Your Life Is Art

No one signs their name anymore. Not really. We make a half-assed squiggle with our finger on a digital screen. We scribble our name on documents, the letter collapsing and falling over.

I’m the worst at this. Except when I went to vote by mail. Then my signature was pristine, perfect, and crisp. I wrote it with care because it mattered. Because I knew someone was watching.

You might think that how you sign your name doesn’t matter. After all, the card company isn’t going to check it. The barista or waiter isn’t either. Even when I write “check ID” on the back of my cards almost no one asks.

And as a stand-alone occurrence, it probably doesn’t matter. After all I’m not singing the declaration of independence or the constitution.

Recently I started to notice this trend in myself, towards convenience, speed, and efficiency. It started to bother me. Because my life, your life is not a thing to be dispensed with, to be scribbled off.

Your life is art. Or it can be.

Last month I had a virtual date. At first, I thought I’d order us dinner. Maybe get some flowers delivered to her house. But then I realized that I could make art with it. So I made a website. Nothing too complex, it only took me an hour or so.

The website guided us through the date. I gave us a structure. The date itself became a form of art. I shared it with a couple of other people who were helping me out and they were both moved by it.

Over New Year’s weekend I went hiking. And the conversation I shared on that hike was art. It was about couples who go hiking. We spent a few moments together laughing and taking in the scenery. We weren’t concerned with the mileage or exactly how fast we wanted to go. The hike itself became art.

When I cook, I feel into the food. I cut the onions, making sure the carrots look uniform. I try to add different colors of sweet potatoes. I think about a garnish. So that when the dish is done, there’s texture, shades, and so much more. The food itself is art.

This is what it means to make art with life. Sometimes it’s dramatic, a bold gesture, a full on production. And sometimes it’s incredibly subtle, like how you sign your name on a digital pad.

Making art with your life is possible, here’s how.

1) Notice what you don’t notice:

There are places where all of us take things for granted. The way our love kisses us in the morning. The way you make your coffee. The way you brush your teeth. These places are rich repositories and opportunities to create art with your life.

Your relationships are filled with small moments of unconsciousness and routine. So simply start noticing what you don’t notice, what you step over, and what you take for granted.

2) Look at it from a new perspective:

There are things we get through and there are things we create through. We get through waiting for the plane to board. We create through writing a birthday card for someone we love. We get through washing the dishes. We create through cooking a special meal as a treat for ourselves.

Everything that is a ‘get through’ moment can become a ‘create through’ moment.

I learned this really well when I worked in the kitchen at the Zen Monastery I lived at for two years. In kitchen practice everything we did was infused with mindfulness and compassion. We cut carrots with love. We stirred pots with deep presence.

I swear you could taste it in the food. And you could certainly feel it as you cooked.

What we were doing was no different than what is done in commercial kitchens all over the world, but it felt different.

We took a perspective of wonder, curiosity, and attention to what we did.

After you notice what you didn’t notice, try to look at it differently. See if you can see it as an invitation into creation. Ask yourself how could I create through this?

3) Answer the question “How could I create through this?”

The next step is simple. You answer the question, with an I could.

I could write poems at the bus stop.
I could connect with my Uber driver.
I could draw a small masterpiece on the coffee shop Ipad.
I add a garnish to my dinner.
I could really connect with my beloved as we say goodbye.
I could be fascinated by my child’s day even if it’s so simple.

You don’t have to do all of these things. You don’t have to do any of them. This isn’t about finding what you ‘should’ do or the ‘right thing’ to do. That’s not the nature of art.

This isn’t painting by numbers.

You’re just looking at what you COULD do. If making art with your life is new, you can spend some time here. Just dreaming. Thinking of things to try. You can’t stay here, but it’s a good start because you’re opening up new possibilities for yourself.

Slowly carefully lovingly let yourself be open to what’s possible.

4) Try something . . . anything

Once you’ve gotten a few ideas one will call to you. For me, the one that scares me or lights me up and turns me on the most will speak to me. So now it’s time to try it out.

I’ll be honest at first you’re going to be a bit awkward and clunky. You may get some weird looks, but you should try it anyway. You’ll realize you can survive being a bit silly and absurd. And often it will go way better than you can imagine.

Not all art is a success, but that’s not the point of art. The point of art is to create something new, to express something, and to allow that something to blossom and wither in a moment.

So try something. It’s ok if it’s not the boldest thing, it’s ok if it is super bold, but just try.

5) Learn and refine

Now that you’ve created something and put it into the world, refine it. Draw a different kind of sun on the coffee shop Ipad. Add a smile to your present goodbye kiss. Ask your kiddo about their day at dinner instead of when they get home. Try rosemary instead of thyme as the garnish.

Artists don’t just paint one painting and stop. They create and recreate. They try again, they add something else, they take something away.

The reason why learning and refining are so important is that they help you move from a moment of expression to a practice of it. Instead of making art an event—like an anniversary dinner—it becomes part of the ritual of your life.

This is the final step and it is the one you have to keep making again and again.

I realized that you might be wondering why you’d want to do this?

Why not just have a nice dinner with your partner once a year?
Why not just squiggle my name on an Ipad?

For me, the reason is simple. Life is the most rare and precious commodity you have. Especially your life. You’ve only got so many days, so many moments, so many chances.

It’s like you’ve got a box of crayons and they’re wearing down all the time and you never really know when you’ll get to the bottom of them.

So what do you want to do with them? You can squiggle your signature. Die of boredom waiting for the bus. Resent and cling to routine out of a need for control.

Or you can make art with them. Over and over again I’ve chosen art and I’ve seen the people around me who I most admire do the same.

So please choose to make art. It can be simple even mundane art. But even then, it will still be art.

And at the end of your life you’ll be so grateful that you chose to create through it.


You Are Wrong About Freedom

I talk to a lot of people who long to be free. They want to express themselves, travel the world, live in the moment, go with the flow, and experience life as a boundless possibility.

I get the desire for freedom because freedom seems to offer so much possibility. And a lot of other things we want have the promise of freedom wrapped up in them.

Wealth is really about the freedom to buy any experience or item you want. Attractiveness gives you greater freedom to choose partners. Confidence gives you the freedom to take risks and be yourself.

But even though freedom is compelling I found that people who seek freedom rarely achieve it. Because . . .

When it comes time to do work, they don’t feel like it. When it comes time to invest energy into a big project, their doubts arise. When a relationship is challenging, they’re looking for the exit.

But the missing piece in all of this is the freedom to commit.

If freedom is all about the ability to choose what we want, then having the ability to NOT exercise our freedom is an integral part of that ability.

I’d say it’s at least 50% of freedom and it may be the most important half.

How we relate to commitment –

Often the way we relate to commitment is that it’s a trap. It’s something we say we’re going to do, a person we promise to be with, a project we’re going to complete and then immediately we feel the restriction of that.

What a moment ago was a choice, now is a prison.

Many of us have felt the burden of the commitments to school, a partner we no longer love, or a project we don’t really care about anymore. This burden can make us feel like commitment is never a good idea and always a trap.

But this is a very basic understanding of commitment.

If you look up various definitions of commitment you’ll read words like dedication, and engagement. But you’ll also read words like obligation and restriction.

Both are parts of what a commitment is, but what makes the biggest difference is how we relate to our commitments.

If you choose to take your commitment and turn it into a parent. Into a thing that is oppressing you.

That’s how it will feel. And then freeing yourself from that will feel liberating.

I made a commitment to work. But work feels hard. I’m afraid my writing, coaching, or whatever will be bad.

So I’ll rebel. It will be like a kid when I snuck a cookie from the jar. It will feel so good.

Except when you do this over and over again, you’re not free.

The freedom you’re creating is an illusion.

You built a prison and escaped from it.

But the cycle repeats again and again.

The path out.

The pathway out of this is to make a commitment. Not as an obligation, or should, but as a choice from a part that is deeper than the part that seeks a sort of false freedom.

When you do this you may actually experience a whole new kind of freedom. The freedom of commitment.

At the monastery, I never had to decide when to wake up. That freed me up to focus on practice, to be engaged with my life. I was free from that choice because of my commitment. Some mornings I love it, others I hated it, but the freedom was there either way.

Part of why I ask for a minimum of 6 months of commitment in my coaching is the freedom that it offers.

We’re not wondering week to week if we’re doing this. We’re here. We’re in. Stuff will come up, but we’ll face it together.

For me, that offers a very deep kind of freedom. A kind of freedom that is only possible on the other side of commitment. It took me a long time to learn this and it still shows up from time to time.

I don’t want to write when I said I would. I wonder what it would be like to be with someone else when I’m in a relationship. I dream about having so much money I wouldn’t ever have to budget or plan I could just get what I wanted.

But when I look at people with a lot of wealth, or fame, or beauty. Not many of them seem really free to me. In some ways many of them seemed the most trapped of all.

I’ve learned to understand that while the first kind of freedom feels good in the moment, over time the freedom commitment offers is even better.

It’s the freedom to choose and be with my choice. It’s the freedom to be with the hard parts of life without needing it to be different. It’s the freedom to find new ways to empower what’s happening and truly live in the present moment, even when that present moment is challenging.

So for me, there’s no freedom without commitment. Not random or obligated commitment. But the kind of commitment that comes from a place deep inside of me.


The Essential Unexecutive 2015

Spending a little time reflecting on each year in an important practice for those who want to create the impossible. Which is why after reading a post by my friend and client Leo Babauta, I decided to share with you what I’ve done this year as well as what each experience taught me.

This year I did alot:

I gave a TEDx Talk –

  • In May I gave a TEDx Talk titled, “Picking Role Models That Matter” at the TEDx Women’s Conference In Zurich Switzerland.

  • What I learned – To prepare for something really epic, you have to practice beyond the point of comfort until you achieve a familiarity that makes your delivery seem natural.

I attended four conferences, –

  • This year I returned to the World Domination Summit as I’ve done in years past, but I also went to some new events including:

  • What I learned – There is nothing like meeting people in person. These conferences helped me make new friends, connect with new clients, and got me excited about trying new things. I love connecting online, but if you can it’s always better to be with real people in real time.

I was named as a 25 Up and Coming Entrepreneur to Watch

  • I love the Fizzle community and was honored to be nominated and selected as the only coach among this group of amazing and exciting entrepreneurs.
  • What I learned – Unfortunately getting featured made me a bit of a lightning rod and I had to defend myself against an attack from a fellow Fizzler, who thought I had mistreated him. It was a good learning experience in how to handle an unhappy potential customer. I taught me that getting honored is great but it may not have a big impact on your business and might attract the ire of others. Still, it’s always nice to be recognized for all the hard work you’ve been doing and I’m very grateful for the guys at Fizzle for choosing me to be a part of this illustrious group.

Jane and I moved into a new apartment –

  • Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s been a long time dream of mine to live in a snazzy urban apartment, and this year that dream came true.

  • What I learned – Buy cheap rugs. Not only is it easier to find a cheap rug without hours of deliberation, but when your cat destroys it, you’ll be happy you can get another one for the same low price.

I retired my original brand and site MindFitMove

  • I used Mind Fit Move for 3 years as I was figuring out my business and my life. The site and the brand served me well. But as fitness faded as a central part of my business and my primary audience shifted, I needed to let go of it and find something that fit my brand better.

  • What I learned – It’s hard to let go of something you built, but it’s better to put something up and get started than trying to make things perfect before you begin. Sometimes in life you have to kill your digital children for all the right reasons. It’s bittersweet but necessary if you’re going to keep becoming the kind of person who grows and changes.

I joined 4PC

  • 4PC is a community of the world’s top 4% of coaches. Joining this group was a big commitment for me and something I thought about all year. The people in the group are amazing, inspiring, and at times a little intimidating.

  • What I learned – People don’t often talk about this but when you change things, the results aren’t always immediate. Sometimes you have to pass through a dip until you start playing the kind of game that will take you to the next level.

On top of all that I :

  • Worked with some of worlds most breathtaking clients. (I seriously love you guys)
  • Made some amazing new friends including one I’ve gotten really close to (I’m looking at you Kyle )
  • Had fun and got support from my dear friends (including My Ginger Princess Jane, The Bad Movie Alliance, My Fam, Josh Sabraw, Corbett Barr, and too many others to mention)
  • Worked with some amazing coaches including Danielle Ross, Jason Goldberg, Jennifer Blankl, Jeff Riddle, and Leo Babauta (who coached me on my writing)
  • and I did a bunch of Podcast interviews ( Here’s a list ).

Looking back on this year I’m amazed at what I’ve gotten done, all the inspiring people who’ve shaped my life, and all the amazing people I’ve been able to serve. Thank you to each of you who have joined me on this journey and I really excited to see what’s coming next year.

My Top Posts of 2015

Here are some of my favorite and most popular posts in 2015
1. How To Go Minimalist With Fulfillment
2. How To Instantly Find The Work You Love (in 40 years or less)
3. Your Vulnerability Superpower
4. Are You Letting Hidden Fear Control Your Life?
5. How To Create Deep Connections
6. Do You Need A Coach
7. How to Enjoy Your Life 99.99% More of the Time
8. The 20-Day “I Love You Man” Challenge
9. How To Fight Terrorism With Compassion
10. Finding Peace On The Eve Of Something

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Master Habits for Life – 8 Skills Taught By Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

#BP rise_and_shine_by_narsul_the_elf-d4guewp, The 8 Lifetime Habit Skills - As Taught By Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

I am the Habit Master

The 8 Lifetime Habit Skills – As Taught By Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

There are many great ways to form habits in the short term, but keeping habits going over a longer period of time demands a different set of skills.

I recently attended a webinar by Leo Babauata where he shared his 8 key skills for transforming short term habits into life long habits.

Short term habits

Short term habits are formed by creating a trigger. The trigger can be anything you already do. E.g. drinking coffee, showering, or arriving at work.

The more often you connect the habit to the trigger the stronger the urge to do the habit becomes. But there are many things you can do to strengthen a short-term habit.

  1. Set a reminder
  2. Add accountability
  3. Create a positive feedback loop.

The Urge is not the Habit.

Using these tools it’s easy to connect the urge to do a habit with a trigger. And over the short term it’s fairly straight forward to keep this connection strong.

The problem arises when the urge and follow through are challenged. The trigger will happen and the urge will arise, but something gets in the way.

It might be that you are sick, or you are on vacation, but for whatever reason you don’t do the habit. When this happens the habit is weakened.

In the short term this usually isn’t a problem, but when we take a habit beyond the short term we have to learn to be more flexible and clever if we want to stick to a habit.

The 30 day Experiement

Whenever you take on a new habit Leo suggests you commit to doing it for 30 days. This is long enough to connect a trigger with a habit. But short enough that it’s still an experiment.

At the end of 30 days you ask:How did it go?

Then you base your next step on your response.

  • If you loved the habit and have it down – Maybe you can add another habit.
  • If you liked the habit but it still seems shaky – Maybe stick with the habit for another 30 days.
  • If you learned alot, but it didn’t grab your attention – maybe you should let it go.

Remember letting go of the habit is not a failure. Anytime you learn that a habit does or doesn’t work for you is a success.

Maintenance Mode

So lets say you liked the habit but want to add a new one this month. That means you have to put the old habit in maintenance mode. This doesn’t mean you stop working on it. It just means that you put it on the back burner.

It’s kind of like keeping something at a simmer. You may move a pan to the back burner, but you can’t just walk away from the stove.

You have to keep an eye on it. If you don’t stir it, it will burn and if you leave the lid off it will get cold.

Habit formation is like this. At first, you apply alot of heat or energy, and then once it’s warmed up you don’t have to apply as much energy. But then the habit may start to get cold and when this happens you have to apply more energy or heat.

Just remember habits take energy so you have to be careful where you are putting your energy.

If your new habit requires all your energy, you old habits will get cold, but if you can balance your energy, it’s possible to work on a new habit while still maintaining old ones.

Habit Mastery Skills

Once a habit goes into maintenance mode you need different skills to keep it going. Leo Identified 8 skills that are essential to mastering habits over the long term.

1. Thinking Ahead –

Thinking ahead is all about predicting the obstacles to your habit and coming up with strategies to overcome them.

For example – If I’m working on a diet habit, but am meeting someone for lunch I need to ask if I can stick to my diet where we are going?

If the answer is no then you have to come up with a strategy so you can stick to your habit.

2. Socializing –

Socializing a habit is about creating a positive feedback loop.

Some habits are hard to form because doing them is hard and not doing them is easy. When we socialize our habits we can reverse that loop, because pleasing others feels good and disappointing others is hard.

You have many options to socialize a habit. You can play a habit game; make a habit bet, tell people about your habit on twitter, or ask for support from your family.

One of the best ways is to join or form an accountability group on sea change. These kinds of groups give social support and help you learn from others struggles.

Leo noted that whenever he felt one of his habits growing cold he adds a level of social accountability to turn up the heat.

3. Notice when you aren’t doing the habit –

It’s easy to beat yourself up for slipping up, but it’s better to just notice when you are not doing a habit and ask why?

Often you’ll discover the obstacles you have to habit formation. This information is valuble in keeping habits going.

4. Reducing barriers –

If you discover barriers from the previous question then ask how can you reduce those barriers.

If you notice, you often drop a habit around a certain time or for a certain reasons brainstorm about how you could modify your habit to account for those barriers.

Then whenever the barriers come up you can turn up the heat and keep the habit going.

5. See the Habit as a treat –

Leo noted that if you think of the habit as a chore you won’t do it. There are so many chores in life and no one wants another one.

But habits don’t have to be chores they can be treats. Most of us have been assigned a book in school we didn’t like, but when we read it later we thought it was great.

Habits aren’t homework we get assigned; they are things we do to make our lives better. So think of your habit as a break, as a treat, and as a way of nurturing yourself. If you do this, your habits will stick around much longer.

6. Mindfulness –

Mindfulness is one of the best ways to connect you habit to your intentions and to find ways to make your habit even better.

First, ask: How do I feel when I’m doing this habit. Then ask How do I feel afterwards? Finally notice how it feels when you don’t do your habit. Do you feel worse? Do you feel guilty?

Use this information to decide how this habit is working.

7.Compassion –

Creating new habits is an act of compassion for yourself. We take on habits because we want to make our lives better.

If you feel better after a habit then you know doing it is an act of compassion. Even if a habit feels hard at first we can remind ourselves we are doing this because we care.

Compassion is also important when we miss a habit. It’s important to forgive ourselves and then keep trying. If we form habits with compassion, they will last longer.

8. Iterating –

In the world of software development iterating means putting out many versions of a piece of software. Most companies put out a prototype, get feedback, and then improve the software with each release.

Iterating works the same way with habits. The first few weeks of a new habit, you are testing out your program. It’s important to use the tools above to get feedback on how to improve your habits.

The tips that Leo gives have gone through many of his own iterations, but that doesn’t mean they will be perfect for you. It’s important that you test and keep adapting your habits to fit your life.

If you don’t iterate your habits, they won’t last. You can’t just find a final solution and stop. Your habits are a living thing, they have to adapt to the changes in your life.

Just like caring for children, pets, or plants, you have to learn how to take care of your habits at different stages.

This can be challenging but it’s also rewarding because, as we learn to take care of habits, we learn to take care of ourselves.

We learn about our lives and what we care about. That’s why iterating is one of the most important skills of mastering any habit.


Face Your Clutter, Face Your Fear – Learning to Declutter From Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

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Conquering Clutter

Face Your Clutter, Face Your Fear – Learning to Declutter From Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

It’s a miracle I survived my freshman year of college without contracting cholera.
I lived with four people who all checked messy on their rooming applications. And within a month, our room had devolved into a more than respectable level of squalor.

How Bad Was It?

It was so bad tours used to stop by our room as a sort of amusing college dorm freak show. It was so bad before the end of school we had to write a letter of apology to the house keeping department. And when we cleaned it out it was a bit like an archeological expedition. The pizza box age, the crumpled clothing era, the goo millennia.

I wish I could say that this episode taught me something, but instead I only learned a greater tolerance for trash.
To me cleaning my room was an act of submission to mainstream society. And I was a counter culture hippie who exercised my rejection of those values by refusing the abide by the bourgeoisie standards of tidiness.

A Cover Up

Of course, this was all intellectual cover for my laziness and a subtle sense of self-loathing. For much of my twenties I figured I was failing at life. And if I couldn’t succeed like my sister the corporate business exec had, why should I even try. 

The only way to win was to find fault with the system and everything that represented it. I felt like crap, felt like my life was full of crap, felt like I was crap. And so, I filled my life with crap. Of course, it wasn’t until years later that I was able to see this.

Monastic Messiness

When I moved into Great Vow I had many run ins with powers that be about keeping my cubicle clean, wearing clothes that were tattered, and having a scruffy appearance. 

For a long time, I thought they were just being uptight. Until one day when my teacher explained to me why they kept calling me out. He told me that he could tell when my mind was falling back into old patterns, because my appearance would suffer.

I’d stop shaving. I wouldn’t comb my hair, and my clothes would become dirty.

I realized he was right. When I was in a good mood, I shaved and showered every other day and I washed my clothes more often. I also realized that when I was in a good mood I kept my room cleaner and free of clutter.

He told me that if I wanted to keep a positive attitude and a clear mind, one of the simplest things I could do was to take care of my environment and myself.

The Subtle Truth About Clutter

I recently had the chance to attend a webinar about how to declutter your life put on by Leo Babauta as part of the Sea Change Program.

And I realized that inside each lesson about decluttering was hidden the subtle truth that I discovered at the monastery. On the one hand, it’s true that you aren’t what you own. On the other hand, what you own, how much you own, and how you maintain your environment, has a huge impact on your ability to live a full and balanced life. 

Decluttering your life isn’t just about making it easier to find your keys. Decluttering your life is about finding peace and clarity. Decluttering your life is the act of creating space outside of ourselves, so we can open up space inside our own hearts.

The Obstacles to Decluttering

Leo started the webinar by defining the challenges many people face when they begin decluttering their lives. These challenges fell into three categories. Fear, Attachment, and Aspiration.

Fear –

Letting Go Means Facing Our Fears

The Challenge – I don’t have the time, energy, or motivation.

Anytime we take on a new challenge we have to face the fear of failure. So rather than getting started we come up with a list of reasons why we shouldn’t even give it a shot. 

The Solution – Keep It Simple

Start with just 5 – 10 mins of decluttering everyday. By making a small simple commitments you can build trust in yourself and develop the habit of self-care. 

Treat your self as you would a new friend you are just learning to trust. Schedule appointments to do this everyday and put in on your calendar. Leo suggests you make a commitment to do this for 30 days.

If after a month you find you are struggling then you know that decluttering isn’t a priority. But at least you can tell yourself you gave it a shot.

The Challenge – I don’t know where to start.

When we try something new often we are afraid we will do it wrong. So, instead of taking concrete steps, we become trapped in analysis, and never get going.

The Solution – Start Small

Leo suggests that you pick a small flat surface to get started. He recommends somewhere like a kitchen table, a coffee table in your living room, or a small section of your kitchen counter. 

By picking a small space, you can create a small clutter free zone. This zone can become an oasis of no clutter and give you the confidence and to expand this area or to colonize other parts of your home.

By starting small, the risk is small. And you can work out all the kinks before you bite off more than you can chew.

The Challenge – What if I don’t have what I need?

This fear is prevalent among people who have survived times of famine. People who lived through the depression are known to have been unwilling to waste food or give away valued items. If you didn’t grow up with a lot of resources you may be afraid of losing things that could protect you from returning to uncertain times. 

This is a big fear to overcome, because facing the fear means saying you have faith in yourself and hope for the future.

The Solution – A Back Up Plan

Think of other ways to get what you need if times got tough. Leo gives the example of a cookbook. If you need a new recipe, you could always get them online or borrow one from a friend.
One the best back up plans is developing a good personal network. Why dig through cookbooks when you can get recipes other people have already tried out? Why own a bunch of tools when you can borrow them from a neighbor? 

Not only is developing community connection a great back up plan and a great way to share resources. Studies have shown that the more connected we are the longer we live.


Letting Go Means, Being Satisfied with Less

The Challenge – But It Was a Gift!

When you get a gift, it can feel like in order to honor the gesture, you have to keep that gift forever. Of course over a life time this can add up to allot of unwanted gifts and a lot of unnecessary guilt. 

The Solution – Honor the Thought Not the Item.

Leo says that when someone gives you a gift it should be to enrich your life, to do something nice for you, but not to give you a burden. 

As a gift receiver you should try to receive the gift graciously, cherish the thought that came with it, and thank the person who gave it to you. But that is where your obligation ends. If you can’t use a gift then help it find a new home.

The best way to honor any gesture is to return a gesture of your own. A nice thank you card will go a long way and will mean more than you keeping something you don’t need for years to come.

If you find that your friends object to this practice. Let them know that you appreciated the time and thought they put into the gift. Then do your best to explain that you appreciated the gift, but wanted to make sure it went to good use.

Perhaps the best strategy for gifts is to stop them from coming in the first place. Leo says, he has stopped accepting gifts from others, but instead asks people to donate money to charity, give him experiential gifts, or skip giving him gifts all together.

The Challenge – It Has Sentimental Value.

Small items can take on great significance when they relate to important people or times in our lives. It can feel like letting go of these things means forgetting or losing those people or times all over again. 

Imagine if you tried to hold on to every memory in your mind. Instead of giving meaning to your life, you would lose the meaning in the mundane things that fill your day. This is what happens when we try to hold on to too many sentimental items.

The Solution – Memories Aren’t in Trinkets

Leo tells us that though a item can invoke a memory the memories don’t live in those items. The item only represents the memory. Where they live is inside your heart and mind. 

First, choose only the items that deeply connect you to a time, place, or person you hold dear. Instead of keeping, all of them take pictures of those items and review them on a regular basis.
Then get rid of as many of the items as you can. It’s ok to keep a few very precious things but make sure you only keep what really counts.

The Challenge – But What if I Need It? –

We’ve all been there. We decide to give away our old glue gun. Then a week later we think of a project that demands the use of a glue gun. So we go out, buy another one, and swear to never let this happen again. 

The problem is that the number of needs our minds can imagine are endless. Stores are literally stocked with things that retailers are predicting someone might need at some point.
The problem begins when your home moves from a boutique of a few essential items to a Wal-Mart stock room capable of serving the diverse needs of a large rural county.

The Solution – The Cost Illusion

Leo points out that we see the cost of replacing something but we are blind to the cost of holding on to things we don’t need. Besides, the visual stress that clutter causes and the time wasted looking for lost items, even keeping well organized clutter can cost you allot. 

The Clutter Cost Equation

Lifehacker offers a simple equation to help you figure out the cost of your clutter. 

If you own a home: Divide the value of your home by the total square footage, to find the value of one sq foot of space. If you live in a $250,000 home with 2,500 sq/ft each sq foot is worth $100 ($250,00/2500 = $100) 

If you rent: Take the total amount of rent for one year divided by the square footage of you home to find the yearly value of one sq foot of space. If your monthly rent is $1000 and you live in 982 sq/ft apartment each sq foot is $12.22 Per year. (($1000 x 12)/982)=$12.22)

Next estimate the space occupied by things you don’t use. (Don’t forget basements, closets, and garages.) Then multiply the value of each square foot by the total square feet of unused junk.

Let’s say clutter accounts for 300 sq ft of your home.
In the first example, your clutter is taking up $30,000 worth of space in your home. In the second example, you would be paying around $4000 dollars every year for your clutter. That’s almost 4 months of rent.

Now ask yourself if the things you are holding onto are really worth all that much money. If you think about it, your clutter is kind of like a bad roommate or a short-term squatter.

The Challenge – But Getting Rid of It is A Waste.

When we acquire things that are expensive, or that we got a ‘great deal’ on. we are reluctant to let it go. We feel like giving it away or selling it would be wasteful. And so we collect a drawer of closet of expensive gadgets that we never use. 

The Solution – Double Jeopardy

Leo says that it’s true that these items are expensive and yes it seems like a waste to get rid of them. But the mistake we made was buying something we didn’t need. 

When you keep something you don’t need it doesn’t fix the mistake it just compounds it.

We’ve already seen that clutter can cost us money and expensive items cost even more than regular items to store and maintain. They also represent a great risk if there is a fire, flood, or break in.

But if you sell, give away, or donate these items you can secure their value and relinquish the burden they place on you.

The Challenge – But It’s an Investment!

Just like expensive items, collectibles and ‘investment’ clutter can be hard to throw away.
We’ve all heard the story of the man or woman who cleans out their attic only to find a pristine Babe Ruth rookie card that they sell for a million dollars. 

The problem is most collectibles don’t hold their value over the long haul. Remember beanie babies? In their hay day, some of these plush toys sold for over $600 apiece, but today most of them are worth less than the plastic pellets they contain

The Solution – Reality Check

Leo says the first thing you should ask yourself about your collectable item is: Is it in pristine condition?
If the item isn’t in it’s original packaging, unmarred by human touch, and essentially brand new it won’t be worth much. 

Even if it is in pristine condition, it may be worth less than you think. Leo suggests that you go onto eBay and see what similar items cost. If it’s not that valuable, realize you are spending resources to keep this item.

You may not think a few small collectibles costs that much to keep, but as we’ve seen all these small items can really add up. And the cumulative cost can grow out of control.

If your investment item has real value, it’s all the more reason not to leave it lying around your house. Put it in a firebox or safety deposit box and make sure to list it on your homeowners insurance.

Aspirations –

Letting Go, Means Accepting We Are Whole and Complete

The Challenge – Mundane Tasks

Often the items that make up our clutter represent undone tasks. They may be photo albums we need to organize, half done sowing projects, and books we want to read.

Part of us knows that finishing these projects would make our lives easier. Our pictures would be easier to find, we’d have a new shirt to wear, and we’d know more about java programming. But something about the effort or time these projects takes helps us avoid them.

At first, it may just be a few things, but as time passes these tasks have a tendency to pile up. The bigger they are and the more of them there are the more stressful it becomes to think about them and the less likely it becomes that we will take them on.

The Solution – Divide, Conquer, and Delegate.

Leo encourages us to let go of as many of these projects as possible. If something has been sitting around it clearly isn’t a priority. He tells us to be ruthless in dividing up these projects, into ones that really need to get done and those we need to accept we just aren’t going to do. 

For those projects that make the cut you have two options:

1. Delegate –

Consider outsourcing these projects. You can hire a company to scan all your photos in for you, or you might even be able to hire a local teenager to do the work. 

2. Conquer –

If you don’t have the money to outsource, the project is very important, or it’s something only you can do. Then take the task head on. 

Set a time to work on it and put it on your calendar. When the time comes conquer the task whole-heartedly.

The Challenge – Better You Projects.

Letting go of these items is hard because it feels like we are giving up on these projects and ourselves.
No matter what the reason these items can become a physical and mental burden. Seeing them can make us feel like we are never doing enough. And reminds us of all the things we’ve left undone.

The Solution – Time Bank

Leo notes that having aspirations is wonderful, but we have to face the fact that we haven’t invested the time to make these aspirations real. If we want these changes to be real, we have to make the time to do it. 

Go item by item and decide if you have time to invest into learning a new skill. If you do then put it on the calendar. If you don’t accept it and let these aspirations go for now.

Most of us over predict the amount of time and money we will have. So, it’s important to be honest about how much time you really have and what you care most about.

And remember if you change our minds or discover you have time in the future, you can always take up these hobbies again.

Letting Go – Seeing What Really Matters

Gaining Perspective-

Leo shared a story about how he lost almost everything he owned in a typhoon. Everything in their house got soaked and at first, he was really bummed. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized how lucky he was. 

He realized that despite everything he’d lost he still had his health and his family. It helped him see that all that stuff just wasn’t that important.

He saw that the value we place in things is an illusion. The real value is in our lives and in the lives of those we care about.


Take a minute and imagine that everything in your house is destroyed, but that you, your family, and your pets are ok. What does it feel like in your to let go of everything you own? 

Now imagine that you have lost everyone you love, but you are surrounded by all of your possessions. What does it feel like to have all of your stuff, but no one to share it with?

Doing this exercise, the value of everything we own can’t even compare to the value of on person we care deeply about.

What You Own Ends Up Owning You –

At the end of the webinar Leo shared that letting go gets easier with experience. He said that when he was first decluttering, letting things go was really hard. But that with each successive round it got easier and easier.
Perhaps the most powerful thing I’ve learned during my transition from pack rat to minimalist. Is how much more full my life becomes with each thing I give away.
Decluttering has taught me that I don’t need as much I think. The key is to start small and keep at it. If you do this, you will soon find you are living a much simpler and happier life.

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10 Steps to Forming the Habits of Organization – As Taught By Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

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10 Steps to Forming the Habits of Organization –
As Taught By Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

I recently attended a webinar about organization as part of the Sea Change program. Sea Change is habit formation and life transformation program designed by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. During this webinar he shared his personal philosophy on organization and gave us a few tips on how to get started. He told us that organization is not just about overcoming a bit clutter it’s about filling our lives with trust, ease, and space.

When our lives become more organized we have more room to move and grow. We have more time to focus on the things we really care about. And we have more mental space to create the kind of life we want to live.

During this webinar Leo offered many tips on how to get started. I compiled this list based on those suggestions

10 Steps to Forming the Habits of Organization

1. Pick a Space

The first step is to pick a space. A good starting space is any flat surface that you use on a regular basis. Leo used his desk as an example.

Leo said that currently his desk was pretty clear. On it he has a scanner, a mouse, a keyboard, and a glass of water. He doesn’t have any paper because he digitizes everything. But if he did have any papers they’d go in front of his scanner. So he could scan everything as soon as he had time.

2. Com’pile’ It

The next step to organizing a flat space is to take everything and put it in one big pile. This helps to empty the space and forces you to examine and evaluate everything that occupied that space.

3. Home or No Home?

The third step is to go through all these item without skipping any and ask, “Does this have a home?”

If the item does have a home, take the item and put it there. If the item doesn’t have a home you ask, “Do I need this?”

If you need it then you have to find a home for it. Decide where that home is and put it there.

If you don’t need it, get rid of it, either by recycling it or donating it.
Create a box for recycling, donations, and gifts. As soon as you are done sorting, take these boxed and put them in your trunk or by the front door. This is a way to ensure you will get rid of this stuff ASAP.

4. Review

The next step is to have a regular review your space. This review can be daily or weekly depending on how often you use the space and how quickly it becomes cluttered. If it is a large space or one that you don’t use as much you can even do a monthly review.

The key is to remember to do it. So put it on your calendar and make sure you do it when the day or hour arrives.

5. Learn to Pause

The key to maintaining organization in between reviews is to pause between each activity and assess if you need to put things away.

Leo notes that our tendency is to move from one task to the next without stopping. When we practice pausing we stop at the end of each task and ask is everything in its home.

Leo used the example of his teacup. He may be drinking a cup of tea while writing. When he gets done writing he pauses and notices he finished his tea. Before he moves on to the next activity he knows he has to do something with his tea cup.

6. Go to Your Home

Once you’ve paused and assessed it’s essential to put items in their homes.

For example you notice you’ve finished your teacup so you take it into the kitchen. You could put your cup on the counter, but is that it’s home?

You realize that the cup is dirty so it should go in the dishwasher. Once you wash the dishes you will move the cup to the cupboard where it lives until you use it again. Now that the cup is in it’s temporary home, you can move on to your next task

7. Focus on Consistency

Leo says that the key to forming a habit is to be consistent. The more regularly you repeat your habit the stronger it will become. If you are inconsistent or irregular either the habit will form slowly or not at all.

It’s not about being 100%, because we all slip up from time to time. But when we do it’s important to work to get on track.

8. Reminders

One of the best ways to be consistent is to use reminders.

There are 3 common types:

Physical reminders –

These are physical cues so you remember to put things in their homes. You could use a rubber band on your wrist, a sticky note on your desk, or a piece of tape on a coffee cup. 

Just remember that as you get used to these physical reminders you may begin to overlook them. When this happens it’s time to change the reminder or try a different technique.

Digital Reminders –

These are things like online calendars, email reminders, and phone reminders.

There are allot of reminder aps out there, but one Leo uses and recommends is and ap called Do. He uses Do to remind himself to tell his wife 3 good things about his day every evening.

Social Reminders –

These are reminders related to groups or relationships. They can be reminders you receive as part of an accountability group, a business partnership, or a romantic relationship.

The trick with these reminders is that you rely on others to provide them. So the reminders are only as consistent as those offering them. But some people find these kinds of reminders more motivating and easier to maintain.

9. Overcoming Rationalizations –

Leo notes that we rationalize keeping things we don’t need. These unneeded items often make a large part of our clutter and excess possessions. But if we can overcome these rationalizations and bid farewell to these items our organization project will be much more successful.

Leo identified 3 types of common rationalizations:

I paid good money for it-

This is a common rationalization for keeping things you don’t need. The thinking goes I don’t want to waste the money I paid for it.
Which makes sense, but Leo says if you’re not using it you should get rid of it.

If you aren’t using it you’re already wasting the item and the money you spent for it. To return the items value all you need to do is to give it to someone who would actually use it.

In addition the things you keep end up costing you money. They cause you to need more living space, storage, and insurance. If you just get rid of this unused stuff you can make more room for yourself to live in.

I might need it –

Leo says, if you haven’t used in 6 month you probably don’t need.
If you haven’t used it in 1 year you definitely don’t need it.

And if you haven’t used it in 2 or more years you’re kidding yourself.

The truth is we’re afraid we’ll give something away and then within a week discover we need it. So Leo has a work around for this called the maybe box.
As you organize take items that fall into the ‘I might need it’ category and put them in a maybe box. Next tape up the box or boxes and put the date on it. Finally put the box in the back of a closet or in your garage.

Then set a calendar reminder for 6 months from today. Then only open the box if you really need an item. In 6 months if you haven’t opened the box give it away. If you find in 6 months you do need something then find a home for whatever you needed.

It’s got sentimental value – 

We put allot of sentimental values in things. Like old ticket stubs, yearbooks, a old holiday gifts.

What you have to remember is that if your grandmother gave you a vase her love isn’t in the vase. Her love was expressed in the giving of the vase and in you memory of the present.

So Leo encourages us to preserve the memories without preserving the clutter. Take a picture of items that have sentimental value and then create a slide show you can view a couple of time a year.

That way the memories will remain intact long after the stuff is gone.

10. Daily Organizing

Once you have organized some of your commonly used areas, Leo tells us it’s essential to develop a daily habit of organization. By making time every morning to go through and quickly reorganize all of these spaces.

The reason this is so important is that as you do this you begin to trust your system of organization more and more. As you build trust you also build ease and focus. You stop having to stress out about where your keys go, or if you know where your wallet is.

Leo says when we are disorganized part of our mind is always wondering about the location of some essential item or worrying that we’ve forgotten an essential task. When we trust our system those worries fall away and we can focus on what we are doing.

11. (The Bonus Step) Letting Go

This final step is only for advanced organizers and came in response to my question. I asked: What about things in your reading file? Mine is filled with things I’d love to read, but I know that I put more in then I can actually read.

Leo told us that he has this same problem. There are simply more things he wants to read then he has time for.

He’s been trying to focus on letting go of getting to the bottom of his pile. He does go through an sort it from time to time. But he has let go of the idea of ever getting it completely empty.

Instead he’s been trying to think of it as a stream. Something he can dip into but that he can never swallow whole.

As you move forward with your organization habits this thought is important to remember. Organization about working with the flow of our lives.

It’s less about building a dam and more about managing where the energy goes. After all we can never completely control our environment. But if we put these 10 +1 habits into action we can learn to manage our lives better so we don’t get soaked.

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Simplify Now: The 10 Obstacles To Radical Simplification

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Simplify Now: The 10 Obstacles To Radical Simplification (Based on a Webinar by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits) 

What Time Is It?

My hands hurt. My eyes hurt. And I’ve got a crick in my neck that would make the Spanish inquisition tremble.

As my mind ticks away at all my daily tasks I hear a soft thumping in the hallway that matches the pounding in my head. I suddenly realize that it’s my girlfriend walking up the stairs on her way home from work. Her key in the lock wakes me from my daze.

What time is it? What have I been doing?

I feel tired and cranky and I fear the question she is going to ask me. It’s the same one she asks me almost everyday. What did you do today?

I’ve spent all day working but if feels like I haven’t gotten anywhere. I feel defeated and confused. What the hell happened?

Working Hard
This happens to all of us. We get caught up in working and a whole day vanishes before our eyes. We work hard, but it feels like we are hardly working.

Our jobs can feel like a Sisyphusian task, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to live differently, to live more simply, to do less, and get more done.

I recently attended a webinar with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits about simplifying your day and here is what I learned.

What does it mean to simplify your day?

It means different things to different people.
It could mean taking time to write, exercise, spend time with family, and enjoy a good book.
Or it could mean working on a project you are passionate about, coordinating with a team, and collaborating with your boss.

Everyone’s simplified day looks different, but there is one universal theme.
Simplifying your day means making time for what’s important.

Well as Leo Babauta pointed out we all strive for this, but we get caught. And the same things often catch us.

He identified 10 main obstacles to simplifying your day and one bonus obstacle that I’m sure you’ve gotten caught up in as well.

10 Obstacles to Simplifying Your Day.

1. Underestimating Completion Time
Completion time is simply how long it takes to get something done. We are good at guessing a general completion time, but we often gloss over transitional steps.

The example Leo gave was that before the webinar he decided to go on a run. He wanted to run 8 miles and at 9 minutes a mile he should be able to complete his run in 1 hour and change and have plenty of time before his webinar. But he failed to factor in things like putting on his shoes, grabbing his keys, and making his post run smoothie.

Because of that he was still drinking his smoothie as he signed on to the webinar. This is something we’ve all done before. We don’t think about all the extra little steps that are added to other tasks.

We often plan for everything to go perfectly and things rarely do. These small steps and delays add up and before we know if our whole day has gotten off track.

2. Overestimating Capacity
Many people underestimate what they are capable of, but overestimate what they can do. Leo gave the example of a typical daily to do list.

Let’s say you make a long to do list for your day. You work all day and can’t get it done. Instead of simplifying your list, you think, “Man I need to work harder tomorrow.” So, you add that list to tomorrows list.

Tomorrow you work even harder and get your list done. So you think, Wow look at everything I did. Maybe if I work even harder I can get more done. So, no matter if you do your list or not you end up trying to do more.

This process leads to you rushing through your tasks and results in a ton of stress. Even if you get a lot done, you probably aren’t doing it well.

3. The Ease of Yes
Saying yes is so easy, especially when you say yes to someone else. We rarely say yes to things like exercise or self care, but we are great at saying yes to all sort of other things.

Leo tells us that fulfillment is much harder than commitment. Saying yes only takes a second, but fulfilling that commitment takes time and energy, which are two of our most precious resources.

We always think we are going to have more time, more energy, and more money in the future. But when we say yes all the time, we run out of these resources faster that we think. Our short-term commitments eat up everything and we never

4. Misallocating Personal Resources-
One thing I always tell my clients is “You are your most valuable resource.” We are great at protecting our assets but often neglect to honor the precious resources of our energy and attention.

Leo gives the example of waking up early and working hard all morning. But because you have pushed yourself, in the afternoon you are spent.

You have to take a nap or you just can’t seem to get going. Even if you do take a nap, you might find that you are groggy all afternoon and can’t really work effectively.

When we misallocate our resources, we don’t have energy for what’s really important. We find ourselves rushing around and tiring before we can get anything done.

5. Distractions
Distractions are not new, but with the pace of modern technology the amount of time and energy that we can lose to distractions is greater than ever.

Leo gives the example of sitting down to write. But first he wants to do this one little thing. That one little thing leads to another. And then he has to check something else and then something else.

All of a sudden, he looks up, it’s five o’clock, and he never got around to writing. He spent the whole day caught up in distracting tasks.

Distractions always start will a small diversion, but if we’re not careful they can eat a ton of our time. All those little 5 min diversions add up to a ton of lost time and energy.

6. We Forget To Make Time for What’s Important
Most of us know what’s important to us, but we often don’t live our lives in accord with our values. Leo notes that most people value things like spending time with loved ones, creative work, and self-care.

But even though we care about those things we forget to prioritize them. Because those things don’t jump out and demand our attention. We have to make a conscious choice to focus on the things that really matter.

7. The Demands of Others
Humans are by their very nature social animals, but if we don’t have direction we can get lost in the herd. My teacher used to tell me, “Without strong vows, you will spend your whole life caught in someone else’s agenda.”

Leo said that you could spend all day answering emails and responding to phone calls. But this means you are letting other people dictate your day.

Working with others is great. But if you don’t find a balance, your priorities will get lost in the shuffle.

8. Wanting to Please Others
Other people are not the enemy, but even people with good intentions can get us off track. Leo noted that simplifying your day doesn’t mean we should never try to help others. But there has to be a limit.

If we don’t set these limits, we not only become stressed out, but we lose the ability to be present. And that doesn’t benefit those whom we want to help.

9. E-mail
Leo put this in a category all its own, because E-mail can become a black hole from which nothing escapes.

There are many good reasons you need email. A lot of our work is done there and it can help us organize our correspondence. But when you are working in your inbox, other things are always coming in. There may be questions, requests, and/or the demands of others.

Leo warns that email can expand to whatever time we give it. Which means email demands a special kind of awareness.

10. Expectations
My father always used to tell me, “You’ve got to inspect what you expect.” Expectations are common, but often lead to a load of problems. Because when reality doesn’t match our expectations, suffering ensues.

Leo identified 2 categories of expectations that act as obstacles.
1. Our Own expectations- This is how much we think we can do, who we think we should be, and how we think we should respond. These expectations can lead to inner criticism and doubt. They also often hide the fact that we are actually doing a kick ass job.

2. Other peoples expectations – This includes what everyone expects us to be able to do, who they expect us to be, and how the think we should react.

It’s really easy to get tied up into knots about these expectations. They begin with the primary relationship we have with our parents, continue through school, and then expand, as we become an adult.

They can be a prison that keeps us from realizing our potential or maintaining balance in our lives. But for living a human life, expectations are par for the course. If we aren’t aware of these expectations, they will buffer us at every turn.

Bonus Obstacle
In the original list that Leo shared on the webinar there were only 10 obstacles but in the Q&A discussion he identified 1 more.

11. Small Task Mode
Leo describes small task mode as being caught up in doing lots of small tasks. These small tasks include things like emails, social media, and anything that is done in small bits.

The real danger of small task mode is that once our mind enters this space we tend to avoid doing larger more complicated tasks. For example, have you ever noticed that an email that takes more thought to respond to stays in your inbox longer than other emails? We often skip over these longer emails while we are dealing with fast response items.

The way to get over small task mode is to slow down and give yourself space to do longer tasks. Not only will we get these items done more efficiently if we just take a moment to work with them. We will also give ourselves space to be creative and work on the harder things which are often more important.

5 Radical Simplification Skills

Leo didn’t stop with these obstacles. He went on to talk about 5 simplification skills that can help anyone tackle these obtacles. So make you check out my next post where I’ll share these 5 skills. And how you can put them into use today.

Or even better make sure you don’t miss another one of my posts by subscribing to my blog.

When you do you get a free E-book Fit and Mindful. Which offers simple and practical tips to add mindfulness in to your daily life and exercise routines.

Get started on a simple path to movement and mindfulness that helps bring more balance into your life. Subscribe Here


One Habit to Rule Them All: Learning the Habit Creating Habit from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

#Bp One Ring by Trev Grant, Leo Babauta, Zen habits, the habit creating habit, writing habits, sea chane, zen_habits, motivation, habit creation, how to create new habits, change your life, mindfulness habitsSea Change
This month I joined the Sea Change program, which is Leo Babuta’s program to create habit changing ninjas.

The Sea Change program is as simple as it is awesome. Take on one new habit each month. By the end of the year you will have 12 new habits. And built the most important habit of all.

The habit creating habit.

This month the habit was writing daily. As part of this month’s program Leo hosted a webinar to talk about daily writing and habit creation.
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Habit and A Snow Covered Field
At the start of the webinar, Leo asked us to visualize a picture of a wide-open field of snow. “In that field you can walk anywhere you want to. At the beginning you’re making your own path so everything is new.”

“At first you go somewhere and then you follow your own footsteps back. The first time it’s hard and the second time it’s easier. Each time you go it’s a little bit easier.”

“Now you have a path that’s much easier to walk on. And walking off the path becomes harder.”

This is a great explanation of how our first habits are formed. Often these habits are formed not with intention, but out of necessity.

Groove Creation
Next Leo discussed how we get stuck and how we can start to get out.

“Now let’s say you’ve been going in the same path for years. If we want to change, first we have to step through fresh snow. We have to be very conscious when we create this new groove.”

To change our grooves takes intention, effort, and vision. Leo makes a point to note how important that vision is.

The Vision
“Imagine you see a new bakery and you decide to go there. The path to the bakery is covered with fresh untrampled snow, which means walking there will be harder.”

“ But we can see the bakery and having this vision helps keep us on track. We think of this new place as we trudge through the fresh snow. And it gives us a reason to keep going.”

This vision is our destination. We have to know where we’re going or we we’ll just wander. Without the vision we’d get lost or worse yet, turn back.

Going Back
“So what stops us from going back to our old habits? The truth is that it’s easier to go back. The snow is already trampled.”

But we can use tools to keep us going forward. These tools are the tools of habit creation. These tools make up the habit creating habit.

10 Tips to Create the One Habit to Rule Them All
(As Taught By Leo Babauta of Zen Habits)

1. Support – Tell someone that you’re going to do it.
Leo used the example of telling his editor and his readers he was going to finish his book at a certain time. The fact that he had made a commitment to others helped him stay focused.

2. Accountability Bet – For this Leo used the example of a bet he made with a friend who ran a tea company. If the friend failed to complete a task on time, he had to go to a teashop he didn’t respect.

Once there he had to drink the tea, wear a T-shirt with their logo, and have a video taken of him. In the video he’d be drinking the tea while wearing the shirt and saying how much he loved their tea.

The bet was fun and mostly inexpensive. But it was motivating because the pain of humiliation was worse that the joy of procrastination.

3. Intentions – Leo encourages us to ask, “What is my motivation?” When he sits to write something he thinks about the people he wants to help. Bringing this intention to mind motivates him to work even when he doesn’t feel like it.

4. Rewards – Leo said, “It’s important to have something pleasurable with each step you take.” This reward could be the joy of creating or the joy of reporting to an accountability group. No matter what, it’s about using the carrot and not just the stick to keep you going.

5. Setting – Having a good working environment is an essential element to creating. Of course having a visually pleasing working environment is the first step. But Leo also includes good music and gratitude as keys to creating a positive setting for creation.

6. Accountability Groups – Part of the Sea Change program is taking part in accountability groups. But you don’t have to be a member of Sea Change to start your own. These groups can be formed by anyone that wants support in changing their lives.

According to Leo the keys to a successful accountability group are
1. Meet on a regular basis.
2. Make commitments to each other.
3. Live up to these commitments.
4. Have some kind of consequence for not meeting commitments.
5. Report your progress.

How to stop getting off track:
Tips 7 – 10 are all about how to stop the things that get you off track. And they all involve “lowering the barriers to creation.”

7. Stop saying, “I need everything to be perfect.”
The perfect creative environment doesn’t exist. So instead of making it a complex process, Leo tells us to, “make it simple, close your programs, open a text doc, and get to work.”

8. Stop thinking, “I need to create the perfect…”
Instead, Leo recommends we say, “I just need to get this done,” and go for it. “Start with a crappy first draft and send it out to people you trust.” Getting started on creating a new habit is more important than doing it perfectly or even well.

9. Stop keeping it to yourself.
You should always have someone to send your work to. Leo notes that having an audience, even if it’s a small one, gives us a purpose when we create. It also keeps us honest about what we are creating.

10. Frictionless blogging
One practice Leo does is something he calls ‘Frictionless blogging”

He says, “I just write a post and then post it immediately.” Just to get the post out there. It removes all the barriers and then I am motivated to quickly edit it.

This practice can work with whatever we are working on. Just create and then disseminate. Not only will it hone your mind while you create, but it will keep you from being caught in endless editing or futzing about.

Though many of these tips apply to creation or writing, I found they could be applied to any aspect of creating new habits in my life. Whether is comes to exercise or eating better using these tools will help you create new grooves.

It’s through this process that we learn the habit creating habit and become the masters of the one habit to rule them all.

Photo Credits


The art of not caring too much.

Seal on a Beach

My United States of Whatever

So it happens to all of us. Work gets crazy busy, we don’t have enough time to exercise, we can’t see our friends, and things just won’t stop.

Stress can make any of us lose it a little bit and the long term health consequences are real. Stress causes all sorts of chronic illness and leads us to engage in unhealthy habits like overeating, drinking, and using drugs.

Hectic times can’t be avoided, but there are some. Here is one practice that is vital if you want to navigate these waters with as little stress as possible.


Hold your preferences and opinions lightly: Ok, so this is one of the toughest practices to develop as a habit, but it’s probably one of the most transformational.

Everyone, and I mean everyone has some perspective on everything that gets done. Even if that perspective is ‘I don’t care.’ Very often people think there way is the best way.

Usually there are several good ways to do something, but we start to identify with our way and then we get upset when things are done differently. Our way becomes us. An attack on our way, becomes an attack on us.

It’s Not All About You

Now the truth. Our way, maybe it’s the best, maybe not, but mostly it’s just one of many opinions in the universe. Also it’s probably not an especially important one.

Now an opinion on whether or not you should give birth to a child, or kill living beings, that is an important preference. Mostly though our preferences are for the way we put silverware in a dishwasher, or the proper way to put on a roll of TP.

I have learned to let go of many these types of preferences. They just don’t really matter that much in the long run and when they are challenged, I go, “You know this isn’t really worth getting upset about.”

It’s a relief to do it, because then I’m not holding up this big sense of self. I don’t have to lug around my silly ego manifested in 1000’s of little tiny preferences and opinions. Life becomes simpler, but I don’t lose my sense of power or self worth.

As Long As It Matter

When something really matters to me I speak up and I speak up loud. When this happens people listen, because I don’t  speak up about just anything. When I speak up I know it’s important because I’ve let go of so many unimportant preferences go. Things that drove me up the wall and things I’ve fought about with ex-partners are no longer a big problem in my life.

So you may be wondering how to practice letting go of preferences. First, just notice when your preferences are coming up and pay attention to if they are really important or not. Next when something rubs you the wrong way learn to breath and let it go. Then repeat until you are getting really reactive then take a break. Finally, learn the difference between boundaries and preferences.


Boundaries keep you safe, but preferences keep you trapped in reactivity. While trying to let go of preferences notice those that make up your sense of integrity and well being. Part of the way you find you boundaries is by letting them get crossed. When I let go of preferences often I find that some preferences think are important, aren’t and some that I saw as silly, are actually important to me.

Experiment and don’t be afraid to talk to someone about getting reactive. It’s not the getting reactive that is the problem, it’s the stewing about it. Letting go of preferences isn’t the same as holding it all in. The key, as always, is paying close attention to the little tricks our mind plays.

Letting go of preferences and opinions is a hard practice, but now that I have done it for years I can stay calm and cool in many situations. People tell me that I’m such a calm person and I’m convinced the reason why is that I have learned to hold myself lightly.


Try letting go of preferences this week. Start with some silly ones and go from there. Put the silverware in the ‘wrong way,’ roll that TP from the underside, and mostly have fun with it. When we see how silly we have been all these years it’s less embarrassing, then hilarious.

Thanks for reading and Be Well


Why is it a good rule to not have rules?

A Blog Without Rules

Rules Don’t Rule the Heart

Sure sure I’ve heard it before RULES! RULES! RULES! THEY TOTALLY RULE! Except  sometimes they sort of don’t. Rules are not a panacea ( panacea – n. A solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases).

They can be helpful in some situations, but very often they can actually impede the very thing that can create change in your life, AWARENESS!!! (oooo ahhh).

I love rules and who doesn’t, they make life so simple. I just listen to this set of parameters my mind determines and everything will be fine. I mean that’s what makes human beings so great, it’s our ability to blindly follow a set of instructions without question.

Ok ok so you have you have probably picked up on my sarcasm at this point, but maybe not. I don’t really think that following rules are what makes us unique animals.

Bee’s and Ants are great because they follow set rules well and in some ways humans ability to follow rules has helped us, but what really make us unique is our ability to adapt and reflect.

Humans are unique in our ability to problem solve, but even more so we are unique in our ability to be aware of our awareness. We can reflect on whether or not we are being present in a situation and what our motivations are.

The key to adapting successfully is awareness, but all to often we rely on rules instead of awareness to guide us.  So let take the same situation and see what happens when we use rules instead of awareness to guide us.

Sally has lost alot of weight in the past, but has put some of it back on. She works out regularly, but feels like she has lost her way out of fitness. She notices she has some cheese in her fridge. She knows that if she has cheese, she will eat it, so she throws it out. She decides no more cheese, but then another voice arises in her, perhaps one of not wasting food or maybe a voice that is comforted by cheese when she feels anxiety.

She reconsiders takes the cheese out of the garbage, but then the rule voice reemerges, “NO CHEESE!” it says. So back in the trash with cheese. She feels better, but is not quite sure what happened. She wishes she could be stronger, that she was just a normal person.

In this example, we can see all the forces at play for Sally, but she doesn’t necessarily notice them. She is aware of only one kind of hunger: “Mind Hunger.”

Mind hunger is hunger based on rules and regulations set up by our mind. All the facts and figures that you have in your head about how you eat, all the ideas you have about nutrition, and all the articles you have ever read about food are what make up mind hunger.

The problem with mind hunger and the rules that it makes up, is that they can either be followed or broken. It’s a very black and white world, but this world only works we are feeling good and strong.

In the example above, there are all these other hungers and voices that Sally may not see. There is heart hunger, her need to be comforted. There is mouth hunger, her love of the taste of  things like cheese. There is also likely some inner critic, Sally’s internal voice that tells her she will fail. There is an inner coach that is telling her how to get in shape. All of these factors are hidden behind a wall of rules and morality.

Now let’s imagine what might happen if Sally was aware of all of her hungers and the voices that created this internal struggle over weight and cheese.

The situation is the same Sally has lost a lot of weight, but put some back on. She works out, but feels like she has let herself down in the fitness department. She notices a block of cheese in her fridge, she knows if she has cheese she will likely eat it, but she wants to get into shape. The urge to throw it out arises.

This time Sally notices the urge to throw it out and gets curious. Why does she want the throw out a perfectly good block of cheese? She notices that some voices are arising in her.

One voice (the inner critic) is telling her she doesn’t have the will power to have cheese and not eat it. Another voice (the inner coach) tells her she better get with the program, which means throwing out the cheese, getting on a stricter work out schedule, etc. etc.

She notices these voices and first acknowledges that some of the things they are saying really hurt. She is feeling sad and scared that she won’t get her weight down to what she wants. Next she wonders if the voices are telling her the truth.

Does she have no will power? No that’s not true, she works out, she writes a blog, she has run long races before; so she must have will power.

She may be more likely to eat cheese if she has it in her house, but overall she doesn’t have a problem with will power. She can observe that she has a need for competency when it come to healthy eating habits, but she doesn’t judge herself for not always making the best choices.

Sally wonders, Is the inner coach voice helpful? Well it does seem to be motivating her to make healthier choices, but it’s technique is ignoring all of the complex needs that are coming up for her. It only see’s a world where there are rules and she better follow them or else. She sees this voice can be helpful, but if she listens to it, without considering her needs, she will likely burn out and not be able to sustain a life-long transformation.

Next she notices that when she is feeling stressed out or anxious about herself and her body she starts to feel empty inside. When she eats the cheese she is comforted by the flavor and how good it tastes. It feeds her heart hunger.

She realizes that though she may throw the cheese out, she won’t feel any better if she doesn’t also find a way to feed that empty part of herself that is comforted by eating yummy cheese.

She also notices she eats cheese as a reward. She needs to do something to celebrate her successes. Again she notes that she can throw the cheese out, but that she needs to find some other way to reward herself for a job good done. She brainstorms other healthier ways to reward herself.

Finally she notices that she loves the crap out of cheese. She can throw the cheese out, but she can’t throw her love of cheese out. Cheese satisfies her mouth hunger so much.

She realizes that she doesn’t want to stop eating cheese, but maybe she can just eat it less often. When she does buy it, maybe she just buys a bit less.

After all this reflection, Sally feels better, she may not understand everything that’s going on with her, but she has a much better idea. Sally acknowledges that these parts of her need to be honored, but that she does want to make healthier choices.

She decides to throw the cheese out to support her desire to be fit, but does so with the awareness that it’s just cheese she is throwing out, not all the things the get fed by eating cheese.

We can see in the second example how much more Sally was able to observe, by looking into all the motivations that lead to her inner conflict over the cheese. In the first example she wants cheese, but she is weak, so she must throw it out.

In the second example she sees she is strong, but that she needs to find some more awareness to meet the needs she has arising. She wants to be in shape, but she wants to honor all the parts of her that need to be fed.

The key to transformation is awareness.  Until we see a bit of the internal show of our mind we are doomed to repeat our karmic patterns again and again. The world of fitness talks A LOT about will power, will power, will power, but that only takes you so far. The truth is will power is just one part of your mind and you have to honor all the parts of your being if you want to become a new person.

It’s like the difference between repainting a house versus rebuilding it’s foundations. Will power can change how you look on the outside, but awareness changes how you think and feel on the inside in a deep and fundamental way.

Take some time this week to notice a unhealthy pattern you want to change. Reflect on the voices, feelings, needs, and motivations that arise in you. Write down what you notice and try to find a way to honor all the parts of yourself while making healthy choices.

You don’t have to notice as much as Sally in our example. Even just a little small bit of awareness can make a big difference in your ability to transform your life.

Thanks for Reading and Be Well