Brain Basics

This set of GREAT Skills trading cards on the brain and motivation includes:

Brain Facts: The human brain weighs about 3 pounds and is 75% water. It uses about 20% of the oxygen in the body. The brain is very complex, but a few Brain regions at Brain Basics include the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for executive functions, and the amygdala, where the fight or flight response takes place. There are five kinds of brain waves, and the brain is influenced by chemicals known as neurotransmitters.

A to-do list for your brain:

Learn new things, and exercise your brain with games.

Scientific American debates the effectiveness at brain games at Brain Games: do they really work. See one man’s experience at Training my Aging Brain from Discover magazine. But if you’d like to try a few just in case, there are some free online brain games at this Pinterest Board.

Eat dark chocolate! Psychology Today says so.

Meditate. 7 ways meditation can change the brain from Forbes.

Exercise. Harvard School of Medicine says so.

Brainbows from the Center for Brain Science

More Resources:

 

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How to Increase Flow

You’re running at a good pace, listening to music with a good beat, taking deep breaths, feeling the strength and energy in your body, and it feels good. Sure, it hasn’t been easy getting to this point, but you’re here now, and you feel pride in what you have accomplished by challenging yourself. You’re in flow. Whether you reach the experience of flow through recreational activities or work, it involves become so absorbed in what you are doing that you lose all track of time.

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, one of the co-founders of Positive Psychology, wrote the book “Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience.” He also gave a TED Talk, “Flow, the Secret to Happiness.” He describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for it’s own sake.” The time we spend in flow is an important component of happiness.

10 ways to increase the time spent in flow:

1. Have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. Set goals that are challenging, yet still attainable. Learn How to Set Goals with a free tutorial, and more with my “Get Goaling” ebook.

2. Find and use your strengths. Strengths include natural talents, skills you’ve developed, and character strengths that are important to you. The free ebook, How to Start a Fire (pdf) includes ways to identify strengths, and you can explore in more detail with the “On Purpose” course at Udemy.

3. Try new activities you might like and expand your comfort zone. While you might try different recreational activities, flow often comes while we are working on something. Savor the activity itself while engaged in it.

FlowQuote

4. Look for the sweet spot where skill and challenge are in perfect balance.  The article “Flow Makes Life Better” at success.com talks about the sweet spot and points out that it’s a moving target as skills increase.

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5. Be ready to concentrate and focus your attention.

6. Design an environment that provides what you need. Listening to classical music or nature sounds can help focus.

7. Eliminate distractions and turn off alerts and notifications that might interrupt you. If thoughts about other things intrude, write them down on a notepad.

8. Become completely absorbed in the activity. When you lose all track of time you are on the right track.

9. Pay attention to the results to get immediate feedback.

10. Feel the intrinsic rewards of the activity.

Learn more about flow:

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Cultivating Relationships

The social aspect of our lives is undeniably important for our well-being and happiness. People who have strong connections with others report higher levels of happiness. Relationships can also be challenging at times, and can be a source of unhappiness if we don’t know much about them.

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Levels of Relationships

Relationships move through several stages or levels, ranging from casual acquaintances to close intimate relationships. When we first meet someone, we exchange information and learn more about each other. Some relationships don’t progress any further. We might not ever see the person again, or they may be a casual acquaintance. Others move through the levels as a relationship grows. Sharing information about yourself is called self-disclosure, and knowing what to share and when is an important relationship skill to develop.

Level One includes casual acquaintances: classmates, group members, neighbors. At this level, we share our public self: observable general knowledge. We may make small talk about the weather, our jobs, sports, etc.

Level Two -Friends & Family: co-workers, cousins, aunts & uncles, nephews & nieces. We share the personal self: opinions, beliefs, and might discuss events and news.

Level Three -Close Friends, Immediate Family. We share the private self: ideas and problems, and might ask for advice or share what’s going on in your life.

Level Four -Intimate Relationships: a spouse or partner, best friends. We share the intimate self: reactions, thoughts & feelings, needs & wants. Explore deeper questions about goals, challenges, emotions.

Cultivating Relationships – Plant a garden

For a relationship to grow, it must be cultivated and tended to carefully. To cultivate a relationship, plant seeds of conversation with kindness, and attention. Sprinkle them with shared experiences and time. Fertilize them with caring and thoughtfulness, and add plenty of the sunshine of laughter. Pull out weeds of conflict that can strangle healthy flowers with lots of good communication. The closer the relationship, the more time and attention is needed to maintain the closeness.

FRIENDS

How to Make a Friend

Be the kind of person you would like to have as a friend

Join a group to meet others with similar interests

Be friendly-greet people, smile, use their name, make conversation

Be interesting-share ideas & thoughts

Invite people to join you for activities you enjoy

Spend time together

Be kind and thoughtful. Call, email, send cards and gifts on special occasions

Learn more with Smart Skills Trading Cards on Relationships, and The Science of Making Friends from the Wall Street Journal. See more links about Friends at Delicious.

Smart Skills Trading Cards: Relationships

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GREAT Skills are smart! This Trading Card Set features information on Relationships, and includes:

The GREAT Skills Trading Card sets cover skills you probably didn’t learn in high school (and wish you had). Download them at Slideshare.net to collect the cards as you learn about each skill.

Smart Skills Trading Cards

GREAT Skills are smart! This set of Trading Cards is about Positive Psychology.

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Set One includes four cards:

  • Martin Seligman – Pillars of Wellbeing
  • Mihaly Csikszentmikalyi – Flow
  • Carol Dweck – Mindset
  • Tal BenShahar – Happiness

Links to TED Talks and videos are at the Daily PlanIt Youtube playlist on happiness. Collect the cards as you learn about each skill, developing strengths to close the skills gap and open doors to opportunity. Download the Smart Skills Trading Cards at Slideshare.

 

 

Meet the Happiness Experts

HappinessWordCloud

Happiness Word Cloud from Worditout

One of the most important skills for success in work and life, is understanding what makes people happy. The field of Positive Psychology has made great strides, and many books have been written on the subject. Here is a list of 10 books from experts on happiness, with quotes provided from azquotes.com. See Business Insider for 10 Books About Happiness Summarized in One Sentence Each.

Learn more at Happiness Based on Science and Positive Psychology | Benefits of 11 Happiness Habits in Infographics | Apps for Happiness and Personal Development | The BE MEASURING Framework | Youtube Playlist Happiness: TED Talks and more | Pinterest Board on Happiness Habits

Top 10 Posts of 2015

Here are the top 10 posts of 2015 at the Daily PlanIt:

  1. Free Tools
  2. Home Page
  3. Time Management 101
  4. Identify Emotions
  5. Run Your Day Like an Athlete
  6. Practice the Four Agreements
  7. Personal Development Tools
  8. GTD Essentials
  9. Top 10 Personal Development Sites
  10. Measuring Productivity

When I reviewed the top posts of 2014 I concluded that three skills: communication, productivity and goal setting, contribute the most to three important areas:

  1. happiness
  2. personal development and
  3. skills for success

When I saw that productivity contributes to success in so many life areas, I really intensely focused on it this year. I put together a collection of videos to learn more and created infographics to summarize the results of studies.

Another discovery this year was the strategies for motivation from Alex Vermeer, which are summarized with 25 quotes and affirmations you can receive when you sign up to receive updates from the Daily PlanIt.

The updates include a link to the monthly Flipboard editions which compile highlights from the Daily PlanIt. I also share information about all kinds of skills at the Daily PlanIt Facebook page, and invite you to join us there too.

A shiny, newly updated post on how to do An Annual Review includes a free printable Annual Planner for charting results of regular reviews, and an Annual Metrics Chart, just in time to keep you on track for 2016.

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AnnualReviewMetrics

An Annual Review

Once a year, it’s good to take a look at how things are going in different areas of your life. This big picture view let’s you evaluate how things are going and plan for what’s next.

Steps for an Annual Review

1. Review the past year. What went well, and what have you learned? What obstacles have you encountered and how have you handled them?

2. Review the results of your weekly and monthly reviews.

What’s that? You haven’t been doing regular reviews? Below are two free printable tools to stay on track with weekly and monthly reviews for the next year. Use the Annual Planner and Annual Review Metrics Chart for a years worth of information that will be invaluable for the next annual review. Choose a day and time for a weekly review that works well for you, and commit to following through.

3. Choose the life areas you want to focus on in the upcoming year. The Life Area Energy Gauge is a tool to see which areas of your life need more attention. This is similar to the Wheel of Life, but the Life Area Energy Gauge is quicker and easier and gives a better overview.

4. Review your goals: Are you still excited about them, or is it time to choose some new ones? (see Goal Plans for ideas)

5. Plan for the coming year. Set time frames and target dates for long range and shorter range goals. Plan the action steps that you need to take. Look for meaningful metrics to track in the life areas you have chosen to focus on. Attempting to track too much can be overwhelming, so choose carefully. Some ideas for metrics and tools for tracking them are below.

6. Review your value statement: does it still pinpoint what you do and why, or does it need to be updated? If you update it, how does that impact your goals?

7. Review your work space and task management system. Do they still work well for you, or are there changes you could make to increase your efficiency? See Time Management 101.

8. Print calendars and any updated lists if desired.

Ideas for metrics to track for an annual review:

  • Physical: weight, body mass index, blood pressure
  • Financial: Income, savings, investments, net worth
  • Career: Work projects completed, time audit of productivity
  • Mental: goals achieved, books read
  • Emotional: Acts of kindness, emotional intelligence score
  • Relationships: activities with family and friends, loving actions for closer relationships
  • Character: volunteer activities, creative work
  • Social: group activities
  • Organizational: Home projects completed
  • Spiritual: frequency of prayer, meditation, gratitude
  • Purpose: time spent in flow or contributing w/talents, Work/Life balance score
  • Recreational: trips taken, new activities tried

Tools for Tracking Metrics

Free Printables:

  • The Weekly & Monthly Review Tracker (see above) is one page with two forms for tracking reviews. Pair the tracker with a free one page printable pdf: Review & Plan has steps for daily, weekly, monthly & annual reviews plus ideas for metrics to track.
  • The Annual Planner from the Daily PlanIt is also still available. It is a free 9 page pdf booklet with forms to capture the results of weekly and monthly reviews for a year. It includes weekly and monthly review action steps & review questions, ideas for metrics, and an annual chart to record progress.
  • The Annual Review Metrics Chart is a free pdf from the Daily PlanIt.
  • time audit chart from the Daily PlanIt.
  • The Annual Calendar from Vertex42 is great for planning and tracking progress.
  • My Reading List from Money Saving Mom. (pdf)

Apps:

To learn more about setting and acheiving goals, check out the free Daily PlanIt short course on How to Set Goals, and my eBook, “Get Goaling.

See also:

The Empty Box

It’s the time of year when we think about the things that scare us the most. Ghosts, monsters, zombies…and the grim reaper standing over an empty coffin with our name on it.

There is another box that is even scarier. Imagine a box that represents your time here on earth, that is either filled with the things that you wanted to put into it. Or it’s not. The thing is, you get to decide what goes in it. That is a thought that is both liberating and frightening.

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Timebox

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What will you put into the box of your time today?

What do you want to put into the box of your time? Do you want to fill the box with creative, completed projects, with good work well done? Do you want to build great friendships, raise wonderful kids, share big ideas? When you think of each day as a file box, can you put what you wanted to into the box by the end of each day? This is the only way to have a box full of treasure when you see the other box with your name on it. If you get side-tracked by procrastination and other time-wasters, you end up putting nothing of value in your box. Nothing is scarier than the final grains of sand in your hourglass running out while the box that represents your time is empty of the things you wanted to put in it.

To fill the empty box, first spend some time thinking about what you want to put into it. Think about the personal qualities you want to reflect in your character, the values you want to express as part of your life, the goals and important work that you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to focus on Stephen R Covey’s Quadrant II of the Time Management Matrix: things like creative thought, planning, relationship building. Perhaps there are small Daily Disciplines that you want to develop into habits for a daily routine to maximize your time.

Next be very aware of the time thieves that will sneak in and quickly kill your time if you let them. Defeat procrastination and fear so you can fill the box of your time each day with the treasure you value. Are you spending your time on the things you treasure, or on things that have no lasting value to you? Remember the final line of the book “The Pigman” by Paul Zindel: “Our life would be what we made of it.  Nothing more, nothing less.” Look into the empty box of the day ahead of you, but don’t let fear stop you from filling it with what you want.

See also The Angst Guide to Motivation

The Habit of Complaint

When I worked at the library, one of our volunteers was the sweetest little old lady you can imagine. There were days I could tell that she wasn’t feeling her best, but she always got up, got dressed, and gave her best. And with never, ever, a word of complaint. She was an inspiration.

Around 80% of human talk in groups, is complaining.

I recently read this in the article “50 Psychology Facts Everyone Needs to Know” at powerofpositivity.com. Wow, I thought, “that seems awfully high.” And then I had one of those days when things weren’t going all that well. My husband was on a trip, and I poured out all my trials and tribulation in an email to him. Hmmm, maybe that percentage is actually pretty accurate. Sometimes it does help to share our problems with others. But I got to thinking: what if instead of complaining 80% of the time, we chose instead to express our gratitude, our appreciation, our praise, and our caring? What if we converted our habit of complaining into something positive instead? Even if we change the percentage a little bit, we will be improving both our own lives and the lives of others!

It reminded me of a movement started by the Reverend Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity right here in Kansas City Missouri. A few years back he asked his flock to take a pledge: to swear off complaining, criticizing, gossiping or using sarcasm for 21 days*. Those who take the challenge are issued little purple bracelets as a reminder of their pledge. If (or more likely, when) they catch themselves complaining, they switch the bracelet to the opposite wrist and start counting the days from scratch. I haven’t tried to obtain a bracelet yet (looks like it could take awhile), but any bracelet could work for a reminder.

Why not take it just a little further: don’t just stop a negative habit, replace it with a positive one. Practicing gratitude has been proven to increase our happiness. Are you ready to take the challenge? Find yourself a bracelet, grab a Seinfeld chart to track your progress from getlifemaps.com, and get started today!

*Studies now show that habit change takes an average of 66 days.