12 Most Important Milestones in Life to Grow Through

Life truly is a journey. The experiences we have as we travel through our days are what give our lives richness, meaning and purpose.

We are all familiar with society’s conventional ‘markers’ of success and accomplishment – things like reaching the legal age to vote, getting your driver’s license and first car, graduating, getting married, becoming a parent, buying your first home, and retiring…

But society has changed; fewer people are choosing marriage, parenthood or a formal education. Many will never be able to afford to buy their own home, and retirement is no longer the guaranteed cushion it once was. How do we measure our success and progress without these once standard markers?

And what about all those moments that reveal our values, such as humility and acceptance, or that show us our greatness? They may be less spectacular or outwardly notable to others, but these markers often play a more significant role in defining our life values, our sense of self, and our place in the world.((iNLP Center: Here’s Why You Need a Life Values Inventory to Find Happiness))

Let’s take a look at some of these important milestones in life, and the rich life lessons they have to teach us:

1. Opening Your First Paycheck

Opening your very first paycheck from your first real job is incredibly exciting. Even if the amount is paltry by anyone else’s standards, and even though it’s likely to be the smallest you’ll ever open, it’s yours.

You worked for it, earned it, and get to cash and spend it however you like. No other paycheck, no matter how large, will fill you with such pride and accomplishment.

Of course, once the initial excitement wears off, most of us are faced with the dawning realization of just how much everything costs.

But earning our own money can hopefully teach us responsibility, budgeting, and debt management. Earning and spending our own money can also show us a great deal about what we value in life.

2. Leaving Home

For most, leaving home is a bittersweet occasion. We feel excited to be free of the rules, restrictions and limitations of our parents’ ways, and to finally be striking out on our own. But we are likely also more than a little frightened and unsure of our ability to survive without the comfort and security that comes with being a child under those parental ‘wings’.

When the reality of leaving home sets in, we have the opportunity to learn the valuable lessons of hard work (laundry, dishes, cooking), money management (I have to pay for heat?), and appreciation for our parents and family.

3. Falling in Love & Getting Your Heart Broken for the First Time

The many forms of love we are fortunate to experience throughout our lives will hopefully deepen and grow as we do, but there is nothing quite like the intense and absolute euphoria that first love brings.

We learn what it means to appreciate and focus on someone other than ourselves; and if we’re lucky, we get to experience how it feels to have someone appreciate and love us in return.

Of course, falling in love also opens us to the possibility of heartbreak, and the first time we experience it can be quite a painful and sobering shock.

But as with every life experience, there are gifts to be had in a broken heart – realizing you can and will overcome difficulties, and that time truly does heal all wounds.

4. Gaining Self-Awareness and Autonomy

This is a big one, though often it comes in incremental revelations rather than a lightning bolt of sudden understanding.

It comes in those moments when we realize we have dreams, interests and passions that are different from what is expected of us by our parents and society; or when we become aware of a value or belief that doesn’t match those of our peers, and that we didn’t know existed within us; or when we realize suddenly that we care less about what we look like or what clothes we are wearing, and more about who we are and how we feel.

If we’re lucky, we’ll come to this burgeoning self-awareness in our twenties. But for some, it comes later in life as a result of a painful event (divorce, losing a job, illness or injury), as a sudden realization that they are not living the life they want, or as an urge to reinvent themselves in some significant way (mid-life crisis).

Self-awareness is a never-ending unfolding of truth as it relates to our experience in life. We could all stand to increase it in key areas.((iNLP Cente: Self Awareness Test – Discover Your Hidden Opportunity for Growth and Success))

5. Realizing Your Parents Are Real People

It’s quite a shock to realize that those people whose sole purpose you believed to be taking care of you, suddenly reveal themselves to be actual, whole individuals with hopes, dreams and fears of their own.

For some, it can be quite disconcerting or even disappointing to see their parents in this new light; we have a tendency to put our parents on a pedestal, and view them as perfect or even godlike. When we become adults ourselves, and we see our parents making mistakes, failing or experiencing illness, it can shake our very foundation, and make us feel suddenly vulnerable and far too ‘grown up’.

Equally valuably, we may abruptly realize that our parents were not simply put on this earth to care for and cater to us, and that they have their own very complex and private lives that don’t involve us at all. This can teach us appreciation for all that they have done for us, and remind us to do for them in return.

6. Surviving Disappointment

Everyone’s got to go through this one for the first time. And it can be extremely unpleasant for those raised to believe they are only destined for happiness and success.

When we experience the sting of disappointment as adults, the experience often comes with a degree of lost innocence or naivety. We may have been led to believe that life would be easy, or that by simply being good people we would only experience good things.

And life is mostly easy and good. But not everything is going to turn out how we hoped or planned, and sometimes bad things happen to very good people.

When we first learn this through some significant disappointment – not getting that job we wanted, or not making the team, or not catching the eye of the person we adore – it can feel as though the whole world is suddenly against us, and that nothing can be counted on.

Experiencing disappointment is life’s way of teaching us to go with the flow and roll with the punches instead of expecting perfection or trying to control everything and everyone around us. It also teaches us that we are are more than the sum of our accomplishments.

7. Experiencing a Different Culture

Our first experience with an entirely different culture from our own often comes as a result of traveling outside our home country.

But it can also come about as a result of moving to a big city from a small town (or vice versa), or spending time with a family of a different ethnic or religious background from ours, or even going to a different part of our own city that perhaps we never knew existed.

However we first experience a way of life that is significantly different from our own, we are forever changed by it if we remain open to it. We gain perspective and appreciation for our own culture and environment, develop understanding, tolerance and compassion for those different from ourselves, and become inspired by new possibilities for how to live our lives.

8.  Doing Something That Terrifies Us

When we face a lifelong fear – skydiving, traveling alone, singing on stage, or speaking in public for example – we gain invaluable personal power and strength of character in the form of courage, will, confidence, and self-respect.

People who have overcome significant trauma or illness, and who have been able to turn it into a positive life lesson, also report these same gains.

And it needn’t be something huge to reap these rewards; even doing one small thing each day that pushes us outside of our comfort zone will net huge benefits in the short and long-term.

9. Dealing with the Death of a Loved One

This is something we must all face at one time or another in our lives, and the first time is always particularly challenging and life-altering.

Whether it’s the loss of a beloved goldfish in early childhood, or the deeper grief of losing a spouse, parent, child or family pet in our adult years, our first brush with death on this level can be extremely traumatic as we grapple with larger questions of our own mortality, the impermanence of life, and accepting the unknown.

10. Failing

Experiencing a critical or momentous failure is a life-changer for almost everyone.

Getting fired from a job we loved, the unwanted ending of a marriage or long-term relationship, not getting into that prestigious university program, or failing to make the cut in our chosen field of the arts, sports or entertainment can be devastating.

When we are forced to accept an outcome we did not want or choose in spite of our best efforts, it can feel as though we ourselves are not good enough.

But if we are courageous enough to accept and embrace our imperfections, and if we are willing to change course and adapt, we will be graced with resilience, strength and humility.

Perhaps the biggest key to learning from failure is the critical distinction that failure is a matter of personal interpretation. Once you learn to frame your failures properly, you know how to overcome them.((Psych Central: Here’s Why you Feel Like a Failure + 10 Facts you Should Know))

11. Hitting Rock Bottom

This is going to be different for everyone, but it’s potential impact on our lives is the same for all who face this heavy milestone.

Our personal low point could be as seemingly benign as dealing with any of the failures mentioned above, or it could be as low as anyone could possibly go, including signs of misanthropy or general hatred of humanity.((Social Infection: Five Signs of the #1 Social Infection: Misanthropy))

It could be brought on through struggles with addiction, money troubles, loneliness and isolation, mental health issues, or illness and injury. It doesn’t discriminate: anyone from the loftiest, most beloved and popular to the lowliest and marginalized can experience being in this place of despair and hopelessness.

Hitting rock bottom can and does often prove to be a pivotal turning point in a person’s life, as they learn what is really important in life, and what they are truly capable of.

Humility, compassion for ourselves and others, perspective, strength, resilience, and a strong sense of purpose are just some of the many gifts they may choose to receive on their way back up.

12. Doing Something Selfless

When we are younger, by design we are focused on ourselves – on our own happiness, gains and security.

But as we mature, we begin to see the world through others’ eyes. We develop compassion. We fall in love. We feel joy and excitement for our loved ones’ accomplishments and happiness.

When we realize that we are doing something entirely for the benefit of another, we are be truly selfless and loving.

Volunteering, giving the gift of our time, attention or energy to another, helping make someone else’s dreams come true, or saving someone’s life are all examples of how we may express this more advanced type of love and compassion. In acting selflessly, we reap the immediate rewards of good feelings, and an increase in our own happiness.

The overarching and profound life lesson for this important milestone in life is a realization that we are all connected to one another, and that we are not alone after all.

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10 Leadership Goals That Strong Leaders Set for Themselves

When most of us think of leaders, we usually focus on those individuals that stand out as particularly powerful, popular, or highly influential. We may think of current and past Presidents and politicians, world-renowned speakers and thought leaders, business and corporate gurus, even sports and entertainment celebrities.

But true leadership isn’t defined by popularity, external power or influence. Strong leaders are often at work in the background and out of the spotlight, comfortable and confident in their ability to affect change draw forth the best in others.

Leadership has nothing to do with title. A true leader does not desire power and control over others. Rather, a strong leader marks his or her success by the number of people they inspire and empower.

They do this not by force, intimidation or coercion, nor by way of their name, position or rank. They do so through their actions, and by demonstrating their personal power, values and integrity at all times.

Let’s look at what makes a strong leader, and what types of leadership goals inspire good leaders to become even better.

1. Developing Personal Responsibility & Self-Discipline

If you want to become a better leader, you need to fully understand and have leadership of yourself. In order to teach others to take responsibility and leadership in their own work and lives, a strong leader strives always to demonstrate and model these qualities.

This means accepting full responsibility for one’s life as it is, including one’s decisions, actions, behaviors and outcomes, be they positive or negative. It means viewing one’s mistakes and one’s successes with equal appreciation for the lessons and gifts they impart.

Being a strong leader also means practicing and developing self-discipline in order that one’s decisions and actions are undertaken in an unbiased and controlled manner, and that one is always fully aware of and prepared for the repercussions of those actions and decisions.

2. Learning to Fail Gracefully

A true leader strives for perfection while understanding that it is an illusion that can’t actually be attained. As such, they expect to fail at least as often as they succeed, and they simply count losses into the equation.

Trying to cover up or hide their mistakes and failures, giving in to rage, or blaming others for their losses not only makes them look foolish; it also deprives them of the opportunity to learn from their losses and grow as leaders.

A strong leader isn’t afraid or ashamed to fail, and instead fully examines the losses, scouring them thoroughly for opportunities for learning, making adjustments and improvements for the future. A leader refuses to let the value of their mistakes pass them by.

In this way, a good leader can walk away from his or her mistakes and failures with grace and dignity, thereby empowering and allowing others to do the same.

3. Practicing Careful & Active Listening

Canadian clinical psychologist and professor Jordan B. Peterson taught that we should treat every person we meet as if they know something valuable that we don’t.((High Existence: 40 Profound Life Rules from Jordan Peterson Everyone Should Know))

In doing so, we approach each person, regardless of position or title, with the curiosity of a beginner’s mind, and we treat others in a way that is naturally respectful.

When a good leader practices this kind of listening, not only does he or she foster respect in those they are leading, but they also gain from the wisdom that is inherent in each and every person.

4. Developing Well-Roundedness

An important key to success as a leader in any arena is developing multiple areas of competence.

This means potentially mastering separate disciplines which at first glance may not have an obvious connection, but that ultimately provides one with a robust and varied ‘toolbox’ of skills and knowledge to choose from when confronted with difficult or challenging situations. And even the loftiest of goals requires the skills and know-how to get things done in the real world.

Being well-rounded in one’s scope of experience and skills also means one will be better able to relate with, understand, and therefore lead a broader spectrum of people.

5. Building Resilience

This one goes hand in hand with #4 above. By always striving to increase and diversify his or her knowledge and competence, a good leader builds resilience in the face of hardship.

You might think of resilience as the opposite of powerlessness,((Leader to Luminary: Feeling Powerless is Impossible When you Understand this Simple Fact)) but resilience is that set of qualities and character traits that allows us to remain flexible in times of change, to bend instead of breaking when we are faced with stresses and challenges, and to endure and overcome life’s inevitable hardships and failures.

Resilience can also be of a financial nature; laying a solid groundwork in which one is able to manage money without succumbing to temptation, being unduly influenced by passing trends, or behaving recklessly will allow one to weather financial storms gracefully and independently.

Learn more about building resilience in this guide:

How to Build Resilience to Survive in This Difficult World

6. Developing Leadership Presence

To be an effective leader, one must gain the respect of others. It’s not enough to have the skills and knowledge to get things done – a leader must earn the loyalty and allegiance of those they are hoping to lead.

While confidence, communication skills and poise can certainly help create the aura of leadership, it’s not enough. No matter how polished you are, if you are not a person of integrity, your power will be paper thin.

Integrity comes from knowing who you are, being clear on your core values and what you stand for, and then behaving and speaking in line with all of that. You cannot hope to inspire loyalty, honesty and respect in others if you do not behave in a manner that is honest, loyal and respectful.

Humility and open-mindedness are other vital qualities to foster if you hope to be an inspiring and respected leader.

7. Identifying and Fostering Leadership in Others

Followers are important. People who take direction and run the minute operations of complicated processes literally make the world run.

The role of the leader, on the other hand, is primarily to mentor, delegate and direct others. He or she understands that it is vitally important to make themselves redundant by creating new leaders who can eventually step into the role they currently occupy.

True leaders of industry and business know that they need to surround themselves with competent people in order to succeed, and will actively seek out and foster leadership qualities in others.

They are not concerned with maintaining top rank or preserving ego – they understand that encouraging others to improve and become leaders ultimately means they can reach their goals faster, and this benefits them as well as the entire organization/business/society.

8. Understanding Persuasion

Being a good leader is essentially an exercise in psychology and human behavior. A leader understands that all people, including themselves, are emotional creatures, and that they will not respond positively to instructions, information or guidance to which they feel hostility, confusion or doubt.

As a result, a leader knows he or she must learn to effectively communicate using the emotional language that most people live in and through. By building rapport, and speaking to the emotional limbic system, a smart leader is able to better convince others that he or she is coming from a place of integrity and knowledge, and dispel any hesitancy or opposition.

A strong leader also understands what motivates others to want to help them in their cause, and strives to encourage others by building their confidence and bringing out their best qualities.

9. Managing Personal Resources

The brain is, like a muscle, capable of exerting a certain amount of work effort for a certain period of time. And just like any other muscle, it needs rest time to rebuild and restore itself.

Our emotional and energetic bodies are similarly wired. Too much output or stress on any of these systems for too long will result in ineffectiveness, exhaustion and eventually break down.

Those determined to master the art of leadership recognize that their personal resources – their energy, emotions and minds – are not limitless, and need to be recharged on a regular basis.

Good leaders take care of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally, and are careful not to overload themselves.

10. Always Seeing the Bigger Picture

A great leader always endeavors to think in terms of the bigger picture, keeping a bird’s eye view of the events and happenings of the day-to-day so as not to lose site of the larger goal.

This is a worthwhile thing to do, regardless of your position in life. The iNLP Center points out that viewing issues from a distance is clinically proven to be an effective problem-solving method.((INLP Center: Achieving the Perspective that Puts Problems in their Place))

They strive to maintain a sense of clarity at all times, practicing seeing through the fog of the temporary and ever-shifting, and keeping their sites steadied on the path ahead. In this way, a strong leader doesn’t get caught up in the panic or drama of the current challenges, missteps or obstacles, and is able to deal effectively and calmly with the unexpected without getting thrown off track.

Becoming a True Leader

While real leaders are not particularly common in our society, by studying other great leaders — those who lead by example, who inspire trust and loyalty through their integrity, who remain humble and open-minded, and who are able to make difficult decisions for the greater good — we can learn to strengthen our own leadership skills and become more effective in our roles as bosses, managers, teachers and visionaries.

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8 Ways to Prepare for Change and Live Your Dream Life

Every year, many of us may have launched initiatives for change in the form of resolutions. We often feel inspired to reflect, look back, and take stock of our lives, deciding what is working for us, and what isn’t.

The changes we seek may be relatively small or short-term, such as losing those holiday love handles or decluttering the garage. We may also feel a strong desire or need for more profound, long-term transformation in the form of a career change, quitting long-term habit, or moving to a new town.

Whether we deliberately pursue personal transformation and growth or have it thrust upon us, we can greatly improve our chances of achieving success by preparing for the changes we seek.

Understanding the Logical Levels of Change

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), we use the Five Logical Levels to understand what’s involved in making personal change. This is a simple model that gives five useful windows through which to view any issue.((NLP Center: What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming -NLP- and Why to Learn It))

Here’s a quick breakdown of the five Logical Levels:

  1. Identity – Who are you? What roles do you play in your life?
  2. Beliefs – Why do you do what you do? What are your values and beliefs?
  3. Capabilities – How do you do things? What are your skills and strategies?
  4. Behaviors – What are you doing? What are your current behaviors?
  5. Environment – Where, when and with whom are you displaying your behaviors?

Changes and factors at each level impact those above and below it to a greater or lesser degree. For example, changing your environment may affect the levels above it, but altering a belief you hold will most certainly influence the levels below it.

To shift a behavior, which is the level we typically target when we resolve to ‘make a change’ in our lives, we often need to become aware of and adjust our underlying beliefs and sense of self, build our capabilities to include new skills, and possibly support the shift by changing our environment.

Let’s use an example to walk through each level; you’re unhappy in your current career as a Chartered Accountant, and have decided to go back to school to retrain as a Registered Massage Therapist.

  • Identity – is your purpose to be happy and fulfilled, or to be the successful bread-winner of your family?
  • Beliefs – do you value helping others? How much do you value income and status vs. happiness and satisfaction? Do you believe you are capable of making the necessary changes?
  • Capabilities – how will you gain the skills you need to become a massage therapist? What training will you need? What soft skills will you need that you don’t currently have (i.e. communication, making people feel at ease)? Are you willing to do what it takes to obtain these new capabilities?
  • Behaviors – aside from physically leaving your current job, what other behaviors might need to change? Will you need to cut down on luxuries to afford the transition? Are your beliefs in line with the changes you will need to make?
  • Environment – does your current environment support the necessary changes (i.e. your spouse, boss)? Will you be able to study and work in your current situation, or will you need to move? When is the best time to make the transition?

8 Ways to Prepare for Change

Now that you have an understanding of the logics involved in making a life change, here are 8 tips to help you navigate transitions both small and large, and set you firmly on the path toward the life of your dreams.((Positive News: Positive Psychology: Five keys to preparing for change))

1. Get Clear on Your Desired Outcome

Take the time to clearly define exactly what it is you want to accomplish with the change in terms of what it will look like, when you want it to happen, how long you want it to take, and a basic outline of how you will accomplish it.

This is particularly important for those who like to jump right in once they’ve made a decision; enthusiasm is wonderful and will serve you well, but you also need a clear path and solid understanding of what it is you want.

2. Create a Pros and Cons List

It’s inevitable that with big change comes fear and doubt. Even when we know a particular decision is right for us and will benefit us in the long-term, we may feel a pull back to the familiar and comforting behaviors, habits, jobs and situations we are attempting to leave behind.

Make a list of the reasons you want to change. What are the deeper desires behind your decision? What specific positive outcomes will you experience as a result of your change? And finally, what are the negative consequences of NOT changing?

Create a detailed list of your answers to these questions, and post them where you will be able to review them often. When doubt creeps in, or when your motivation lags, your list will serve as an encouraging reminder of why you’re doing all this in the first place.

3. Imagine the Outcome

In NLP, we refer to this important step in accomplishing any chosen goal or outcome as Future Pacing. Simply put, you imagine and visualize the end result of the change you are making.

This step accomplishes two important things:

One, you now have a richly imagined successful future outcome as positive motivation on your journey; and two, from your imagined place of success, you can then ask yourself how you got there, creatively envisioning overcoming any obstacles and challenges from a place of guaranteed achievement.

Richly visualizing the life you will experience after you have accomplished your goals as a daily exercise is also a great way to practice manifesting your reality.

4. Ecology Check

Another NLP term, an ecology check is simply holding your envisioned end result up to the microscope of inquiry:

  • What possible obstacles or conflicts may arise?
  • What mindsets, habits or behaviors might sabotage your efforts?
  • How will achieving your desired change affect others in your life (family, friends)?
  • Are there any sacrifices you will need to make? Are you ready to make them?
  • How will your life need to change in order for you to achieve your end result?
  • Is the end result aligned with your core values and beliefs?

Asking yourself these important questions before you embark on a significant life change can save you time, effort and heartache, and allow you to make any necessary adjustments ahead of time.

5. Build Your Assets

Make a list of any assets you currently have, such as money and other resources, skills, training, talents and supportive individuals.

Now make a list of those assets, you still need to acquire in order to successfully accomplish the change before you, including things like adopting new mindsets and behaviors, training and education, mentorship, and physical assets such as living and working spaces, loans or transportation.

Make a plan for how you will obtain any skill or resources that are currently lacking.

6. Create Contingency Plans for Possible Obstacles

Once you’ve envisioned your desired future outcome, and scrutinized it for possible challenges and obstacles, you can come up with plans for those possibilities.

You don’t have to go into too much detail; just decide ahead of time how you might handle the bumps in the road should they arise.

For instance, if you anticipate resistance to your life decision from those around you, you might prepare a short and punchy answer to the question of why you’re doing it.

7. Create an Action Plan

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when we are facing big life changes, even those we choose and want. Any worthwhile life change involves letting go of familiarity and stepping outside our comfort zones, and this can be a frightening experience.

Having a clearly defined action plan will not only help you stay on track with your progress, but also provide you with reassuring structure in the midst of what may at times feel like chaos.

When you formulate your plan, be sure to chunk it down into manageable, preferably daily tasks and action items, and set several achievable milestones along the way towards your end goal.

8. Keep Calm and Carry On

Remember to be compassionate with yourself. Making significant personal and life changes can be challenging, and as with any journey, there will be bumps as well as milestones along the way.

You will make mistakes, and there will be unforeseen setbacks. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Stay present as best you can, stick with your action plan, and review that Pros and Cons list you created to remind yourself of why it’s all worthwhile.

Take time each day to visualize your desired outcome, and don’t forget to celebrate those little milestones and victories along the way.

Final Thoughts

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.  — Barack Obama

And therefore, you’re the only one who is responsible to change yourself for a better life.

Before you decide to make changes, be clear about what you want and what you need. And identify the skills you need and find the environment that supports you to make the change you desire.

Keep calm and carry on, and you will be the change you’ve always wanted!

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How to Get Motivated to Go to Work Every Single Day

According to a recent Gallop poll, 85% of workers worldwide hate their jobs. These dissatisfied employees are described by Gallop as being emotionally disconnected from their workplaces, leaving a mere 15% who feel “engaged” by their jobs.((Gallop: The World’s Broken Workplace))

These sobering statistics mean a huge number of people around the world are waking up each day dreading going to work.

What is it that makes us so unhappy with our work? Why are so many of us feeling dissatisfied with and disconnected from our jobs, or worse, hating them?

In this article, we will look into the reasons why so many of us dread to go to work, and how to get motivated to work.

Why Do You Hate What You Do?

There are a number of obvious factors that might contribute to hating one’s job, such as:

  • toxic company culture
  • unreasonable demands on time
  • safety concerns
  • lack of opportunity
  • poor pay
  • lack of respect
  • bad leadership

And what about those of us who simply feel unsatisfied or bored with our work?

Choosing for the Wrong Reasons

J.T. O’Donnell, Founder and CEO of WorkItDaily.com, has been studying job dissatisfaction for over 15 years, and sees a common thread – our addiction to praise. She believes many of us are hard-wired to seek out the “fleeting rush of validation” from impressing others rather than lasting happiness .

As a result, she believes many choose careers and job paths solely for the momentary payoff of being liked, respected or approved of, instead of focusing on what actually makes them happy.

O’Donnell believes that in order for us feel passionate, engaged and happy in our jobs, we must first learn to focus on discovering and developing a more lasting intrinsic motivation for our work.

Our Primitive Brain: Short-Term Pleasure Motivator

The fact is that the vast majority of us need to work in order to earn a living. One might assume then that our basic drive to survive would be enough to motivate us each day, that some aspect of our primitive brain would kick in to push us out of bed and out the door.

Unfortunately, the primitive brain is very much like an impatient child – it wants instant gratification, not some lofty long-term reward. When emotions regulated by our limbic brain get involved in a decision, we’re much more likely to go for the short-term feel-good decision over some future payoff that the primitive brain can’t see or feel.

It’s the limbic brain that sets us up for our addiction to praise, and to other impulsive decisions in which we choose instant pleasure over future enduring happiness.

For instance, if we wake up dreading our work day, and the option of staying home and playing hooky is on the table, our limbic brain will tell us how wonderful we’ll feel if we call in sick, completely disregarding that nagging future possibility of losing our job.

So how do we override our animal brain long enough to cultivate the proper incentive, the intrinsic and lasting motivation to get up each day and head to work?

A Look at Motivation Styles

Luckily, our more primitive brains went on to develop the neocortex, that cognitive thinking part responsible for language, creativity, and executive functions. It’s this part of our brain which allows us to override the impulses of our limbic system and imagine the longer-term consequences of our actions and decisions.

We then use these imagined future outcomes, as well as our other thoughts, as motivation in our day-to-day choices.

But as we heard earlier from J.T. O’Donnell, not all motivation styles are particularly effective or even beneficial. For the best chance at cultivating lasting happiness and satisfaction in our lives, we need to create helpful, positive and effective self-motivation strategies that serve us well in both the short and long-term.

One step is to first look at what makes for ineffective or unhealthy motivation styles. In the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), there are several ways in which we can identify and eliminate these types of self-motivation strategies, thus leaving room for us to adopt a new and more successful approach.

Ineffective Motivation Strategies

Essentially, we have two basic motivators for our choices and decisions. We are either choosing to move away from an imagined negative outcome, or to move towards an imagined positive outcome.

While the avoidance of a negative outcome can be quite a powerful motivation for changing behaviors in the short-term (i.e. ‘if I eat this cake, I’ll get fat and no one will love me’ or ‘if I don’t go into work today, I’ll be fired’), they don’t tend to be very effective in the long-term. They also tend to create feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety and powerlessness.

Unhelpful motivation strategies can be identified by paying attention to your inner dialogue in those situations in which you tend to have difficulty motivating yourself, or where you struggle with procrastination, avoidance, or fear of failure. In NLP, effective motivation strategies fall into one of the following four styles:((The iNLP Center: Lack of Motivation – Seven Causes and Seven Cures))

The Negative Motivator

This person procrastinates and only becomes motivated to take action after imagining some horrible consequence of waiting any longer. ‘If I don’t finish this report by Monday, I’ll be fired for sure.’

The Dictator

This person motivates themselves by issuing themselves ‘orders’ to act, usually in a stern, commanding, and often critical voice. They’ll use words like ‘must’, ‘should’ and ‘have to’. ‘Stop being lazy and get your act together – you have to finish this report on time.’

The “Overwhelmer”

People with this motivation style imagine the entire task or goal they are facing as one global mass of effort that must be accomplished all at once, instead of in manageable chunks.

They then become overwhelmed and discouraged from even taking the first step. ‘I’m going to have to write a full report every Monday for the rest of my career. How am I going to do this every week?’

The “Gloomy Imagineer”

This person imagines themselves doing some unpleasant or overwhelming task, and hating it all the way through.

They imagine only how bad they will feel throughout the process, rather than imagining any sort of positive outcome. ‘I hate writing these reports. I’m going to have use the weekend to finish it, and miss the game on Sunday. My weekend is going to be ruined.’

The problem with these motivation strategies is that they often fail, or backfire. The person may feel so overwhelmed by the task that they don’t even want to start it; they may subconsciously sabotage their efforts out of defiance or resistance; or they may complete the task, but end up feeling stressed and resentful as a result.

How to Create Good Motivation Strategies

If you’ve identified some of these negative or unhelpful motivation styles in yourself, congratulations! Now you can take steps to replace them with more effective, and far more pleasant, strategies.

Here are some basic guidelines for creating the best motivation strategies, according to NLP:((NLP: What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Why Should you Learn it?))

1. Make Your Internal Dialogue Pleasant and Compelling

Be your own cheerleader, not dictator. Use positive words of possibility and encouragement such as ‘I can’, ‘I want’, ‘I desire’ and ‘I will’ instead of judging terms like should and have to.

Include a mental or physical representation of the successfully completed task. Imagine the positive consequences associated with its completion.

2. Chunk it Down

In NLP, this means breaking a large and often overwhelming task down into smaller, more manageable steps.

3. Find Your Intrinsic Motivations

Finding work that truly satisfies us is not always easy. It can mean coming to sometimes painful realizations about our past motivations and compromises, and making changes accordingly.

But making the effort to discover and develop more intrinsic motivations for going to work, such as personal fulfillment, meaning and passion, will serve us far better than any external pressures or expectations can.

Final Thoughts

Developing smart, effective, and positive motivation strategies can help us make good decisions that serve both our short and long-term happiness.

If you’re finding it difficult to drag yourself out of bed in the morning because you dread going to work, and a change in career or workplace is not an option just yet, try taking a look at your internal dialogue and making changes to how you motivate yourself.

You’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve when you become your own best supporter of your goals and dreams.

More Resources to Boost Your Motivation

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10 Reasons Personal Growth Is Important No Matter How Old You Are

Self-improvement products in the U.S. bring in an estimated 9.9 billion dollars annually according to the latest data,((Market Research.com: What’s Next for the $9.9 Billion Personal Development Industry)) a seemingly massive industry. That is until you compare it to the music and film industries, which come in at a whopping 61 billion dollars combined. Or the beauty industry at an enormous 265 billion.((Cosmetics Design: Global beauty market to reach $265 billion in 2017)) Now that’s a behemoth.

What these impressive numbers tell us is that Americans spend nearly 33 times more of their hard-earned cash on music, movies, and personal appearance than they do on personal growth.

Of course, the numbers aren’t a big surprise — our society is driven by appearances and instant gratification. We all want to look good and enjoy ourselves. But the data may be illustrating just how out of whack our priorities really are.

Assuming we could collectively use a swift kick in the pants to adjust those priorities, let’s review some great reasons to actively pursue personal development, at any age.

Those who actively pursue personal development enjoy the following ten advantages:

1. Healthier Relationships

Relationships — with your family, children, co-workers, lovers and even that primary relationship with yourself – are the foundation of life. You can’t avoid them (even when you may wish to).

When your relationships are low-quality, your life is low quality. Conversely, when your relationships are healthy and vibrant, you will reap the benefits in profound ways.

Learning and building good relationship skills is an essential part of any personal development plan. People who consciously and deliberately build interpersonal skills experience greater satisfaction in relationships of all kinds.

2. Less Stress

Given the killer that stress has turned out to be,((healthline: 13 Habits Linked to a Long Life (Backed by Science))) and how quickly it negatively impacts our overall quality of life, anything that reduces stress would be worth pursuing, don’t you think?

By making personal development a habit, particularly with regards to stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness practices, you will be better able to identify, manage and even eliminate key sources of stress in your life.

3. Improved Health

This one follows very nicely from our first two advantages above.

The link between stress and health is undeniable; more stress equals more disease. Happier and healthier relationships equals less stress, and the more equipped we are to manage and reduce stress, the better our overall health becomes.

The tools and teachings of personal development and self-improvement give us a better understanding of ourselves and of the world around us. The more you understand, the more equipped you become to handle whatever life throws at you.

People who have learned to manage the challenges and stressors of life have fewer lifestyle-related diseases, and may enjoy a prolonged lifespan as a result.

4. Increased Productivity

The number one enemy of productivity is procrastination. And procrastination is often driven by deeper emotions.((INLP Center: The Emotions Behind Procrastination: Five Scenarios You Should Understand if you Want to Get Things DONE)) People engaged in personal growth as a lifestyle make a habit of digging deeper into these issues, thereby increasing the likelihood of arriving at meaningful solutions.

The second largest enemy of productivity is, you guessed it, stress. Our increasingly hectic lives are often driven by the expectations of perfection and performance, and when stress enters the mix, our productivity drops. We spend so much of our time worrying and trying to multitask that our ability to focus and accomplish what we set out to do diminishes.

Self-development techniques improve your ability to focus and manage stress, help you get at hidden emotions and motivators, and allow productivity to sore.

Just imagine what life would be like if nothing stood in the way of your highest productivity. How much more would be possible for you?

5. Enhanced Self-Control

Self-control, that ability to regulate your emotions, thoughts and behavior in order to accomplish specific goals, is a cognitive ability that can be worked out and strengthened just as you would your muscles.

When setting and working towards goals for your life, it’s easy to become derailed by temptations, habits and impulses, particularly those driven by subconscious beliefs and underlying emotions.

By making self-development a regular and important part of your life, you bring to light those underlying beliefs and feelings. You strengthen your self-control ‘muscles’, making it easier to build new habits and achieve short and long term goals.

6. Greater Success

By success, we’re talking about the ability to reach those markers of achievement that each individual sets for him or herself, rather than the standard markers of ‘success’ as presented by media (i.e. wealth, popularity, fame or power). Though, ironically, if that’s what you truly want, you’re more likely to achieve it if self-development is a regular part of your lifestyle.

When we look back over the advantages as listed above, it’s easier to see why this is true; healthy and supportive relationships, reduced stress and the associated improvements in health, increased productivity, and enhanced self-control all create the necessary environment for success to occur.

7. Improved Peace of Mind

Aside from the peace of mind that generally follows as a result of such factors as lower stress levels, experiencing better overall health, and being successful, regular self-awareness and improvement practices can generate their own feelings of greater contentment and tranquility.

Mindfulness, meditation, and mind-body techniques such as yoga and qi-qong, when practiced regularly can improve focus and self-awareness, which in turn helps generate peace of mind.

Personal development practices also tend to increase your understanding of self and others, which contributes to a greater sense of peace and acceptance overall.

8. Better Parenting

Because young children and babies learn by aping their parents and caregivers, it’s vital that parents first and foremost work on developing and improving themselves.

To be a better parent, one that can serve as a good first role model for babies and young children, you need to be willing to take a long, hard, honest look at yourself.

When you spend the time on personal development and self-awareness, you are less likely to unwittingly pass along negative patterns and behaviors to your children. You’re also far less likely to fall into common parenting pitfalls such as negative reinforcement, anger, bullying, enabling, micromanaging and the like.

9. Greater Resilience

According to the dictionary definition, resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from life’s challenges, tragedies and difficulties. It’s the psychological ability to emerge from these experience and return to a healthy mental and emotional state. It’s essentially a form of emotional flexibility.

Personal development allows you to confront and work through obstacles from the inside and out. Time spent developing your emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and coping strategies will have a direct and positive impact on your level of resilience.

Life will always throw us curve balls in the form of obstacles and challenges when we least expect them. Having resilience means being able to rebound quickly, returning to your natural balance, growing and learning from the experiences instead of snapping or breaking.

In fact, developing greater resilience may well be the most important thing anyone can do to improve their overall life satisfaction.

10. Greater Happiness

And we finally arrive at the grand finale of advantages — happiness.

If happiness truly is the journey rather than the destination, then spending the time in your daily life to develop yourself will make that journey a heck of a lot more pleasant.

Imagine a life in which you enjoy good health and better relationships; a life in which you feel in control of yourself and your ability to cope well with whatever challenges come your way; a life in which you feel generally confident in your ability to succeed in your endeavors.

By taking the time to work on your personal development, you are decreasing the negative impacts of stress and ill-health, and you are increasing your ability to handle your life and relationships.

Through self-improvement efforts, you learn to identify, heal and transform underlying beliefs, traumas and self-sabotaging behaviors and habits.

All of which contributes to removing the layers of obstacles that smother our ability to experience real joy and happiness.

Final Thoughts

So next time you’re feeling crappy about your life or something in it, and feel tempted to spend money on makeup, clothes or that latest video game, perhaps you’ll think again and browse a while in the self-improvement section.

The former might change your mood for the moment, but the latter may well change your life for good.

More Resources About Self Improvement

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