Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The One True Secret of Success

Friday, May 18, 2012

The One True Secret of Success
by Alexander Green
Dear Reader,

Each year for the past 14 years, I made a weight goal as a New Year's resolution. The same one, in fact. With each passing year, however, I only drifted a little farther from it.

Yet something happened over the last 90 days. I went on a plant-based diet, ran and lifted weights nearly every day, lost 20 pounds, and got in the best shape I've been in in decades. According to Professor Roberta Anding, a registered dietician and Director of Sports Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, I am now at my ideal weight.

The next challenge, of course, is maintaining it. But I really don't think I'll relapse. I've discovered that fit feels better than anything tastes.

The weird part is that losing the weight wasn't that hard. I just took two bad habits - sedentary activity and mindless eating - and replaced them with better ones, something I could just as easily have done any time in the last 14 years but, for reasons of ignorance and apathy, didn't.

Habits govern our lives more than we acknowledge. A research study published in 2006 found that more than 40% of our daily actions are not decisions at all but habits. It's easy to fall into thoughtless routines and travel the same cow path through the day, throughout our lives even.

Why do we do this? Scientists say it is because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save energy and effort. It tries to make any routine into a habit as a way of ramping down. Beginning early in childhood, we develop a series of conditioned responses that lead us to react automatically and unthinkingly in most situations.

As a result, we tend to engage in the same activities, talk to the same people, eat the same foods, work on the same projects and deal with the same frustrations. Yet our habits - what we say to our kids each night, whether we save or spend, how we organize our work routines and whether we exercise - have an enormous impact on our health, productivity, financial security and happiness.

The truth is our lives don't change until we do. That happens when we move beyond dreaming, thinking, wishing and planning and startdoing something about it each day.

Research suggests that the best way to get rid of an old habit is to replace it with a new and better one. When you get that familiar urge, you can reach for an apple instead of a Danish, head for the gym instead of the bar, turn on The Learning Channel instead of The Shopping Network. You override a bad habit by ingraining a new one. Experts say it generally takes about three weeks of consistent application for a new behavior to become routine.

Drastic action isn't required. Life is really a series of constant, tiny choices. Some call them microactions. They are the difference between doing nothing and moving forward. Microactions are small but they are not insignificant because they get you moving. And they compound. Over time a series of regular, constructive actions creates a tipping point. Small changes in behavior ultimately create monumental differences in our lives.

There are plenty of microactions you could take right now to improve your life, your health and your relationships. You could read 30 pages of a good book, take a walk, drink an extra glass of water, or call an old friend. Every time you complete a positive task, no matter how small, your brain gets an instant jolt of dopamine. This reward reinforces your behavior and helps cement the new habit.

I'm not suggesting that transforming a bad habit - especially a longstanding one - is necessarily quick or easy or simple. But with commitment, follow through and daily action, it is possible.

For example, business success generally goes to individuals who make a habit of getting to work a little earlier or staying a little later, who apply themselves a little longer. Investment success accrues to individuals who develop a habit of saving before spending and who have the discipline to stick with proven principles of wealth creation.

Need some help? According to author and life coach Brian Tracy, there are seven essential steps to developing a new habit:
  1. Make a firm decision. If you decide to exercise each morning, for example, when your alarm goes off, immediately get up and put on your exercise clothes. Don't give yourself an opportunity to procrastinate.
  2. Never allow an exception. Excuses and rationalizations destroy new habits in their infancy. Perform the new behavior religiously until it becomes automatic.
  3. Tell others. You become more disciplined and determined when you know others are watching to see if you have the willpower to follow through.
  4. Visualize your behavior. Imagine yourself acting as though you already have the new habit.
  5. Create an affirmation. Mental repetition increases compliance. Tell yourself something like, "I get up and get moving immediately at 6:00 each morning."
  6. Resolve to persist. Keep at it until you reach the point where it actually feels uncomfortable not doing what you promised you'd do.
  7. Reward yourself. Rewards reinforce behavior. You begin to associate the pleasure of the payoff with the new actions themselves.
Just as your good habits are responsible for most of the success and satisfaction you enjoy today, your bad habits are responsible for most of your problems and frustrations.

Most of us - deep inside - already know how to change this. It requires little more than transferring the discipline we already exercise in one part of our lives to some other part. For instance, you probably have friends or family members who are extremely disciplined about what they eat and drink but are completely undisciplined in their saving and spending habits - or vice versa.

Our natures are the same. It is our habits that separate us. Changing them allows you to take control of your destiny, overcome procrastination, revitalize relationships, achieve your ambitions, or obtain financial independence.

Real success is rarely the result of some one-time decision or a single Herculean effort. It is regular, sustained, positive behavior that creates lasting change. As Aristotle observed a few thousand years ago, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

Maybe I'll get a chance to make some fresh resolution this New Year.

Carpe Diem,


Friday, August 17, 2012

Bible's Cohesiveness Proves It True

“Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in
all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27 NIV)
Only God could have put the Bible together. It is 66 books written over 1,600 years by 40 different authors —
and it has one theme. 
It is one of the reasons we know that the Bible is God’s Word: It has a single unified theme. From Genesis
to Revelation, the Bible is all about God redeeming man. Jesus is its star.
The fact that the Bible has only one theme is nothing short of a miracle. It’d be one thing if one person
wrote the Bible. The Koran was written by one person, Mohammed. The Analects of Confucius were 
written by Confucius. The writings of Buddha were written by Buddha. You’d expect them to be uniform. 
The Bible, on the other hand, was written by 40 different people, in every age and stage of life and on three
continents. And they all wrote the same story — Jesus’ story. Prophets and poets, princes and kings, sailors
and soldiers all had the same story. Some were written in homes, others in prisons, and others on ships. 
You couldn’t have put together a more diverse group of authors.
Yet the story is the same.
Imagine I gave 50 people a piece of paper and I told those 50 people to tear their pieces of paper into 
different shapes — but I never tell them how I’m going to use them. What’s the likelihood I’d be able to take
those pieces of paper and make a map of the United States out of them? Those odds would be astronomically
low. If I did that, most people would think it was a trick.

That’s the miracle of how the Bible was put together.
We tend to think that the New Testament is about Jesus and the Old Testament is about Israel. But that’s not true.
The Bible says in Luke 24:27, “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was
said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (NIV). The New Testament wasn’t even written then.
The pictures, metaphors, analogies, and illusions — from beginning to end — are about God’s plan to redeem
people and build a family for eternity. It all began with him. You can see him in every book.
That’s a miracle.
Talk About It
  • Does considering the miracle that is the cohesiveness of the Bible change your attitude toward it as you read in your quiet time today?
  • When you speak of or quote the Bible, do you reflect the wonder and reverence that comes from understanding what a miracle the Bible truly is?
© 2012 by Rick Warren. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Who the Heck am I!?!

Realization: I'm 23-years old, I'm not supposed to know who exactly I am, what exactly it is that I want, be able to make up my mind completely, or know what exactly it is that I want to do for the rest of my life!

I think anyone who is this young and knows what they want to do either a) is lucky and have discovered their destiny early-on, or b) haven't gone out into the world with an open-mind, heart, and eyes and realized how much is out there, let alone experienced enough to make that decision. There are so many things to see, be, and do, why not try to do it all?

Why do most of us conform to the rules and guidelines set forth by those who came before us? Why is it expected for people (referring to those in the U.S. of A.) to go to Preschool, Kindergarten, little grades (like that title, huh?:), middle school, junior high, high school, college, post-grad studies if needed, and then work for [now] 60-70 straight years? That is BULL SHIT. (Forgive my French, but this is some seriously messed up stuff we're dealing with.) Who decided that was the system and expectation we would conform to? Probably a bunch of intelligent people back in the day who realized that if they didn't put us through a system that would make up our minds and lives for us, we'd run around wild and free and actually realize all the shady stuff they're doing behind our backs with our country and with the world! There is no way that anyone without some sort of ulterior motive would actually decide that that would be the steps of life, why would they? I doubt they had to make their decisions based on whether or not they fit that mold, so of course it didn't affect them. They were probably well-aware of how crummy the whole idea was, but decided, "Hey, it's not what I have to do, and this way these dumb dumbs will never know what's really going on." (Cue evil laugh here.)

I understand that the people who generally reach the highest heights of their careers are the ones who have been in the business the longest, because that's how you learn and become the best at anything, and that's great for those people who want to spend their whole lives doing the same thing. But for myself, I prefer a life that allows me some room for adventures, exploration, and the unexpected. College was a prime example to me that you can't really learn as much when you're confined by the walls of a building. (Unless it's the walls of a bar, then you can learn a whole lot -- about people, behavior, intentions, and just about anything else, even the stuff they try and teach you in a classroom!)

The whole point is that we need to stop being and doing what everyone expects of us. It's my life and I should be allowed to spend it how I want to, doing what I love, and not have to fit into some cookie cutter mold that was decided for me. And to clarify, this all stems from my realizing that no matter how much I want to be different, be my own person, and be an individual, I am exactly what the schools, systems, and media wants me to be -- an impressionable consumer, a trend follower, and blinded for so long by things that don't matter, so I won't notice what's really happening. But you know what, I've realized it and am going to rebel against the system. It's time for an awakening, and I think a lot of other people are figuring that out too. The coming years will be good. We may end up living in a post-modern hell, but at least we'll be living in a real world. BRING IT!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Great Key to Successful Living

My dad sent me this email months back, and as I'm cleaning out my inbox, I realized it should be shared. Take note.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Great Key to Successful Living
by Alexander Green
Dear Reader,

At a party last week, I bumped into a distracted woman wearing a frown.

"Hey, don't hog all the fun," I said with a wink.

She shook her head and gave me a slightly embarrassed smile. "It's just that when I come to social events like these, I cringe when people ask what I do and I have to admit I'm a stay-at-home mom."

"What's wrong with that?" I said. "You don't like having the most important job in the world?"

She said some people - especially working women - look down on her. She felt marginalized.

I was tempted to remind her of Eleanor Roosevelt's line that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. But I took a different tack and told her about a story I'd just read in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A budget crunch at the Philadelphia School District caused the district to lay off 91 school police officers. You might reasonably wonder why a school police force is necessary in the first place. But in the 2010 school year, 690 teachers were assaulted. In the last five years, more than 4,000 were.

The newspaper reported that in Philadelphia's 268 schools, "on an average day 25 students, teachers, or other staff members are beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted, or victims of other violent crimes." And that doesn't include thousands more who are extorted, threatened, or bullied each year.

Why is this happening? The short answer is poor parenting. (Some might call it no parenting at all.)

There are few threats to our future greater than family disintegration. Forty-one percent of all children today are born to unmarried women - and the number rises to more than 50% for women under 30.

Single-parent households in the inner city often lead to disorderly neighborhoods, schools that cannot teach, transgenerational poverty and mass incarceration. There are nearly 2.3 million people in American prisons and jails today. Another 5 million are on probation or parole.

Knowing this, how could anyone really look down on someone dedicating a significant portion of his or her adult life to parenting? After all, the family is the building block of all great societies.

Yet a parent's job has never been tougher.

Modern culture doesn't elevate kids. It doesn't celebrate education, virtue, hard work, or risk-taking. It distracts and consumes them with celebrity and materialism. Popular music and television shows cater to the lowest common denominator. Mindless consumption is idealized and encouraged by the most sophisticated marketing techniques ever devised.

In my house, we fight a constant battle with our 14-year-old daughter who pleads to go with her friends to PG-13 movies where glamorous young stars play characters who are drunk, high and hopping from bed to bed with nary a consequence. (When I was young and childless, this seemed like a trivial issue. Funny how having kids can change your perspective.)

These developments put the burden squarely on mom and dad. Sixty years ago, parents raised their kids to adopt the values of the culture. Today a big priority is getting them to reject the values of the culture.

How do you do it? Mostly the old-fashioned way, by instilling values and setting an example.

It takes more than just teaching kids to behave, however. They also have to dream. And it's up to parents to show them how to achieve those dreams. That usually requires something very specific...

In 1972, Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel concocted an ingenious experiment involving young children and a bag of marshmallows. He put a marshmallow on the table and told each child that if he (or she) could wait 15 minutes to eat it, they would get a second one as a reward.

Two-thirds of the kids flunked miserably. Some caved in at once; videotapes show others struggling to discipline themselves - some even banging their little heads on the table.

But the surprising results of the study came years later. Researchers followed up on the children to see how their lives progressed. Turns out the kids who exercised forbearance rather than eating the marshmallows at once had SAT scores 210 points higher. They were also more likely to finish college, enjoyed significantly higher incomes, were far less likely to go to jail and suffered fewer drug and alcohol problems.

What does this mean? It means we should love our kids. We should teach them to treat others the way they would want to be treated. But if we really want them to succeed in life, we should also teach them the enormous benefits of delayed gratification.

Education takes time and persistence. Professional attainments require concentrated effort. Saving and investing - instead of spending - takes discipline. Successful parenting means sacrifice and commitment.

Kids need to expect to struggle and to put off rewards. Because, with few exceptions, success means giving up a lot of things you'd like to do for things you really ought to do.

Today we live in a society of haves and have-nots. But to a great extent, that's because we live in a society of wills and will-nots.

This is a message every child should hear - and every parent should embrace. Perhaps even at a cocktail party.

Carpe Diem,


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Southern Curls & Pearls: Quick & Easy: Quinoa

Southern Curls & Pearls: Quick & Easy: Quinoa: Last week, I told ya'll I was going to give you a healthy quinoa recipe. Hence, I give you BBQ Chicken Quinoa , packed with filling protein ...

Thursday, August 2, 2012


We all want to be individuals, but I can't help but think that none of us really are. There's no such thing as "original" anymore -- everything is borrowed, expanded, altered, and interpreted. But before I continue, I should probably specify that I am writing this with fashion and style in mind. THIS is a fashion blog/website I look at frequently. Guys and gals post to it photos of their outfits, and it's a great place to get outfit inspiration and see what others are doing to dress around the world. (And can I add, that through this site I have learned that Polish women are astoundingly beautiful!? Annoyingly so.) But something that it has made me realize is that even the people who seem to have the most individualistic style fit into a category with others. Now, the purpose of this post is not to be negative, sad, or detract from how much style people really have, just a simple observation and thought that came to mind.

The more I think about it, the more I begin to realize how much we like labels. If we can justify, explain, and categorize, it makes it easier to remember, understand, and explain. This is a fairly sad truth, because it means that we cannot simply accept things as they are, but instead must try and decipher and explain everything in life. And we absolutely love to negatively categorize in an attempt to make ourselves feel better. I'll be the first to admit that I am fascinated by shows like "My Strange Addiction," "Hoarders," and "Duck Dynasty" because the people are so completely different than myself (for the most part;).  But I think I will not dive to deep into this, as I see it becoming a post of its own. So, back on track (to which I should add: after approximately two months off my A.D.D. medication, I have been back on it since last Monday and intend to write blournal [blog/journal] entries about its reappearance in my life)...

I think it is very common these days for Millenials to strive to be an individual. There are many who just conform and follow the trends so they can fit in and get along with similar people, or are too young to have yet developed a mind of their own, but I also think that we all want to define who we are separate from everyone else. We are individuals and we would like to be classified accordingly, but when the world of fashion is a melting pot, that is very hard to do. Every style that ever has been can be found in recent times to some extent. It amazes me that new styles emerge each season at all. And while I rejoice at this fact because it means that we can pretty much wear whatever we want and it is acceptable and fashionable in some way, it also means that it is very hard to define your style and have it be different from someone else that comes along. I can think about each of my friends and know distinctly what their style is, but know that there is someone else in the world with that same style too.

My personal style is a huge combination of hippie, boho, indie, rocker, classic, relaxed, European and sometimes even chic, but just because I don't always fit into one solitary category doesn't mean I am an individual. We are blessed with the ability to look back and pull ideas and inspiration from those who came before us, and imagine what it will be like for those that come after us. I love fashion, so all of this is very exciting to me, but as someone who likes to be unlike any other, it's hard to accept that I might not be as much of an individual as I think.

My thought: I don't want to follow trends, I want to make them! Always look at what is being done, and think about how you can give it your own twist!

Please note: I'm not saying that we aren't each our own person capable of expressing ourselves, just that even those who have "stranger" styles are not alone. And before I keep thinking of counterarguments to myself, I will publish and walk away.