain relax.
    3. Avoid the sleep trouble foods, especially before bedtime.
    4. Turn your TV, phone and computer off before bed.
    5. Stop working at least an hour before bedtime to allow your brain to make the transition to get ready for bed.
    6. Get to bed at a good time.

    These strategies will help you not only get a great night of sleep but will also help keep you from waking up in the middle of the night restless and unable to get back to sleep.

    Sleep well, my friends!

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    25 Tasty and Healthy Kids’ Lunch Ideas for Home or School

    If your kids are picky eaters, you know that every meal can be a battle. Their growing bodies are in need of vitamins and nutrients, yet all they crave are unhealthy foods with no nutritional content. What you need are creative meal ideas they can eat for lunch at home or at school, designed to appeal to their palate.

    The recipes listed here contain lots of vegetables, minimal or no processed ingredients, and most importantly, flavors that even the pickiest kids will love! The ingredients for each meal are listed below. Click on the name of the dish to see the full recipe!

  • Finger Foods

    1. Asian-Style Fish Cakes with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

    Do you have a finicky eater that refuses to eat fish? This is a great way to make this omega-3 fatty acid rich protein appealing and fun to eat. And it’s much better for you than frozen fish sticks.

    Just so you know, these fish cakes freeze amazingly well! To save time, make a big batch and freeze them for whenever you need a quick meal or snack.

    View recipe here.

    2. Chicken Zucchini Poppers

    Some kids don’t like the texture of zucchini, but in this recipe, they add moisture and the zucchini is barely detectable. Make sure to squeeze out the excess water in the zucchini so that the poppers stay together and don’t fall apart. They can be pan-fried or baked! The poppers pair perfectly with the citrus avocado dressing.

    View recipe here.

    3. Baked Crispy Chicken Fingers with Apple Fries

    If your kid asks for chicken fingers, you don’t have to say no. This version is made with white meat chicken and baked. Substituting fries with apple fries makes this an appetizing lunch that both you and your kids will approve of. Turkey breast can be used instead of chicken.

    View recipe here.

    4. Broccoli and Cheese Nuggets (Vegetarian)

    Broccoli is notorious for being a hard sell. Who knows why kids don’t like eating these miniature trees? But when mixed with cheese and formed into a fun shape for easy dipping, kids may give these broccoli-filled nuggets another try. Another positive is that they are baked, not fried.

    View recipe here.

    The Salad Bar

    5. Chicken Taco Salad

    Kids love tacos, so why not make them a healthy taco salad? This one is packed full of leafy greens, tomatoes, corn, avocado and grilled chicken. Adding crushed chips on top gives it the perfect amount of texture and appeal for your young kids to enjoy without a single complaint.

    View recipe here.

    6. Chicken Salad with Grapes

    A colorful chicken salad with crunchy roasted nuts, dried cherries, grapes and celery, it can be served alone, in a sandwich, or on a bed of lettuce. Apples can be used in place of the cherries or in addition. Greek yogurt can also be used in place of the mayonnaise to up the healthy factor even more!

    View recipe here.

    7. Salad Stuffed Pepper Bowls with Creamy Avocado Dressing (Vegan)

    As many of you moms know, a huge part of the appeal of a meal is the presentation. These pepper bowls are such a clever idea for a kid-friendly lunch. The salad AND bowl are made from a plethora of colorful, nutritious veggies. How often do you get to tell your kids to eat their bowl? You can add a protein to the salad if you prefer, such as grilled chicken.

    View recipe here.

    Soup of the Day

    8. Vegan Chili

    This vegan chili recipe contains primarily of vegetables and beans, making it very healthy and filling. Making a flavorful and rich tasting chili doesn’t have to take all day. By blending a small portion and adding it back in, the chili will be thick and satisfying, and no one will be able to taste the difference! Make a big batch because the leftovers keep very well.

    View recipe here.

    9. Chicken Pot Pie Soup

    Get all the flavors of chicken pot pie in half the time with this chicken pot pie soup recipe. This is such a comfort food, but also contains a lot of nutritionally dense ingredients, such as carrots, celery, peas, corn and green beans. The crust and filling are cooked separately, which is a major time saver for busy moms.

    View recipe here.

    10. Slow Cooker Taco Soup

    Another spin on the beloved taco, a fan favorite of young kids. This recipe is slow cooker friendly, so you can prep all of the ingredients in the morning, throw it in the slow cooker and come back to a house smelling of aromatic taco soup. Serve with tortilla chips or over a baked potato.

    View recipe here.

    Oodles of Noodles

    11. Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne

    Swap out typical Chicken Parmesan with healthier but just as tasty eggplant, which is sauteed instead of deep fried. But you don’t have to sacrifice the crunch from the breading by adding panko on top. You can also use whole wheat pasta to cut calories and add fiber, minerals, and protein.

    View recipe here.

    12. Roasted Chicken and Tomato Pesto Spaghetti Florentine

    This recipe incorporates roasted grape tomatoes, baby spinach leaves and rotisserie chicken breast for a light and easy lunchtime pasta. You can make your own homemade pesto if you have the ingredients on hand. Store-bought also works just as well.

    View recipe here.

    13. Thai Noodle Salad (Vegan)

    Filling your meals with plants of different colors will ensure that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. This recipe alone covers four colors! You can use any type of noodle (wheat, rice, soba, etc.) to make this dish, and customize the veggies to your heart’s content.

    View recipe here.

    14. Southwest Pasta Salad (Vegetarian)

    This pasta salad is bursting with flavor — with tons of spices, lime juice and chipotle peppers. Don’t worry about making too much because the leftovers will be even more flavorful, after marinating in all of the seasonings overnight. And there is no heating needed! Use a lentil and quinoa pasta to make this dish gluten free.

    View recipe here.

    15. Avocado Hummus Pasta (Vegan)

    This recipe is one that I created when I had no clue what to do with the vegetables, ripe avocados and leftover hummus I had to use up in my fridge. The textures and flavors of each ingredient somehow just works magically together. The creaminess from the avocado and hummus ties it all together. This accidental discovery is a huge hit with my husband and son!

    Prep Time: 20 mins

    Cook Time: 10 mins

    Total Time: 30 mins

    A 30-minute creamy vegan pasta loaded with veggies and tossed in a creamy sauce made from ripe avocados and hummus.

    Serves: 6

    Ingredients

    • 1 lb rotini pasta (substitute as needed)
    • 3 tsp olive oil
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 16 oz white button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
    • 8 oz sugar snap peas
    • 1 cup frozen or fresh spinach, chopped
    • 1 large cucumber, chopped
    • 3 oz sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
    • 2-3 ripe avocados, chunks
    • 10 oz hummus, any flavor
    • 1 tbsp garlic powder
    • salt, pepper to taste

    Instructions

    1. Cook noodles according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
    2. Chop veggies and set aside.
    3. Add olive oil to a large saucepan. Saute minced garlic until aromatic. Add mushrooms, asparagus, cucumber, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute until tender.
    4. Add pasta, avocado, and hummus to the pan and mix gently.
    5. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
    6. Serve warm. Store leftovers in the fridge for a few days.

    Some Assembly Required

    16. French Bread Pizza

    This is one of the most versatile recipes I’ve ever come across. Not only can you completely customize the toppings on the pizza, you don’t even have to use French bread. Deli rolls, Italian rolls or hoagie rolls work just as well! The possibilities of toppings that you can add are endless. Have your kids customize their own individual pizzas with their favorite toppings to ensure they will create a meal they love.

    View recipe here.

    17. Rainbow Pizza

    Look at the colors on this pizza! Not only is this pizza visually appealing, it’s also extremely healthy and delicious. The combination of bell peppers, broccoli, red cabbage and beets add a variety of complementary textures and flavors to this creative pizza recipe.

    View recipe here.

    18. Asian Lettuce Wraps

    Chicken lettuce wraps are a crowd-pleaser at P.F. Chang’s, but there’s no reason you can’t make a just as good if not better version at home. Requiring only 15 minutes, these lettuce wraps are scrumptious and fun to eat. Your kids will love assembling their own lettuce wraps and devouring this healthy lunch.

    View recipe here.

    19. Fish Tacos

    Another way to get kids to eat fish is to serve them into tacos! These flaky pieces of fish are topped with a tangy, crunchy slaw loaded with veggies. The fish can be pan-fried or grilled and served in a flour or corn tortilla. Your kids will be requesting this dish over and over again.

    View recipe here.

    20. Skirt Steak Fajitas

    This tortilla friendly recipe that incorporates skirt steak, onions and bell peppers has decided to go the fajita route. All of these ingredients can be combined on one baking sheet. That means fewer dishes and easier clean-up! You can serve with your favorite toppings such as avocado, sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese.

    View recipe here.

    No Utensils Needed

    21. Avocado Egg Salad Wraps

    Eggs are a great ingredient to include in a nutrient-dense lunch for growing kids. Egg salad is one of the best ways to serve it, but the large amounts of mayonnaise introduces a lot of unnecessary saturated fats. This recipe cuts out a lot of the mayo and uses nature’s mayo — avocados, for creaminess.

    View recipe here.

    22. Spicy Tuna Avocado Wrap

    Canned tuna is such a convenient ingredient and is also a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and potassium. This wrap contains lots of hearty vegetables and uses avocado and Dijon mustard to flavor the tuna. Sriracha is used for added spice if your kids can handle spicy food! These wraps can be packed easily in a lunch box to take to school.

    View recipe here.

    23. Chicken and Avocado Roll-Ups

    These easy roll-ups take only 10 minutes to make! And they’re packed with great veggies like avocados, tomatoes and onions. You can pack it with even more veggies like spinach, cucumber, or whatever you might have in your fridge.

    View recipe here.

    24. White Bean Veggie Burgers (Vegan)

    Do you have kids that love eating burgers? These 100% vegan burgers with plant-based bacon and cheese will be so delicious that they won’t even realize they’re not eating meat. Beans contain lots of vitamins and fiber and are a great source of protein. You can bake or grill these delectable burger patties.

    View recipe here.

    25. Turkey Spinach Slider

    One of the problems with turkey burgers is that they can be flavorless and unappetizing when prepared incorrectly. This recipe incorporates ingredients that pack a punch like cumin and garlic. There’s also spinach leaves blended right into the patty, but your kids will be too busy chowing down to even notice!

    View recipe here.

    Making healthy lunches for home or school doesn’t have to be daunting task. Armed with these recipes, you have all the tools you need to find meals that the pickiest of eaters will enjoy.

    By incorporating nutritional but less appealing ingredients into forms your kids recognize and love, you can introduce them to new flavors and hopefully, open their minds to trying new things.

    Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

    The post 25 Tasty and Healthy Kids’ Lunch Ideas for Home or School appeared first on Lifehack.

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    5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

    Time and time again, we’re told what a powerful tool breathing exercises can be for reducing anxiety and more specifically, the physical effects anxiety has on our body.

    Yet how often have you gone hunting to find suitable breathing exercises for anxiety only to bump into a string of complex yoga jargon and techniques that take so long to master that they’re just not fit for purpose?

    After all, when you’re in the grip of crippling anxiety or -worse- a full-blown panic attack, you simply don’t have the time to assume the lotus position and start worrying pranayama, whatever that is.

    What you need is quick, simple solutions you can apply right there on the spot to relax your breathing and return to feeling calm and in control within seconds.

    Today, we’ll look at five of the best breathing techniques for doing just that, ranging from powerful techniques you can use to curtail anxiety before it escalates, to quick-fixes you can use in an emergency whenever a panic attack strikes.

  • Why do breathing exercises for anxiety work?

    Stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath. Doesn’t it just feel better?

    In that moment, you’re focused only on that breath. Your mind isn’t occupied with reading this article, listening to background noise or getting lost in the thousand and one thoughts rushing through your mind. Instead, it’s tuned only to that breath, on the slow, deep inhale and calm, relaxing exhale.

    Take another deep breath and this time, pay attention to how you feel. This time, you’ll notice that not only is your mind clearer because of the reason mentioned above but also that you feel physically different, even if only for a moment.

    This is because, as you focus on those slow, deep breaths, you’re sending a message to your brain that it’s time for calm. Your brain, in turn, sends messages throughout your body that result in that feeling of calm washing gently over you.

    Now, compare this to what happens when you’re in the grip of anxiety.

    When you get anxious, you tend to do what’s called thoracic -or chest- breathing, releasing quick, shallow breaths in rapid succession.

    Often, instead of slowing down your breathing, you get caught up in how those rapid breaths make you feel as though you’re not getting enough oxygen, thus escalating the level of panic. This sends all kinds of confusing signals to the brain which, in response, sends its own signals back through the body, negatively affecting your levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. As a result, your blood isn’t sufficiently oxygenated and thus you end up with all the classic symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks such as a thumping heart, dizziness and muscle tension.

    When you finally take note of our breathing and consciously return it to slow, even diaphragmatic breathing (breathing using your diaphragm), you signal to your brain that it’s time to correct the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, alleviating those symptoms and making you feel calm and relaxed in the process.

    So, that’s the science stuff out of the way, but how do you actually use breathing exercises for anxiety?

    Quick and effective breathing exercises for anxiety

    Here are five quick and effective techniques you can use right now, or whenever you need them, to return yourself to a peaceful state of calm.

    1. Easy abdominal breathing technique

    Let’s start with one of the simplest and most effective techniques available.

    You might have seen this referred to as “belly breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing techniques.” Whatever name you see it by, the technique is essentially the same.

    Here’s a video to help you go through the technique:

    Abdominal breathing technique in action:

    1. Sitting or lying in a comfortable position, close your eyes, relax your shoulders and allow any tension in your muscles to disappear if at all possible.
    2. Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose. Your bellow should expand whilst your chest rises very little. If it helps, you can put your hand on your bellow and feel the inhaled breath pushing that hand up.
    3. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Keeping your jaw relaxed, purse your lips as you blow, though remember to keep the exhale nice and gentle. Again, you can keep your hand on your stomach and very lightly push down as you exhale.
    4. Repeat for several minutes until you feel calm again.

    Like most of these exercises, you may find it helpful to practice this one even when you’re feeling anxious. That way, you’ll know just what to do when the time comes that you do need to use it.

    2. Buteyko breathing method

    One common symptom of an anxiety or panic attach is hyperventilating. This involves breathing so rapidly that it almost feels that you just can’t get enough oxygen into your lungs no matter what you do.

    In actual fact, the very opposite is happening. Hyperventilation is caused by too much oxygen getting in, upsetting the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance and inducing those feelings of panic. The Buteyko method readdresses that balance, proving itself to be highly effective in stopping hyperventilation.

    Here’s a video to help you go through the technique:

    Buteyko breathing method in action:

    1. Sit comfortably, take a gentle breathe in through the nose.
    2. Just as gently, breathe out, again through the nose.
    3. Immediately following the exhale, pinch your nose with your fingers and hold your breath.
    4. Continue to hold your breath for as long as you can.
    5. When you feel a natural urge to breathe again, let go of the nose and breathe out.
    6. Resume breathing as normally as possible.
    7. Wait for 30 – 60 seconds and repeat until you feel calm and relaxed.

    3. 1:4:2 Power breaths

    Fans of best-selling author and performance coach Tony Robbins may already be familiar with this one.

    Featured in Robbins’ groundbreaking 2001 book Unlimited Power, this powerful technique can help you quickly move from the short, shallow thoracic breathing that creates panic attacks to the deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing that leaves us calm and relaxed:

    Like all the breathing exercises we’re looking at today, this one has the added benefit that by focussing on it and it alone, we’re able to take our thoughts away from the anxiety trigger, putting our minds in a clear, calm state from which we can better tackle what’s in front of us.

    It’s called 1:4:2 because that’s the ratio used to determine how long to inhale, hold and exhale a breath. Using that ratio for an initial count of five, for example, the technique would look like this:

    1:4:2 in action:

    1. Inhale for five seconds
    2. Hold the breath in for 20 seconds
    3. Exhale for 10 seconds.

    If you find that this is too much, you can always adjust the number of seconds providing you stick to the same ratio.

    You could, for example, do the following:

    1. Inhale for three seconds
    2. Hold the breath for 12 seconds
    3. Exhale for six seconds.

    Tony Robbins recommends doing 10 “power breaths” three times a day, though even if you don’t remember to do it throughout your day, repeating this exercise ten times when you’re struggling with anxiety can really help with alleviating the symptoms you’re dealing with.

    4. Equal breathing

    If all that talk of numbers and ratios causes you more anxiety than it solves, here’s a much simpler version. This one focuses on breathing in and our for an equal number of breaths:

    Equal breathing in action:

    1. Breathe in slow and steady through the nose for a count of four.
    2. Relax and exhale for the same count of four.
    3. Repeat until feeling calm and relaxed.

    You might also find it helpful to use this one before bed if your anxiety is causing you sleep problems.

    5. Alternate nostril breathing

    Finally, we come to one of the trickier breathing exercises for anxiety, albeit one that can prove hugely beneficial in helping us move from thoracic to diaphragmatic breathing, as well as regaining focus when anxiety sends your thoughts into a spin.

    Here’s a video to help you go through the technique:

    Alternate nostril technique in action:

    1. Place your right thumb over your right nostril.
    2. Breathe in through your left nostril.
    3. Put your finger over your left nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
    4. Alternate breathing in through one nostril and out through the other, blocking whichever nostril you’re not using.

    Choose the best breathing exercises for your anxiety

    Whilst some of these techniques are best used in specific circumstances (such as Buteyko for hyperventilation), each one ultimately achieves the same result — Getting us out of those fast, shallow breaths that cause our anxiety symptoms and back into the deep, relaxing breaths that leave us feeling calm.

    To determine which one is best for you, you might want to take some time to practice each one and decide for yourself which is the most effective in alleviating your anxiety.

    Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

    The post 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly) appeared first on Lifehack.

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