Cultivate Your Gratitude Muscle

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
-Oprah Winfrey

It’s Thanksgiving here in the US, and that means there’s an air of gratitude and thankfulness.

It’s one of the best holidays, but being happy and grateful shouldn’t be limited just to Thanksgiving. Gratitude and thanks should be given year-round.

The gratitude muscle is like any other muscle. If you don’t use it often, it’ll wither and be weak.

Focusing on the negative is easy. The average person supposedly complains 30 times a day. It’s like this Louis C.K. video where he says “everything is amazing and nobody’s happy.”

It helps to take a step back in these situations and look through a different perspective.

  • Unhappy with the taxes you pay? Be thankful, it means you’re employed.
  • Unhappy with the alarm that goes off in the morning? Cool, it means you’re alive for another day and your ears work.
  • Unhappy with the rain outside? Great! You live in a place where water is abundant.

Gratitude is one of those things that sound wishy-washy, but I’ve noticed when I write down or think of things & people I’m grateful for, I’m noticeably happier after. I feel more present when I do so, and it’s given me the inner perspective to treat others with more kindness and respect. There’s some science to support this, too, as gratitude has been linked to the feel-good hormone oxytocin.

Wherever you are in the world, even if it’s not Thanksgiving, take some time today to exercise your gratitude muscle. Think of five people you’re grateful for right now. Better yet, let them know.

You Are Not Too Old

A common question I see frequently asked online is: “Am I too old to learn or do X?” where X is anything from programming to painting to starting a business. The weird thing is I’ve seen kids as young as 14 ask this.

It’s an odd question, because it implies that past a certain age, we’re unable to adequately learn new things, as if our brain becomes static and who we are is who we’ll be forever. This notion is supported by proverbs like “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and the idea that it’s impossible to learn a new language past a certain age.

Modern neuroscience has made it clear, however, that these assumptions are false. The brain is not a fixed structure, but a highly dynamic structure that is always adapting and changing itself in response to new experiences, regardless of age. You also can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks (I’ve seen it happen!).

So the literal answer to the question is, no, you aren’t too old to learn X.

What I really think people are asking from the question, though, is, “Will I achieve success in this field, given my late start?”

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One Simple Way to Maintain Good Habits

This past week, I worked close to 80 hours at my full-time job. While I’m sure my friends in investment banking would scoff at those hours, it was a new experience for me. It’d be a stretch to say that I loved every single hour of it, but for the most part I got through it relatively unscathed (although I’m sure this won’t be the last time I pull these hours).

That being said, spending 80 hours a week on work does make it more difficult to find time for the rest of one’s typical routine. I’m sure you’ve been there at some point yourself – those days where you’ve spent all your energy and the only thing you want to do, or perhaps are capable of doing, is flopping on the couch and watching TV.

We feel guilty, though, because we know better. We have goals to achieve and habits to stick to, and we know we should be pursuing them for our greater benefit. So how do we do it?

For me, my personal priorities are fairly simple: hit the gym at least three times a week; spend quality, silent time reading books every day; and write and publish a post at least once a week.

I’ve been able to stick to this routine successfully by keeping in mind one simple idea, even amid this past 80-hour work week.

The idea is this:

Reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule

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Millennials: Get Rid of Your Victim Mentality

Here’s my hypothesis: our generation overwhelmingly suffers from victim mentality, and it’s holding us back from truly enjoying a successful future.

The formal definition of victim mentality is the acquired personality trait in which a person regards him or herself as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to think, speak and act as if that were the case. In other words, it’s to blame everyone else for what happens in your life. In psychology, it’s known as having an external locus of control.

In some way, it’s understandable. All our lives growing up, we were told that we would have a lot of cleaning up to do. We’ve witnessed natural disasters, political disasters, and corporate disasters. We’ve lived through an entire decade of turmoil, from 9/11 to the tech bubble to the global financial crisis and everything in between from global warming to the war in Iraq to ebola.

As a result, tuition rates have multiplied exponentially. Healthcare and insurance costs have risen. Unemployment rates are higher. Ocean levels are rising. The income gap is widening. Gender and race inequality is still prevalent. Life looks like it’s stacked ever against our favor, and woe is us…right?

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