5 Ways to Open and Nurture Your Imagination

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Your imagination is the key to creating your dreams and building your future. When you are creatively blocked, you are going to have a more difficult time being your best self at work or at anything you attempt to achieve. Too often, those of us who are ambitious and production-driven, will ignore creative pursuits because we think we don’t have time for them. You might be saying, “But I’m not a creative person. I’m a business person, so what does creativity and imagination have to do with anything?”

The answer is, “everything.”

Here are five ways to open your imagination, which will in turn, ignite that spark of creativity within you so you can create more with your business, as well as enhance your life.

1. Reading.

I’ve mentioned before that when I get up in the morning, I read something for at least 30 minutes. The reading offers fuel for my imagination and inspires me to think of new business ideas and marketing strategies. Even if you just pick up something and read for 10 or 15 minutes, you are “waking up” your brain and stimulating the thought process. Make this a daily habit. You can also do this in the evening before you go to sleep. Reading can transform not only how you see yourself, but also how you see the world.

2. Writing. 

I am a big proponent of journaling. I carry a Moleskin leather journal with me everywhere I go and I jot down thoughts, ideas and feelings into this journal. I love to go to cafés or bookstores and just sit and journal. I cannot begin to tell you how this creative exercise opens up my imagination to new ideas for work, solution to current roadblocks and life, in general. Many people like to journal first thing in the morning — either in their own handwriting like I do in my Moleskin journal, or on their smart phone, or tablet. The idea is to spend quiet moments with yourself and write out your thoughts. If you do it in the morning, it will clear the air, give you an opportunity to write out your frustrations and start the day fresh. Words are powerful, after all, and this action can influence important change in your life.

3. Movies. 

This might sound like a self-indulgent activity, but it can be more than that. Seeing a movie can be productive, inspiring, motivating and creative. When you go to see a movie — and I enjoy seeing them by myself — it opens up your mind and imagination to possibilities. The sounds, colors, action, stories and characters, are all potential motivators to remind you of something you can do to enhance your business and life. So, while seeing movies is entertainment, it is also a great way to open your creativity and imagination.

4. Art.

We are not all Picassos, but if we enjoy art in any form, then don’t neglect it. I have friends who are traditional artists, but tell me they never have time to paint anymore. That doesn’t sound logical to me. If art restores your soul, if art nurtures your imagination and creativity, then why aren’t you doing it? You can surely find 10 to 15 minutes a day to devote to something you love. When painting a picture or any other type of artistic craft that you enjoy, you are tuning into your inner self and tapping into a creative well that will nurture and inspire you. That will help to inspire you further in your work. Maybe your “art” is decorating a room in your apartment or house. Then, do it. Maybe your “art” is body-building or gymnastics. Maybe it’s dance. Maybe it’s music. Maybe it’s gardening. There’s a true art form to activities that people don’t often recognize. “Art” is more than just painting a picture. It is anything that’s creative. Strengthening your creative muscles will help you tune into your inner wisdom and will open your imagination to all kinds of possibilities.

5. Daydreaming. 

Finally, I want to emphasize that daydreaming can be an important tool to opening your imagination and creativity. Sure, I imagine we all remember when we were in elementary school and teachers told us to stop daydreaming and get to work. When you daydream, you take yourself out of the ordinary moment and open yourself to possibilities. Naturally, you don’t want to live your whole day in a daydream world, but taking moments to relax and “daydream” are small exercises that can open your imagination to new ideas and dreams. And those new ideas and dreams can help you thrive in business and in life. And isn’t that what we all want? So, start daydreaming today and enjoy those little moments of creativity. Everything starts with a dream, even a “daydream.”

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

3 Ways to Catapult Your Business Success

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Something that has always deeply fascinated me is learning about the journey that has helped in the development of a majorly successful company get to where they are now. I absolutely love hearing about all of the strategies and tactics that have drastically helped in their growth as an organization, but also all of the obstacles that they had to overcome along the way.

The one thing that I have learned over the years having the great fortune of sitting down with executives from major organizations as well as successful startup founders is that there is a learning opportunity within their success for all of us to benefit from regardless of what industry one is in.

Recently, I had the great opportunity to sit down with the founders and Managing Directors Dick King and Mark Timmerman, along with Vice President David Modiano of City Capital Advisors (“City Capital”) based in Chicago, IL.  City Capital is a uniquely positioned investment bank whose sole mission is to provide senior level expert advice and execution services to leading middle market companies and their owners.

In its relatively short 10 year history since Dick and Mark left 20 year careers at William Blair & Company, City Capital has successfully completed over 50 transactions aggregating over $4.0 billion in value. They advise owners and management of private and publicly held middle market companies, typically valued between $25 million and $500 million with merger and acquisition advisory, capital formation for executing leveraged buyouts and ownership recapitalizations, as well as executing corporate financial restructurings.

City Capital’s biggest and most notable merger assignment to date concluded just two weeks ago when they advised Indiana’s family-owned Jayco Corporation in a successful merger with publicly-traded Thor Industries Inc. for $576 million.

When sitting down with Dick, Mark, and David, we discussed how City Capital went from a small two-man show to becoming a leading deal broker and investment banking firm in the middle market space. Here are three things that City Capital credits to their success as well as help you to implement into your own business.

1. Find your niche market and grow there.

Whatever industry you are in, it’s absolutely vital that you find your niche market and then develop a laser like focus to direct all of your time and energy in servicing that space. When Dick and Mark started City Capital, they admit that they didn’t have a concise business plan, but the one thing that they did know was their niche market of middle-market companies and how they were going to bring extreme value there. You may be tempted to explore different, more potentially lucrative markets such as larger companies in City Capital’s case, but don’t give in. The leading companies that are dominating their markets make it a major priority to find their niche and then operate solely within the confines of that space.

2. Relationships matter most.

Co-founder and Managing Director, Dick King said, “We knew from the beginning that the one way we were going to differentiate ourselves was to build thriving business referral relationships. Everything in our business revolves around people and relationships, and that is one key area that we take very serious.” I personally talk a lot about the importance of relationships, and when analyzing and digging beneath the surface to see what truly makes City Capital stand out from the rest of the competition, it’s clear to see the strength of their professional relationships is at the top of the list.

One of the best things that you can do right now whether you are a startup or an established company is to place an enormous value on your relationships and always striving to give more than you take. This type of mentality will always serve your future success more than you can ever begin to imagine.

3. Create a culture where everyone feels important.

Culture is and will forever always be a critical component in determining the health and success of any organization. The best organizations all the way from Fortune 500 companies down to small family-owned businesses with five employees create a culture where everyone feels important and wants to do everything possible to carry out the organization’s overall mission. When discussing culture, Mark Timmerman said, “We wanted to create a culture where not only everyone feels important, but is also part of a tangible contributing factor to the future of our success.” One of the ways that City Capital has created this culture is to not appoint a CEO. Even though Dick King and Mark Timmerman founded City Capital, they pride themselves in having developed a culture where other senior team members don’t view them as bosses.

As a leader, it’s your job to instill and demand a culture that makes everyone feel accountable mainly to themselves and of course to their customers. By creating a collaborative atmosphere and attracting highly-productive and talented senior investment bankers, it’s truly amazing what can happen. City Capital is another example of just how important culture truly is, regardless of how big an organization is.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Leadership Lessons We Can All Learn From Pat Summitt

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Pat Summitt, the leader who helped bring the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers to becoming a powerful force on the basketball court — and who became the winningest coach in college basketball history — died on June 28 of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Coach Summitt was not only a phenomenal basketball coach who dominated on the basketball court, she was also an incredible human being who made a profound difference in the lives of those she coached.

Unfortunately, I never personally met with the legendary coach. However, after watching some of the interviews with former players and all of the other people who were so fortunate to personally know Coach Summitt, it’s very easy to see what a monumental impact she had on so many who crossed paths with her over the years.

You don’t have to be a basketball coach, player or even fan of the game to take away important lessons from Pat Summitt that could drastically change your impact and significance as a leader. When you dig a little deeper and find out more about the type of leader and person that Pat Summit was, it’s very easy to see why her teams dominated on the basketball court for such a long time. It’s very easy to see why all of the 161 players that she coached during her time at the University of Tennessee graduated from college. It’s very easy to see why her legacy will live on forever.

Coach Summitt exemplified what it means to be a real leader. A real leader isn’t someone who just has the head job and collects the biggest paycheck. A real leader serves those that they lead. A real leader works for their players or employees, not the other way around. A real leader invests the time, energy and effort into developing their people to not only become better at their job, but also better as people. A real leader makes an impact in the world. In her 38 total years at Tennessee, Coach Summitt won eight national titles and 1,098 games — the most by any Division 1 Basketball Coach, male or female.

Not only this, but Summitt made a profound impact on women’s college athletics. When she first took over as head coach at The University of Tennessee in 1974 when she was just 22 years old, the NCAA didn’t even really pay attention to women’s basketball. None of that mattered to Summitt. She couldn’t be ignored as the wins and championships continued to grow. She helped bring to light women’s basketball throughout the nation. And the rest is history. This is what true leadership is all about.

Pat Summitt was not just a basketball coach. She was humane, caring and empathetic. She was all “about the people.” She kept in touch with all of her former players, visited them when they were going through difficulties, and continued to help develop them as a friend even after their time on the basketball court was up.

That should be a reminder for all of us. One of the most important things that you can do as a leader right this moment is start investing in your team, which means directing every ounce of your energy into caring more, serving more and loving more. As a leader, it’s very easy to bask in the limelight or get sidetracked by all of the obligations that you have in front of you every morning as you step into the office.

When you truly start to find ways to invest back into your people and leave your office door open to provide a listening ear for someone who may be battling a disease or who has just lost a loved one, or some other personal issue, does more for your organization’s future success than actually handling work-related tasks. It’s always about the people.

Your organizations long-term success is dependent on all of the people within your organization. Sure, great systems, phenomenal products and awesome customer service are critical for success, but never underestimate what truly makes great organizations thrive and separate themselves from the rest of the pack. They have a leader who passionately cares about the people they lead. In return, these people will go above and beyond to get the job done and carry out their leader’s vision.

There are so many leadership qualities that are required in order to become a great leader, but in my opinion, caring and loving more each day is the starting point to greatness.

 

Instead of thinking that others work for you, develop the mindset and perception that you work for others. By adopting this mindset as a leader, you will revolutionize the culture of your organization and inspire your people to do whatever it takes to create something special.

Just look at, and remember Coach Pat Summitt. That’s what a real leader looks like.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

7 Secrets to a Killer Morning Routine

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Time is a precious commodity, particularly in those pre-work morning hours. How you spend those moments can either make or break the rest of your day.

Unfortunately, an average morning for many people involves hitting snooze until the very last minute, skipping breakfast, throwing on clothes, sitting in traffic and sidling into the office a few minutes late.What we don’t often realize is that rushed, uninspired behavior can contribute to a negative, unproductive attitude for the rest of the day.

It’s challenging to perform at a high level and make a significant contribution in the marketplace if the above perfectly describes how you generally start your day. Creating a powerful morning routine can very well be one of the most important things that you do to ensure success, happiness, and high energy throughout the workday.

Here are seven things that you must do in order to create a killer morning routine.

1. Stop telling yourself you aren’t a morning person.

Just because you’re not a morning person now doesn’t mean you can’t become one. You can change your mindset and make your killer morning routine a daily habit. Instead of telling yourself you aren’t a morning person, try saying this instead, “With proper lifestyle changes and some persistence, I can absolutely become a morning person and become more productive throughout the day.” Changing your mindset is the first step to creating a killer morning routine. Believe it and you can achieve it.

2. Wake up two hours early.

I’m not going to tell you that you need to wake up at 4 a.m. everyday, but I am going to propose that you get up at least two hours before you have to be anywhere. If you need to be at work at 8 a.m., get up at 6 a.m. This gives you enough time to feed your mind, body, and spirit before you head out the door. You have daily obligations and adequately preparing for them first thing will help set the tone and mood of the day. It’s nearly impossible to have a great killer morning routine and productive day if you are rushed and in a hurry.

3. Drink water as soon as you get up.

Drinking water first thing needs to be a staple when designing your own morning routine. We tend to be dehydrated when we wake up, so it’s critical that we reach for water before we reach for coffee. I start every morning with a glass of warm lemon water to jumpstart the detoxification process. Heat some water in your teapot, and then squeeze the juice of one lemon into the water. This helps me to feel more alert right away. After that, I drink four glasses of water. It’s a win-win because it rehydrates your body and kick-starts your metabolism.

4. Read something inspiring.

I make sure to read something positive and uplifting for a half hour every morning. If that seems like too much time, start with just 10 minutes. You can read from a book or a blog that you find inspiring, or listen to an audiobook or podcast while you’re commuting. While it’s important to read the news and know what’s going on in the world, it’s equally important to feed your mind with positive messages that fuel your thoughts and mindset for the day ahead.

5. Feed your soul with solitude.

Once your day is underway, you’ll be moving in a million different directions with a million different distractions. Finding time in the morning for solitude to meditate or journal, even if it is for just five minutes, has been a complete game-changer for me. You can start by simply taking five minutes each morning to say thank you for your life. Tuning in to this solitude will calm your mind and help focus your energies for the rest of the day.

6. Do some type of physical activity.

When you get up, get moving! If you aren’t a gym goer, walk around the block. Do a workout in front of your TV. Exercise increases endorphins and helps start your day in a positive way.

7. Eat a healthy breakfast.

Your mom was right: breakfast is important. I generally drink a green smoothie, but if I’m still hungry after that, I’ll have a few almonds or an omega-3 rich omelet.

After this killer morning routine, you’re ready to tackle just about anything.

Originally Posted on Fortune.com

5 Things the World’s Greatest Achievers All Have in Common

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Something that has always fascinated me is what separates the world’s greatest achievers from everyone else in the world. What do they know that we don’t?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Lewis Howes, New York Times bestselling author and host of the wildly successful podcast, The School of Greatness. Lewis has one of the most successful leadership and success podcasts in the world; some of his recent guests include Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, Russell Simmons, Daymond John, Alanis Morissette, and Tim Ferriss. What’s interesting about The School of Greatness is that it’s less about where the popular and ultra-achiever guests are right now in their lives, but more about the process, attitude, and journey that led them to their greatness.

Here are five things that the world’s greatest achievers all have in common.

1. They all have some practice of daily gratitude.

Howes says, “Gratitude matters most. It’s one of the core themes shared by all of the guests who come on the show. These are some of the most successful people in the planet. They can be, do, and have anything they want, and every single one of them is quick to talk about gratitude.” It’s hard to be angry, resentful, upset and grateful at the same time.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? I have talked a lot about keeping a gratitude journal and writing down 3 to 5 things that you are grateful for each and every morning. Another great practice to unleash the tremendous benefits of gratitude is to try a Walk of Gratitude in the morning. It can be just 10 minutes around the neighborhood before the kids get up, or it can be a walk with your dog. This helps set the tone for a fantastic and happy day ahead.

2. They set a high bar.

The guests who have appeared on The School of GreatnessShow are there because at some point in their lives they decided to set the bar high and dream big. It’s all the more challenging to become the best version of yourself, make an impact in the world, and become all that you can be in the business world if you don’t do the same.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? Take your most important goal right now and expand it. If your goal is to make $300,000 next year, increase that number to $400,000 or $500,000. Whatever that goal may be for yourself, set the bar even higher. Don’t worry about how is it going to manifest or all of the obstacles that you may run into along the way. Get into the habit of expanding your thinking and the goals that you set for yourself. Even if you do fall short, you will more than likely have done better than what your original target was.

3. They work ridiculously hard for long periods of time.

Greatness takes time and persistence. As Lewis says, “most people want instant gratification and the rewards right away, but in reality, all of the seemingly overnight successes that you hear about takes 10-plus years.”

Working ridiculously hard for long periods of time isn’t nice to think about. Most people want instant success without putting in their due diligence. But line up leaders in any industry — from business to the arts — and I am certain you will hear each and every one of them talk about how insane their work ethic has been over the years even when they didn’t see much in return for their efforts right away.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? Take that most important goal that we just discussed about earlier and schedule an extra 30 minutes to an hour of working on making that goal become a reality each day. Be persistent about working longer, smarter, and harder than everyone else. You will be amazed at what evolves when you regularly add an extra 30 minutes to an hour of working on your most important goal.

4. They know they need to care of themselves.

Nothing will get done if your mind and body aren’t performing. Don’t wait until you have a health scare or lose a loved one to force you to take complete charge of your health. Taking care of yourself needs to be a regular commitment.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? Don’t wait for next month or next week to take action on making your health a priority. Hire a personal trainer, gather friends together who share this same goal and work out together, start a new fitness program, work on improving your diet, or sign up for an upcoming marathon. Keep great people around you and make sure you’re not isolating yourself.Whatever it is, take the initial step toward improving your health, which is always the hardest. Schedule it into your daily activities every single day.

5. They know the value of giving back.

Whether it’s loving what they do, loving other people, or loving the climb to the top, successful people approach each day with a “love and service” mentality. They understand that whatever they put out into the world will come back to them in some way. The greatest business leaders, salespeople, and athletes try to serve life. Look at the great life of the late Muhammad Ali. He served not only the millions of people who watched him in the boxing ring,but used his celebrity to support humanitarian causes.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? Rather than looking at it what can you receive in return, start examining the different ways that you can give to life. Donate your free time to charities. Offer to help a neighbor or friend in need. Go the extra mile to listen to someone in need. Do not expect anything in return for your service. Love the process, love others, and embrace the challenges that you will experience along the way.

Originally Posted on Fortune.com

3 Things That Will Always Rob You of Reaching Your Full Potential

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Working to get better every day of our lives and striving to reach our full potential should be a major life goal for us all. Whether it’s complacency, the fear of failure, bad habits and plenty other factors that come into play as to why most never fulfill that major goal — that doesn’t have to be the story for you.

You can increase your chances of making sure that’s never going to happen to you by being intentional in your approach and understanding what’s holding most people back in the first place.

Here are three things that will always rob you of reaching your potential.

1. Having a limited vision.

A very sad but hard truth is that one of the main reasons that robs so many of reaching their full potential is the limited vision that they have for their lives. They let their failures, heartbreaks and misfortunes throughout the course of their lives dictate what’s in store for them and cloud their vision as to what’s really possible.

Any great organization, individual or even team that went on to achieve an incredible accomplishment all started with expanding their vision and being able to see it all take place in their minds before it happened in reality.

Expanding your vision consists of constantly going to work on your mind. Read uplifting and inspirational books to help rewire your current level of thinking. Set big and challenging goals that excite you — and then look at them every single day. Adopt positive self-talk as a daily habit and start to picture yourself as a healthy, accomplished and positive person. Visualize yourself winning and accomplishing whatever major goal or dream that is deep within your heart.

2. Associating with negative and toxic people.

We end up becoming who we hang out with the most. Over time, we begin to adopt their habits, talk like they talk, dream like they dream and embark on the life journey that they embark on as well.

I have seen hundreds upon hundreds of the most talented athletes in the world throw their career down the drain all because of who they associated with on a regular basis. I have seen hundreds of entrepreneurs who had a great idea and even begin to take action moving that idea forward, but ended up falling flat on their face all because of who they let hang around them.

I have seen incredibly talented teams that were expected to dominate the market in business or win a championship in athletics, but the few negative and toxic team members ruined it all for everyone. The bottom line is that who you choose to have around you absolutely matters — and has a large determining factor as to what the final outcome is.

3. A lack of fight and resolve to persevere through the challenging times.

Things will never be perfect for any of us. We will fail, lose focus from time to time, get discouraged, lose self-confidence and maybe even think that where we currently are is all there is.

Every great achievement to ever take place in history was all because of someone who possessed a ridiculous fight and resolve to persevere through the challenging times to end up getting to their final destination that labeled them a champion. You are going to get knocked down throughout the course of your journey.

That’s just a non-negotiable. However, the one thing that you determine is what happens after you get knocked down. You have the decision to either stay on the ground and accept defeat — or get back up and fight every waking moment to get to where you want to go.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

3 Ways to Stop Playing the Blame Game and Get Better Yourself

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One of the most beneficial things that I have ever done from both a personal and professional standpoint was to decide early on and commit to creating my own personal growth plan that would force me to grow every single day.

The reason for this monumental decision all transpired when I was having coffee one morning with a mentor of mine. I was extremely frustrated with how things were panning out in my life at the time and quickly started to play the blame game and make excuses as to why I was so dissatisfied.

The moment that changed everything for me was when my mentor interrupted me in the middle of one of my negative sentences and said, “Matt, you need to get better. It’s not your circumstances or other people around you that need to get better. It’s all on you. You must constantly go to work on yourself if you want to begin to experience different outcomes.”

At first, I was kind of pissed. Here I was going on and on about this rut that I was in, and his only response was, “You need to get better.” However, as a couple minutes went by, and he continued on with the conversation, it all started to make more sense. He shared a quote with me by Jim Rohn that really hit home. The quote was, “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.” It was that quote by Jim Rohn and that particular conversation with one of my mentors that changed my life forever and started my journey of becoming growth oriented in all that I do.

It’s more than likely that all of us want some area of our life to be a little better than what it currently is. When things aren’t going as well as we would like, it’s so easy to start participating in the blame game and keep a running list of all the excuses as to why things are the way they are.

This type of mentality, the one that I possessed for so long, will do nothing but keep you exactly where you are. If you want to change your situation, circumstances, finances or professional success, look to change yourself before you look anywhere else. Understanding the power and true significance of developing a personal growth plan can be worth more than a gold mine.

Here are three ways to help get you started in creating your own personal growth plan.

1. Know why you want to grow.

When you know the why behind why you want to grow and go to work on yourself, it becomes that much easier to actually do just that. Maybe you want to increase your income, start your own business or achieve a massive goal of yours — whatever it is, know exactly why it is you want to grow. Whatever it is you want to do, it’s going to require you becoming a completely different person. When you know exactly why you want to grow, you will begin to develop a sense of urgency that helps you to make sure you grow somehow, someway each and every day regardless of what else comes your way.

 

2. Know when you are going to grow.

After you have discovered why you want to grow, knowing when are you going to grow is all about creating a game plan to ensure you execute. What gets scheduled gets done, and if you want to make sure you are growing and working to get better, you must know exactly when that growth is going to take place. Chances are you are extremely busy, already have a full calendar, have family to attend to when you get home from work and have a ton of other obligations.

This is the main reason as to why most never fall through on creating a personal growth plan for their life. It may initially sound great to them, but they never end up following through. They don’t take the proper time that is needed to determine when exactly their growth is going to take place throughout their bust day. Figure out what works best for you, and make sure you schedule it into your calendar just like all of your other very important obligations.

3. Know how you are going to grow.

Once you know why and when you are going to grow, the third key is to know how you are going to grow. To give you a small example, my own personal growth plan consists of reading a new book each week, listening to some type of audio when driving in the car or on the plane, setting up calls with my mentors each month and having a mastermind group that consists of other ambitious and successful individuals. Find a plan that works for you — and make it a major priority to execute that plan.

Creating a personal growth plan can radically change your life. Let these three steps guide you in the process of creating your own game plan.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

15 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Stressed

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Have you mastered stress, or is stress mastering you?Between work deadlines, bills, and family and friend obligations, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And if it goes on for too long, you’ll find yourself struggling to merely survive instead of thrive.

 

I know firsthand how brutal it can be when you don’t make an effort to manage your stress on an everyday basis. And I also know firsthand that if left unmanaged,it puts you at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, weight loss or weight gain depending on your physiology, depression and other problems.

Around three months ago, the hustle and bustle and stress of everyday life started to derail me. I was sleeping only three hours a night, neglecting the gym almost every day, and withdrawing from my loved ones. I stopped my daily walks and moments of solitude, prayer and meditation, and stopped writing in my gratitude journal. My life was quickly spiraling downward into one big fat mess.

Here are 15 things that I did to take control of my stress. You can use these or modify them to fit your own life and personality.

1. Increase your endorphin production.

One of the quickest and surest ways to defeat the negative side effects that come from stress is to get your sweat on. You can start small if going to the gym seems too overwhelming. Take a daily 15-minute walk. When you do physical activity, your body releases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in your body.

2. Pay attention to what you’re putting in your body.

People often turn to junk food when they’re stressed. Eating a cookie now and then won’t necessarily harm you, but if you do it regularly, there will be consequences. According to Mark Hyman, New York Times bestselling author of Eat Fat, Get Thin, eating whole, real foods restores balance and reduces the effects of stress on your body. Replacing harmful substances such as caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars, with clean proteins, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats helps regulate your hormone levels – including the stress hormones.

3. Create a stress jar.

Sit down every morning (or before you go to bed) and make a list of things that are bothering you and stressing your day. Write down the things you can control and the things you can’t. Once you make that list, fold the piece of paper and put it into a box or a stress jar. Put that jar in a closet or in a place that won’t constantly attract your attention. “Out of sight, out of mind” is an old saying that can help you in this instant. You’ve written down your worries, so now put them away for the day and forget about them.

4. Keep a gratitude journal.

Whether big or small, write down everything that comes to mind that you are grateful for right this moment. You can start small with something as simple as, “I am grateful that I am healthy and strong. I am grateful for my family and friends. I am grateful I live in a city that’s enjoyable and fun.” The mere act of writing down things you’re grateful for will change your outlook on life. Do this every day.

5. Make a list of your goals.

After writing in your gratitude journal, make a list of your goals – no matter how far-reaching they may seem at this point in time. Writing your goals in a journal is a powerful way to rekindle your passion and remind yourself of your dreams, ambitions, and what’s truly important.

6. Learn how to say no.

Learn how to say “no” to things that would only add more stress to your life. It’s easy to fall into a “people-pleasing” trap where you say “yes” to everything. Perhaps you want to spend an evening at home alone and someone invites you to go to a party? What do you do? Perhaps people are asking you for free services because they’re your friend or because they don’t respect your time. What do you do? You have to learn how to say “no.” Whether it’s in your personal or professional life, agreeing to more than you can manage is a surefire recipe for stress.

7. Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people.

Surrounding ourselves with positive and encouraging people during stressful times can brighten our mood and help us put things in perspective. Who wants to be with someone who is negative all the time? There’s nothing more depressing or stressful, so avoid those who stress you out.

8. Get lost in a great book.

Being able to pick up a great book and get lost in it has the potential to transform your mindset and help you start to see the world in a different light. There’s nothing more relaxing and wonderful than reading a great book by one of your favorite authors.

9. Create your own Mastermind group.

Gather together some highly motivated and ambitious individuals, peers and associates, and build a Mastermind group. The group works like peer-to-peer mentoring in which you either meet or talk on the phone a minimum of once a month. You can even create a private Facebook Page for this group to discuss ideas. In this group, you can brainstorm with one another, talk about your current goals, plans for the future, and the stress that is bothering you at the moment.

10. Look in the mirror and talk to yourself like you’re a champion.

There are two types of people in the world. There are those who tell themselves they are a victim, and those who tell themselves they are not a victim, but rather, a champion. This brings to mind the great Muhammad Ali who died last week after many years of suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. He was the grandson of a slave, but did he let that define him? No, he saw something greater in himself. He proclaimed himself “The Greatest” before anyone else did and spent a lifetime living up to this statement. Instead of negative self-talk, Muhammad Ali created empowering self-talk.

11. Tap into the power of meditation and solitude.

When I finally decided to give meditation a try, I became instantly hooked. Practicing meditation on a regular basis can not only drastically minimize the effects of stress, but also help you live a more fulfilled life. I recommend an app called “Calm” aimed to help newcomers practice meditation. Solitude goes hand-in-hand with meditation because you need quiet for both. Amazing things begin to happen when you shut off the noisy and distracting world and listen.

12. Resolve to finally complete a project or task you have been begun.

Take a look at your important projects and tasks to see what you have been putting off for quite some time. Pick that one thing and work until it’s completed. You’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride.

13. Sleep more.

If you have been sleeping six hours, sleep seven. If you have been sleeping seven hours, sleep eight. Find 20minutes or so throughout your day to close and rest your eyes. Sleep matters and a lack of it is a major contribution to the negative effects of stress.

14. Leave the office for lunch.

Take a walk or eat outside. Force yourself to leave the office for lunch if you can. This will help you to redirect your focus and come back even stronger for the second part of the day.

15. Be of service to someone

How many times have you helped someone today? It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture – it could even mean just listening to a friend tell you about their day. Asking others how they’re doing is a way to be of service. We get wrapped up in our own worlds far too often. There’s a whole world out there that’s waiting for you. Want to feel instantly better? Go be of service and make someone else’s day.

Originally Posted on Fortune.com

Book Cover Announcement

Book Cover

I am so happy to reveal the cover of my upcoming book, Winning Plays: Tackling Adversity and Achieving Success in Business and in Life, which releases on September 6th, 2016.

About the book

Today, former college football star and NFL linebacker Matt Mayberry is an acclaimed keynote speaker and performance strategist, but he was once on a downward path to destruction, struggling through drug addiction and a career-ending injury. Then one day he had an epiphany; he didn’t want to throw his life away day-by-day. Instead, he decided to transform his failures and create a bigger future for himself. Taking each setback as an opportunity to learn, Mayberry surrounded himself with mentors. With an infectious never-give-up attitude, he tells his story of transformation into a nationally sought-after speaker and success coach. Through the hardship and trials, Mayberry found his true passion and gift–helping others achieve massive success. Offering readers practical steps on applying his strategies to their own lives, Mayberry explains how anyone can power through and learn to create opportunity and success.

What others are saying

WINNING PLAYS is a story of hope and renewal. Author Matt Mayberry has seen the highs and lows — from drug addiction to an NFL career cut short — and he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about finding success in the ashes of failure. Let his story inspire you to achieve your goals. –Daniel H. Pink, #1 New York Times bestselling author of To Sell Is Human and Drive

 

If you think your failures are painful, you haven’t met Matt Mayberry. His experiences with persevering in the face of adversity are full of inspiration and lessons for all of us. –Adam Grant, Wharton Professor and New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take

Available for pre-order now

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There Is a Big Difference Between Setting Goals and Achieving Goals

1409784305-4-steps-successful-executionImage credit: Shutterstock

Learning the incredible power of goals has forever changed my life. At 16 years old, I was a full-blown drug addict that was completely throwing his entire life away by living a life with no meaning and surrounding myself with others who degraded my potential and ability to become the best version of myself. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom that I came to realization that I was either going to end up dead or in prison by my 18th birthday, or I’d have to go to commit to rehab and get very serious about setting goals for my life.

My parents and all of my athletic coaches throughout the years continuously harped on me about the extreme importance of goal setting, however, I never completely bought in. We all hear about goal setting and how vitally important it is that we create a vision for our lives, but why is it that very few people actually follow through with setting goals for their lives? I think there are a lot of varying answers to this, but I think the biggest reason is because most people don’t know how to properly set attainable goals for themselves to begin with.

There is a big difference between goal setting and goal achieving. Saying you want to earn a certain amount of money, lose some weight or start your own business without setting a clear and actionable plan as to how that’s going to happen is simply just a hope and a wish. And even then, once you are extremely clear about what it is you want, you must come up with an action plan as to how you are going to enter into the highly coveted space of goal achievement — and then commit to taking massive and relentless daily action.

Shifting from goal setting to goal achievement requires you to do three things exceptionally well. Here are three things that you can start to incorporate into your every day life that has helped me achieve every massive goal that I have ever set for myself, including landing a Division One college football scholarship, playing in the NFL, getting a major book publishing deal and running a successful business.

1. Get extremely clear about what it is you want.

The first part of the process is to get extremely clear about what exactly it is that you want. Saying you want to lose weight or make more money next year isn’t being extremely clear. It’s a start and certainly better than not wanting anything at all, but it’s still just a wish.

How much weight do you want to lose? How will it make you feel when you achieve your goal? Why do you want to lose the weight? What is your deadline to achieve this goal? These are just some examples to help get you started on the process of getting extremely clear about your goal.

Take your most important goal right now — whether it’s to lose weight, make more money, or land the promotion at work — and spend some time focusing all of your attention towards getting very clear about the answers to the questions I just proposed. To give you an example, when I was 16 years old and felt all hope was lost, it wasn’t until I got extremely clear about getting a college scholarship for football that my daily actions and behaviors started to change.

I had to answer the who, what, where, when, why, and how’s for myself. When you set a meaningful goal and then get extremely clear about those questions, an incredible transition can begin to take place.

 

2. Create your game plan for success.

This part of the process can drastically increase your chances of achieving your most audacious goals. After you get extremely clear about your goal, create a list of everything that you have to do in order to achieve that goal.

Looking back at my list when I set a goal to get a Division One college scholarship, I had over 40 things that I needed to do in order to put myself in a position for success. Everything from reaching out to a certain number of coaches every single day, running a specific  40-yard dash time, eating certain healthy foods that would help increase my performance and attending the right summer camps at universities that would put me in front of the right people.

My list was extensive, but failing to list all of the things that you have to do in order to achieve a goal greatly minimizes your chances of actually entering into goal achievement. Take the time right now to make a list of everything that you have to do in order to achieve that major goal of yours. Even if there are 100 things that you write down, write them down.

3. Take consistent and persistent massive action.

All three things are greatly important, but this step is the ultimate differentiator and transition between goal setting and goal achievement. Unfortunately, too many people spend their precious time looking for the secret formula out there that will help them achieve their deepest desires and biggest dreams that will take minimal effort on their behalf.

But there isn’t such a thing, and anyone that tells you otherwise is selling you a false hope and a wish. I have never in my life met an incredibly successful man or woman, whether in athletics or in business, that didn’t consistently and persistently take massive action on a daily basis.

After you have your action list created, move two to three things from your list over to your daily to-do list. Most people spend their days creating to do lists that consist of tedious tasks that hold very little value in helping them advance their lot in life.

Every single day — day in and day out — take massive action doing something that will help you in the achievement of your biggest goal. You will get knocked down, experience all kinds of hardships, but when you consistently and persistently move forward, you will be amazed at what begins to transpire in your life.

Following what I shared with you above isn’t going to guarantee that you will achieve your biggest goal. However, it will guarantee that over time you become a new person that wakes up every day with a new passion and desire to face the day ahead.

Goals changed my life in more ways than one, and I know that it can do the same for you when you begin to adopt these three ideas. Just remember, there is a big difference between goal setting and goal achieving.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

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