Personal Development

Posts

7_habits The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey has become one of the best selling books in the realm of Personal Development.  With over 15 million copies sold, the seven habits (be proactive; begin with the end in mind; put first things first; think win/win; seek first to understand, then to be understood; synergize; and sharpen the saw) have helped many people focus on what’s most important to them.  Though not directly pertaining to humor in the workplace, the book does help you understand how to create a sense of work/life balance.

Buy It Now

Stephen R. Covey gives us The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Well I give you 7 Things I Learned from 7 Habits (that aren’t just the 7 habits).  If you can, try to read this post in 7 minutes, then share it with 7 friends and drink a 7-up.

1. “To know and not to do is really not to know.”
Knowledge is useless until you act on it.  It’s not enough to know something, you have to turn that knowledge into action.

2. “We are responsible for our own lives.”
What a scary thought, huh?  We are the ones responsible for how our lives turn out, we determine what we do and how we act, so why not make it more fun and exciting?

3. “It is possible to be busy–very busy–without being very effective.”
Or as Peter Drucker said in The Effective Executive: “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”  We need to be effective.

4. “If both people aren’t winning, both are losing.”
In improv this is known as “Yes And,” but it applies in business as well.  When you work to make sure that both sides win in any arrangement, you not only have the short-term victory, but you’re also setting yourself up for success in the future.

5. “When you listen, you learn.”
The key to effective communication is not telling people everything that you know, but everything that they need to hear.  And the only way to know what they need is to listen.

6. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Mathematically this isn’t true, but in terms of productivity and effectiveness it certainly is.  We can accomplish more together than we ever could separately, after all H.E. Luccock quipped “No one can whistle a symphony.  It takes an orchestra to play it.”

7. “The greatest asset you have [is] you.”
At the end of day–actually during the entire day, and night too, all you have and can control is you.  Your ability to be effective rests on you.  Taking the time to improve your skills, maintain your health, keep your sanity, and “sharpen the saw” will help in all other aspects of work and life.  Luckily for us, humor can provide many of those benefits.

    For more, check out our other Recommended Reading.

    inner game of tennisThe Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey is, at the basic level, a book about mastering the mental side of peak performance, specifically in the field of tennis.  However the book explores more than just ways to perfect your backhand, as it dives into areas of conscious and unconscious habits that can relate to anything from tennis to stand-up comedy to giving a presentation.

    Buy It Now

    Introduction

    The Inner Game of Tennis is subtitled as ‘the classic guide to the mental side of peak performance.” It has been in publication for more than 30 years and has been followed by a number of highly successful professionals in the tennis, football, music, and corporate worlds. I decided to read this book for two reasons: 1) A good friend gave me the book and spoke of it highly, and 2) Improving mental performance would seem to be beneficial in any activity, whether it’s tennis, work presentations or stand-up comedy.

    Selfish Thinking

    The entire book is based on the premise that there are two “selves.” Gallwey names them Self 1 and Self 2, where Self 1 is the ego-mind or “teller” (“Hit the ball like this”) and Self 2 is natural ability or the “doer” (the actual movement of the muscles to hit the ball). In order to achieve peak performance, one must “quiet the mind” (Self 1) and let Self 2 do what it knows how to do.

    At a high-level, this makes sense–stop thinking so much and just do it. In improv, you’re forced into situations where you don’t have time to think,  you just have to open your mouth and hope a logical sentence comes out. Think back to the last interview you saw of someone doing something incredible such as saving a child from a fire or helping a drowning man. Some reporter inevitably asks them “what was going through your mind?” and the typical “boring” response is “I don’t remember. I just reacted.”

    Sure, stop thinking, just do it, sounds easy enough right? Go ahead and try it now. Stop thinking”¦. I said stop. You can’t do it. The brain naturally thinks of something (such as the Stay-Puft Marshmallows).  So Mr. Gallwey, how are we supposed to quiet Self 1 if it’s impossible to stop thinking?

    “The best way to quiet the mind is not by telling it to shut up, or by arguing with it, or criticizing it for criticizing you. What works best is learning to focus it.”(pg 82) Ah, so “to still the mind, one must learn to put it somewhere.” (pg 83) But what does it mean to focus the mind? Focus means picking up only “those aspects of a situation that are needed to accomplish the task at hand.” (pg 84) So if you’re hitting a tennis ball, all you really need to focus on is the ball. That’s it.

    Changes

    Getting out of the way of Self 2 makes a lot of sense–if Self 2 knows the right thing to do. When you present in front of a client, you don’t consciously tell yourself to look down while talking, or to say “uh” to fill pauses. You just do it. Neither are particularly beneficial to your presentation, but how can they be corrected if Self 1 has to stay out of it? How do you fix a bad habit if you can’t tell yourself what to do?

    “There is no need to fight old habits. Start new ones.” (pg 74) In order to “fix” a bad habit, you don’t actually have to fix the habit. Instead just start working on a good one. The bad habit doesn’t necessarily disappear, you just stop doing it. Gallwey edifies this point with the analogy of babies: just because they learn to walk doesn’t mean they forget how to crawl.

    Theoretically this makes sense. Hey stop doing A and start doing B. Magically, A disappears, hooray. But we return to the above problem: how do you start doing B if you can’t tell Self 2 what it means to do B (doo bee doo)?

    A Thousand Words

    The trick is that you can communicate with Self 2, just not in the traditional sense of “Hey head. Yeah, you up at the top. Don’t look down while presenting to clients.” But in the sense of imagery, or rather sensory images. Gallwey refers to this as heightening awareness. Become “aware” of important aspects of whatever you are working to improve, get an accurate image of the correct action, imagine you doing that action, and then let Self 2 do the action.

    Suppose you could use some improvement in your typing ability. You always seem to struggle to find the ‘.’ key quickly and it slows down your typing when writing multiple sentences. You know from your study of the “home row” that the ‘.’ key rests on the lower right of the keyboard, next to the ‘,’ and ‘/’, and that you’re supposed to hit the key with your ring finger on your right hand. How would you fix this?

    Gallwey’s four step process is defined as:

    1. Nonjudgmental observation
    2. Picture the desired outcome
    3. Trust Self 2
    4. Nonjudgmental observation of change and results.

    It’s important to note his use of the word “nonjudgmental.” When observing your own behavior (becoming aware of what is happening), you must do it without judging your behavior as positive or negative, right or wrong, good or bad. This type of analysis of the situation is Self 1 talking, so let it go. Instead you just observe the behavior as it is, indifferent to whether it’s “good” or “bad.”

    So you nonjudgmentally observe yourself typing a few sentences. You notice that whenever you need to hit the ”˜.’ key, you move your hand down and hit it with your middle finger. After hitting the key, you find that you have to move your entire hand back to the home row to get ready for the next sentence. Now that you’ve observed this action, you picture the correct behavior, that is, you picture your ring finger hitting the ”˜.’ key. In fact you may even hit the ”˜.’ key a few times, each time bringing the ring finger down to hit it and returning it back to its starting position, just noticing how it feels to bring the finger down, and letting Self 2 feel what it’s like. With all the information it needs, Self 2 is ready to go. You start typing again, observing what your fingers are doing. You don’t make a conscious effort to hit the ”˜.’ with your ring finger, you just observe which finger is doing it. If the Gallwey’s Inner Game theory works, you’ll observe that you were hitting it with your ring finger.

    (Note: I purposefully gave this as an example because it’s something that I need to work on.  While typing the above paragraphs, I observed where my fingers were, but refrained from thinking “hit it with your ring finger.”  Based on the above results, it does seem that I am more consistently hitting it with the right finger and speeding up my typing.)

    The Inner Game of ?

    The concept of mastering Inner Game is certainly an interesting one, and it seems pretty obvious that it can be applied to other areas of your life. However, what are its limitations? Does it only make sense in sports? Sure it can help the golf swing, but what about the business world?

    To me it seems that Gallwey’s theory works best for actions that are physical, those using muscle memory (such as a tennis swing or looking down during a presentation).   But how would it apply to the cessation of smoking cigarettes, saying “uh,” or asking for a raise? How does Self 2 learn/imagine a desired outcome of not standing there with a cigarette in your mouth, the lack of a verbal tick, or asking for more money?

    For the more cerebral, verbal, theoretical circumstances, Self 2 doesn’t get much of a say.  If Self 2 is out of the picture, then that means Self 1 is the only one available.  And while a lot of Gallwey’s tips are dependent on Self 2’s presence, I think the underlying concept of increasing awareness, focus and observation can help with the less physical actions.  Being aware of the smoke filling my lungs might lead to a more pressing desire to quit (I can’t say as I never started).  Focusing on the words I’m saying could help me limit the number of “uhs” that creep out.  Observing my managers body language, as well as my own, might help me be more confident and self-assured when asking to get paid what I deserve.

    In Conclusion

    At 134 pages, the The Inner Game of Tennis is a quick read.  The concepts within are thought-provoking and applicable to a number of areas (plus I have a head start if I ever want to pick up the game of tennis).  If you found any of the above thoughts interesting, I highly recommend you pick up your own copy.  I barely scratched the surface of its big picture concept, and Gallwey does a great job of providing details and examples to further your comprehension of his ideas.  Of all the words in the book, I think my favorite might have been the following, found on page 127:

    “Maybe wisdom is not so much to come up with new answers as to recognize at a deeper level the profundity of the age-old answers.”- W. Timothy Gallwey

    For the last category of Personal Development Week, I’d like to talk a little bit about happiness.

    The first thing I have to say is that if you take some of the steps (or at least the intentions) mentioned in this week’s previous posts (Goals and Discipline, Success, Wealth, and Health), you’ll be well on your way to finding sustainable happiness – happiness that isn’t just tied to small individual events, or fleeting emotions, but a happiness that answers the question “Am I happy?” with a resounding yes.

    Happiness is a State of Being

    It is important to note that happiness is a state of being.  You don’t feel happy – you live it, breathe it, be it.  And it is something you can control.  Though emotions are irrational, and you can go from happy to sad to angry in minutes, the general feeling of happiness can be sustained.  When it comes right down to it, happiness is a choice.

    The funny thing is that before I started performing improv, I had this stigmatism against overly positive people as “hippies” or “free spirits” who were basically just weird.  But in improv, there’s really no such thing as a mistake because of the fundamental improv rule: Yes, And.

    The Power of Yes And

    The idea behind Yes, And is that you don’t negate offers or “gifts” (anything that happens in the environment), that you accept what is given and build on it.  Life as a whole can be treated in a similar way.

    People sometimes ask me if I’m happy with some of the life-decisions I made (where I went to college, what my degree was, what job I took after graduating), and my answer for all of the above is yes.

    In fact my answer would be yes for every life question you could ask me:

    • Are you happy you went to Princeton High School? Yes.
    • Are you happy you were an RA/RM for three of your four years at college?  Yes.
    • Are you glad you dated someone for 3 1/2 years even though it didn’t work out?  Yes.

    When you consider that, I either: a) am an amazing decision maker and always choose the right thing, or b) I tend to make the best of any given situation and grow from there.  Though I do have complete faith in my decision-making abilities, when it comes to why I’m happy right now, I’m gonna have to go with B.

    What I Don’t Mean

    Now I’m not saying that terrible things don’t happen, or that you have to be happy 100% of the time.  I’m also not saying that you just have to accept what life hands you and never work to change it, or even that you always have to say “Yes.”

    I’m merely saying that once you make a decision, or once something happens, accept it as what happened.  There’s not much sense in dwelling in the past for any longer than it takes you to learn from the experience to make a different (not necessarily “better” which is such a subjective word) decision next time.

    … and the Pursuit of Happiness

    There has always been a large number of research and books geared towards finding happiness.  There are different viewpoints all offering up tips (whether it’s the new “The Secret” book, Covey’s 7 Habits, or plain-old religion).

    And none of the viewpoints is necessarily “wrong,” it’s just that some of them aren’t for you.

    If a belief in a “master plan” created by some supernatural being helps you survive life and be happy, then good for you.  If, instead, the “Law of Attraction” seems to make sense to you and has shown you some good resuts, the keep using it.

    Regardless of what your belief is, as long as it’s making you happy and not harming others, who cares what it is – I don’t.  I just care about being happy.

    Does It Matter Who is Right?

    You see it doesn’t matter that there are multiple, often conflicting, views on life, happiness and our existence in general.  Just because some of these theories contradict, doesn’t mean they can’t co-exist.

    One of my main problems with various religions is the idea that there can only be one “right” belief and that if you aren’t following that belief your S.O.L.  If we were to consider the example of God creating each of us in his “kitchen,” how could He expect to get everyone to align with the same “gospel truth” (for Christians – Jesus) when everything else about us is different and unique to our circumstances.

    What does it matter that your “savior” came down by rocket ship or from a virin?  As long as you are using that belief as a boost to your overall happiness, then it doesn’t matter.

    And some people might think that this is too naive of a view on life, that things couldn’t really be that simple.  While that may in all actuality be true, I DON’T CARE, because it’s a belief that I have found that works for me.

    The key is for you to explore your own feelings and beliefs.  Once you’ve identified your beliefs, and fundamentally your purpose, you can start to build towards your end goal – which of course will lead to happiness.

    In today’s issue of Personal Development Week, we’re going to cover health.  You’ve spent all that time building up wealth, now lets get you to a point where you can actually live to enjoy it.

    The first thing to realize is that there are really two kinds of health: physical, and mental/emotional.

    Physical Health

    The first kind of health, physical, is what most people think of when they hear the word “health.”  This is the general fitness related to getting your body in shape – low blood pressure, good body mass index, etc.

    The secret to being physically healthy isn’t really all that secret, it only requires three things: eating right, exercising, and discipline.  Since you’re already building your discipline from the Goals and Discipline post, you’ve only got 2 more to go.

    Part 1: Eating Right

    Eating right, or “healthy” is probably the most challenging for me, as I’m a picky eater.  But the thing you have to remember is that we eat to nourish our bodies, NOT for pleasure.

    All physiological needs are just that: needs.  They shouldn’t be desires, otherwise they have a tendency to work against you.  Eating, sleeping, breathing, and excreting are all needs of our human bodies, and should be treated as such.  I’m not saying you can never indulge, or that you should only put “fuel” in your body, but just remember foods real purpose the next time you’re going for seconds of that greasy fried chicken, and ask if your body is really going to need that.

    Part 2: Exercising

    For some people, exercise is the hardest part to gaining physical health, and it really shouldn’t be.  There’s no magical secret to exercise, just go out and do something.

    Sure, some forms of exercise are better than others (e.g. 20 mile bike ride vs. 1 mile walk), but that shouldn’t stop you from taking the 1 mile walk.  The key is that our bodies are truly amazing machines as they adapt over time.  That means that, over time, the same 1 mile walk doesn’t create the same health benefits it once used to because the body got more efficient (wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to ever do was walk 1 mile?)

    But as long as you are pushing yourself (within safe means) in each workout, whether you’re doing yoga, lifting weights, or rock climbing, you are taking steps to becoming healthier.  And like everything else this week, start small with manageable goals and exercises.

    Mental Health

    Mental/emotional health is a much harder issue to tackle – mostly because things like emotions are highly illogical.

    Whereas there is a pretty strict cause/effect relationship regarding physical health, it’s harder to pinpoint for mental health.  For those of you not exactly sure what I mean by mental health, check out this Healthguide article on the topic.

    The first thing to note about mental health is that some of the preventative measures are actually things you should do for better physical health as well (improving diet, getting enough rest, exercising).  It’s also incredibly important to mention that, unlike some aspects of physical health (barring things requiring medical treatment, but more general things like exercise), it can be tough to improve your mental health on your own, it’s a much tougher shell to crack.

    Remember – emotions are illogical.  So while it may seem like you should be able to “will” yourself out of depression, or make yourself anxiety and stress free, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to do so.

    At a minimum, find a close friend you can share your current state with, sometimes a shoulder to lean/cry/yell on is all you need.  If things are serious, certainly seek professional assistance in the form of a counselor, doctor or therapist.

    “Fighting” Emotions

    When I went through a small bout with depression in college, I attempted to hide it from the world (and was mostly successful, in fact this will be a surprise to many of you reading this).  It never got to the point that I would consider it “clinical depression” where I sought out assistance from a professional service, but it was bad enough that it affected my daily activities.

    In the end what really helped me through were some amazing friends that would just sit and listen, sharing stories and making me laugh, and, of course, the passage of time.

    The hardest part about getting over some things, especially stupid emotions, is that it really just takes time.  Time for it to sink in that the world is not over, that things can be better than they ever were before.

    And asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength.  It takes a ballsy person to be able to say, “I need help.”  It doesn’t make you any less of an amazing person.  This thing called “life” is quite a challenge – it can be tough just to live long enough to reach your death bed.

    Keeping the Doohickey Healthy

    Health is a serious issue, and I certainly can’t provide all of the answers regarding the subject.  Do yourself a favor and schedule an appointment with your doctor and check how the old “body” is doing.  While there, ask questions regarding your mental health as well, and really make it a point to learn to take care of your body and mind.

    After all, the body is the only thing we got to transfer this brain thing around, and this brain is the only thing we have to move this body doohickey we’re stuck with.  Make sure both are in working order so that you can relish in your glory of achieving success and happiness.

    The single most important thing you can do to take care of your finances is to create a budget. Sure it’s an ugly word, and not a fun process, but if you don’t track where your money is going, and try to make a plan for future revenues and expenses, you aren’t going to achieve the kind of success you want.

    The Real Value of a Budget

    I’m not going to pretend that I sit down and plan my budget every month and stick to it to a T (or is it tee, or tea?), but the process of just making a budget of what you’ve done in the past 3 months is eye-opening.

    When I went through this process a few months ago, I discovered I was spending around $700 just for a place to live (rent, cable and other bills), $750 for transportation (car payment, insurance, and gas – close to $200 for the fuel alone), and $400 or so for food (a pretty even split between groceries and dining out).

    That’s nearly $2,000 I’m spending every month just to survive (shelter, food, and of course getting to a number of places for either P&G or comedy). All things considered, this isn’t really that bad – I have no children or wife to take care, I’m only paying rent, and my car payment could be worse, but when I went back and looked at my individual expenses, it certainly could have been lower.

    The advantage to completing a budget (even if it’s one based on past data, not future looking), is that it informs you of where that hard earned cash is going – and as the GI Joes told us, “Knowing is half the battle.” Once you know where your money is going, you can take steps to curtail spending in key areas to increase the overall amount of money you are saving.

    What to Do With the Money You Save

    Before I get into some steps to save money, I want to briefly talk about what you should be doing with the extra money you are saving.

    While “investing” may be a scary word, it is absolutely necessary in today’s world. Considering the state of social security in this country these days, you can’t rely on the government to provide you sufficient funds once you retire.

    You need to be proactive and plan for your own future, whether it’s having kids, going to college, or retiring. Plus investing puts your money to work and allows you to accrue income just for having money (sort of). I won’t go into details of how you can get into investing, as I am certainly not an expert. Instead, I’ll point you to http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com – the site that got me to really think about my finances.

    The site is geared towards a younger audience, but it certainly has relevant information for everyone (I suggest starting here). If you’re serious about increasing your wealth and your future security, go to that site now (well, after you finish reading this post).

    A Disclaimer About A List

    Ok, so you’ve got your resource for what do when you have disposable income, what can you do to actually get disposable income? Below is a list of 15 tips you can do to save money. Most of them are tips I use every day, others are things I’ve read but don’t necessarily do. A few disclaimers before we get started though:

    • This list is just a set of suggestions. You don’t have to do every single thing listed to see results. You have to define which things will work for you.
    • If you take the time to actually do a budget, this list can help troubleshoot key areas. If you find that you spend a lot of money dining out, then the restaurant or food tips will be of particular interest.
    • Like we’ve talked before, it’s best to start out small. Don’t expect to find happiness or success by doing all of things listed below, as most of them require some type of sacrifice that you may think detracts from your overall happiness in life. Identify these and manage them. The list isn’t meant to turn you into an anti-social hermit that does nothing, it’s just meant to get the gears in your own head moving to find other ways to save where you can.
    • Finally, the biggest way you can increase the amount of money you have is to increase the actual amount you receive. This can be done by getting a better job, getting a raise, adding a second (or third) job. The key is that if you do increase your income, don’t increase your expenses. It’s truly powerful when you can live below your means.

    15 Tips to Save Money

    Ok, with all of that out of the way, here are 15 ways you can work to save money:

    1. Learn to love technology. Take advantage of new technology to save time (which then frees you up for other things) and to better educate yourself. Things like reading blogs (made easier through blog aggregators like Bloglines), listening to podcasts, and connecting with other people can help you learn new ways to save money.
    2. Become a savvy consumer. Use the Internet to do your research before you make any large purchases, and learn to negotiate prices. You’ll be surprise how many places you can actually haggle for a better deal. Check out this eHow article for more tips.
    3. Seriously, eat at home. Dining out can seriously damage the pocket book if it is done too often. The added expense of food, beverages, leaving a tip, driving to the restaurant, etc etc all adds up. When you combine smart grocery shopping with some creativity in the kitchen, you can create a number of meals that net out to be less than $3. And you don’t even have to be a great cook to dine at home. Anyone can use a George Foreman grill, and it’s perfect for hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese, chicken breast, and a huge host of other things. Head over to Cheap Eats if you want to find some other inexpensive dining options.
    4. Be a freezer. If you really wanted to maximize your savings by buying groceries, learn to love your freezer. A Sam’s membership plus a sizable freezer allows you to buy in bulk and really find savings. Things like bread can be frozen now and then put in the refrigerator to be consumed weeks later. The watch-out here is that your savings from bulk purchases has to outweigh the cost of the Sam’s membership and of a new freezer (if necessary)
    5. Love water. For the times that you do dine out, stick to ordering water. Non-alcoholic drinks easily push the $2 range, and alcohol is even more – not to mention drinking water is healthier for you. If you dine out 5 times a month, that’s a savings of $10 a month or $120 a year – just to drink water. And if you must have your fix of Diet Coke or Iced Tea, buy it at the store where it only costs you $.50 a can. Drink water at the restaurant and then reward yourself when you get home with a much cheaper alternative.
    6. Be DD. I don’t drink alcohol for personal reasons, but it also turns out to be quite the money saver. Going out sober for a night nets quite a nice ROI, and not just because you aren’t spending money on drinks. If you offer to be the Designated Driver for your buddies, you can easily get them to pay for gas (if you drive your car), get them to let you drive their car (no gas or miles on yours), and/or pay your cover at the clubs/bars. They get to have a night of responsible drunkenness, and you get to have a night of free fun. If you don’t think this will work because you don’t think you can go out and have fun without drinking, then saving money shouldn’t be your only concern.
    7. Be creative. Find new ways to have fun that don’t require much money. Going to the movies is nice, but it’s also at least a $10 ordeal (whereas if you wait till it comes to DVD and do a rental it’s much cheaper). Find new and creative ways to have fun like playing Frisbee golf. Or do your research online and find free events happening around your area. Cincyupdate.com has a whole list of events going on around Cincinnati, subscribe to their email and pay special attention to the free events on Fountain Square or down by the river.
    8. Find a hobby. Hobbies can help you fill free time and prevent from spending money out of boredom. The key here is to pick hobbies that don’t require much money (so golf would be a bad idea). Consider trying knitting, reading, writing (blogs are free) or improvising.
    9. Break the materialism. Stop tying your “happiness”/confidence/perception of fun to material things. People often go shopping or get their hair done when they think they need a boost in confidence, when all they are doing is adding an expense for something they can work to get for free. Similar to drinking, learn to work on your own personality and character so that you don’t require the crutch of material things to satisfy you.
    10. Kick the habit. Whether it’s smoking, gambling, or even being addicted to coffee, habits often cost money. The cost of cigarettes continues to rise, you’ll never beat the house when gambling, and that $4 Starbucks coffee is putting a drain on your budget. And while it’s certainly not easy to kick a habit, using some of the previous posts from this week, and getting professional help where applicable, can certainly help – you’ll end up with more money and a healthier lifestyle.
    11. Drive like a granny. When you average around 3,000 miles on your car every month, gas starts to add up. But even if you only drive 5 miles to work, improving you gas mileage will always make financial sense. There are plenty of ways to improve that MPG (removing unnecessary weight from the trunk, changing your air filter when appropriate, having properly inflated tires), but one of the biggest sources of better MPG might be your own driving style. Driving the speed limit and using cruise control can easily bump up your mileage 2-4 MPG. Every car is different, though the standard is 35mph and 55mph provide the best mileage, but do your own experiment to find the optimal speed for your car. The next time you fill up your tank, reset the trip odometer and drive like normal. When you have to fill up after that, divide the number of miles on your odometer by the number of gallons it took to fill your tank back up (that’s your MPG for that tank). Now reset your odometer and drive only the speed limit. Next time you fill up, do the same division and compare the two numbers. Repeat a few times to decrease variance, and play around with your speeds, and you’ll see the difference. In addition to saving money by filling up less, you’ll be doing a small part in saving the environment.
    12. Get rid of the crap. De-clutter your life to save time when cleaning and relieve unnecessary stress. Plus if you put your garbage on eBay, you might be able make some money for getting rid of your crap. How do you know what to get rid of? If you can’t foresee needing something within the next year, get rid of it. Sure there will be a few times that you throw out something only to need it a month later, but it’s worth it to get rid of the remaining 98% of crap you’ll never need. And remember, “when in doubt, throw it out.”
    13. Don’t be dumb. Stupidity can be a big expense for some people. Speeding leads to speeding tickets and increased insurance costs. Jumping from a 10-foot ledge leads to a trip to the hospital and the cost of a cast. Take some basic precautions and save yourself some cash (because, as of yet, stupidity insurance doesn’t exist yet).
    14. Live pet free. Dogs may be man’s best friend, but if you’re really strapped for cash, he’s also an added expense. There are a number of studies that talk about the positive effects pets have on their owners, so if you need that then consider this a last resort, but if your happiness isn’t tied to having a pet, then consider finding it a good home. Dog food, bones, leashes, and the overall time it takes to care for a pet can really add up. Note: please don’t do this with children, though they are also huge expenses.
    15. Drop the Cable. Not only does TV suck away hours from your life, sapping you of your productivity, but cable is pretty expensive. As broadband Internet connections become more and more mainstream, you can find nearly everything shown on TV online for free (or at least cheap). Sites like Joost and YouTube allow you to watch all types of video content, and stations like NBC are starting to allow you to stream their shows from their websites. You can find even more if you ignore that whole “law” thing, but I am by no means endorsing that.

    And there you have it – 15 tips for saving money. I realize this is quite the marathon post, but there’s a lot of content to cover. I certainly didn’t hit everything, so don’t be afraid to google specific topics that you can use some help in (which you have identified by filling out a budget, right?).

    Also, be sure to check out iwillteachyoutoberich and getrichslowly for more information dedicated to taking control of your finances.

    The title for this category in Personal Development Week is an interesting one, because I’m sure many of you were wondering, “What do you mean by success?” The irony is that in order to be successful, you have to answer that exact question for yourself.

    Everybody’s definition of success is going to be different – one person’s success may be another person’s failure.  In order for you to achieve success in your life, you have to know what it is you’re shooting for (hmm, sounds kind of like what I talked about with regard to goals and discipline yesterday…).

    The Difference Between Goals and Success

    However, unlike our goals from yesterday, it’s more acceptable to describe success in less defined terms (so long as you have goals that get you to where you want to be), because success is much more “spiritual” (not in the sense of religion, but more along the lines of your purpose or meaning in life).

    To some people, success is raising a family and seeing their children grow up to become successful in their own right.   To others, it’s to achieve fame and fortune in the public eye.  Regardless of what it is, it has to be true for you – someone else can’t tell you what success is, it’s up for you to decide.

    It’s amazing how seemingly simple concepts can be extrapolated into momentous declarations, but that’s exactly what defining success is.  When you are on your deathbed, recounting your life, and determining if you were in fact successful, it’s going to ultimately come down to comparing what you wanted to do with/in your life, and what you actually did.

    Life as a Gift

    I don’t want to get to involved in the “meaning of life” discussion because it often leads to religions arguments from ignorant people who are too naive to step outside of their sheltered world created for them by their parents, BUT, I will say Steve Pavlina made an interesting observation in one of his podcasts that asking “What is the meaning of life?”, as in what is life supposed to offer me, is the wrong approach.  Rather, ask, “What do I have to offer life?” (think “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”)

    When you start to think about life as a gift, you start to shift your mentality.  “What is the meaning of life?” is passive, it’s saying, “Someone tell me this, what is life giving me?”  When you ask what you have to offer your life, you are being active, you are being the force of change – which brings me to my final, and possibly most important point.

    Success Means Starting

    You can’t achieve success in life without initiative.  Success comes to those who are willing to go out and take it.  The over-infatuation of all things Hollywood has given people the perception that they don’t have to work for something, that they will be “discovered.”

    What people don’t realize is how much work goes into becoming an overnight success.  You have to be willing to put up with the sweat and tears to achieve what it is you’ve defined as success.  If you want to become a stand-up comedian, then go out there and get on stage as often as possible, network with everyone you can, put in the hours it takes to hone your craft.

    If you want to be a stay-at-home Mom, work hard to find a job that will allow to take a sabbatical from work, or find a way to help your husband advance his career to a point that he can support the entire family.

    What do you mean by success?

    If you truly take the time to answer that question, take the initiative to go out and work towards that definition, set goals and follow them through with discipline, you will be successful – no matter what it is you wish to achieve.

    When it came down to choosing the first topic to talk about in Personal Development Week, discipline was an easy choice. Without the discipline to follow through with anything, you’ll have a difficult time achieving any of the other categories.

    The biggest misconception about discipline is that if you don’t have it, than you don’t have it. Discipline is a skill, and just like any other skill, it can be learned over time.

    The Importance of Goals

    Before I get ahead of myself, it should be understood that discipline goes hand-in-hand with goal-setting. If you don’t set any goals, then it’s pretty easy to have the discipline to follow them. Setting goals is absolutely critical to achieving success in life. Sure you might fall into some success by wandering aimlessly, but good luck sustaining that throughout your entire life.

    The problem is that, many times, people set the wrong type of goals – “I want to lose weight” is fine and dandy, except it’s not well defined. How much weight do you want to lose? An ounce? 100 pounds? How much time will you give yourself? 10 seconds? 10 years? A good goal is quantifiable AND has a deadline. “I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of August.” Now you have something you can work towards, and something that you can measure success against.

    Achieving Goals Through Discipline

    Ok, so now that we understand a little bit more about goals, discipline is about achieving them. Just how it’s easy to have discipline if you have no goals, it’s pretty easy to have goals but no discipline. You create a to-do list for yourself, or make a New Year’s Resolution (“Yay I started something”) but then you never follow through and achieve it (“Well at least I ‘tried’ right?”).

    The problem with mentality is that re-inforces failure. Failure itself is not a negative, in fact failing can often be the greatest teachers of all – the key is that you have to learn something from them, and then it’s not really failure, it’s experience.

    So if your goal is to wake up at 6am every day for a month, then discipline is ignoring the extreme desire to hit the snooze button when the alarm clock rings. It’s getting up despite your brain and body telling you otherwise. It’s not skimping on the weekends because you were up late the night before. It’s waking up at 6am, day in, day out, for that entire month.

    But what if you don’t have discipline? What if you can’t force yourself to wake up at 6am, or to eat healthy to lose 10 pounds, or save money for retirement? Well there are often two main problems that are preventing your success: the goal itself and reward/punishment.

    Setting Goals

    When you are setting your goals, they have to be attainable. And that may be the hardest part, because it requires you to be completely honest with yourself.

    While it might be great to think that your going to de-clutter your entire life in an afternoon, be honest with yourself – will it really happen? Have you achieved success that way before? Probably not.

    Humans only have a certain capacity for which they can do the same activity before they must take a break (and some can go longer than others, but everyone has to eventually stop). That’s why your goals must be actionable and ideally broken down into sub-goals.

    If your overall goal is to de-clutter your life, create smaller sub-goals or tasks that can help you achieve that. Start by throwing away something you don’t need away, every day. Just one thing. You don’t have to go through your entire closet, or finish an entire room – just throw one thing away today, and then another tomorrow, and then another the day after, etc. By the end of the year you’ll have removed 365 things from your life by taking just a couple minutes out of each day.

    A goal broken into tasks like that is attainable, it’s easier to have that type of discipline. Once you start to achieve success with those smaller goals, create more involved ones. Over time you’ll create the habit of achieving your goal, and you’ll want to continue that streak, even though your goals are more stretching.

    Rewards and Punishment

    One of the keys to building that habit is to have rewards for when you succeed, and punishment when you fail. This can be easy to do when your goal deals with a third party (there’s a reason so many people learn discipline in the military: you have someone there you will not let you fail, and if you do, you will be punished till you succeed).

    But for more intrinsic goals, you don’t always have someone there, to be in your ear about just having that one piece of cake that falls outside your diet, or those mere 15 minutes you slept in today – you have to be your own punisher. You have to accept that if you sleep in now, you won’t be getting that SleepComfort bed at the end of the year.

    The other important part to this is that you should reward yourself. Just like dogs/kids/co-workers learn via a reward/punishment system, so do you. So if you drop those 3 pounds in the first week, reward yourself with something (not food, as that would be contradictory, but maybe a trip to the spa, or purchase of a new DVD).

    Creating Accountability

    Many of you may be wondering though, what if you don’t have the discipline to discipline yourself for lack of discipline? (Great question, you’re really paying attention.) That’s where your friends and family can help, as can remembering to always start small.

    Friends and family can help by simply letting them know what it is you are trying to achieve. Hell, this blog is great for that. Once I state I’m going to do something on here, I feel like I have to, otherwise, in a way, I’m letting people down, and worse, somebody could call me out on my failures.

    Too embarrassed to tell your close ones about a certain goal? Join a group that has a similar interest and make it public to them, or try a site like http://www.43things.com where you can post what it is you want to try to do and you can find others trying to achieve the same thing.

    The other part is so important that it bears repeating yet again: start small. Remember: discipline is learned, and once it becomes learned, it becomes a habit, and once it’s a habit, it’s a sure-fire way to success in all other aspects of life.

    A Process to Build Discipline

    If you really have trouble with discipline, try this:

    1. Set the goal that every day for a week, you are simply going to clap 5 times. That’s it: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Done.
    2. For each day you achieve this goal, reward yourself with something small (bubblegum from the store, and extra 2 minutes in the shower, whatever, just some type of reward, something small).
    3. The next week, set the goal to do 10 jumping jacks every day.
    4. Again reward yourself for the days that you make, and this time punish yourself for the days that you miss (each day missed = 10 situps the next day).
    5. For the third week, write out the word “discipline” 15 times.
    6. Repeat the reward/punishment for each day of success/failure.
    7. Now for the final week, simply say “I will succeed” (or any other cheesy phrase you want), 20 times a day.
    8. Reward yourself for the successes, punish for the failures.

    By the time you are done, it will have been 28 days – coincidentally the number of days (it is believed) to establish a habit. If you succeeded every day for 28 days, you’ve just learned the habit of success.

    Now take that, and apply it to something slightly bigger, but still a relatively easy goal. Over time you will be able to keep increasing the stakes of your goals, while achieving success.

    So now that we’ve learned some of basics of goals and discipline, tomorrow we’ll talk about achieving success. The two topics are closely intertwined, but tomorrow, we’ll get more into the definition of success as well as talk more about the grand scheme of life.