BETTERING YOURSELF – a healthier perspective

achievement, confident, free

I have always enjoyed reading and learning about different aspects which contribute to our personal development: motivation, consistency, passion, grit, being prepared to face and learn from failures, accepting that we make mistakes, etc. I think this list can be endless as personal growth is a multifaceted, lifelong process. However, we aren’t perfect creatures and we can’t adhere to all these hundreds of rules and meet all the requirements all the time because we wish to grow successfully throughout our life. There are thousands of pieces of advice out there on the internet, TV, in magazines – each tells us something different:

– “To be able to improve yourself you MUST get up at 4am!”

– “To achieve success you HAVE TO sleep for 7-8hrs a day and be ready and prepared, ahead of your competition, all the time”

– ”To change your habit for a better one you NEED TO eat healthier/meditate and exercise more/be more confident/ work when others sleep”

There are LOTS of pieces of advice as to what we should do and what we must do, and what we definitely should not be doing, to make sure we are better human beings. BETTER … but what does it really mean?

When is the moment when you know that now you are good enough? Nobody seems to be talking about that …

Where are the boundaries to make sure that we are not getting trapped into perfectionism?

We aren’t and can’t be PERFECT but on the other hand humans have this inner drive and desire towards bettering themselves constantly.

To tackle this problem, I believe that allowing ourselves time to reflect, review and consider our values, goals and plans is crucial. Otherwise it’s easy to forget what we wanted to achieve and what we are really aiming for, and stress too much about the process and try to do more and better, and faster.

It’s important to take care of your personal development indeed, but it shouldn’t mean joining the rat race. Let others be part of it. You don’t need to be better in every single area of your life. Life is not a marathon or a competition. It’s about the journey, the process, the very moments when you are here and now. Let’s enjoy it a bit more.

When life and priorities change

It’s funny how productivity techniques work so fantastically well when you have a lot of time but just don’t really know how to organise yourself better, and how they fail to work when you are REALLY very busy.

Having a newborn is probably one of the most extreme circumstances when one lacks time, sleep, and a proper eating routine, suffers some memory problems and feels drained physically and mentally (especially when the baby has colic).

The great news is that I survived the terrible labour and that my baby is well!

The bad news is that, although a few weeks have passed since my son’s birth, I still don’t have a routine I’d find relatively stable and effective. Days are challenging, time passes incredibly quickly and I need to be very flexible. I feel I would like to devote a bit more time to my interests and exercising but working on wellbeing and parenting has become a priority right now.

In meantime I’ve been discovering some new activities and experiments I can do with my 4-year-old daughter. Some quality time for us is needed more than ever.

Have a look at some interesting ideas for children’s activities: here

How to cut out all meaningless stuff?

Yellow and White Ceramic Coffee Mug on Brown Wooden Surface With Black Eyeglasses

There are many tempting things in the world!

Every week try to cut off or limit something that doesn’t matter much to you but takes up your time—it may be complaining, Facebook, TV, gossiping or worrying about the future. Don’t feel bad though if you procrastinate a bit sometimes; according to research this is normal and everyone does it. It’s important not to feel guilty about it and make sure that it doesn’t take too much of your time and attention.

It’s easy to get into meaningless chats or meet with negative people not because we really want to but because for some reason we feel we should. When you start to say NO to some invitations you may lose some friends. But then, are they real friends if they don’t understand your need to work on something important to you so you can’t hang out with them as much as you used to?

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The average adult person who has children has for themselves only around 2 hours a day. Due to lack of energy these 2 hours are often spent in front of the TV in the evenings. Think how you can organise this time differently. Surely you need to rest a bit but, to tell the truth, TV isn’t a good method for gaining more energy. Maybe you could allow only half an hour a day for TV (and occasionally watch a film, say at weekends) and spend the remaining time on some exercises, such as yoga from a YouTube channel.

Exercise is a very effective cure for fatigue.

Way too often we spend our time also on… looking for different things. Try to be organised and dedicate a week or a whole month to de-cluttering your house. Plan what you will do each day to tidy your stuff up. A method by Marie Kondo is very popular and helpful nowadays. Have you heard of it yet?

  • Try to find a place for everything in your home and group things together. Don’t keep coins or hairpins in a lot of different places at home. One type of item = one place at your home.
  • Organising your clothes (including the ones in the laundry and in any other place at home), on the same day works wonders. Put into a bin everything you haven’t used for a few years but think that you “might use it one day’. If you didn’t need something for 4 years, do you really think you will need it now or in the near future?
  • Many of your documents, notes, and other similar things also could go in the bin. Don’t deceive yourself; some of these things you will never use or need again!

Try a meaningless stuff diet and see how well it tastes! 😉

How to avoid distractions?

A simple distraction such as a notification (often not important at all!) on your mobile means that each time you lose your focus and, according to studies, need 4 to 15 minutes to concentrate and motivate yourself again to keep working effectively on your tasks!

It was found that office workers are distracted every 3 minutes on average!

Data from 2016 indicated that 3 out of 4 employers believe that every day an average employee loses 2 hours of work due to distractions. While you are doing your work, write down all the distractions that happen for a week or two and analyse them. Think what you could do to minimise or avoid them!

We get easily distracted when we are tired. Remember about taking regular breaks, going for a walk and catching some fresh air. Breathe, eat well, drink a lot of water and some green tea. These SIMPLE (but often neglected!) pieces of advice will help you to stay calmer, more focused and more patient.

If you can, and surely sometimes you can, turn your mobile off or change it to airplane mode.

Free stock photo of hands, coffee, iphone, smartphone

One of the greatest pieces of advice, although quite difficult to follow at first, is to get up earlier to avoid distractions: requests, phone calls, noise, notifications, and questions from others! You’d be amazed how much meaningful work can be done in the early morning hours. Don’t get up earlier to catch up with emails or to clean your home! Get up earlier to do something creative, something that’s meaningful for you, something that will give you exceptional results and will bring you closer to achieving your goals. Write, read, work on your business or project, for example. This is a precious time.

If you get up 1 hour earlier every day you will gain 7 extra hours for something that matters to you! How does that sound? Seven quiet precious hours. I had a long period of time when I was able to get up 2 hours earlier than usual. That’s 14 hours a week! Now while in advanced pregnancy I have had to change my schedule because of the need for more sleep. Remember, not every piece of advice will work the same for everyone but I can say that this tip which I read about in What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfastby Laura Vanderkam (available here) made a huge improvement in my life.

Experts advise that to change your habit and make this morning routine easier, ideally, you should get up at the same time every single day. If you allow yourself to sleep longer at weekends, then you’ll feel that it’s more difficult to get up early during weekdays.

If you feel it’s too difficult to do this, maybe try a shorter period of time; for example, 30 mins extra in the morning—that will also make a difference. Just remember to make sure that you still can sleep 7-8 hours a day.

Some people like to have their Power Hour in the morning so they can feel they’ve achieved something before everyone else gets up. Power Hour means that you dedicate one hour where you put 100% effort into a dedicated project, activity or task. Or it may mean for  some people, for example: 20 mins spent on some creative work, 20 mins of reading and 20 mins of exercising. Check what will work best for you. Knowing that you achieve something early in the morning will make you more satisfied and put you in a more positive mood which will last for hours during the day.

Does money motivate people – what’s the truth?

Does money buy happiness in your opinion?

If yes, to what extent? 

If not, why not?

Many years ago, before I got into psychology, I thought that money surely can motivate people to work better, more quickly and efficiently; and no matter what your job is that money can enhance performance.

Many of us are trying not to focus on material things too much, but sometimes it may be really challenging. We know or hear about people who are driven by fame, power and money, but they don’t always seem to be happier with their life.

There are actually many rich and famous people whose lives are far from ideal, although at first they may look fabulous: they have public recognition, fans, attend parties, and are able to afford houses and fantastic trips all over the world. Then when we look at someone’s life deeper, even though it seems full of blessings, it actually may be an empty and dark place filled with anxieties, depression or drugs.

The rich and famous sometimes can’t handle the social pressure, the expectations from the public and the high standards imposed by the industries they work in.

We often think … if we were rich the bad stuff and feelings surely wouldn’t happen to us and we would certainly know how to keep sane, responsible and in charge of our lives. We may think this but life isn’t as easy as it seems, even if one has money. Even the nicest and most noble people get lost and need to fight loneliness, cancer or depression. And sometimes they lose like in the case of Robin Williams and many others…

What have academic studies recently found out about the impact of money on our happiness and motivation?

According to the Harvard Business Review, studies show that, even if employees decided how much they earn for their work, they probably wouldn’t enjoy their work more!

The link between money and motivation or performance is much more complex than we think. Tim Judge and his colleagues analysed 120 pieces of research on this topic and concluded that there is actually a very weak link between money and job satisfaction.

“Employees earning salaries in the top half of our data range reported similar levels of job satisfaction to those employees earning salaries in the bottom-half of our data range.”

What’s interesting, and no matter how ridiculous it sounds, in non-physical jobs particularly, financial rewards can actually distract and demotivate people, and some tasks can be done even more slowly and less effectively than before!

Scientists believe that we should focus on our intrinsic motivation (own satisfaction) because it is a stronger predictor of our job satisfaction and/or performance.

Of course, research findings are only average and we need to remember that everyone is different and has different motives. Financial goals motivated by the pursuit of power or boosting our confidence (using the money for cosmetic surgeries, for example) will be a lot less rewarding than seeking a bigger income to meet needs related to security or family support.some-people-are-so-poor-all-they-have-is-money

For employers, a far better prediction of an employee’s job satisfaction is their personality traits rather than income:

“The more emotionally stable, extraverted, agreeable or conscientious people are, the more they tend to like their jobs (irrespective of their salaries)… but … the biggest organisational cause of disengagement is incompetent leadership. Thus, as a manager, it’s your personality that will have a significant impact on whether your employees are engaged at work, or not.”

If you are interested to find out more about this fascinating phenomenon, have a look at the Harvard Business Review article HERE

You may be interested in this great book too: Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness by Bari Tessler available here

Can worrying be good for you?

“Values are linked to worries. Researchers distinguish two types of worries – micro worries and macro worries (Boehnke et al., 1998).

Micro worries are all about yourself and others close to you (‘Will I get an interview?’, ‘What if he leaves me?’). Not surprisingly, they lead to poor well-being. Moreover, people who have a lot of these worries usually hold power and hedonism values.

Macro worries, on the other hand, are about society, the world or universal issues (AIDS in Africa or presidential elections in the USA). People who are high on universalism and bebevolence values have these types of worries, together with a higher level of well-being (Schwartz et al., 2000).

So, worrying is actually good for you, as long as it is not self-centered.”

Positive Psychology in a Nutshell. The science of happiness. by Ilona Boniwell.

Energy-draining forms of resting

design, desk, display

Yes, you read this correctly. Some activities seem to be helping us to relax but actually drain a lot of our energy because they need a great deal of attention and focus.

For example, using the Internet may seem like fun but as you know it’s a really huge time waster and energy and attention drainer! Funny videos on You Tube may feel like a great way to relax because they make you smile or laugh but it’s a bit like eating chocolate—it works only for a moment and after such a break you actually feel more tired.

The Apple company confirmed in 2016 that their device users unlock their phones 80 times a day on average. This means 6 to 8 times an hour! Sounds unbelievable, right? Make a simple experiment. You can check how much time you waste on your phone by using one of these apps: Checky, Menthal or the recently created AntiSocial. These apps will allow you to see a lot of different interesting information about your phone usage. For instance, AntiSocial will show you if you use your phone or social media more or less when compared with someone who has a similar demographic as you. Researchers advise the use of one of these apps for around 2 weeks to be able to see a more accurate reflection of your real habits.

It is important to be aware how much time we waste on the Internet or on our phone, especially when it’s associated with factors such as low self-esteem, depression, insomnia and, of course, contributes to our delaying or failing to achieve our personal goals.

Many of us say that we have NO TIME. Check the results of your phone, tablet and PC usage and think again – do you really lack time or can you use your time more effectively?

Spending time with SOME people is another activity which looks like a form of resting but may actually drain a lot of your energy. You perhaps don’t feel like meeting some people but at the same time you think you probably should see and speak to them (family friends; a colleague that you see once or twice a year because neither of you feel you should call each other more often; a work colleague that you don’t really like or can’t trust but you feel you should sit with them during lunch time). Meeting people just for the sake of it and having some meaningless conversations can be really energy draining. It is often more about being polite and pretending than being really interested in socialising or what another person wants to tell you.

Try a brisk walk, mindfulness, stretching, or reading a book instead! Did you know that only 6 minutes of reading can decrease your stress level by nearly 70%? 

If you think of different activities during your usual week you may find more things like that. Surely watching TV is one of the examples.

What activities actually make you feel better, more confident, stronger, more optimistic and creative? Think what things make you feel like you have more energy and do them WAY MORE OFTEN!

What about unimportant meaningless stuff—don’t waste your precious time on it. Don’t let others decide what may be good for you. Don’t do things just to satisfy others and just because something may look good. Often no-one will remember and care. You have only one precious life and really, you should live it the way you want to.