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How to Cure PackRat-itis

Photo: Comprex from contemporist

How do you feel when sitting at home? Calm and peaceful, nestled in your neatly kept place? Or could your space use some love, organization and cleaning? If you fall into the former category, that’s awesome, skip the article and please share tips on how you keep such a tidy place in the comments. If you can barely type over the pile of stuff on your desk, then hopefully you’ll find inspiration in the words below.

I used to be quite a pack rat. I seldom threw anything away. I loved to take home everything I could get for free, such as promotional items from work, or odds-and-ends donated from friends. At one point, I discover that I had stuffed more than 20 techie t-shirts from various University recruiting events at the back of my closet. Yikes!

Perhaps I formed this habit during my poor, uncared-for university days. Maybe I was influenced having grown up in a communist country, where everything was limited and nothing was thrown away. Basically, I had accumulated A TON of stuff from years past.

Not only was it difficult to find things, but my mind was constantly filled with thoughts about what to do with all my stuff. Each time a closet was opened, I was reminded of the stuff I had, and the endless organizing I still needed to do (maybe I need a hoarding treatment). Even if we claim that our messy environment doesn’t bother us, each piece of clutter still takes up mental energy in our minds.

Your Guide to Conquer Fear of Public Speaking

I’ve heard of all the standard public speaking tips, like making eye contacts with your audience, plan your speech, practice, speak with volume, and standing up straight. Although, they are valuable tips, none of these tips address the real problem underlying my speech delivery. Namely, my fear of failure, and the crippling nervousness I experience when standing in front of a crowd of people.

I’m sure you can relate to the nervousness I’m referring to. Even if you are Tony Robbins or an expert in speech delivery, at some point in your life, you’ve felt nervous when giving a presentation. I used to hate public-speaking, I would get so nervous that the only thing I heard was the sound of my heart bouncing out of my chest, the only thing I felt was my stomach tightening up as I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants. In the past, I’ve dealt with this fear by avoiding presenting in front of people, whenever possible. But I’ve since learned that the best way to deal with any fear is facing it. I started looking outside of myself, then learning and testing out various techniques for dealing with fear. I began practicing advice on giving outstanding presentations. In my experimentation, I have found that several techniques have worked miracles in helping me give effective and fearless presentations.

How to Build Intimacy in Any Relationship

Photo by Cindy Loughridge
The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart. ~Helen Keller

You know how things can get so busy sometimes, that not only do we forget to connect with ourselves, but also forget to connect with the people we love most? People like our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends. I mean, we may see them, but we don’t necessarily take time to connect with them. We often tell ourselves that we can make it up to them once our busy schedule slows down. Funny thing is, our schedule never slows down. We really have to schedule our most important priorities first. I am always on the lookout for simple tools I can use to maintain my close relationships.

Reader Chris Sharp shared with me a daily routine him and his wife use. They call it their Daily Wins And Realizations; a time set aside to connect with their loved one every day. I didn’t ask for details, but I was inspired by the name and was intrigued by the possibilities and positive effects it could have on a relationship. I suggested to my partner, that we share our Wins and Realizations every evening after dinner. We have found the process to be enriching and deeply rewarding. It gives us a time and space to connect every day, deliberately. The exercise has been beautiful to observe and I wanted to share it with you.

Before diving further, I wanted to point out that this isn’t just effective in a romantic relationship, but in all relationships. Open communication, sharing and understanding is at the core of intimacy in any relationship and friendship. Try it for a few days with your mom (warning: you will melt her heart with love). This will also be an effective practice in friendship building with trusted friends. The word intimacy in this context is not referring to sexual intimacy, but the closeness and trust between two people through exchange of their inner most thoughts and values. I’m sure you can relate, that some of the most rewarding relationships are built this way.

Here are the reason why we fell in love with this daily routine:

  • It gives us an opportunity to express ourselves freely.
  • We get to be listened to and supported emotionally by another person.
  • You are important – You become a priority and focus of attention.
  • It is a deeply intimate experience where we connect at the soul level as spiritual beings.
  • I find that as I am expressing myself, that I’ll come up with even more realizations. I gain clarity as I articulate out my daily realizations and learning.
  • Gratitude is a pleasant side effect of this practice. Sharing your wins is like giving gratitude for things you are thankful for today.
  • Show the other person how important they are.
  • Enjoy the purity and innocence in your partner.
  • Practice open communication
  • Sharing the things you’ve learned with the other person and learning from their realizations.
  • The moment is highly energizing. When we’re done with our ‘daily wins and realizations’, I feel so full of positive energy that I’m ready to save the world. I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean. I often follow the evening with something productively creative, like writing a new article or designing a new layout.
  • Both parties will leave feeling great about themselves and their relationship with the other person.

Here’s a beautiful quote from Steve Pavlina when speaking about empowered relationships:

Everyone you meet in your life – even total strangers – are already intimately connected to you. The idea that we are all separate and distinct beings is nothing but an illusion. We are all parts of a larger whole, like individual cells in a body. (…) When you look at other people, you’re really looking at yourself.

– Steve Pavlina

The following tips explain how we adopted “Daily Wins & Realizations“. Feel free to adapt these concepts, as the process is not as important as the moment of expression.

1. Time – set aside time for time to connect. We’ve been setting aside 10 minutes after dinner, but have managed to go well past 10 minutes every day. It’s been so much fun, that we sometimes start new discussions based on topics shared.

2. Place – Find somewhere comfortable that’s not a bed, so you don’t fall asleep. :) We use the couch or sometimes do so at a restaurant.

3. One Person Asks the Question – Person A asks, “What are some of your wins and realizations today?” as person B answers. Sometimes, person B may have a hard time answering this, you can change the question slightly to “What did you learn today?” or “What are you Thankful for today?” Our wins and realizations have been anything from things we are grateful for today, to a realization about ourselves, to a summary of what we learned from a TED talk we watched, to something we read today.

4. No Interruptions – As person B answers, person A should not be interrupting. If you feel an urge to jump in, bite your tongue, write it down or save it for when it’s your turn. It is important to fully listen to the person speaking with openness and compassion, it is their time to express themselves, give them that time and space without interruption.

“Nature gave us one tongue and two ears
so we could hear twice as much as we speak.”

–Epictetus

5. Thank the Speaker - When person B is done. Person A will say something encourage acknowledging what’s been said. Something like “That’s great! Those are some great realizations and big wins!“, “Thank you for sharing!

6. Repeat – Repeat steps 3 to 5 with the persons reversed. Person B will ask the same question to person A.

7. “Cuddle Fest” – Give each other a big Hug with sincerity and love. We call it the ‘cuddle fest’, Tommy (our 8lb fluffy dog) typically will join in the celebration as well.

Simple, huh? If both people are open, non-judgmental, and genuine, you will find the result to be phenomenal in building intimacy with your partner or your friend. Let me know how this practice will turn out in your relationships. I can’t wait to hear them.

Any practices you’ve found useful in building intimacy and closeness with your loved one? Do share in the comments!

How to Be Naked like a Baby

Photo by Matthew Bennion

… And Just as Happy

Why is it that once we become adults, we become so serious all the time (generally speaking). We get so caught up in the hectic race of everyday life that we forget that we are here to experience joy, to experience Life. We forget to smile and enjoy the beauty of the present moment. I notice that I fall into the many demands of my life story. Recently, I have gotten so busy that a week can pass without realizing. I don’t get the chance to slow down once to reflect and to be present. I seem to fall into the pattern of constantly living in the future, running after that next goal or achieving that next task on my never-ending list of Todos. Let’s take this moment to slow down, just for a few minutes.

Small children and family pets (dogs, cats) can serve as great ‘Zen’ teachers. Have you observed them before? Try it. It is so beautiful to watch the innocence of a small child, or a dog. They are so present in the moment, stress-free, open to their feelings and are a bundle of joy. I tell people that my dog Tommy is “made of love” because from observing him, he really is! A fluff of positive energy, which serves as a constant reminder to be positive in any situation and to not take things so seriously. Live life, enjoy the moment.

I also believe that child-like innocence and creativity have a direct connection. I work with lots of artists and creative people, and I have found that child-like innocence are very common among all of them. The purity, the openness, and the awareness of the present moment are clearly shown through interacting with each of them.

We can guide ourselves back to the inner child in us. You ready? Let’s first start with some common traits and characteristics of our cute little ‘Zen masters’:

9 Ways to Overcome Jealousy

Photo by Ernie Land

Have you ever felt yourself resenting another person just because of their perceived success? Do you hear yourself justifying their success with some trivial reason so that you can easily dismiss them (and consequently feel good about yourself)? Through my experiences, I have come to learn that this instinctive emotion is merely trying to protect our ego, by burying our inadequacies and insecurities. Our mind is at work protecting us in the comforts of our little cocoon shell. But to what benefit does it serve?

Not only is the feeling of jealousy not conducive for relationship building and effective communication, but it just doesn’t us feel very good. Can you relate? That uncomfortable tightness in your stomach? Why do we put ourselves through it?

How to Reduce Information Overload

We live in a world full of information being thrown at us, every moment of the day, constantly demanding our attention. In our everyday lives, we are being constantly hit with streams of incoming information. I recall days where I just felt so ‘full’ from information that my mind feels numb, and I’m sure you can relate.

Information overload occurs when we try to receive more information than can be processed. The noise this effort creates in our minds and our lives can be overwhelming. Here are the reasons that I decided to consciously reduce my information appetite:

  • Productivity Loss – In the face of too much information, we can easily get lost in the details. We waste time focusing on unimportant information and lose sight of our goal and purpose. The extra data distracts away from our major tasks for the day. How often have you turned on your computer to check email, and ended up surfing the net for hours?
  • Mind Clutter – The noise created by media, and other sources of information, clutters our mind and takes away from our inner peace.
  • Lack of Time – Rich or poor, young or old, we all have the same limited amount of time in a day. And instead of spending a good chunk of my day filtering through incoming information, I’d rather spend the energy on bringing more enjoyment and fulfillment into my life. I want less time catching information and more time to live life.
  • Lack of Personal Reflection – I found that if I am constantly consuming information, then I forget to connect with myself. I have found that valuable personal reflection comes when we create a ‘space’ for it in our lives. An example is the person who constantly has the radio on. If there is always noise, then we won’t have the mental capacity to reflect within.
  • Stress & Anxiety – Information inflow creates the illusion that we have more tasks to fill our lives, than we have time for. Often, we might suddenly feel nervous without understanding why. Every piece of information carries with it energy, which demands our time. Even if we consciously ignore it, part of us saw that data and recorded it within our subconscious. So, we feel that we have lots and lots to do. This can create stress.

Too much of a good thing is never good, and this is especially true of information. We can’t live without a certain amount of information, and much of it is unavoidable anyway.

The following are ways to reduce your consumption to diminish the chaos and bring peace of mind:

7 Habits of Highly Innovative People

Have you ever looked at super creative or innovative people, and felt they are special beings blessed with gifts? Have you felt that you are not as fortunate? I used to feel this way. I have since learned that creativity is more about psychology than intellect, and there are no secrets to being creative. Actually, there is no such thing as “being more creative”, you are already a creative being.

I’m sure we can all relate to moments when we felt stuck trying to tap into our own creativity. Did you know that this block is merely your mind at work? Your mind is creating all sorts of assumptions, self-imposed constraints and self-limiting inhibitions. I have found that we can remove these assumptions just by being in the moment; start doing, and stop thinking.

Here are seven habits found in highly innovative and creative people that I’ve organized and summarized from Scott Berkun‘s “the myths of innovation“.

1. Persistence – Innovation involves more than just great ideas. We need faith, hard work and a laser sharp focus for the end result to keep persisting for our vision in the face of roadblocks. We tend to see the end result of a creative idea in awe, but what we don’t see are the actions, hard work and persistence behind the scene to make the vision a reality.

Invention is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration“,

–Thomas A. Edison

The Art of Smiling

Photo by Tina Su
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, and honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ~Leo F. Buscaglia

Actually, there isn’t any art behind it. Just that you were born to be happy, and you can show this happiness with that beautiful smile of yours. C’mon! Let’s see it. :) Okay, good.

To some extent, we all know how to spot a genuine smile, basically this formula:

Genuine Smile = Crinkly Eyes

bbc-faces.jpg We are all sensitive to this genuine scale, so why then is it that when we cross paths with a stranger or casual acquaintance in the elevator, we give them a fake smile? That ‘polite smile’. You know what I’m talking about (don’t get me wrong, I do this too, unconscious at grocery stores, on streets, while waiting for something.).

The lesson? Smile with your eyes! Feel it genuinely and it will come out naturally.

Extras: check out this quick interactive quiz from BBC to test out your ability to spot the difference between a real smile and a fake one.

Side Note: I am now smiling as I write this article. I love it! Thank you for reading and allowing me to express myself creatively.

A smile is so simple, yet so powerful. Some noticeable effects of externalizing your internal joy are:

  • People will be attracted to you – I don’t mean sexually (well, maybe that too), but people will feel drawn to your energy. When you smile more, you will carry an aura and poise that will draw people to you. People will look forward to being around you, knowing only that they feel great around you. People on the street, at work, your friends etc. We all like and want to be around happy and cheerful people, right?
  • Optimistic – You’ll feel more positive about yourself and the world.
  • Happiness & Joy – A smile is an expression of happiness and joy in you. Like an upward spiral, a smile will boost the happiness you feel.
  • Healthy – A smile can affect your internal state, which can have physiological impact on your physical and mental health.
  • Approachable – A smile is so welcoming and will make people feel more at ease.
  • Making Other People Happy – A smile has the power to make other people feel good about themselves. It’s heart-warming and has the power to cheer up others instantly.
  • Smiles Are Contagious – Others can quickly and easily catch it and will experience the above ‘side effects’.

Take The Smiling Challenge!

5 Keys to Simplifying Any Concept

Photo by Bruno Monginoux

We live in a world ruled by information. Much of our lives are involved with the consumption of information. We read the newspaper in the morning. We sit in meetings at work. We check our email every hour. We read billboards on the highway while driving home. We watch the news on television. We surf the internet and check blogs. Our minds become so full of information that the words become noise. We feel tired from the constant demand on our attention; at work, at home, on weekends. More is not less. Less is more. Clarity is more. Personally, when I am hit with a lot of information, my mind shuts-off and I move on to the next thing. To be heard and understood, it is vital to keep things simple.

The ability to simplify any concept is an incredibly valuable skill in this information rich society. Not only is conciseness a vital skill in business, but in any and all communication. It demonstrates clarity of thought. It allows you to communicate information and ideas to be easily digested and understood.

But how do we distill information down to just the most important parts? My dear friend David Margolis is an expert at simplifying information. I recently asked him, “What are your suggestions to becoming a master at distilling information?” Here are the most important points from that conversation:

Life on Purpose: 15 Questions to Discover Your Personal Mission

Photo by Thomas Hawk

I believe that we were all sent here for a reason and that we all have significance in the world. I genuinely feel that we are all blessed with unique gifts. The expression of our gifts contributes to a cause greater than ourselves.

First, a personal story

Last year, I was running at full speed; chasing after my dream of money and ‘success’. However, I had forgotten why I was running. Luckily, I met Jim (not his real name). Jim had achieved all the financial goals I was reaching for. He had financial independence, several successful businesses, homes in multiple countries, and the luxury to afford the finest things money could buy.

Through hard work, persistence and sheer action; he had made it! But, Jim was not happy. He did not have the free time to enjoy his wealth. He wanted a family. He wanted peace. He wanted to live his life… but he was not able to. He had too many responsibilities, too much to lose, and too many things to protect. He had spent years building his castle, and now that it is complete, he is spending his time keeping it from eroding.

Getting to know Jim was a life altering and eye opening experience. His words snapped me out of my state of ‘unconsciousness’. It became clear to me that, “I did not want to spend the next 10 years chasing after money, only to find that I’ll be back at the same place I am at today; emotionally, mentally, and spiritually”. My ‘chase’ came to a screeching halt, everything was put on hold, and I spent the next two months re-evaluating my life and purpose.

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