4 Ways to Create a Powerful Morning Routine

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One of the most important things that you can do to ensure that you have a positive and successful day is to become obsessed with how you spend your pre-work morning hours.

Unfortunately, many people never take the time to analyze their morning routine. A typical morning for most consists of picking up the phone right after they wake up to check email and social media, hitting the snooze button multiple times and never being intentional about positively fueling their mind and body before the workday.

The problem is, it’s challenging to perform at a high level and make an extraordinary contribution in the world if the above describes how you start your days. Instead, being intentional about how I start each and every day myself, and creating a powerful morning routine to do that, have been two of the most beneficial things I’ve done toward achieving my goals, increasing my energy throughout the workday and becoming a more positive person.

Here are four things you can do each day to create a powerful morning routine.

1. Wake up two hours before you have to be anywhere.

I’m not going to be one of those people who tell you that in order to achieve those audacious goals of yours, you need to wake up ridiculously early, but I am suggesting that you start waking up at least two hours before you have to be anywhere.

This early start gives you enough time to work on yourself and feed your mind, body and spirit before your hectic workday is off to the races. The reason why I assign this “number one” on my list is because it’s nearly impossible to create a powerful morning routine if you’re rushed and in a hurry.

2. Read something uplifting and inspiring. 

One of the best habits I have incorporated into my own orning routine has been to make sure I read something uplifting and inspiring for a half hour every single morning.

If 30 minutes seems too long, then start with just 10 or 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter if you are reading an actual book or a blog that you find inspiring, or listening to an audiobook. Just make sure you find the time in the morning to read something uplifting and inspiring instead of perusing negative news or checking your email right away. Fueling your mind with positive messages first thing in the morning helps you to build the self-confidence and motivational boost to go out in the world and make that specific day a masterpiece.

3. Practice daily gratitude.

There is so much written about gratitude and its importance, but a huge percentage of people still don’t practice it. Knowing that something is important and great for you and actually practicing it in your own life are two different things. Scientific research from multiple leading psychologists shows us that those who practice daily gratitude are more likely to be happy and successful.

I have found that the best time of the day to practice gratitude is first thing in the morning. I have used a gratitude journal for years, and it has been a complete game-changer for me. I currently use The Five-Minute Journal, which helps guide the process for you. Practicing daily gratitude will always be part of the discussion about a powerful morning routine and the best way to start the day.

4. Get moving.

I learned the power of doing some type of physical exercise first thing in the morning when I was an athlete. In college, as well as in the NFL, my friends and fellow teammates and I always had morning workouts; and I started to notice a pattern after a while.

When I worked out early in the morning, as opposed to the days that I didn’t, I noticed that my day was markedly better. I was not only more productive but more positive, and happier, as well. Even if your workout is just 20 minutes, you should get some sort of physical exercise in the morning.

Exercise increases endorphins and helps start your day in a positive way. A New York Times article I read described how exercise not only helps to build a better brain, but also increases brainpower. So, no matter where I am in the world or how crazy my travel schedule is, I make sure to do some sort of physical exercise — a staple for creating for myself a powerful morning routine.

The key to creating a powerful morning routine, then, is to find out what works best for you and then execute that plan each and every morning. These four practices are simple and practical, but have impacted my life in a profound way. Whether you use one of them or all four, they’re sure to help you in your own pursuit of a powerful morning routine.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

2 Practical Ways to Build the Mental Toughness You Need in Business — and in Life.

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If I had to pick just one quality and characteristic I was able to take away from the game of football that greatly impacted my life as an entrepreneur, it would be mental toughness, without a doubt. Playing the game of football since I was a little kid and then eventually getting the wonderful opportunity to play at the highest level in the NFL has transformed my mindset more than anything else.

Of course I learned the incredible importance of teamwork, culture, leadership and other important qualities, but the resilience that was instilled in me from the game of football is what I am most grateful for.

If you think that football players or other professional athletes are born with a special kind of mental toughness and that it becomes second nature for them right away, you are wrong. Mental toughness is something that you can strengthen and develop over time regardless of what you do for a living.

recent study by University of Miami neuroscientist Amishi Jha found that mental toughness and resilience are skills that can be learned by and trained for by collegiate football players. The results showed that just like physical training, practice and repetition are key for mental training. Even though this particular study was limited to collegiate football players, its results were great news for everyone because they apply not just to football players, but to many different industries and occupations.

Why mental toughness is so important.

If you feel mentally defeated, chances are small that you will ever get to where you want to go. Whether we are talking about athletics or business, winning, first and foremost, will be absolutely everything. There is nothing that you can’t do or become when you have a phenomenally strong mindset.

A big part of having that focused mindset is being able to keep pressing forward when the going gets extremely tough, staying positive when negativity attacks and persisting over and over again until you finally reach your destination. That’s the true definition of mental toughness: displaying an enormous amount of belief, fight and dedication toward a goal that you are passionately pursuing. If you take a look at any category of high achievers regardless of industry, you will quickly realize that they have displayed an extraordinary level of mental toughness to get to where they are.

How to build mental toughness.

The University of Miami study showed that one of the best ways to build mental toughness is through practicing mindfulness on a consistent basis. Mindfulness is all about directing your energy and thoughts on the present moment without any judgment. I was first introduced to the power of mindfulness training when I was in college playing football for Indiana University.

Once a week, we would have a sports psychologist come in and lead the team in practicing different breathing exercises and body scans.(guided meditation focusing on different parts of the body). When we first started these routines, I was skeptical, to say the least. I thought there was no way all of these weird-looking exercises and the act of focusing on my breathing could impact the way I played on the field.

But I was so wrong. Not only did my focus on the field increase, but my anxiety and stress decreased after a few weeks of really giving these practices a try.

Based on my own experiences, I can offer two practical ways that may help you — as they did me — build mental toughness and resilience, starting today.

1. Practice mindfulness daily.

Practicing mindfulness daily is a game-changer. Not only are studies showing the importance of mindfulness and detailing the amazing benefits that it provides, but people like me are extoling it based on personal experience.

Mindfulness calms your mind down from the noisy and chaotic world that we live in; and that calm, in turn, equips you with the strength and peace of mind to keep moving forward even in the face of extreme difficulty. Being in tune with the present moment and living fully right where you currently are helps diminish the fear that holds many people back and provides them with the clarity to focus on what’s most important.

I use the Calm app, which has worked wonders for me. It has a variety of different breathing exercises and body scans that the app walks you through step by step. Practicing mindfulness daily doesn’t just help you build mental toughness, it can change your life in so many different ways such as decreasing daily anxiety and drastically increasing your overall well-being.

2. Step out of your comfort zone daily.

This one may be a lot more difficult than practicing mindfulness, but making it a daily habit to step out of your comfort zone builds an incredible amount of strength.

Just as you would go to the gym to get stronger physically and strive to make your muscles grow, stepping out of your comfort zone daily is what helps you expand your capacity for mental toughness.

The more I seek to step out of my own comfort zone, no matter how uncomfortable it may be at the time, the stronger and better I feel. When I plan my day the night before, one of the first things I do is ask myself how can I step out of my comfort zone for that particular day. You can’t build mental toughness and become resilient by always playing it safe and operating only out of the confines of your comfort zone.

In short, being resilient and mentally tough is a non-negotiable if you want to step into your greatness and become the best version of yourself. Give these two practices a try. They may well help you get there.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Make Someone Else’s Day, and 3 Other Ways to De-Stress

 

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A survey from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that close to half of all working adults say that their job negatively affects their life. And that certainly resonates: It’s easier now more than ever to get stressed out and adopt unhealthy habits into our everyday lives.

What’s more, the biggest problem about this epidemic is not the actual stress in itself, but our inability to do anything about it. Instead of thriving on all cylinders and being a top producer in our chosen lines of work, most of us settle for a state of survival.

Of course it’s important to work extremely hard, put in the long hours and do everything in your power to make sure you are living up to your full potential each and every day. However, that doesn’t mean you neglect your emotional, mental and physical health in the process.

Here are four things that will help you eliminate stress and reclaim your happiness.

1. Make someone else’s day.

Remember the famous Clint Eastwood line from Dirty Harry? Why not turn it around? Because one of the easiest ways to eliminate stress and put a smile on your face is to find a way to make someone else’s day. When stress beats us down, it’s usually because we put too much focus on ourselves.

We may be way too hard on ourselves, setting unrealistic expectations at work, and feeling consumed only with what we currently have going on in our lives. But when we make it a priority to be of service to someone and “make someone else’s day,” we just might learn one of the most fulfilling ways for minimizing stress and reclaiming our happiness.

2. Go on a digital detox.

One of the best decisions that I ever made was to go on a digital detox for one full week. I stayed off social media, never once opened my email and even made sure that my phone was in a completely different room locked away for the whole week.

This was a very powerful action that provided me with just the right amount of solitude and soul searching required to get back on track and come back even stronger. In the technology-driven world that we currently live in, it’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of comparing our success (or lack thereof) to someone else’s achievements. It’s easy to let social media run run our lives. It’s easy to forget about what matters most in life.

I am not suggesting that anyone go on a technology detox for a full week like I did. But I am encouraging that people at least try it out for maybe a weekend or just one day. I am positive that you will enjoy the sense of relief and calmness that will result.

3. Let gratitude be the driving force in your life.

Every single time that I have been stressed out and on the verge of burnout, my absence of gratitude has always been the main reason why. It’s virtually impossible to be stressed out and feel terrible about yourself when you are in a constant state of gratitude.

And in case you’re wondering what that means, there are plenty of ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily life. I write in a “gratitude journal” each and every morning. The first thing I do when I wake up is write down three to five things that I am grateful for that day. Instead of worrying about what I have to do over the day ahead or taking a look at the hectic calendar waiting for me, I turn to gratitude first.

Another way that I bring gratitude into my life is by going on a daily gratitude walk. I learned this daily practice from my friend and bestselling author Jon Gordon. Before I listen to music or a podcast, I’ll go on a scenic walk early in the morning and say out loud everything that I am grateful for. This energizes me and is a profound way to start the day. Stress has no chance of surviving when you are in a constant state of gratitude. Don’t believe me? Check out this Newsweek article which reports on five scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.

4. Get lost in a great book.

One of my favorite things in the world is to read and get lost in a great book. There is something magical about picking up a great book and not letting your worries, fears and stresses win the battle of your mind. Great books have the potential to change lives.

Even though I read a new book every week, I have a stack of ten or so more familiar books that I always turn to when the going gets tough and I feel the hustle and bustle of life starting to really get to me. All it takes is for me to pick up one of these great books and start re-reading it for 15 minutes.

Reading a great book helps me to see the world in a different light and forget about all of the problems going on in the world. I might do the same for you: Getting lost in great books has totally changed my life; and I know it can do the same for you as well.

Stress doesn’t have to get the best of you and steal your happiness. I hope these four ideas help you just as much as they have benefited my life over the years.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

How to Never Let Fear Hold You Back Again

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Nothing holds people back from tapping into their full potential and becoming the best version of themselves more than fear. Fear shatters dreams, prevents organizations from achieving major breakthroughs and is the root cause as to why so many end up going to their grave with all of their talents, hopes and wishes still unexpressed.

Whether it is the fear of public speaking, fear of pursuing an enormous dream, of failure or of what others may think of you, it’s not actual fear that is holding you back. It’s the made-up story that you continually tell yourself about the fear that is stealing your happiness, your peace of mind and your ability to unleash an unlimited amount of potential into the world.

Fear itself, of course, is normal. When you set out to pursue your deepest desires and live a bold life, it’s completely natural for fear to creep in and scare you from time to time. What makes all the difference as to whether your fears paralyze you or catapult you to new heights depends on your reaction and response to the fear.

There have been many times in my life when fear held me back. The experience I remember most was getting hurt in my very first game in the NFL. I was playing for my hometown team the Chicago Bears and living a dream of mine that I had desperately wanted since I was a little kid. In the blink of an eye, however, I lost my dream and was left broken-hearted and emotionally crushed.

Fear attacked me from all different sides. Not only did it get the best of me, but it also dominated every thought, action and belief I had at the time.

I was officially a victim of my circumstances. The fear of the unknown, of failure and of what others thought of me caused me to go into severe depression and lock myself in my room for weeks. Fortunately, I was able to overcome that dark period of my life where fear was the main driver of my destiny.

I still get scared all the time. Fear still creeps into my life on a daily basis multiple times throughout the day. The only difference now is that I know how to never let fear defeat me and prevent me from living courageously.

Here are two ways that will help you to never let fear hold you back again.

1. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Fear can only win and get the best of you if you don’t take action and push forward. One of the easiest things that you can do to ensure that you never let fear hold you back from this point moving forward is to feel the fear and do the task anyways. As soon as you feel the fear, take action and get moving as quickly as possible.

Unlike what a lot of people think, you don’t need to have everything figured out and know every little detail before you get moving. It’s great to prepare and have a plan, but once you do everything in your power to put yourself in a position to win, the next step is to become obsessed with taking action.

Regardless of what type of fear we are talking about, when you make it a habit to “feel the fear and do it” anyways, you not only build self-confidence, you also gain incredible strength little by little. Amazing things begin to take place for those who feel the fear and still take massive action.

2. Change your personal philosophy on failure.

Even though I have been referring to all kinds of fears leading up this point, the fear of failure is the one fear that inhibits most from going after what they really want and breaking free from the chains of mediocrity. When you start to view failure as a blessing in disguise and an opportunity to help mold you into the person you need to become, your life will never be the same again.

As I state in this short video clip from a recent keynote that I gave to a large group of leaders, the best of the best view failure and adversity as a tremendous gift.

The tough times are there only to help us become the best version of ourselves. When you make this mental shift and change your personal philosophy on failure, the fear of failure will never hold you back again.

When you start to become intentional in your actions and do something each and every day that takes you out of your comfort zone, fear has absolutely no chance of winning. Live boldly!

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

The Power of Having Trusted Critics in Your Life

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It’s so easy for us as busy leaders and entrepreneurs to get caught up in the swing of things that the result is our vision and decision-making ability becomes extremely cloudy. I can almost guarantee that at some point throughout your life, when you were either going through a difficult time, lacked direction or felt confused about something, one of the first things you did was seek counsel from someone you trusted.

This person could have been your spouse, mother, father, sibling, grandparents or a best friend.

Then, after you got done explaining your situation or whatever was on your mind, chances are, this person chimed in with his or her take on that situation.

And, even if you didn’t necessarily agree 100 percent, you felt better than you had before. That’s because of the incredible power you gain having a panel of trusted critics in your life. These are the people that can be completely honest with you while having your best interests at heart — people whom you fully trust.

How the “panel” idea materialized.

I learned the tremendous power of having a panel of trusted critics one afternoon after delivering a keynote presentation to a group of 700 sales professionals. One thing I absolutely love about traveling all over the world and speaking to groups from different industries is the time I get to spend with leaders and high achievers before and after I take the stage.

I love to hear their stories and what makes them tick. But that one afternoon was different. And I say “different” because I wasn’t expecting to hear a method that totally revolutionized how I view the opinions of those I trust.

In fact, the managing director of a medical device company began to explain that a major thing that had helped him get to where he is today was his panel of trusted critics. He went on to say, “You know what, Matt? When you were speaking about the impact that having mentors and studying the lives of other great men and women had had on your life, I was reminded of my own little practice involving others that has, without a doubt, been the main reason why I am in the position I am, earn the amount of money I do and have the family life I have.

“I have a panel of selected critics I go to whenever I need a second voice, opinion or advice on something. But the one area that they help me the most with are those times of uncertainty and adversity. I can always count on them to tell me what I need to hear in that exact moment.”

What he said to me really hit home. I started to look back at some of the darkest times of my life, some of the biggest failures of my life, and to notice a pattern. I sought counsel from outside resources. Whether it was someone that I loved more than this world, such as God and my parents, or a good friend whom I knew I could count on: Their advice and opinions always seemed to bring me comfort even in the most uncertain times of my life.

Make your own list.

That night, after the event, on the plane back to Chicago, I took out a sheet of paper and put together a list of five trusted critics. Fast-forward to the present, and I can see how this special group of trusted critics have played an enormous role in my life, and ultimately helped me get to where I am today. Sometimes, we need someone else to chime in and tell us how it is, especially during the troubling times.

I encourage you to take some time right now to take out a sheet of paper and write down at least five people who could serve as a trusted critic in your life. Think of them as your own special advisory board. These people will always tell you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear. They will consistently challenge you to be better, and you can always count on them when you need an honest voice or opinion.

It doesn’t matter if each of these people is a family member, colleague or spouse. All that matters is that you fully trust them and that they have your best interest at heart. Ideally, you want to enlist someone who is further ahead in life than you, someone who can basically serve as a mentor.

Here are two key benefits that you will experience when you take the time to form your own panel of trusted critics.

You’ll get out of your comfort zone more often.

One of the biggest benefits of having a panel of trusted critics in your life is that you will step out of your comfort zone more often. There have been plenty of times in my life where I wanted to seek comfort instead of growth, but the people that I had in my inner circle were there to help keep me on track.

They were able to help me get out of my own way and see things for what they really were. Constantly getting out of your comfort zone is absolutely imperative if you want to achieve greatness; and when you have the right people in your life that you can count on, they will help you do just that.

You’ll become more successful.

Having the right men and women on your panel of trusted critics will drastically help you become more successful. You will be motivated to get big things done instead of just going through the motions. You’ll learn from adversity instead of running away from it, and be forced to face reality instead of living in the land of make believe.

I am naturally very motivated; I have always been that way for the most part. However, motivation can only get you so far. The number of lessons that I have learned, the wisdom that I have gained and the breakthroughs I have experienced from having the right people by my side are endless in number.

So, will having a panel of trusted critics and special mentors in your life automatically make you a major success? Of course not. But what it will do is serve as a catalyst for massive growth and help you become the best version of yourself.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

How to Keep Fighting and Pressing Forward When the Going Gets Tough

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A lot of people like to think that there is some secret formula to achieving extraordinary levels of success and breaking free from mediocrity, but there really isn’t.

The one and only secret to crushing your goals and experiencing the success that you always dreamed of is to take relentless, persistent and massive action every single day of your life. Every peak performer knows the importance of this truth. The reason why the majority neglect it is because of the ridiculous amount of work required of them. What’s more, there is absolutely nothing exciting and sexy about that workload.

Persistence may not always be the “fun” thing to do, but it always will be the right thing to do when you are in pursuit of greatness, when you’re looking to maximize business success or achieve a game-changing goal. Being persistent requires you to get out of your comfort zone most of the time and force yourself to take action, even when you may not feel like it.

The following icons certainly understood this:

  • Henry Ford massively failed and went broke five times before he finally got his major breakthrough.
  • Beethoven was ridiculed for how he handled the violin, and his teacher told him that he was hopeless as a composer.
  • Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper editor for an alleged lack of ideas. He also went bankrupt multiple times before he built Disneyland.
  • Charles Darwin gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching.” Wrote Darwin in his autobiography: “I was considered by my father a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.”

More such stories? Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 years old and didn’t read until he was 7. His teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” He was eventually expelled and refused admittance to Zurich Polytechnic School. The University of Bern declined his Ph.D. dissertation as irrelevant and fanciful.

The script for Star Wars was rejected by every movie studio in Hollywood before 20th Century Fox finally produced it. It went on to be one of the largest grossing movies in film history.

When former University of Georgia and NFL running back Herschel Walker wanted to play football in junior high, but the coach told him he was too small and recommended track instead. Never one to quit, Walker ignored the coach’s advice and began an intensive training program to build himself up. Only a few years later, he won the prestigious Heisman trophy.

These are just a few examples of all the wildly successful people who failed before succeeding to such heights that they could rewrite the history books. Remember, we all fail at one time or another. That’s life. And no matter whether our failures are large or small, we have to persist and keep fighting. We’re all a “work in progress.” Even the geniuses.

Here are two actionable ideas to help you keep fighting and pressing forward when the going gets tough.

1. Study the greats. 

I am an avid reader. I read a new book every single week, but one of my favorite types of books is autobiographies. I enjoy reading about the incredibly successful who went on to change the world with how they lived their lives.

When you pick up an autobiography of one of the greats, you quickly realize the amount of persistence and fight they possesed, even in the face of extreme uncertainty and hardship. When I find myself going through a difficult time, one of the first things I do is pick up an autobiography of a world-class achiever.

Reading that individual’s story reminds me of the power of never giving up, and passionately always fighting for what you believe in and desire. The next time you find yourself going through a difficult period in your life, pick up an autobiography, watch a documentary or find some way to study the greats. Success leaves clues.

2. Never lose sight of your major goals. 

One of the first things that happens when people gets knocked down and come face to face with adversity is that they lose sight of the original goal or vision.

Instead, these individuals let the negativity they are currently experiencing come to the forefront of their minds, which prevents them from taking action and moving forward. I myself carry a notecard with me everywhere I go that has all of my major goals written on it. When I get knocked down, experience a negative curveball thrown my way or just lack the inspiration to keep fighting, I look over this notecard and am immediately connected to the grand vision I have that keeps me going.

Do the same thing: Put your major goals into your phone, on the front of your computer screen and in your purse or wallet. All throughout the day, especially when the going gets tough, read over those major goals and remind yourself of the great vision that you have for your life. When you make it a priority to never lose sight of your major goals, there is nothing that can permanently hold you back.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

How to Destroy Your Fears — for Good

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Just as happens with a lot of things in life, we all have choices to make regarding how we live: Are we going to choose to let our fears overtake us and wallow in our failures? Or, are we going to rise above these things and live a faith-filled life?

By “faith-filled life,” I mean always believing that the future is going to be bigger than the past and that there is absolutely no limit to our potential. The decision is ours; no one can make it for us. But it’s a decision that has to be made, because the more we experience adversity throughout our lives, the more our fears will creep in and rob us of our peace and happiness.

Interestingly enough, fear, failure and faith have a lot in common. When we fail at something, we let fear stop us from trying again. And when we operate out of fear, we set ourselves up for a negative and limited belief for a future that is still unwritten.

Faith focuses on the positive, while fear focuses only on the negative. When people experience a setback or failure, they immediately begin to believe that there is no choice but to accept the outcome of that negative experience. They lose sight of the fact that the first step in conquering adversity and uncovering the gift that lies within every failure is to constantly develop and strengthen the faith muscle which will help them destroy their fears and move forward.

As physician and Holocaust survivor Emannuel Teney put it, “As your faith is strengthened, you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.”

Destroying your fears 

We’ve all had numerous failures and setbacks throughout our journey. And, like most people, we may be afraid of trying something new — afraid we’ll fail again. But, if we are going to thrive despite the bad times, we absolutely must destroy our fears.

That is certainly no easy task, considering how much our fears have been ingrained. Where a lot of people go wrong is that they don’t do anything the moment fear begins to invade their thinking. They let it build up inside their minds; and, over time, fear is all they know.

When that happens, they are guided by their fears, instead of faith and hope. They never come to the realization that letting fear lead the way is a recipe for a life of mediocrity and “settling” for an average, lesser version of themselves, rather than the best version.

And don’t we all want to be the best version of ourselves?

As the Rev. Charles Stanley said, “Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.” 

I wholeheartedly believe that so many people struggle with overcoming major setbacks and failure in life because they haven’t destroyed their fears. They fail, become frightened, then listen to, and end up living, their fears. This paralyzes them from taking action and doing what’s necessary to get them where they want to go.

I want to share with you two exercises that have worked wonders for me, for destroying my own fears:

1. Take out a sheet of paper and grab a pen.

For this exercise, it’s important to find a quiet location to help you get deep into your thoughts and bring you clarity. The goal here is to start writing every single fear that has ever crossed your mind and still has power over you. This fear could be preventing you from taking action, from talking to a certain man or woman. This fear could be preventing you from following your passion in life.

Whatever it is, write it down. A few years ago, I did this exercise and wrote down almost 200 fears.

Now the fun part: From every day going forward, pick one thing on your fear list. Pick one thing that you’re afraid of and force yourself to just do it. It could be picking up the phone and calling someone you have been wanting to talk to, but kept putting off. It could be making that first introduction to someone you’re interested in.

It could be enrolling in a class you’ve thought about pursuing. Or even starting a business. This exercise, done properly, will help you drastically shatter your fears. It has provided me with so much courage over the years and reminded me that the majority of the fears holding me back were only in my mind — and were false.

2. Shift your mindset — from the negativity of failure to the positivity faith and hope. 

Most of our fears aren’t even real. We let made-up scenarios — worries — play out in our heads and then run with them. Over time, we really start to believe those scenarios, which more than likely, are self-diminishing instead of self-empowering.

We must engrave in our minds that the only way fear can hold us back is if we let it. The only power it has is the power we give it. Shift your mind from the negative clutches of fear to the positivity of the beautiful gifts we receive when faith and hope in a bigger future are present. Then, from that point on, always look to strengthen your faith, not your fears.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

3 Ways to Defeat Resistance and Get Your Most Important Work Done

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Have you ever been in the situation where you really wanted to get something important done but all of a sudden your internal dialogue took over and you ended up talking yourself out of actually doing it? If I had to guess, chances are you have. It’s more than likely that all of us at some point have been in a similar situation.

I come across people on a daily basis who go on and on explaining how badly they want to write a book, start a business or pursue a passion. And, as the conversation continues, the next thing that comes out is a list of reasons why that hasn’t happened yet.

Unfortunately, most will continue their lives without realizing their goal. It’s not that they lack talent or that something is wrong with us. What has happened is that like millions of other people, we’ve let one of the biggest dream killers, resistance, completely take over our lives and decision-making ability.
We all have big hopes and aspirations, but as time goes on and we grow older, we let that resistance creep in and prevent us from tapping into our full potential. And the thing is that the more important and special something is to us, the stronger and more powerful our resistance will be. One of the best books I have come across that details this process is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I highly recommend it because it explains that it’s not just creatives who deal with resistance; it’s anyone who desires to live a bold and highly successful life.
I have had my own battle with resistance over the years and have learned how to minimize its effectiveness each time I feel it gaining an edge on me. Here are three ways I’ve defeated resistance and gotten my most important work done.

1. Just get started!

Resistance is at its strongest when you’re getting ready to start something. When I first sat down to write my book, I stared a few minutes at the blank screen, knowing exactly how much I had to write, and immediately came face to face with resistance.

Multiple excuses began to pop up, and the last thing I wanted to actually do was to start writing. But the turning point came when I stopped thinking about the thousands of words I had to write that day and just made getting started my main focus.

Once I was able to just get started, everything was downhill from there. When you direct all of your focus to  taking the first step, you destroy resistance little by little. The last thing resistance wants you to do is to start on an important project or work that truly matters. Whether that project is writing a book, starting a business or pursuing a passion, just focus on taking that first step.

2. Compete with yourself.

One of the major benefits of being a former athlete is that I am always trying to compete with myself and have fun with everything that I do. Instead of looking at resistance as some dreadful and awful experience, I try to have some fun with it and make it a game. At the end of each work day, especially when I am in the process of working on a major project like writing a book, I will keep score of how many times I have beat resistance. Nothing feels better than to get to the end of the day and look at how many times I have successfully defeated resistance.

This ends up increasing my fulfillment, happiness, and overall satisfaction for that particular day. This simple and fun practice has drastically transformed the way that I work. I encourage you to find your own practice and what works best for you. What works best for me may not be the best solution for you, but that’s not the main point. The most important thing is that you give yourself permission to have fun with resistance instead of let it cripple you from performing your best on a daily basis.

3. Get extremely clear.

When you get extremely clear about what you’re  trying to achieve, who you are as a person and the overall mission and purpose for your life, the resistance you’re up against loses a great deal of its power.

Returning to my efforts to write a book: Once I got extremely clear about why I wanted to write in the first place and the type of impact that I wanted it to have on people, I got motivated to take action. A lot of times, resistance gets the best of us because we forget the importance of gaining clarity before we start something.

The next time you feel resistance overpowering you, then, stop what you are doing and spend some time getting connected with your major life purpose, your biggest goals and dreams for the year and anything else that motivates and excites you. A simple mindset shift like this can make a profound difference in not only your ability to beat resistance, but in the way you feel about life.

I strongly believe that every one of us has a unique talent and ability that can be used to make a tremendous difference in the world. Don’t let resistance get in the way of preventing you from leaving your mark on the world.

Just as author Steven Pressfield said, “Most of us have two lives: the life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.”

Don’t let resistance interfere with your becoming the best version of yourself.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

4 Actions to Help You Recover From a Crushed Dream

20160223012617-football-nfl-2Image credit: Shutterstock

My one and only NFL game may as well have been my own personal Super Bowl. I remember that evening in August 2010 at Qualcomm Stadium in California, playing the San Diego Chargers as though it was yesterday: the fresh smell of the wet dirt and the long grass. The taste of iron and salt in my mouth . . .

. . . And, off in the distance, the din of our fans screaming, cheering us on.

This was where I belonged: as an NFL player playing for the Chicago Bears, in a pre-season matchup against the Chargers out in beautiful San Diego, California. I was playing well. I had missed a sack opportunity on the quarterback, but I had also recorded three tackles, including one for loss. I was pumped, elated to be doing what I had always dreamed of doing: what four years of Indiana University football and endless workouts had prepared me to do.

But, something was terribly wrong. Late in the second quarter, with four minutes left before halftime, a big Chargers offensive lineman was thrown by one of my teammates smack into my left ankle. His 280-pound bulk came down hard across my leg, and my ankle became badly tangled up under this mountain of a man.

I attempted to stand — and realized that what had seemed like a routine play was not routine at all: A sharp pain stabbed through my entire leg. I felt sick to my stomach as the searing pain worsened progressively every second. The pain was so intense, I thought I might faint.

Still, I toughed it out, finishing the game with six tackles and a tackle for loss. But, that day, my performance was not uppermost in my mind; All I could think about was that excruciating pain — and the all-too-real possibility that my promising football career had just ended before it began. My first game would be my last.

Crushed dreams

While I waited to see the specialist back in Chicago, I had an extremely hard time sleeping and focusing at team meetings. I was consumed with anxiety and fear and slid into the deepest depths of darkness. My life was shattering; my dreams and goals were falling like shards of glass. I had no Plan B in place. It had been my experience that most athletes are ill prepared, if not completely clueless, about the emotional and psychological impact of sustaining an injury, then trying to recover from it.

Now I was one of those athletes.

In fact, my traumatic injury signaled the end of my career, my dreams and my goals. I completely tore a bone off my left ankle and was going to be out for a lengthy period of time. The Bears reached an injury settlement with me, and just like that, my whole world came crashing down on me. My dreams were crushed.

What to do when this happens to you

Any highly successful person along the way has more than likely experienced adversity. The people at the top, the game-changers, have all had a lot of unsuccessful years before any of their major successes became known to the public.

The feelings rendered by crushed dreams don’t happen just to athletes forced out of a professional sport they’ve worked their whole life for. They happen to men and women from all different walks of life: business, politics, education, even parenting.

What did I learned from my own crushed dream? Plenty. Here are four things to help you recover should it happen to you:

1. Face the facts. 

If something has crushed your dream, do you find yourself in denial? My own experience was that I didn’t even think there was life after the NFL, so I hadn’t even reached denial yet. What I was in was a kind of death spiral.

I believed that if I couldn’t play football, then life as I knew it was over. If you yourself are in denial about a crushed dream, or you’re succumbing to the “death” feeling, where demons roam and nothing in life matters anymore, you need to face the facts. We all have to look at those facts objectively and analyze our next move, no matter how painful it is.

What helped me to face the facts was to seek out mentors of mine that I fully trusted as well as my support system of close friends and family members. By talking to them, I was able to get out of the denial trap and finally free myself from the internal pain robbing me of my peace.

Facing the facts can mean different things to different people. But a good place to start is mentors and loved ones that you completely trust. Their words and support in extremely difficult times can make a world of a difference. 

2. Don’t overanalyze.

When something happens to crush your dream, you’ll more than likely start to overanalyze. You might worry yourself sick, wondering what to do next. Or you might question your self-worth. You might tell yourself that you’re in a nightmare, and tomorrow you’ll wake up and things will be okay.

The worst thing you can do when you come face to face with adversity is to overthink things. Give yourself time to absorb the reality of the situation, and don’t rush to “fix” things. The first thing that I had to do was realize that I was creating false scenarios in my mind.

I eventually got to the point where I was telling myself that, yes, I had been injured in an NFL game, but this was not the end of the world. No matter how bad I felt about losing my dream, I was not going to die. 

3. Surrender. 

You can’t change what has happened, but you can change how you react to it. In the Beatles song “Tomorrow Never Knows,” there’s a line that says: “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream . . . that you may see the meaning of within.” This is perfect advice: Since you can’t change the situation, you may as well turn off your mind and surrender to it.

Only then will the solutions surface. Just as long walks and meditation can give you peace of mind and answers to questions that bother you, so can your surrender to pain. Of course, this is easier said than done, and I certainly struggled at first, myself; but the benefits far outweighed anything else.

Surrendering for me was all about feeling the fear and negative energy while moving forward anyway. Before that, I had been rejecting every fear and negative emotion, which actually made things a lot worse. When you welcome the fear and negative energy but continue to move forward, you feel a tremendous sense of gratification and heavy burden lifted off your shoulders. 

4. Accept. 

Surrendering to the situation means accepting it.  And, mind you, this was one of the hardest things for me to do right away. It took me a few weeks to accept myself as well as the situation. I kept asking myself over and over, What if I had tackled differently on that play? What if I had just played for a different team? I realize now more than ever that acceptance is crucial to forgiving yourself and moving on.

So, leave the what-ifs behind. I had to get rid of them before I could ever move forward. That meant taking action and not letting my injury paralyze me from going on to do something remarkable with my life.

This injury, which was one of the lowest events of my life, actually ended up giving birth to my career as a writer and keynote speaker. One of the most important things that you can do when you get knocked down by adversity is to just move forward.

And while the pain of a crushed dream can be excruciating for quite a while, these four steps little by little helped me get back on the right track and start the process of rebuilding my life. It is my hope that they can do the same for you.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

This is the Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make

20160525140458-woman-thinking-laptop-working-cafe-break-breakfast-dreaming-freelancer-workspaceImage credit: Shutterstock

One of the most important decisions you can ever make is to become your own CEO. I’m talking about taking complete responsibility for your life and not blaming others or your circumstances for past results or where you are right now.

It’s mindboggling to me how someone can go year after year, month after month, day after day complaining about their laundry list of misfortunes but do absolutely nothing about it? I hear so many people say they want to be great, achieve more success and make more money. But they never do anything about it. The main thing that most of these individuals do is whine and complain about their sorry lot in life. They sit back and let others make their decisions.

Granted, I understand there are situations and issues in peoples’ lives that may prevent them from achieving their dreams. There can be circumstances that are beyond their control. Certain family issues, disabilities, and extreme illnesses to name a few. I’m not judging people when I see them living in undesirable situations. It’s possible life has dealt them a bad hand and they can’t navigate their way out. I get it, and I do not mean to sound preachy.

On the flip side, I see others who could do something about their lives if they just tried a little harder.

Throw away the excuses.

“I don’t have any talent.”

“I can’t ever seem to get a good job. Someone better always gets the job.”

“I can’t make enough money to pay my bills.”

“I don’t have any luck at all.”

“I feel like the world is out to get me.”

“I am worried about what others will think.”

Does this sound like anyone you know? They make you want to kick them in the butt and say, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself! You can change your destiny! You can change your life!”

The list of examples can go on and on, but you get the point. Making excuses has never crowned anyone a champion. The day that you decide to throw away all excuses once and for all will be the day that changes your life forever. A simple but extremely powerful transformation begins to take place.

Just do it!

Nike’s slogan “Just Do It!” is one of the best in advertising. Getting up off your butt and going out there to make things happen is the way you become the leader of your life.

Sure, I know. I agree with you. I’ve been through it, so I’m speaking from experience. One of the hardest things to do is take full charge of your life and be the leader of your destiny. But when you do, you force yourself to look at your life and say, “I am not where I want to be because of myself and the choices and decisions that I have made.” Your next comment may be, “I am going to do something about it and make a positive change.”

When you do this, you take ownership of where you are and where you are headed. That’s not an easy thing to do, trust me. One of the hardest things I ever do is force myself to look within when times are not the best. Heck, when I was 16-years old and a full blown drug addict throwing my life away I could barely look at myself in the mirror. I was so despicable. Things began to change when I finally had had enough. That is when I developed the courage to truly look within myself. Slowly but surely, I became the CEO of my life — the leader of my destiny.

Becoming my own leader redefined my philosophy of life. It will redefine yours, as well. There is absolutely nothing you can’t do or overcome when you choose to be the CEO of your life. Being the leader of your destiny is rejecting the easy road and opting for what’s worth it in the long run.

Think about it. It will be a shame if you get to the final stages of your life with nothing but your excuses for why you didn’t follow a passion or a dream. It breaks my heart to even think about this, but it happens all the time.

Maximize opportunities.

Becoming the leader of your destiny opens the floodgates of opportunity, and life seems to become a bit easier, because others will join in and help when they can.

For example, let’s say there are two young men named John and Chris. John is the leader of his destiny. When something goes wrong, he doesn’t make excuses or place the blame on someone else. John doesn’t focus on the negative. He constantly searches for ways to better himself and elevate his position in life.

Chris is a totally different story. He has a long track record of letting his failures define him. Every chance he gets, he makes excuses or blames someone else for his misfortunes and lack of success. It truly is a negative, energy-draining experience for anyone who comes in contact with him.

Out of the two men, who do you think is more likely to receive more opportunities to get back on the right track and have others want to help in any way they can? The answer to that question is obvious. People gravitate toward positive people. They’re attractive and make you feel good. On the other hand, it’s difficult to be around negative people because they’re a liability to your happiness.

Make the decision.

One of the most rewarding decisions you can ever make is to become the leader of your destiny, your own CEO, and take complete responsibility for everything that happens. Once you do, it won’t be long before your opportunities begin to expand. And others will go out of their way to help you, even if it’s something simple. Being the leader of your destiny is a trait that all champions possess.

This piece is adapted from Matt Mayberry’s book Winning Plays, published by Hachette/Center Street.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

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