KEEP MOVING FORWARD

LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA

LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA

KEEP MOVING FORWARD.

Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy and happiness... To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices - today I choose to feel alive, not to deny my humanity but embrace it. When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

Focus on you for a change. Stop worrying about other people understanding you. Get in touch with yourself instead. Focus on what makes you feel at peace. 

Life becomes so much more fulfilling when you are just simply yourself. The world keeps spinning whether people understand you or not, so why not make this next trip around the sun about you?

-AG

Autopilot Achievement: How to Turn Your Goals Into Habits

“First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” – Charles C. Noble

It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something we don’t always do. It’s not exceedingly difficult to do, and yet I think it’s something that would make a world of difference in anyone’s life.

Break your goals into habits, and focus on putting those habits into autopilot.Turning a goal into a habit means really focusing on it, intensely, for at least a month, to the exclusion of all else. The more you can focus on it, the more it’ll be on autopilot.

But once you put it on autopilot, once a habit is firmly established, you don’t really have to focus on it much. You’ll still do it, but because it’s a habit, you only have to use minimal focus to maintain that habit. The goal becomes on autopilot, and you can focus on your next goal or project or habit.

But in order to achieve that goal, I broke it down into two habits:

  1. I had to make running a daily habit (while following a training plan I found online).

  2. I had to report to people in order to have accountability — I did this through family, friends and coworkers, through a blog, and through a column in my local newspaper every two weeks. With this accountability, there’s no way I would stop running.

I focused on this exclusively for about a month, and didn’t have any other goals, projects or habits that were my main focuses. I did other work projects, but they kinda took a backburner to running.

The accountability habit took a couple months, mainly because I didn’t focus on it too much while I was building the writing habit. Once those two habits were firmly entrenched, my writing goal was pretty much on autopilot.

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” – Jim Ryun

Other Applications

This works for many other types of goals, of course. For example:

  • Debt reduction: I turned this goal into a few different habits, including creating a monthly spending plan, learning to stick to the spending plan, and making automatic debt and savings payments. Once these habits were on autopilot, debt elimination was a sure bet.

  • Writing a blog: This was simply setting a time to write, and making myself write during that time, no matter what. Once you have that habit, the blog will come.

  • Getting organized: This is three main habits — designating a spot for everything I own, putting things in their designated spots immediately, and doing a daily processing of your inbox(es).

As you can see, just about any goal can be turned into habits if you think it through. Let’s look more into how to do that.

How to Turn A Goal Into Habits

It’s a pretty simple process, but let’s go over it step-by-step:

  1. You goal should be written out very clearly. The better you can visualize your goal, the easier this will be.

  2. Think about the steps needed to get to your goal. There may be many.

  3. Can the goal be accomplished with a series (2-4) of daily or weekly actions? For example, to save money, you will need to make a savings deposit every payday, before you pay your bills. Through that regular action, the goal will eventually be accomplished. Figure this out, and that’s your habit or series of habits.

  4. Figure out the amount of the habit will need to be done to get you to your goal by your timeline. By “amount”, I mean that you have to figure out quantity times frequency to get your desired result. For example, I can run every single day but not be prepared to run a marathon if I don’t do enough miles or long runs. So if I’m going to run every day, I have to also know how far (and any other things such as different workouts on different days). If I’m going to have a savings deposit every week, I need to know how much is necessary for each deposit in order to reach my goal. Figure out this “amount” for your habit and make a schedule.

  5. Focus on the first habit for at least one month, to the exclusion of all else. Don’t worry about the other two habits (for example) while you’re trying to form the first habit.

  6. If more than one habit is necessary, start on the second habit after a month or so, then on the third, and so on, focusing on one habit at a time until each is firmly ingrained.

  7. After all the necessary habits are ingrained, your goal is on autopilot. You will still need to focus on them somewhat, but to a lesser extent. If any of the habit gets derailed, you’ll have to focus on that habit again for one month.

  8. After you’re on autopilot, you can focus on a new goal and set of habits.

“Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables.” – Spanish proverb

-AG

A NOTE TO MYSELF/YOURSELF

LOCATION: Wisdom Tree - Los Angeles, CA

Dear Me,

Don’t you ever give up on yourself. This life is going to challenge you and knock you down, but you can never give up. When you feel like you’ve given it your all, and there’s nothing left, remember your power. You are the creator of your own reality, emotions, and destiny. Your current situation is not your final destination.

I ask these questions to myself and ask these to yourself:

  • “What if today’s my last day?”

  • “What if today’s my last week?”

  • “What am I going to contribute to this planet today? Evil things? Good things?”

Just by asking these questions to yourself it will change your whole perspective of your whole day.

Remember who you are. Keep dreaming BIG, keep fighting, keep growing, keep learning, and never give up! 

-AG

Deep Focus: Training to Open in the Middle of Shakiness

When we set out to work on a meaningful, important task, something interesting happens.

We feel quite a bit shaky.

It’s the feeling you get when you step into uncertain ground, where you don’t know exactly what you’re doing or whether you can do it, where you feel a bit lost or don’t have solid ground under your feet. This is the shakiness of groundlessness.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling shaky and groundless, but our minds don’t really like it. In fact, we’ve trained our minds to run from this uncertainty and shakiness, to go to distraction, procrastination, busywork, trying to get control, or going to a host of other habitual patterns.

We feel the shakiness and immediately do whatever we can to avoid feeling it.

What if we could just feel the shakiness and not need to run? What if we could practice mindfulness in the middle of it, and stay in the groundlessness? We might even learn to be completely happy in the shakiness, to see it as the place we want to be if we want to do anything meaningful, if we want to have an impact on the world and make a difference in the lives of others.

We can do this by training ourselves in Deep Focus.

The Shift into Deep Focus

Deep Focus is simply staying focused on one task for longer than we normally might, staying in the middle of the task despite urges to switch to something else, despite our habitual patterns. It’s immersing yourself into the task, creating undistracted space where you can stay in the shakiness and give it your entire being.

How often do we actually give ourselves entirely to a task? What would it be like to shift into this mode more often?

To do it, you have to clear everything away and set an intention to dive deep into the task. You have to pick an important task that is meaningful to you, that is worth this kind of diving in.

You’ll also want to create some kind of structure to hold you in this focus when things get shaky and you want to run. The structure might be some kind of accountability, some kind of structured session that is timed, has no other options, and no wifi … you can find the structure that works for you over time if you experiment.

The result is a very different way of relating to a task. Instead of it being something you need to rush through to get to the next task, it becomes worthy of your full attention, a destination worthy of staying in, an activity worthy of your full devotion.

Instead of it being a place of shakiness you need to run from, it becomes a place of breathtaking groundlessness, where you can savor the quality of uncertainty while also appreciating this place where you can be of service to others.
-AG

Simplify Your Day to Have a Greater Impact

Our society is obsessed with productivity and optimizing our lives — having the perfect routine, perfect diet, perfect productivity system, perfect todo app, and more.

It’s an ideal that not only doesn’t exist, it’s harmful to our health and happiness. And what’s more, it’s completely misguided — what many of us really want to do with our work is do meaningful work and have an impact on the world.

So how can we let go of the focus on productivity and optimizing, while still doing meaningful work and having an impact?

Simplify. Focus on the important, meaningful tasks instead of churning. And actually dive into those meaningful tasks instead of procrastinating because of the uncertainty that comes with them.

Look at your task list and email/messages inbox and pick the most meaningful tasks — there’s a good chance you’ve been putting them off. Instead, when you don’t go to your favorite distractions, you are likely to churn through smaller tasks, answering messages, checking on inboxes and updates.

This is because meaningful, important tasks come with great uncertainty. We habitually respond to this uncertainty by avoiding it, going to distraction and easier tasks that make us feel less uncertain.

But the result is that we’re churning through a lot of busywork, spending our days doing a lot but not getting a lot accomplished.

Instead, we can simplify:

  1. Pick meaningful tasks, and focus on those.

  2. Create space by clearing away distractions.

  3. Letting the busywork get pushed until later in the day, when we set aside room for those.

  4. And putting our entire being into the meaningful, important tasks.

Imagine clearing out space in your day by simplifying, letting go of the small tasks, not constantly answering messages and emails, and instead giving yourself the generous gift of focusing.

You’d get the meaningful tasks done, and feel like your work is more meaningful. Those tasks would make a greater impact, and over time, you’d have a great impact on the world.

All because you simplified and focused.

-AG

The Wisdom of Allowing Things to Happen

The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.
~The Daodejing

This has been what I’ve been learning over the past couple of years. Allowing things to happen.

It goes counter to our usual instincts in Western society — we are doers, creators of our destiny, we make things happen … we don’t wait for it to happen! That’s what I was taught from an early age, in school and by every motivational sports movie I ever watched. So allowing things to happen is not my normal way.

I have never been one to be passive, to let things happen instead of making them happen, to let go of control of things.

But here’s what I’ve been learning:

  1. This control we think we have over our lives and our destinies … it’s an illusion. As the guy who had his life turned upside down by a heart attack, the woman who lost her father to death and had to drop everything, the family who lost their home to a hurricane, the entrepreneur that was doing well until the economy collapsed and no one was spending, the hard-working employee who was laid off when the economy tanked, the cyclist who was hit by a car, the car that skid because someone ran onto the road who had been obscured, the mom whose son has autism despite her doing everything right during pregnancy … it happens every day, where we think we’re in control but we’re really not. Do we control all the people around us who affect our lives so intimately? Do we control the overwhelming power of nature? There’s so much out of our control that what we think is control is really an illusion.

  2. To control your cow, give it a bigger pasture. This is a great quote from Zen Master Suzuki Roshi, talking about controlling your mind. I see the cow and her pasture as a form of allowing things to happen — instead of tightly controlling something, you’re opening up, giving it more room, a bigger pasture. The cow will be happier, will roam around, will do as she pleases, and yet your needs will also be met. The same is true of anything else — stepping back and allowing things to happen means things will take care of themselves, and your needs will also be met. And you’ve done no work.

  3. You have less stress, less to worry about. Imagine allowing things to happen naturally, and things work out, and all you did was smile and watch. You don’t have to worry about shaping things, about controlling something that doesn’t want to be controlled. You don’t have to push, and fix leaks, and put out fires. You just let things work on their own. They happen.

  4. Things will surprise you. Let’s say you’re allowing something to happen. You might want it to go a certain way, to a certain outcome. That’s your goal. But what if you let go of this idea? What if you say, “I don’t know what will happen.” (Btw, you really don’t.) What if you say, “Let’s see what happens.” Then things will happen, but not the way you planned. The outcome might be completely different than what you’d hoped for. But it can still be great, just different. It might even be wonderful, and surprising. Surprises are good, if we accept that things always change and that change is good.

  5. You learn how things work. Instead of trying to make things work the way you want them to work, just watch them work. You’ll learn much more about human nature, about the nature of the world, as you see things work without you controlling it. It might change you.

That’s all very good, Leo, you’re thinking. But that won’t put the food on my table.

Maybe you’re right. And so, don’t let me stop you from what you need to do. Carry on.

-AG

Becoming More Deeply Committed to My Commitments

How often have you half-assedly committed to something, but didn’t really put your entire being into following through on that commitment?

How often have you said you were going to do something, and then just dropped it because you were too busy or didn’t have the energy?

How often have you said you were going to change your habits … and then didn’t stick to it?

How many times have you said you were going to take a course, read a book, take on a challenge, start a new hobby, write a book, start a business … and then you barely even start on it (if you start at all)?

For myself, this all happens at an alarming rate. My commitments are often not even half commitments, they’re like quarter commitments. And interestingly, I’d say I’m better at it than most people! Maybe not the best in the world, but better at sticking to my commitments than 75% of the world.

And I suck at it, in many ways. I start a diet and barely last a couple days on it. I pick an exercise program and last 3 weeks. I buy a book and barely get a quarter of the way through. Over and over, my commitments fall like flies.

What if we could deepen our commitments?

What would it be like to be so deeply committed, we’d be unshakable? What would it be like to be the person who would walk through walls to meet their purpose in life? How much more would people trust us if we showed up fully every single time we commit to something?

Our lives could be transformed.

I’ve been meditating on commitment lately, and experimenting with it in my life. Looking at where I’m only half committed (or less), where I don’t really believe I’ll meet my commitments. And learning how to go deeper into that commitment. Or cut it out, if I can’t commit deeply.

Here’s what I’m learning about being more deeply committed:

  1. Take away choice. When we’re only half committed, we keep the door open for other options. We think, “Sure, I’m going to stick to this diet, but … if I go out for dinner with friends, that’s different. Also family gatherings. And of course if there are donuts in the office.” That’s bullcrap. If we’re going to commit, let’s remove all possibility in our minds of doing anything else. There’s just this one option: doing your commitment.

  2. Do it with your entire being. Going through the motions doesn’t count. If you’re going to do it, do it with your entire being. Show up fully. Put your whole heart into it. Or don’t do it at all. Only half showing up for other people is painful to them. The same with only half showing up for yourself.

  3. Remember your deeper Why. You’re probably not taking your commitments seriously because you’ve forgotten why it’s so important. It’s just another thing on your endless todo list. Instead, remember the deeper reason you committed to this — maybe it’s to serve people you care deeply about. Keep them in your heart, and make this commitment the most important thing in the world, at least at the moment you’re doing it. Write out why you care so much about this commitment, and put that somewhere you can’t miss it.

  4. If you aren’t fully doing it, ask what’s holding you back. Notice if you’re not really upholding your commitment, or if you’re only going through the motions. What’s stopping you from fully showing up? What’s getting in the way? There might be fear, or maybe you aren’t giving it enough weight and giving it the focus it deserves. Pause and be with this resistance or floppiness, and ask yourself what it would take to deepen this commitment.

  5. Add commitments only slowly. Let’s face it: we want to do everything. And yet, this is why we can’t uphold our commitments — we’re overcommitting! Most of us should reduce our commitments (see next item), but once we get to a place where we feel we can add a new commitment … we should be very deliberate about the process of adding a new commitment. Meditate on it for a few days. Commit to it only for a week or two, so that you can see if you have room in your life. Once you feel good about it, add that commitment … but then don’t add others for a little while, until you’re sure you can add another.

  6. Get out of commitments you aren’t going to uphold. Most of us are overcommitted — which means we can’t possibly meet all of our commitments. In this case, we should first see if there’s a way we can meet some of those commitments for as long as we said we would (work on a project for a month, for example), but then get out of them once we’ve fulfilled that commitment. That should be our first choice — do what we said we would, but then end it when we can. Next choice is to renegotiate the commitment if necessary — maybe we said we could do it for a year, but we can only do it for the next few months. Maybe we said we could do it every day, but all we’re able to do is three days a week. Let the person know, and apologize to them. Lastly, get out of the commitment if you can’t do either of the above. Again, apologize, but recognize that this is necessary if you’re going to fully meet your more important commitments. So this is a matter of prioritizing which ones you need to meet. But if you have to get out of a commitment, let that be a grave lesson in overcommitting yourself.

I write these not so much as advice for everyone else, but as advice for myself. This is what I’m learning, and it’s so important.

-AG